Lake Orion, Mich. – Part of defending champion Olin Browne’s preparation for the 2012 U.S. Senior Open will be competing in the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. In addition to negotiating Olympic’s ubiquitous slopes and confounding doglegs, Browne hopes to be distracted by following the progress of his son, Olin Jr.
“O” – as Browne calls his son – is attempting to join his father at a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, on June 4. Several days before the qualifier, dad still didn’t know whether he would go watch.
“It’s a difficult position to be in,” said the elder Browne at Senior Open Media Day on May 30. “I don’t want to show up and put that kind of heat on him. On the one hand, it’s nice to support for your kid. Whether I’m there or not, he knows that, I love him and support him and I’m pulling for him to do the very best he can.”
If the younger Olin qualifies, the Brownes will be the first father-son duo to play together in the U.S. Open since Jay and Bill Haas achieved the rare feat in 2003 and 2004.
“It would be unbelievable,” said Browne Sr. “He’s thinking about it; he knows I’m thinking about it. He’s got probably a one in 10 chance of making it. So it’s up to him to prepare himself properly. It’s part of the learning process.”
If there is anyone who could impart good advice about sectional qualifying, it would be the elder Browne, who shot 59 at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., to advance to the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
Qualifying presents one set of challenges; the championship itself offers others. Despite having the type of controlled game that would seem like a perfect fit for the U.S. Open, Browne’s performance in the championship – one top-10 finish in 11 starts – was less successful. He has fared much better since turning 50, and has yet to finish out of the top 10 in three U.S. Senior Opens, capped by last year’s victory.
This delayed success is fitting for the late bloomer, who didn’t pick up the game until he was 19. Browne didn’t play his first U.S. Open until he was 35, but has felt comfortable on golf’s biggest stage.
“Overall, the USGA setup is fairly consistent, in which every facet of the game is a component of good play” said Browne. “You have to drive the ball well, strike irons consistently, control ball flight, play smart and manage your game well. It’s more of a marathon.”
After getting a glimpse of Indianwood Golf & Country Club, the site of the 2012 U.S. Senior Open, Browne came away with a similar sense of comfort that he possessed last year at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
“The course is sensational,” said Browne. “I love these kinds of greens that are open in the front.”
Last year, Browne withheld a charge from Mark O’Meara by playing the final 10 holes in one under. It was the culmination of a journey that began when he was just starting to learn the game at the driving range accompanied by his girlfriend – now wife – and they would daydream about winning the national championship.
“We’d talk about the U.S. Open,” Browne recalled. “We didn’t talk about the PGA or the Masters or the [British] Open Championship. It was always the last hole of the U.S. Open. That was my reference point.”
Now that dream has become reality, Browne is relishing his status and basking in the benefits his victory has borne, such as the rare opportunity to potentially share an indelible U.S. Open memory with his son.
“Here we are, 11 months later, and [the U.S. Senior Open win] still has legs,” said Browne. “It’s a source of great pride and it’s a privilege to be seen as a USGA champion.”
Hunki Yun is a USGA senior staff writer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.