1/8 TC BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Some of the 96 golfers who had to survive qualifying rounds to reach the U.S. Senior Open undoubtedly had interesting stories, but it is unlikely anyone could match the experience of Larry Watts.
There were no wouldas or couldas for Watts, 60, a semi-retired anesthesiologist from La Quinta, Calif., but none came closer to staying home.
Here, with his twin brother, Jerry, a Naval Academy instructor, caddying for him, Larry opened with a 74, then took putts on his way to an 80.
How he got here in the first place is something else again.
He was an early finisher in his qualifying round, shooting a 2-over-par 73 at Mesa Verde CC in Costa Mesa, Calif., and a friend from the club, where Watts had been a member at one time, suggested he go home with him rather than waiting at the club.
Later in the afternoon, Watts began getting antsy and went back to the club. Upon arrival, he was told he was tied with four others for the last four places -- and the other four were in the middle of the first fairway.
They had not hit their second shots -- if they had, all would have been in and Watts would have been disqualified -- so Watts was assessed a two-stroke penalty for being late and allowed to tee off.
He parred the first hole for a double bogey, but another of the players also doubled the hole and Watts won with a par at the second extra hole.
Although the brothers are near look-alikes (Larry, at 6 feet and 210 pounds, has put on some weight of late, while Jerry is slender), Larry, who carries a 1 handicap, plays left-handed and putts right-handed with a long putter. Jerry is right-handed all the way and uses a traditional putter.
"I used to carry one of his clubs to get out of trouble spots hitting left-handed, but I didn't use it enough to keep it," Jerry said.
Jerry, who has taught systems engineering at Navy for 17 years, is a solid player in his own right. A 3 handicapper at the Naval
Academy, he missed by a stroke of forcing a playoff to get here during local qualifying at River Bend CC two weeks ago.
The brothers have won a two-man team event in Williamsport, Pa., and Jerry teamed with Naval Academy GC member Bob Leake to win a Middle Atlantic Seniors two-man team title last year (and missed by a stroke tying for first this year).
A first-time qualifier, he vowed to be back, "but I'm going to have work on my game. This was a great experience."
Women's Trans National
Sarah LeBrun Ingram will be one of the feature attractions when the 62nd annual Women's Trans National championship begins tomorrow at the CC of Pinehurst, N.C.
Ingram, a Green Spring member living in Nashville, Tenn., who won the Women's Broadmoor Invitation in Colorado Springs, Colo., last week, is one of five Curtis Cup players in the field. Among the others is defending champion Vickie Goetz.
Other entries include Kim Cayce, Potomac; Lynne Hunter, Ellicott City; Sally Voss Kreuger (former women's Maryland State and Middle Atlantic champion), San Francisco; Shawn McCullough, Alexandria, Va.; Jamie Schrier, Bowie; and Karen Smith, Chestertown.
Thirty six holes of qualifying will reduce a 144-player field to 64 for match play through Saturday.
Senior Challenge Cup
The Maryland team finished back in the pack at the recent Senior Challenge Cup in Des Moines, Iowa, but Charlie Harris, a one-time Maryland State Amateur champion from the CC of Maryland, shot 75-74149 to tie for second, three shots back.
Scoring was based on the best three scores from the four-man team for two days, and a team total the last day. Joining Harris on the team were Jackie Rites, Ron Beverungen and Perky Cullinane.
The entry deadline for the women's two-ball tournament at Mount Pleasant GC (July 20) closes tomorrow. . . . A field of 200 has entered the Maryland Open, a 54-hole event beginning tomorrow at Prince George's CC. Burning Tree assistant Jon Stanley is the defending champion. . . . The monthly Mid-Atlantic Golf Course Superintendents meeting will be held Tuesday at Swan Point Y&GC. . . . Towson State is bringing back its golf program, along with coach Spiro Morekas.
This week's schedule
Tomorrow: Maryland Open, Prince George's CC, 6:45 a.m. Tuesday: Maryland Open, Prince George's CC, 7 a.m.; Women's Golf Association, CC Maryland and Hobbit's Glen GC, 9 a.m. Wednesday: Maryland Open, Prince George's CC, 7:30 a.m. Friday: Middle Atlantic PGA pro-am, Hog Neck GC, 8 a.m.