For the past eight weeks, Ed Dougherty, 50, has been saying "thank you" the best way he knows how -- with his golf clubs.
Of six events on the Senior PGA Tour, he has been out of the top 20 only once, and all but one of his totals have been under par. His $168,703 has him 45th on the money list.
Dougherty will be trying to add to his impressive start when the State Farm Senior Classic begins tomorrow at Hobbit's Glen Golf Club in Columbia.
Although admitting that these results were beyond his expectations, the former club pro from Philadelphia tempers that, saying, "I had some chances and didn't capitalize on them, too. The goal is to play as well as I know I can."
The onetime PGA of America Club Professional of the Year was one of three (with John Mahaffey and Peter Oosterhuis) making tour debuts in Kansas City, and tied for 19th. "I opened [with a] 78, and that was a humbling experience," he said this week. "I had to get my nerves under control."
At the Bell Atlantic (Avondale, Pa.) a week later, Dougherty finished tied for third, but couldn't even get low Philadelphia, yielding to Jay Sigel, who won it.
Off his Kansas City showing and sponsor's exemption, he was an added starter at the Bell Atlantic media day, then did the State Farm family a favor by coming down for its media day when he wasn't even in the field.
The local group was holding a place for a possible "name" player, but when entries closed, Dougherty received that spot.
"They were honest with me about it, and I was glad to do it," Dougherty said. "I figured we're both newcomers trying to do well."
Dougherty's Senior Tour start was delayed when he herniated two disks in his back last Oct. 31, four days before his 50th birthday.
He spent the winter in Florida, rehabilitating with rest and then exercise instead of surgery.
A world apart
David Oakley, the former Northern Virginia resident and one-time runner-up in the Maryland State Amateur, is just back from several weeks of playing on the European Senior Tour.
"I didn't play over there last year [he was an exempt player on the U.S. tour], but the fields are much better than a couple of years ago when I was over there.
"My best this time was a tournament in England. I shot 66 the last day to finish third."
Dougherty and Oakley's teams were among the leaders in the first of two pro-ams. Dougherty, along with Kermit Zarley and Jose Maria Canizares, shot 3-under-par 69s to lead the individual pros. Oakley, Bill Bradley, David Cook, Wayne Fowler and Rod Mann won the team prize, combining for 17-under-par 55.