SI Vault
June 30, 1997
Irwin Plays For History
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 30, 1997

News And Notes

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue


Johnny Miller says that because he has played so infrequently this year, his expectations will be low when he makes his Senior tour debut July 25-27 in the Franklin Quest Championship at Park City, Utah. But if Miller follows in the footsteps of the nine other Senior golfers in the Hall of Fame, he should do well. All the others finished in the top 10 in their Senior debuts, and three of them, including Arnold Palmer (left), won.


Career Senior Wins

First Event


Jack Nicklaus


'90 Tradition


Arnold Palmer


'80 PGA Seniors


Gary Player


'85 Quadel Senior Classie


Gene Littler


'81 Peter Jackson Champions


Hale Irwin


'95 BellSouth Classic


Chi Chi Rodriguez


'85 Quadel Senior Classic


Ray Floyd


'92 Bank One Classic


Lee Trevino


'89 GTE Kaanapali Classic


Billy Casper


'81 Marlboro Classic


Irwin Plays For History

In two years Hale Irwin has just about done it all on the Senior tour, winning eight tournaments—including two majors—and more than $3.4 million. But there is at least one more mountain still to climb. "I'd like to be one of those who can put a U.S. Open trophy and a Senior Open trophy on his mantel," says Irwin, who would become the seventh man to accomplish the feat if he wins this week's Senior Open at Olympia Fields Country Club outside Chicago. (The others are Billy Casper, Orville Moody, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino.)

Irwin's mantel is already crowded. In the eight Senior majors in which he has played since joining the tour in June '95, Irwin, a three-time U.S. Open champion, has finished no worse than 13th and has three seconds to go with his two wins. Last year at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio, he was runner-up to Dave Stockton in the Senior Open.

The only thing that might hold Irwin back this week is his busy schedule. In May he went into a momentary swoon while playing in four consecutive tournaments. The Senior Open—the only Senior event that doesn't allow players to use carts—will be Irwin's fifth start in as many weeks. (He finished second to Graham Marsh in last week's Nationwide Championship.) But 6,841-yard Olympia Fields, which hosted the 1928 U.S. Open and two PGAs (1925 and '61), is suited for Irwin's steady if unspectacular game. The course features five-inch rough, lightning-fast greens and narrow fairways. "You have to drive the ball straight, hit the greens and figure out a way to make a lot of pars and some birdies," says Irwin. "It's very simple."

Q School Grads Wonder How Low They Can Go

Golf can be a cruel game, as 1996 PGA Tour Q school grads Adam Mednick, Tony Mollica, Brad Sutterfield and Paul Tesori can attest. Among the 49 Q schoolers on Tour, they are the only ones who haven't made a cut this year—all four missed at last week's Buick Classic—and if one of them were to finish the season without winning a dollar on Tour, he would become the first Q school grad to do so since Gordon Johnson in 1985.

"I can't say I'm doing all right," said Tesori, a 25-year-old from St. Augustine, Fla., after his 81-82 at Westchester left him dead last among the 153 players who finished 36 holes. His playing partner, Mednick, limped in with 77-78-155, while Mollica shot 72-77-149 and Sutterfield 75-72-147. The cut came at 145, three over par.

This fumbling foursome's combined stats make one wonder how they got through Q school, the six-round grind that many consider to be the toughest tournament in golf. They have a 74.8 scoring average and just 160 birdies—103 fewer than the Tour leader, Paul Stankowski. Not only are they 0 for 32 in cuts made on the regular Tour, but they've also been blanked on the Nike tour, going 0-15. Only Mednick, a 30-year-old from Sweden, has cashed a check this year. He's also a member of the European tour and won $5,112 by finishing 21st at the Cannes Open in April. "I don't have a sponsor, and we're running on fumes," says Mednick, whose fiancée, Johanna Willcox, caddies for him. "Every week is like a horror film playing over and over."

Mollica, 31, is still smarting after being slighted last month. Because he was 33rd at Q school (second best of the group, behind Mednick, who was 21st), he's well down the priority list used by the Tour to decide who gets into events. Still, he felt he had a good shot at a spot in the Memorial because he grew up playing at Muirfield Village, the host club, and remains a dues-paying member. When he wasn't invited, says Mollica, "I was hurt, really hurt."

At Westchester, Tesori had as much trouble off the course as on it. On Thursday night, after visiting the Empire State Building and dining at the All-Star Cafe, Tesori and his girlfriend boarded a subway train they thought was headed to Grand Central Station—and got off three hours later after an underground tour of Brooklyn. They didn't return to their hotel until 2:45 a.m. "It seems like just yesterday I was on top of the world, making it through Q school on my first try," says Tesori, who, along with Mednick, Mollica and Sutterfield, will play in this week's St. Jude Classic in Memphis. "Now that feels so far away. This is the lowest point in my career. But there is one positive thing I can say: It can't get any worse."

Continue Story
1 2 3