On June 24, Loren Roberts celebrated his 53rd birthday. That milestone, in itself, does not make him long in the tooth, but in terms of winning a U.S. Senior Open, the opportunities are dwindling.
"The handwriting is on the wall, is that what you're saying?" Roberts asked rhetorically. "Well, sure. But you know, I just enjoy playing golf."
So when Roberts arrives at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., to compete in his fourth U.S. Senior Open, he intends to be razor sharp — and for good reason.
"I set some goals out here for me [on the Champions Tour]," said Roberts, who has finished second to
|Loren Roberts has had his share of close calls at Senior Opens. (John Mummert/USGA)
Jay Haas on the Champions Tour money list the past two seasons. "My big goal is I have got two silver USGA medals, and I would love to have a gold one. So that's a huge goal of mine."
In a younger day, Roberts lost to Ernie Els in a 20-hole playoff that also included Colin Montgomerie at the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club.
Eleven years later at NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio, Roberts, making his first U.S. Senior Open appearance, shared the 54-hole lead by four strokes, and was poised to get that gold medal. The next day, Allen Doyle shot a record-tying 63, while Roberts shot 73 to finish a shot back.
A year later, at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas, Roberts moved himself into contention with a record-setting 62, but again saw Doyle win the gold as Roberts finished tied for eighth. Doyle also became the oldest winner of the U.S. Senior Open at 57 years, 11 months and 17 days.
And then last year at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., Roberts again closed with an over-par final round, a 2-over 74. Brad Bryant managed the blustery conditions, shooting a 4-under 68 to win by three strokes over Ben Crenshaw and four over Roberts.
"I had a shot," said Roberts at the time. "Through the turn there, the bogeys at 8 and 9 really hurt me. A couple loose irons. And then I just kind of struggled the back nine. I just didn't make any putts at the right time, crucial time. You know me, I got to make a few putts and I didn't do it."
Three U.S. Senior Open appearances, three top-10 finishes, but no wins. For Roberts it’s the missing piece in an otherwise stellar senior career.
Through Sunday, he has finished top-three in 23 of his 66 Senior Tour starts, including eight wins. This year, he’s played 16 events and his one win came at the Commerce Bank Championship in late June. He currently sits third on the money list behind Champions Tour newcomer Bernhard Langer and the pesky Haas. Roberts relishes his time on the Champions Tour.
"It's great for me," he said. "Obviously I had a nice career on the regular tour. I know who I am, so it's a great thing for me. I enjoy still playing golf and competing and this is fun.
"I wish that more of the guys would think about coming out. I wish Greg [Norman] would play more. I hope Freddie [Couples] plays when he comes out. I think it's great."
No doubt the names, including 53-year-old Norman, who is coming off a fairy-tale third-place tie at the British Open Championship, will be in Colorado Springs. But before Roberts and his peers can allow themselves the opportunity to think about the Broadmoor, there is this week’s Senior Open Championship — an event Roberts won in 2006 — at Royal Troon Golf Club.
"I definitely want to play [at Troon]," Roberts said. "I'm looking at that stretch as a two-week stretch instead of just keying up for one week at a major, I'm looking at that as it's a two-week major."
Roberts admitted that he’s never played The Broadmoor, but that won’t keep him from being prepared.
After all, it’s another chance to find gold, and the clock is ticking.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com.