OMAHA, Neb. – Drew Hanzel had one critical assignment while caddieing for his father, Doug, this weekend at the 2013 U.S. Senior Open.
Along with carrying the bag and keeping him calm, Drew constantly monitored his father’s blood-sugar levels. A diabetic, Doug Hanzel wears an insulin pump on the course.
“It got low once out there,” said Drew Hanzel, 23. “I just gave him some Gatorade.”
Being the only amateur among the 28 in the field to make the 36-hole cut, Doug Hanzel, 56, of Savannah, Ga., needed only to complete 72 holes to ensure low-amateur honors for a second consecutive year.
“The key to the weekend was to make sure nothing unusual happened,” said Hanzel, who shot 74-70 the first two days to make the cut by one shot. “I needed to post a 72-hole score. It was a lot less pressure this weekend than the first few days. It was very nice.”
Besides receiving a medal, Hanzel also earned exemptions into the 2013 U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and USGA Senior Amateur, along with the 2014 U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla. Last year, Hanzel became the first golfer in USGA history to make match play in the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and USGA Senior Amateur in the same year.
That’s a remarkable feat for someone who still holds down a full-time job. Hanzel is a physician specializing in pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine. He no longer makes hospital visits or works weekends, but Hanzel was unable to attend the prize ceremony at Omaha Country Club late Sunday afternoon because he had to catch a flight back home for Monday office hours after posting a final-round 73 that included late birdies on 15 and 17.
When he finished with a two-putt par on 18, Hanzel gave his son a bear hug.
USGA President Glen D. Nager presented Hanzel with his low-amateur medal shortly after his post-round interview session.
“I’m just amazed,” said Hanzel of the honor and his performance this week. “I wasn’t playing really good coming into the tournament, but I found a little something in practice that worked.
“This is a very tough golf course … physically to walk in the heat. So I was watching [my blood-sugar level] pretty closely. So what can I say … I’ve had a great week again.”
Hanzel now will have to rearrange his schedule to fit in the U.S. Amateur next month at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and the U.S. Mid-Amateur in early October at the Country Club of Birmingham (Ala.). The Senior Amateur will be in late September at Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers, N.C.
Hanzel has never played The Country Club, the site of Francis Ouimet’s historic U.S. Open victory 100 years ago, as well as the USA’s thrilling Ryder Cup comeback in 1999.
“Last summer, I never played that much golf,” said Hanzel. “I’m looking forward to it again because the USGA hosts the best events.”
Asked how much he practices, Hanzel quipped: “Practice golf or practice medicine? I’d like to practice more golf, but I’ve got a full-time job.”
Off to Muirfield for Five
Fred Couples leaves tonight on an overseas flight to Scotland, where he will play in this week's British Open Championship. It's a trip that a few other U.S. Senior Open players have gotten accustomed to as British Open champions.
Couples, 53, is new to this kind of test for over-50 players, having won the Senior British Open last year at Turnberry to earn a berth in the British Open at Muirfield.
"Am I ready? I'd better be," Couples said after carding a 1-under 69 Sunday at Omaha Country Club and finishing the Senior Open at 1-under 269, tied for 13th. "I am looking forward to it. I have always liked playing over there."
Couples, who has 11 top-10s at the Open, last competed at Muirfield in 1992, as the reigning Masters champion, and missed the cut. He last played in the Open in 2006.
Tom Watson, Mark Calcavecchia, Mark O'Meara and Tom Lehman also competed this week at Omaha and were immediately on their way to Scotland. Watson won the 1980 title at Muirfield, one of his five claret jugs.
"It's definitely a busy part of the season for us," said Watson, 63. "It's a challenge, but it's also something to look forward to."
Sunday’s attendance of 34,354 is believed to be the largest turnout for a sporting event in Omaha’s history, eclipsing the previous day’s total of 32,994. Before this week, the largest sports crowd in city history was 31,969 for horse racing at the old Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in July 1982.
Most events on the Champions Tour don’t draw such large crowds, and players were quite appreciative.
“I don’t know much of the history of Nebraska golf, but it just seems that people love it,” said Steve Elkington, who posted a final-round 65. “And they’ve certainly got a good golf course here.
“I’m glad the USGA changes their venues… After 30 years on Tour, it’s really nice to come and see that people actually know who we are and they love the golf.”
Added Jeff Sluman, who finished with a 68: “It’s really fun to hear the roars from the crowd down in the valleys on the back nine. Kind of … how it used to be, and that’s how it should be.”
As they had all week, the par-4 eighth and 10th holes played as the two toughest holes on Sunday. For the 72 holes, the field averaged 4.58 strokes on the 477-yard eighth hole, with bogeys actually outnumbering birdies, 193-191. The 494-yard 10th hole averaged 4.56 strokes and actually allowed fewer birdies, with 13 to 15 on No. 8.
The three par 5s ranked as the No. 16, 17 and 18 holes for the week, with the 540-yard sixth hole far and away the easiest with a 4.60 stroke average, with birdies outnumbering pars, 193-186. The 548-yard second hole played to a 4.89 average, and the 523-yard 14th played to a 4.92 average.
Champion Kenny Perry led the way in driving distance (300.5 yard average) and birdies (22), and tied Willie Wood for fewest putts (113). Runner-up Fred Funk led the field in both fairways hit (44) and greens in regulation (56).
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Ohio-based freelance writer Dave Shedloski contributed.