Persistence pays off for Summerhays Tie for 2nd gives Irwin career money lead

July 06, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

What had been a rather benign setting at the Hobbit's Glen Golf Club in Columbia for the first two rounds of the inaugural State Farm Senior Classic turned sinister yesterday. The rough seemed a little higher, the greens a lot faster, the nerves certainly more frayed.

Just when it looked as if three players would emerge from a pack of a dozen who had taken part in an ugly game of leapfrog on the leader board, Bruce Summerhays made the last of his seven birdies -- to go along with four bogeys -- on the final hole to win the $187,500 first prize.

An 18-foot putt was dead, solid perfect, giving Summerhays a 3-under-par 69 and a three-round total of 10-under 206. It also gave him a one-shot victory over Hale Irwin and Walter Hall. Irwin's check for $100,000 made him golf's all-time money winner.

Seven players finished at 8-under-par 208. Included in that group was Terry Dill, who made birdies at two of the first three holes to lead by two but then made bogeys on four of the next seven; also, second-round co-leader and former U.S. Open champion David Graham, whose three-putt from eight feet on the par-3 16th proved costly.

"I'm not sure I'm as good a player as Hale Irwin, but my time does come and today was my time, " Summerhays, 54, said after his second victory in four years on the Senior tour, following last year's playoff win at the St. Luke's Classic in Kansas City.

His afternoon was a microcosm of his career -- it took a longtime to unfold. Summerhays started the round three shots behind Graham and Tom Jenkins, who faded with a final-round 79. Summerhays took the lead briefly by getting to 10 under after a birdie at the par-4 10th hole.

But bogeys on the next two holes put Summerhays two shots behind Hall, a Senior Tour rookie. A 21-foot birdie putt from the fringe off the par-4 14th hole put Summerhays back to 9 under, tied with Graham and Hall. But Graham, who had missed a short par putt on the par-4 ninth hole, missed a 2-footer for par on 16.

Meanwhile, Irwin birdied two of the last three holes to cap a 3-under-par 69 in which he made three birdies and no bogeys on the back nine. A 2-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th, which followed a terrific lag from nearly 70 feet, had left Irwin tied with Hall and Summerhays at 9 under.

"I knew somebody else would birdie it," Irwin said of the 541-yard closing hole. "If I had birdied 11 and not three-putted 13, I might have been closer to the lead with holes to play."

Summerhays believed that his approach to the par-4 17th was just as crucial as the putt on 18.

His tee shot on the 381-yard hole had found a sand-filled divot in the fairway, the same sort of circumstance that proved disastrous for Payne Stewart in the final round at the recent U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. Summerhays merely turned to his son William, who is also his caddie.

"I said to William, 'It's just another challenge,' " said Summerhays, whose resume includes 13 years as an assistant at the prestigious San Francisco club. "I had shots like it before. I told myself, 'Don't feel scared. Just make it another challenge.' "

No bigger challenge than giving up a secure life as a club pro in Utah and trying the Senior Tour. Summerhays wound up hitting an 8-iron safely on the green, 27 feet from the cup, and two-putted for par. Then came the putt at 18, the result of three strategically placed shots that left him an L-wedge from the green.

In retrospect, Summerhays might have been suited to the mental chaos that pervaded the final round, making the $1.25 million tournament seem more like a U.S. Open than just another early summer tour stop. After all, Summerhays is the father of eight with 10 grandchildren to boot.

"There's nothing I haven't seen having eight children and 10 grandchildren," said Summerhays, who was joined by some 15 family members here. "You learn to play in commotion. Being out there in this is like being at home."

Summerhays, who has gained a reputation for being something of a 35-tournament-a-year Senior Tour workhorse, certainly outplayed a few with more glittering resumes. Aside from Irwin, there were two other former U.S. Open champions, Dave Stockton and Hubert Green, both of whom finished at 8-under par.

"I did not have the game I needed to really contend," said Irwin, who was looking for his fourth Senior Tour victory of the year . "The greens proved to be the most difficult part of the day. I said on Thursday that it would be everyone's problem and it turned out to be the case."

Surpassing Greg Norman as the game's all-time money winner and becoming the first player in history to go over the $12 million mark was of little consolation to Irwin.

"I'm pleased to be the leader, but it's representative of a good career, a lot of steady play," he said.

Summerhays has been a fairly steady player since coming out on the Senior Tour four years ago. He finished 13th in earnings with $729,021 in 1995, his first full season on tour.

After a bit of a slump in 1996 -- he wound up 29th with $449,659, but had only five top-10 finishes -- Summerhays was back to 14th last year. Aside from his victory in Nashville, he also won the Toyota Invitational, a two-day event at Cattail Creek in Glenwood that served as a precursor for this week.

"When I won that tournament, I made a lot of friends in the area," he said. "To do it again this year, it doesn't get any better. It's very, very special."

Money players

Hale Irwin yesterday became the leading career money winner on the PGA tours. The top five:

Hale Irwin, $12,030,109

Greg Norman, $11,936,443

Tom Kite, $10,429,736

Fred Couples, $10,371,035

Mark O'Meara, $9,510,070

Senior Classic

The winner

Bruce Summerhays 69-206

and selected followers

Hale Irwin 69-207

Walter Hall 69-207

Hubert Green 68-208

Jim Albus 68-208

Bob Duval 71-208

Leonard Thompson 70-208

Dave Stockton 72-208

David Graham 74-208

Terry Dill 73-208

J. C. Snead 71-209

Bobby Stroble 71-210

Arnold Palmer 80-224

Pub Date: 7/06/98

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