U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Two-Time Champion Doyle Returns to His Roots
June 29, 2017 | PEABODY, Mass.
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Even though he has lived in LaGrange, Ga., for more than 30 years and has mostly adopted a Southern drawl, Allen Doyle still can’t completely shake the regional accent of a Boston native.
When Doyle spoke ahead of this week’s U.S. Senior Open on Wednesday, he talked of “pah” (par) and “Pahmah” (Arnold Palmer), not to mention the time that he defeated Tom Watson in Watson’s own “backyahd” for his second consecutive U.S. Senior Open back in 2006. With that victory, Doyle joined Miller Barber and Gary Player as the only golfers to have won this championship back-to-back.
Doyle is the oldest player to win the Senior Open, and at age 68, this week’s homecoming is his first start in the championship since 2012. And although he has six top 10s in his 13 career starts, he has only made the cut once since 2007.
“I’m just a club player now, but I’m still a decent club player, and I’ve been shooting and breaking my age two or three times a week,” said Doyle. “But it’s been at a club that I play all the time. The guys are fired up for me – and I keep trying to tamp down their expectations. I never put expectations on myself.”
He began the championship by shooting a 6-over 76 in the first round, meaning he’ll have to play very well in Friday’s second round to make the cut. Not that he hasn’t defied the odds before.
Doyle is the definition of a late bloomer, having taken a circuitous route to his golf success. After moving to LaGrange, where he owned a driving range, he began to pile up victories as an amateur. At the age of 44, he even made a run to the semifinals of the 1992 U.S. Amateur, where he lost to eventual champion Justin Leonard.
Having accomplished so much as an amateur and with an eye toward earning enough money to send his daughters, Erin and Michelle, to college, he turned professional in 1994 at age 46. One year later, he became the oldest rookie in PGA Tour history after finishing second on the Nike (now Web.com) Tour money list in 1995.
Doyle’s career skyrocketed in 1999 when he turned 50 and played the PGA Tour Champions. From 1999 through 2006, he won 11 times, including four majors, and never finished lower than 12th on the money list. In 2001, he had an incredible 25 top-10 finishes with two wins and topped the Tour money list with more than $2.5 million. The second of his bookend U.S. Senior Open wins was his last, and he gradually wound down his schedule from 16 events in 2010 to eight in 2013.
“I remember as a kid, [golf fans in Massachusetts] were waiting for a champion to come along, a guy that could make his mark on tour and represent the state and New England,” said Doyle, who was born in Woonsocket, R.I., and spent his youth in the Boston suburb of Norwood. “To me, it always seemed to put a lot of pressure on guys. I never felt that because I wasn’t that great a player in my late teens, early 20s.”
Doyle competed in the 2001 Senior Open at Salem, and after an opening 78 that left him in 97th place, he reeled off three sub-70 rounds to end the week in a tie for fourth place behind Bruce Fleisher.
“Maybe I put too much pressure on myself that first round because I honestly felt, if I came to a USGA event, that even though I may not have been mentioned as one of the players to pick, I always felt that I was one of those guys,” Doyle said.
He was the guy a few years later, defeating Loren Roberts and D.A. Weibring by one stroke to win the 2005 Senior Open at NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio. His closing 63 completed the largest comeback in championship history, as he overcame a nine-stroke deficit to start the day. One year later, at age 57 years, 11 months, 14 days, Doyle denied Watson’s bid at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., defeating him by two strokes.
“I said it at NCR – it was my first USGA title, but a lot of people seeing me around the amateur game thought I was a U.S. Amateur champion, and I was not,” said Doyle. “I always thought I was a USGA champion because I was on three Walker Cup Teams and three World Amateur teams and we won the World Amateur in France. But I finally got the trophy to prove that I'm a USGA champion. On any tour, let alone our tour, this is the zenith, the event that everybody wants to win.”
Today, Doyle helps Michelle run The First Tee of Troup County in LaGrange. It’s an important role for someone who benefited greatly from a Francis Ouimet Caddie Scholarship after caddieing for years at Spring Valley Country Club in Sharon, Mass.
“I'm not an idle-hands guy so I've got to be doing something,” said Doyle. “I picked up the game caddieing, and people may not connect the dots from First Tee to caddieing, but you actually can. I piddle around there in the morning, I take the kids to lunch. Then I go play golf.”
Though he does not harbor the same expectations of the friends he plays with in Georgia, Doyle is proud of his legacy.
“I came and tried to play as good as I could at the time I was there,” he said, “and hopefully it was better than what I would have done if I didn’t come with the attitude of trying to do my best.”
His best was good enough to earn him a couple of USGA titles and a few lines in the record book.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.