Senior Open Brings Golf Back to Colorado

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Hale Irwin stood on a makeshift tee box on a third-floor balcony of The Broadmoor clubhouse on Monday, staring at a pin some 76 yards away.
 
Wearing dress shoes and no glove and swinging a borrowed a 56-degree wedge, he promptly lofted a shot to within 5 feet of the pin.
 
With that shot, Colorado was back on the clock for a return of professional golf. Irwin and his band of senior players will return to the state -- at least for a year -- with the 2008 U.S. Senior Open next July.
 
The state has been left with a void since the loss of The International earlier this year.
 
'Colorado's naked with professional golf now,' Irwin said. 'Colorado deserves professional golf.'
 
Irwin still can't believe The International is no longer around. The tournament began in 1986 and featured a unique scoring system that rewarded aggressive play. But the tournament needed $8.5 million in sponsorships and Jack Vickers, the founder and president of Castle Pines Golf Club, wasn't going to cut corners.
 
'I'm either going to do it right or I'm not going to do it,' Vickers said in February, and withdrew The International from the TOUR.
 
'I was saddened by it,' Irwin said. 'I loved the whole idea behind The International. I think it was very popular. It's beyond me to say why it went on its way.'
 
The 2008 Senior Open is already benefiting by the defunct tournament. The Senior Open has 1,700 volunteers lined up, most of whom used to work at The International.
 
'It's truly a shame we're not going to have an International this summer,' Senior Open championship director Douglas Habgood said. 'We're hoping that (fans) will be real hungry for golf in 2008. We're going to do our best to take care of those people.'
 
This will be the sixth United States Golf Association event staged at The Broadmoor, and the first since the 1995 U.S. Women's Open, which was won by an up-and-coming golfer named Annika Sorenstam. Jack Nicklaus won the 1959 U.S. Amateur at this course.
 
Although the tournament is still more than a year away, some of the golfers expected to show include Mark O'Meara, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson and Craig Stadler. Irwin is the honorary chairman of the event that will be held July 28 to Aug. 3, 2008.
 
'This is a wonderful spot,' Irwin said. 'I think the players who come here for the 2008 Senior Open will be extremely pleased with what they find. It's unbelievable.'
 
The purse for the Senior Open is expected to be $2.5 million with the winner getting around $470,000.
 
'It's never enough,' Irwin said as media relations manager Pete Kowalski announced the winner's cut of the earnings.
 
Irwin would love nothing more than to be in contention on the final day at the Senior Open.
 
'That would be another one of those dreams,' said Irwin, who was a defensive back for the Buffaloes before focusing on golf. 'Just give me a chance. That's all I've ever said. Give me a chance going into the last nine holes, then it's up to me.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Senior Open