Notes Last-second trip worth it for Vaccaro

By Associated PressJuly 30, 2010, 4:34 am

2010 U.S. Senior OpenSAMMAMISH, Wash. – Walking up the final hole at Sahalee Country Club on Thursday in the U.S. Senior Open, John Vaccaro didn’t really care that he was 10-over par, 15 strokes behind the leader after 18 holes.

What mattered was he was inside the ropes soaking in the polite applause.

“It’s a lifetime achievement,” Vaccaro said. “If I had to rent a jet I would be here.”

His achievement was getting here. Two alternates had to pass up the spot before he got the call, Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in his office in Albany, N.Y. He had to get to Seattle the next morning for an 8:45 a.m. tee time.

“I’m 100 percent all the way,” Vaccaro said. “I got to make my best effort to get my butt out there. How many people get to play in this thing? It’s such an honor.”

He made it to the airport just in time to catch the last flight out, but the plane was delayed for two hours. He reached Chicago at 8:15 p.m., five minutes before his scheduled connection. Fortunately, that was delayed, too.

He arrived in Seattle at 1:30 a.m. and got to his hotel at 3 a.m., but never slept.

During the same time, his younger brother, Joe, was making his way from Sarasota, Fla., to Seattle to serve as his caddie.

“He called me and said, ‘You going?’ I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ It’s emotional, I tell you,” said Joe, eyes tearing up. “This is big for us. We’ve dreamed about this.”

John Vaccaro had to use his 30-year-old Ping irons stored in his garage because his regular clubs are noncompliant. He couldn’t remember the last time he played with the clubs.

He also had never played Sahalee before and had no practice on it. The only thing he could do “just to hit some balls on the range to see how far I could hit the old clubs—and which direction.”

“You’re coming to a USGA event and you’re saying, ‘I’m pulling an old set out of the garage.’ That’s the way it was,” Joe Vaccaro said.

He was paired with Bruce Vaughn, the first-round leader at 4-under 66.

John started fine, with a birdie on his second hole and was even par after five. Then a double-bogey led to his decline. He finished with an 80 and is highly unlikely to make the cut.

“I’m going to soak it all in (Friday),” John Vaccaro added. “I m going to enjoy the heck out of it. I don’t care if I shoot 90 or 70. I just going do my best, hit some good shots and have fun.”


JACKSON AGAIN: For the second year in a row, amateur Tim Jackson found himself in the hunt after day one of the U.S. Senior Open. Jackson fired a 2-under 68, leaving him two shots behind first-day leader Bruce Vaughn.

“My whole golf schedule this year was set around this one week,” Jackson said. “So I know it’s just another event for these guys but for me, this is a big deal for me.”

Jackson kept his ball out of trouble off the tee on the tree-lined course and put himself in good positions most of the day. Jackson only missed one fairway, the par-4 12th hole, when his drive leaked into the trees.

“We didn’t get a signal so I hit a provisional and luckily it was just 2 feet clear of one of those big trees and I could just kind of hit a 4-iron and bleed it down the fairway, kind of down there to get a good number for a wedge,” Jackson said.

He made the putt to save his par and keep him at 2 under.

“It’s really the first good putt I hit all day,” Jackson said. “My speed was sort of off. I was giving the greens a little more credit as far as the speed goes, but that was a big pick me up for sure.”

The Germantown, Tenn., player played in just two amateur events leading up to his second go at the Senior Open.

A year ago, with his son on the bag, Jackson was the surprise co-leader after opening with a 66 at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind. He followed it up with a 67 to take the outright lead into the weekend.

“Having some experience before, it doesn’t change anything,” Jackson said. “I’ll be nervous. I’ll be antsy and that’s the way it is.”


CHIP SHOTS: Tom Kite, who shot a 2-over 72, had a flash of brilliance over two holes. He made a 25-foot putt from off the green for par on No. 6, then holed out from 141 yards on the seventh for an eagle. … South Smith withdrew because of a back injury. He was 9 over after 10 holes. … Pat Diesu had the worst round of the day, a 21-over 91.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.