Steve Jurick won’t be too hard to identify in Thurday’s first round of the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club. He’ll be the golfer wearing a vintage Chicago White Sox hat with his father, Bob, serving as his caddie.
“My wife buys me throwback baseball hats and I buy her flowers,” said Jurick, 51. “That’s our deal.”
Executive director of the Miami Valley (Ohio) Golf Association since 1997, Jurick is usually running events instead of playing in them. But with his dad, a 77-year-old retired computer scientist, on the bag, he shot 68 to qualify at Flint Golf Club. There was no doubt who would be carrying his bag in Jurick’s first major.
“Anytime I play in any kind of walking event, he caddies for me,” Jurick said. “I played in a Nike Tour event years ago and he left his retirement dinner early to go do that. He’s a committed caddie, and he’s in great shape. He walks and carries his bag three days a week.”
Bob and his father, Rudy, introduced Steve to golf when he was 4 at Snyder Park Golf Course in Springfield, Ohio. Steve is carrying a photo of his grandfather in his yardage book this week. “It’s quite a circle,” Steve said of the family’s long arc in the game.
After practicing Wednesday, Jurick checked the scores of the Dayton District Women’s Championship on his smartphone. “My assistant is running it,” he said. “From all indications, things are going well. It looks like we got the two rounds in.”
The temperature is supposed to climb over 100 degrees on Thursday. Those vintage hats are wool. “It’ll be hot, but that’s OK,” Jurick said. “My first love is baseball.”
Coach and Student Competing Against Each Other
Rare is the sporting event in which an athlete and his coach are both competing, but that is the case in the U.S. Senior Open for seven-time Champions Tour winner Michael Allen and his instructor since 2002, Mike Mitchell.
“He called me up when he qualified and it was great because Mike has so much passion for the game,” Allen said. “He said the other night, ‘Hopefully, I can make the cut.’ I said, ‘You can win, you can compete.’ Having him here really makes it fun.”
Mitchell, 53, director of instruction at The Hideaway in La Quinta, Calif., has played in one previous event with Allen: the 2013 Senior PGA Championship. He certainly will not tee off unprepared. Mitchell arrived last Wednesday and has played a minimum of 18 holes at Del Paso each day for seven days.
“Four members of my club are members here,” Mitchell said. “I’ve seen about two tournaments’ worth of the course so far. I wanted to get my stuff done before Michael came to town. You’ve got to be sharp to play at this level and I want to play well.”
Mitchell also wants Allen to play well. To that end, he will put in extra-long hours at Del Paso between coaching and playing.
“It happens that we have opposite tee times, so I’ll be able to work with him in the morning before I head out to play,” said Mitchell, who tees off at 2:40 p.m. PDT, well after Allen (7:31 a.m. PDT). “I may walk nine holes with him then come back to the hotel and get ready for my round. It will be a full couple of days for sure. And I’ll be as nervous as an alley cat on the first tee.”
Janzen, Jimenez, Montgomerie Have Quick U.S. Open Turnarounds
For three golfers in the U.S. Senior Open field, it won’t be their first national championship of the month.
Lee Janzen, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Colin Montgomerie each played in the U.S. Open last week at Chambers Bay.
Montgomerie had the most successful trip to the Pacific Northwest of the seniors, opening with a 1-under 69 en route to a tie for 64th place. Jimenez matched Montgomerie’s first round, but followed it with a 79 to miss the cut by three strokes. Janzen also played better the first day, shooting 73-76 in his first U.S. Open since 2008.
“I enjoyed most of it,” Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open champion, said of his Chambers Bay experience. “The mistakes I made weren’t even caused by the golf course. I was disappointed with that, but I also know those things happen in major championships. Slight mistakes get compounded and exaggerated. Once I knew I had no chance of making the cut, my focus was basically to make sure I didn’t do any damage to my game heading into here.”
The defending U.S. Senior Open champion, Montgomerie is excited about Del Paso.
“This is a great test of golf, a superb setup of a USGA event,” he said. “It gives you an opportunity to score, but you’ve got to play your best.”
Del Paso’s Final Six Holes Figure to Play Prominently in Outcome
The homestretch at Del Paso Country Club is not for the timid. In fact, Nos. 13 through 18 figure to be one of the most demanding finishing stretches in senior golf history.
It is easy to see why.
The difficult final third of the course begins with the 487-yard, par-4 13th hole, normally a par 5 for member play. No. 14 is a 215-yard par 3 followed by the longest par 5 in Senior Open history: the 636-yard 15th hole.
“I think you’ll see us use the 636 tee and the one forward of that at 590 to give us some variety there,” said Jeff Hall, managing director, Rules and Competitons for the USGA. “But certainly a very big par 5.”
From there, golfers face another stout par-4, the 473-yard 16th hole, where water guards the landing area and green. A lake also comes into play on the 17th, a 225-yard par 3. The 18th hole is a classic final hole, a 460-yard par 4 with an uphill approach.
“The last six holes are extremely tough,” said 2010 Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer. “If you hit it in the rough or in a bunker, you’re probably going to lose a shot. They’re long. They’re tough. There’s water. There’s everything you can think of.”
Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.