Sammamish, Wash. – Scott Simpson has struggled with his golf game for much of 2010, so the former U.S. Open champion is surprised to be in contention after 36 holes in the U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee Country Club.
He doesn’t credit practice; he chalks it up to paternal fulfillment.
Simpson, 54, was effusive in crediting his son and caddie, Sean, for his good play thus far. He followed up an opening 70 with a 71 and stood at 1-over 141, four behind 36-hole leader Bernhard Langer.
The family affair is not an unusual sight at the 31st U.S. Senior Open; nearly two dozen players in the 156-man field are employing sons, daughters or other blood relatives as bag toters.
That list includes the 36-hole leader, Langer, who is coming off a victory last week at the Senior British Open. Langer recruits his 20-year-old son, Stefan, on a semi-regular basis.
The Simpsons don’t team up regularly, but Scott figured that he’d rather have his son along after going through a 2010 season that thus far includes just one top-10 finish in 13 starts.
We do it every once in a while. It’s not about golf, really. It’s just fun having him with me, said Simpson, a San Diego resident who won the 1987 U.S. Open over Tom Watson at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. He’s not a serious golfer, but he’s playing more and he knows the game, and he keeps me loose. It’s more about having fun having him with me, and we are having a blast.
I’m having a great time, said Sean, 23, a recent graduate of the University of Southern California (from which his father also matriculated). I get to watch up close what he’s doing, and us being out there with the crowds and all is really a lot of fun.
Asked if he feels any pressure, Sean shrugged. Not really, but I can sense the pressure that my dad is under. It’s tough out there.
Simpson knows how Sean feels, too. He caddied for his father, Joe, one year in the USGA Senior Amateur.
The time together theme is a common one among family duos. It's just so we can spend more time together because time is limited," said Langer, who twice has won the Office Depot Father-Son Challenge with Stefan.
Nevertheless, the father-son team clicks. Stefan really is not like a professional caddie; he doesn't really help me with clubs, what to hit, Bernhard said after shooting 68 Friday at Sahalee. I don't even ask him most of the time, because it wouldn't be fair. So he does help me read the greens and he's pretty good at that. Last year he caddied like 10 times for me and we won three tournaments.
Mark Wiebe, who shot 72 Friday and stands at 5-over 145, likes to trade off with his son, Gunner, who plays collegiate golf at the University of San Diego.
It’s really cool having Gunner along, and he definitely helps me because he knows the game really well, Wiebe said. He has his schedule, so he can’t help me all the time. In fact, I caddied for him four weeks ago, in the Colorado State Match Play, and he won.
I just like hanging with him," Wiebe added. "He helps me with my game, and the golf is good when he helps me, so all around it’s just a lot of fun when we’re together. It’s a bonus when I play well. But I usually do when he’s there. That’s nice.
Olin Browne fought Sahalee C.C. to a draw in the second round on Friday, shooting even par with only 13 clubs in his bag, one shy of the allowable number.
Browne, who shot a 59 in a 2005 U.S. Open sectional qualifier, broke his pitching wedge on the driving range minutes before his second-round starting time, but managed to card a 70 and finish 36 holes at 3-over 143, six behind leader Bernhard Langer.
(It was) pitching wedge, the one I needed on five shots today, said the 51-year-old with a smirk. I played around it on a couple of holes and then when I needed it, I played my 54‑degree sand wedge and played it back of my stance and slugged it, and I made birdie twice with it, so it worked out.
The Hobe Sound, Fla., resident said he played around it by selecting clubs off tees to leave himself a yardage range where his wedge would not be needed. He shrugged off his round of four birdies and four bogeys as not a big deal. It’s just another variable you have to put into the equation.
Browne planned to find a club repair outlet somewhere in Seattle Friday night to have the head of the wedge reattached to the shaft. Or find another of similar specifications.
Fortunately it wasn't a driver. I've hit a lot of hybrids off the tees, and I'm glad it wasn't one of those. The wedge … it's not a long course and it's playing short, but the difference between a sand wedge and a 9‑iron is not that big of a deal so I’m thinking about what kind of club I want to hit in and what I want to hit off the tee.
Odds And Ends
The attendance for Friday’s second round was announced as 26,173… Peter Jacobsen, the 2004 U.S. Senior Open champion, withdrew after nine holes on Friday with a left-leg injury. The native of Portland, Ore., who has battled a myriad of injuries throughout his career, played nine holes before bowing out. He was 11 over for the championship… Also withdrawing for an undisclosed injury was D.A. Weibring, who never started his second round…Later in the day Wayne Levi withdrew with tendinitis…Besides Jacobsen, three other past U.S. Senior Open champions missed the cut, which came at 10-over 150: Hale Irwin (1998 and 2000), Dave Eichelberger (1999) and Dale Douglass (1986)... Of the 29 amateurs in the field, just three made the cut, led by Tim Jackson, the low amateur at the 2009 U.S. Senior Open. Joining him were Steve Hudson and 62-year-old John Grace, a two-time USGA runner-up (1974 U.S. Amateur and 2009 Senior Amateur…At 66, 1997 U.S. Senior Open champion Graham Marsh was the oldest to survive the cut.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites. USGA communications staff writer David Shefter contributed.