By Mike Dudurich, Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM – Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich
The 144th British Open Championship hasn’t quite determined its Champion Golfer of the Year on the hallowed ground of the Old Course at St. Andrews.
And it’s time for the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association to name its 111th Open Champion, and that will take place at Westmoreland Country Club in Export Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
A field of 78 – 30 pros and 48 amateurs – will play the first two days, with a cut to follow Tuesday’s second round to the low 32 and ties. The 2015 Open is the first in the history of the event to be played over three days.
The pros will play for a purse in excess of $30,000.
Westmoreland Country Club has been the site of five previous Opens, which were won by John Birmingham in 1972, John Baker in 1991, John C. Jones III in 1994, Steve Wheatcroft in 2007 and Dan Thompson in 2009.
Perhaps the most prominent winner of the West Penn Open was Jock Hutchinson. Born in Scotland, Hutchinson’s family moved to the United States in the early 1900s and he worked at Allegheny Country Club.
He was a really good player, not only winning five West Penn Opens, but more importantly, he won two major championships: the 1920 PGA Championship and the British Open Championship at St. Andrews in 1921. The latter was the first by a U.S.-based player.
Perry DelVecchio and Roy Vucinich are the only other players to have won five Open titles and Vucinich will be in the field this week.
The WPGA has put together a couple of interesting pairings for Monday morning. At 9:20, Sean Knapp (19 individual WPGA titles), Bob Ford (1979 winner) and Easton Renwick (winner of the 2015 West Penn Am) will tee off.
In the next group at 9:30, Nathan Smith (15 individual WPGA titles), Jon Mills (2014 champion), and Vucinich will play.
Chances are this tournament won’t have a runaway winner. The largest margin of victory in the first 110 years has been five shots and it’s only been done once. Allegheny Country Club professional John Aber did that in 1999 at Longue Vue.
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Arnold Palmer was a limited participant in the Champion Golfers’ Challenge Wednesday, the day before the 144th British Open kicked off.
The event featured 28 champions paired into seven four-man teams, playing a four-hole hit-and-giggle event on the first, second, 17th and 18th holes on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
Palmer painfully teed off on the first hole, but didn’t hit any other shots. He rode around with his teammates and soaked up the nostalgic atmosphere.
The fans cheered his every move and he responded with the familiar thumbs up and captivating smile.
History shows Palmer opened the doors for Americans making the long trip across the Atlantic to play in the third major of the year, having already won the first two. Kal Nagel, who died earlier this year, stopped Palmer’s run at a third major, but he came back to win Opens the next two years.
His continuing shoulder problems kept him from playing, but his emotions were working just fine.
Palmer choked up while being interviewed prior to his team going off No. 1, pointing toward the full bleachers that surrounded the first tee and 18th green. He waved to those adoring fans when the words wouldn’t come but the tears did.
He had an even tougher time after the competition was completed. Latrobe’s favorite son was obviously overwhelmed by the moment and couldn’t finish the interview.
One of the TV types suggested this could have been Palmer and Peter Thomson’s, the other 85-year-old in the event, last trip to Scotland and perhaps that did play into Palmer’s emotional state. But as Palmer has aged, he has gotten more and more emotional. And that’s not a bad thing by any means.
The man has lived a wonderful life, has had a great impact on the lives of millions of people around the world and changed the world of golf when he turned professional.
If the man gets choked up and sheds some tears if he’s so moved, there’s not a thing wrong with that.
As I was told once, tears shed are a true indication of depth of the love a person has for another or a thing.
There’s no doubt how much Palmer loves the game and how much it loves him.
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Here are a couple statistics to consider: In the first round of the Open Thursday, the famous 17th hole, the Road Hole, was certainly the winner. The field of 156 players made no birdies and 18 double-bogeys or worse. Everybody loves Tiger Woods stats, especially the way he’s playing now. After his miserable performance in the U.S. Open, he had compiled three rounds in the 80s in the 16 rounds he had played at that point.
The fact that he had posted an 80 just once in his first 1,121 PGA Tour rounds speaks volumes to where his game is. As does the fact that in those 16 rounds, Woods was 41 over par.