Andy North turned 50 on March 9 and will make his Senior tour debut in the March 17-19 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf as Jim Colbert's partner. An ESPN commentator for the last eight years, North will be the fourth senior to make the leap from the TV booth back to competitive golf, following Colbert, Gary McCord and Bob Murphy. What did North learn during his time in the tower? "Watching a guy like [Hale] Irwin reaffirms the stuff you've known your whole life," North says. "The game is simple when you don't get in your own way. Of course, the minute you get into competition, that's easy to forget."
North is one of only 18 men to win two U.S. Opens, in 1978 at Cherry Hills and in 1985 at Oakland Hills. Because he won only one other event, the 1977 Westchester Classic, he is cited as the exception that proves the rule that, as Walter Hagen said, "anybody can win one Open. It takes a hell of a player to win two."
Injuries ruined North's career. He has a long history of physical ailments, starting in the seventh grade in Madison, Wis., when he had to quit playing basketball for two seasons because the bones in his knees stopped growing. In 1986 North broke his right hand at a Wisconsin football practice when, as a spectator, he slipped. Over the next seven years he had seven surgeries, including five knee operations. North is reasonably healthy again. How he will play, though, is a mystery. As an Open winner, North is eligible for the four Senior majors but otherwise will have to rely on sponsor's exemptions. Mixed in with some television work, he expects to play 20 tournaments. His immediate goal is to win an event or make the top 31 on the money list, either of which will keep him from having to attend Q school in the fall.
If there's one tournament in which North will be particularly tough, it will be the Senior Open at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa. "I've always been ready for whatever I considered my major," he says. "Now the Senior Open is my major."