Sterling Finish

Pooley wins in five-hole playoff

He becomes first player to win Open as qualifier

U.s. Senior Open

Caves Valley Golf Club

July 01, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

The 2002 U.S. Senior Open brought big names and big crowds and a big-time golf setting to Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. The event had a little of everything, but for much of yesterday's final round, there seemed to be an ingredient missing from this recipe.

Drama.

Don Pooley and Tom Watson more than made up for that. After Watson climbed back from a five-stroke deficit in the last 10 holes of regulation, he and Pooley clawed their way through a five-hole playoff that ended when Pooley made an 8-foot putt on the second hole of sudden death.

The victory was Pooley's first since the 1987 Memorial Tournament and made him the first player to win the Senior Open after having to qualify just to get into the field. The win was worth $450,000 to Pooley, 50.

Pooley shot a 1-under-par 70 in his last round to Watson's 67, leaving them both at 10-under for the regulation 72 holes.

"This wasn't supposed to be, like, exciting, but Tom kept making birdies," Pooley told the huge crowd that remained around the 18th green after his victory. "I hope you enjoyed it. But it scared me to death."

Said Watson, 52, who finished second for the fourth time this year: "All the credit goes to Don. He didn't play particularly well on the back nine, but he made all the putts he had to make."

Pooley, a journeyman who won just twice on the PGA Tour, became the sixth player to make the Senior Open his first senior tour win. When his winning putt fell, all Watson could do was shake Pooley's hand. Watson had missed the fairway with his drive and was putting for par.

The victory for Pooley was particularly sweet for his caddie, Cliff Mohr, who had taught Pooley since he was 16. Mohr retired from his job as a club pro last fall to start working for, and with, Pooley.

"I think it's certainly a great feather in his cap," Mohr said. "When he was on the regular tour, he sometimes had doubts about his abilities. He now has no doubts on the senior tour."

A few feet away, Pooley's wife, Margaret, was crying.

"I am just so proud of him," Margaret Pooley said. "He really was so calm and focused. It's so exciting watching him to do this. It's incredible."

The victory was also exciting for the more than 25,000 fans who trekked around the hilly course, as well as for the tournament and club officials.

Jim Flick, a member at Caves Valley and the Senior Open's general chairman, said the play of Pooley and Watson enhanced the game itself.

"This is what national championships are all about," Flick said. "I think Don Pooley and Tom Watson spoke volumes about golf and what golf means to people."

Said USGA President Reid McKenzie: "I heard someone say that both players were champions. Boy, did we have a couple of champions today."

But only one of them was holding the trophy.

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