Rookie Sigel is at home on Senior Open course

June 30, 1994|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Sun Staff Writer

PINEHURST, N.C. -- When the 15th U.S. Senior Open begins this morning over the world-renowned No. 2 Course of Pinehurst Country Club, no one in the 156-player field will have local knowledge to compare with Jay Sigel.

Sigel may be a rookie on the PGA Senior Tour, but he is a veteran of No. 2, having played it more than 100 times. Couple this with a record 66 appearances in U.S. Golf Association events and a slew of national and international titles, and it adds up to a position as one of the tournament favorites.

It's a list that includes Dave Stockton, last week's Senior Players Championship winner (51-under par, good for two wins and a second, in his last 10 rounds); Raymond Floyd, a three-time winner this year and not out of the top 10 in 10 starts; five-time winner Lee Trevino; and defending champion Jack Nicklaus.

Now, Sigel belongs in that company for his recent play alone, let alone his affection for the course.

Some predicted immediate success as a professional, but more figured it would take him awhile to adjust, despite credentials that made him the finest amateur player in the world since Bobby Jones.

So, he came out and shot 77 in his first competitive round as a pro. From there, rounds of 72-70 followed and he tied for 43rd. In his next three starts, his worst score was 71, and his best an 8-under 62 in the last round of the GTE West Classic that led to a four-hole playoff win over Jim Colbert.

"That first tournament was awesome. It was a lot of fun even though I started off a little rocky. The second one was that much better [tie-24], and the third, I was leading the event -- which was kind of enough to blow your mind that early -- and played well [tie-6]."

He continued: "I said at that point that these guys really are

having fun, and I'm really glad I made the decision [to turn pro]. And it was easy to say at that point because it wasn't distorted financially. Then, to win the fourth event. . . . I don't have the words to express that one."

The significance of a special exemption into this event has not been lost on Sigel.

"I remember coming here the first time for the Donald Ross Junior tournament. I was 15, took the train overnight from Philadelphia and teed it up in freezing weather. I shot 72, tied for first, and the rest was called off because of the weather," he said.

After that, there were numerous trips here, first as a Wake Forest undergraduate, and later in "more than 20" North and South Amateurs, one of the few events he never won.


Where: Pinehurst (N.C.) CC No. 2

When: Today through Sunday

Field: 156 players filled through exemptions and qualifying rounds. Includes 28 of top 30 on the tour money list

Defending champion: Jack Nicklaus

Purse: $800,000 (1st, $145,000; 2nd, $75,000; 3rd, 51,837)

Format: 72 holes stroke play (in event of tie, there will be an 18-hole playoff)

TV: Today and tomorrow, noon-2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. on ESPN. Saturday and Sunday, 3:30 p.m.-6 p.m. on ABC (Channel 13).

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