Arrowhead's Bruce Stewart rides birdie binge to U.S. Senior Open berth
Stewart, 60, birdied five of the final seven holes and finished at 1-under-par 71 to take top honors at last week's qualifying tournament at Creekside Golf Club in Salem.
Arrowheads Bruce Stewart played some of the best golf of his life during last weeks U.S. Senior Open qualifier at Creekside Golf Club in Salem.
Stewart birdied five of the final seven holes and finished at 1-under-par 71 to score a one-stroke victory over three other golfers and earn a berth into the July 7-13 U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla.
I was just playing golf, Stewart said after winning the Senior Open qualifier for the second year in a row. I hit a ball in the creek and one in the lake and it didnt bother me, because I was just trying to execute and hit the shot I wanted.
I just kept playing free and then all of a sudden the last seven holes it was pretty phenomenal.
Stewart, 60, isnt the only Arrowhead golfer making the trip to Oklahoma.
Amateur Pat ODonnell earned an exemption into the Senior Open field after finishing second at the 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur Championships in Cashiers, N.C.
Arrowhead head pro Rob Gibbons also could find his way into the field after he shot even-par 72 in last weeks qualifier at Creekside and then birdied the first hole of a playoff with Steve Bowen and Tom Carey to secure his spot as first alternate.
I never expected to qualify, even when I finished at 1-under, because I thought for sure someone would shoot 68 or something, Stewart said. The golf course played really fair. I just think that anytime youre trying to go play in our national tournament, that puts a little more pressure on it.
We could play the next day and play the same course, and three guys could shoot 67. It just happened to be that one day that 71 took it.
After a bogey at the par-3 11th hole dropped Stewart to 4-over, he caught fire, making birdies on five of the next six holes.
At No. 12, an uphill par-5, Stewart landed a 3-wood second shot from 255 yards on the green and two-putted for birdie.
At No. 13, another par-5, he hit a 3-wood second shot from 260 yards to within 6 feet and again two-putted.
After a par at the par-3 14th hole, Stewart hit a 9-iron approach at No. 15 to 6 feet and made the birdie putt, and then he hit a 3-wood to the edge of the green at No. 16 and got up and down for his fourth birdie in five holes.
Stewart hit the shot of the day when he drilled a 4-iron to within 2 feet at the 200-yard par-3 17th hole and made the putt to move to 1-under. He then made par on the final hole, making him the only player in a field of 39 players to break par.
I was absolutely thrilled with the way I played those last seven holes, Stewart said. Even if I didnt qualify, that was, for me, what might have been the best seven holes of my life. It just was.
Stewarts victory marked the fourth consecutive year that an Arrowhead golfer has qualified for the U.S. Senior Open. Gibbons won the 2011 qualifier at Tualatin Country Club, ODonnell finished second in 2012 when two spots were up for grabs at Pumpkin Ridges Witch Hollow Course in North Plains, and Stewart won last year at Willamette Valley Country Club in Canby.
Stewart is seeking some redemption after his performance in last years Senior Open at Omaha Country Club in Omaha, Neb., where he missed the cut by 15 strokes.
Im really thrilled to go back, Stewart said. I played so poorly in Omaha last year that Im motivated to go back and do a lot better.
Arrowheads Denny Taylor, another amateur, also was in contention at last weeks Senior Open qualifier after shooting even-par 36 on the front nine before finishing in a tie for 11th at 3-over 75.