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SAS Championship – Cary, NC – Champions Tour

The two day drive to Cary was uneventful but very memorable. Passing through Indianapolis there were thoughts of Murph’s second win at The Broadmoor, Dad made the earlier morning drive for the Sunday round, we were rained out but he saw the trophy presentation. There were six or seven years of family fish frys the Huber family provided for the Senior Tour when we played at the Speedway. The last year we fed 175 players, caddies, family and friends in the Motel 6 courtyard.

Crisscrossing the Ohio River I remembered a two day road trip with Tom Wargo and his caddy Butch. We ended up snake dancing in the streets with small town locals dressed in frontier buckskin outfits. It was quite a night and started in a bar with dirt floors. Wargo was the ringleader, we just followed along.

When 9/11 wrecked havoc we were in Winston-Salem. The tournament was cancelled and nobody could get out of town. Todd, Sandy, Scotty, and I rented a cabin in Boone, NC and made the best of a terrible situation. Fishing, golfing, card games, and bar-b-ques took our mind off the world’s problems.

Reminiscing helps the miles pass but this was a week I needed to stay in the present. Bob’s playing well and has a good track record at Prestonwood CC, a win or top five was definitely a possibility. Arriving Tuesday afternoon I bought a new yardage book replacing my tattered and torn relic then roamed the course for a few hours. They had restructured the back nine greens so it took a little work but the general layout hadn’t changed. It was playing hard and fast without rain the last thirty days. We’re used to soggy conditions here and dodging hurricanes.

SAS and the Goodnight family brought the Senior Tour to Cary ten years ago. They’ve poured a lot of money into Prestonwood and the tournament making it one of the most popular stops on tour. The elegant clubhouse serves the best buffet on tour and most players complain of putting on a few pounds here. The SAS employees make up the majority of the volunteer staff and the pro-am participants come from all over the world.

Playing two pro-ams gave us a lot of time to get used to the dry conditions and new greens. If I had to bet on Bob Wednesday I wouldn’t have liked our chances. He was suffering a bit from a long flight and stacking firewood the day before he left. We had fun but the game was ugly Wednesday morning, Thursday was a much better day.

Our group showed up with cocktails in hand, wry smiles, pretty good golf swings, and a veteran PGA Tour caddy in tow. We were in for a good time but my tip was in jeopardy. They fired the veteran caddy on the third hole, reloaded their coolers, and the fun was on. There was nothing sacred, nobody was untouchable, and I’m surprised a couple of them didn’t fall out of their cart. The team score was terrible but we had some fun and they filled my pocket nicely.

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Bob was ready for Friday, I could feel it Thursday afternoon after a brief practice session. It was one of those days where I give the numbers and get out of the way; he was playing and putting well. The five birdie, one eagle, one bogey round put us in the final group Saturday and the juices were flowing. It had been awhile, I was a bit nervous, but it was those fun butterflies you get when you’re in the hunt. It was an up and down day but we managed a 71 and tied for sixth going into Sunday.

Rain was in the forecast, the tee times were moved up and we were in the third group still with a chance to win. That’s what you want on Sunday is a chance and then see what happens. It was another roller-coaster round starting with a bogey. Every time we dropped a birdie or two a bogey popped up and destroyed our momentum. The wind was swirling, the greens were inconsistent but Bob hung in there. After birdies on 13 and 14 we were three shots back tied for third with a definite chance for victory.

You start looking at the leader board Sunday on the back nine, that’s when the fun begins and you may make a few decisions based on your position. We were behind so we had to be aggressive and that may have hurt us. We three putted the fifteenth after leaving our approach shot woefully short and then forced an eight iron to a back pin on sixteen. The back to back bogies knocked us out of contention and Bob’s head was down standing next to the seventeenth tee. We had a little pep talk, sucked it up, birdied the easy par five and finished tied for eighth. A good tournament with a touch of a bad taste Sunday afternoon, it’ll be better on Monday.

When you’re that close you replay every shot, decision, and putt. That’s what I did Sunday night, beat myself up a few times over some poor decisions, but felt better when I saw the paper Monday morning. It was the best tournament of the year but I don’t want to see what a couple of shots better would have finished.

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