For Summerhays, Classic started ball rolling

June 11, 1999|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Bruce Summerhays came from behind on the final day to capture the inaugural State Farm Senior Classic last July, it turned out to be the springboard to a million-dollar year.

The win was the second and the money total a record for the four-year tour veteran out of Heber, Utah. A year later, he is well on his way to repeating at least one of those feats.

Less than halfway through the season, one of the tour's most durable players has earned $424,334, making him No. 12 on the money list.

Not bad for a onetime college coach (Stanford) and veteran club professional. Still, he has been a fine player since his All-America days at Utah. In his background are Player- of-the-Year honors in two PGA sections, with starts in four U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships.

Could he envision a 1998 when he first qualified for the Senior Tour?

"Heaven sakes, no," he answered during a recent stop in Columbia to boost the Hobbit's Glen stop.

"Ask any of the club pros. This is beyond our wildest dreams. I slap myself alongside the head every day to make sure I'm not dreaming."

Summerhays was an assistant pro at the Olympic Club in San Francisco for seven years and fell in love with the old-style courses.

"Maybe that's why I seem to play well when coming east," he said.

Given the rolling, tree-lined course, and the presence of family members in the area, Summerhays certainly has taken to Howard County.

Two years ago, he won the second of the two Toyota Invitation events at Cattail Creek CC, and last year, he made up three shots the final day, capping it with an 18-foot birdie putt on the last hole to avoid a playoff with Walter Hall and Hale Irwin.

NOTES: Rookies Bruce Fleisher (three) and Allen Doyle (three) have combined for six wins in 16 events this season. They are among the five first-time winners this season, joining Gary McCord, Bob Duval and Tom Jenkins. When Irwin collected $100,000 here last year, it made him the first Senior Tour player to surpass $12 million in combined career tour earnings.

Facts and figures

What: State Farm Senior Classic

When: July 2-4

Where: Hobbit's Glen Golf Club, Columbia (6,816 yards, par 72)

Format: 54-hole stroke play

Purse: $1.3 million (First, $195,000; second, $114,400; third, $93,600)

Defending champion: Bruce Summerhays

Field: Early commitments have been received from nine of the top 10 players on the money list and 21 of the top 25.

Tickets: Season badge, $75; Wednesday-Thursday, $15; Friday-Sunday, $25

Parking: Spectator parking off Route 108, with shuttle to course.

Information: 410-964-0900

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