History of the U.S. Senior Open
The first U.S. Senior Open Championship was played June 26-29, 1980, on the East Course of Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Established as a result of the remarkable growth in senior golf, both at the professional and amateur levels, the championship attracted 631 entries.
The inaugural Senior Open was conducted for golfers 55 and older, with a handicap limit of eight strokes for amateurs.
The field included former U.S. Open champions Lew Worsham, Julius Boros, Ed Furgol, Jack Fleck and Tommy Bolt. Former U.S. Amateur Champion William C. Campbell was also a competitor.
Roberto De Vicenzo, a national hero in his native Argentina, won with a score of 285, one over par. He was four strokes ahead of Campbell, the runner-up.
In 1981, the USGA lowered the age minimum to 50 to make the championship more competitive. The USGA also believed that lowering the minimum age would place the Senior Open in the mainstream of other senior competitions as well as the fledgling Senior Tour (now Champions Tour).
The second Senior Open was won by another national hero, Arnold Palmer, 51, at Oakland Hills Country Club in Birmingham, Mich. Palmer won in an 18-hole playoff with Bob Stone and Billy Casper. With his victory, Palmer joined JoAnne Carner as the only players to win three different USGA Championships (Jack Nicklaus, Carol Semple Thompson, and Tiger Woods have since accomplished this feat).
In 1982, at the Portland (Ore.) Golf Club, Miller Barber won the first of his three Senior Opens. Barber shot a final round 65 and set the 72-hole scoring record of 282. He also captured the 1984 and 1985 championships.
Dale Douglass broke Barber's record in 1986 with a 72-hole score of 279. In 1987, Gary Player lowered Douglass' record by a remarkable nine strokes when he shot a 72-hole score of 270 at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn., to win. He was the only player to shoot four rounds in the 60s until Tom Weiskopf turned the trick in 1995.
Weiskopf shot 69-69-69-68-275 on the Blue Course of Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., to win. Hale Irwin then posted 267 to win the 2000 title at Saucon Valley Country Club (Old Course) in Bethlehem, Pa.
In 2009 at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., Fred Funk carded a winning total of 20-under 268. In 2013 at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club Kenny Perry matched Hale Irwin's 72-hole record with a 13-under total of 267.
U.S. Open champions have performed extremely well in the U.S. Senior Open, capturing eight of the 17 championships. U.S. Open Champions who have also won the Senior Open are: Arnold Palmer (1960 U.S. Open, 1981 Senior Open); Billy Casper (1959, 1966 U.S. Open, 1983 Senior Open); Gary Player (1965 U.S. Open, 1987, 1988 Senior Open); Orville Moody (1969 U.S. Open, 1989 Senior Open); Lee Trevino (1968, 1971 U.S. Open, 1990 Senior Open); and Jack Nicklaus (1962, 1967, 1972, 1980 U.S. Open, 1991, 1993 Senior Open), and Hale Irwin (1974, 1979, 1990 Open,, 1998 and 2000 Senior Open).
The growth of senior golf has meant steadily increasing fields for the U.S. Senior Open. In 2002, a record 3,101 entries were accepted by the USGA.
The final two rounds of the U.S. Senior Open were broadcast live on national television beginning with the championship's 1980 inaugural. It has been telecast nationally ever since.
Don Pooley and Tom Watson staged the first 3-or-4 hole playoff in 2002. The format was installed in 1999. Pooley won with a birdie on the fifth hole. His 63 in the third round was the lowest score in Senior Open history until Loren Roberts shot a 62 in the third round at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. Besides Pooley, three others have shot 63s, including Perry en route to his title.