Deep down, Dennis Satyshur knows he ought to be impartial this week.
As the director of golf at Caves Valley Golf Club, part of his job at the U.S. Senior Open is to make sure things run smoothly and the players are happy. You can't play favorites or root for anyone, he knows, but darn it if Tom Kite isn't making that awful tough.
"When you've known somebody 30 years, and you've kind of grown up together, you can get to be pretty close," Satyshur said. "Tom's always been a great friend, and he's always been there for me. I'm proud of the association. ... He's my best friend, but it's also my job to meet the needs of all the players this week."
Still, it's been tough for Satyshur to not want to sneak a peak at the leader board that past two days. Kite shot a first-round 2-under 69, then followed it up yesterday with a 67. He's now tied for second place with Jose Maria Canizares at 136, a stroke back of Walter Hall.
"Dennis is so busy, when we've seen each other this week, it's only been in passing," Kite said. "But he's a very good friend of mine. There's a bunch of good Dennis stories, but he's too good a friend [for me to tell them]. He might lose his job."
Both aspiring young pros in the early 1970s, the two played together on some mini-tours in Florida, but only Kite qualified to play on the PGA Tour. Still, they stayed close and saw each other when possible.
Their friendship was so important to Kite that, in 1997, he picked Satyshur as his assistant coach when he was captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
"That was such a thrill for me," Satyshur said. "When we were on the Concorde on the way to Spain, he played a little trick on me and got someone to ask me for my visa. They said if I didn't have a visa, I couldn't get into Spain. My heart just dropped."
Of course, Kite couldn't take the joke too far. It was Satyshur, after all, who helped him relax in Baltimore the week before the 1992 U.S. Open, which turned out to be Kite's only major championship win on the PGA Tour. "It would be nice to win here [because of Satyshur]," Kite said. "But it would be nice to win the Senior Open at any time. I do have a lot of good friends in this area; it would be special."
The senior tour's leader in hitting greens in regulation, Kite has been exceptional in this tournament, leading the field by putting his approach on the green 86 percent of the time. Yesterday, he missed only the 12th green (94 percent).
"Today was a really good round," Kite said. "I hit the ball very solidly, and I putted it well. ... Now I've just got to keep it going for two more days."
Kite doesn't look much like the player he was 10 years ago when he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but that's mostly cosmetic. After LASIK eye surgery in 1998, he ditched his ultra thick signature glasses. But after some slumps, and some retooling of his swing, he still has consistency. He's fitter than ever, and if the heat again climbs into the 90s, his stamina won't be a problem.
Kite's been coming to Caves Valley Golf Club long before anyone dreamed it would play host to a major championship, and his winning would bring things full circle for Satyshur.
"It would be a huge thing for me," Satyshur said. "He's like a brother. He's always been there, and he's helped me throughout my career just by coming to wherever I've worked. ... There's still a lot of good players out there, and he'll have to be at the top of his game to win."
Sun staff writer Travis Haney contributed to this article.