Thorpe no stranger to Hobbit's Glen

Before joining PGA Tour, he won Md. Open in 1970s

Senior notebook

July 04, 1999|By Don Markus and John W. Stewart | Don Markus and John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

The trip to Hobbit's Glen Golf Club for the $1.3 million State Farm Senior Classic is just another tour stop for most in the field. For Jim Thorpe, it is a trip back to the future.

This was where Thorpe won a Maryland Open back in the early 1970s, before he went out on the PGA Tour and produced nearly $2 million in earnings and three victories in a 14-year career.

It came at a time when Thorpe was living in Baltimore, having played football at Morgan State, and playing with other blacks on what fellow Senior Tour pro Bobby Stroble called "the neckbone circuit."

"You had guys like Lefty Brown and Nick Gardner, guys who were as willing to teach you as beat you," Thorpe recalled yesterday after a 5-under-par 67. "People say I wasted a lot of time, but we did what we had to do to survive."

Thorpe, who turned 50 in February, is now trying to make his way on the Senior Tour. He came into this week's tournament ranked 15th on the money list, with $437,968. He'll go into today's final round at 5-under 139.

The local knowledge Thorpe should have had from playing the Columbia course "maybe 50 or 60 times, more than anybody else in the tournament" hasn't helped him much this week. The reason: an erratic putter.

"I missed a lot of putts out there," he said in the locker room, his visor turned backward and his shirt soaked through from the heat. "The greens are tough to read. They're a lot more bouncy than I remember."

Thorpe figures that his putter has cost him the chance of his first Senior Tour win. He has five top-10 finishes, including a playoff loss to Tom Jenkins last month at the Bell Atlantic Classic.

"My ball-striking is as good as anybody's," he said, "but my putter's not ready to win."

Still, Thorpe has few complaints. He has already made more money this year than in his best year on the PGA Tour, in 1985, when he earned just more than $400,000 and won two tournaments. He said he plans to play the Senior Tour for at least five years.

Super win for Dill

Terry Dill had won only once in 10 years on the Senior Tour, the 1992 Bank One Classic. Dill, who turned 60 in May, won yesterday for the first time as a Super Senior.

His 4-under 68 gave Dill a two-round total of 5-under 139, beating former U.S. Open champion Orville Moody by a shot.

Bassler rules

Such players as Thorpe, Stroble and Lee Elder were not the only ones on site this week who had played Hobbit's Glen before the arrival of the Senior Tour last year.

While they were winners of the old Middle Atlantic Open that was played here, rules official Chuck Bassler was head professional at the Columbia course for 2 1/2 years in the mid-1980s.

Bassler, who grew up in Catonsville and later in suburban Washington while his father Charlie was head professional at area clubs, turned professional in 1976 and went to work for his dad at Indian Spring Country Club.

"I went to Shannon Green in Fredericksburg for seven years, was here in the mid-80s, and went to Willow Oaks in Richmond in 1988," Bassler said the other day.

"I helped on rules at some small events, and about the time I went to Richmond, Bill Clarke [former head pro at Hillendale Country Club and national rules committee chairman for the PGA of America bracket] asked me to be a member of the committee.

"Last August, I got a call about an opening on the Senior Tour for a rules official and was I interested."

The answer was yes, and Bassler, 51, moved on to a new career after resigning his Willow Oaks position.

Pub Date: 7/04/99

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