CHICAGO – Tom Studer is enjoying a different kind of home-course advantage.
Studer lives in nearly Joliet, just a 45-minute jaunt to Beverly Country Club and this week’s USGA Senior Amateur, and though he can replay the golf course in his mind from all the events he’s played there, it’s not as though he piled on the practice rounds in order to fill his yardage book with notes.
But after his easy win in Monday’s opening round of match play, 5 and 4, over Stu Grendahl of Madison, Wis., Studer planned on stopping by his office, just 20 minutes away, and then figured he’d “go home and throw a steak on the grill. You can’t do that when you’re at the Comfort Inn.”
The defending Illinois State Senior Amateur champion, Studer has fond memories of Beverly. In the 1988 Chicago District Golf Association Amateur there, he birdied the 18th hole before losing at the 19th to local legend Joel Hirsch. In 2000, the last year of the Chicago Open, he made the cut, which locked up enough points to win CDGA player of the year.
“The golf course absolutely rings a bell,” said Studer. “From the last time I played here, all it is, is better.”
Studer never trailed gainst Grendahl, taking a 1-up lead after three and winning five of the next six holes to make the turn with a commanding 6-up advantage.
If Studer isn’t buoyed by enjoying the comforts of home this week, he’s overjoyed with the way he’s playing. “I’m hitting a lot of fairways and I’m hitting a lot of greens,” he explained. “We’d all like to make a few more putts, but the key thing is, my heart’s not beating fast. I’m very comfortable with everything.”
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Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C., won the last three holes of his match and eliminated Alan Bouchard of Falmouth, Maine, 2 and 1.
That sets up a repeat scenario from last year’s Senior Amateur, when Simson was medalist and lost in the second round to Randy Nichols of Brookville, Ind. Simson was co-medalist this week and again meets Nichols in Round 2 on Tuesday morning.
“Yeah, I can put that out of my mind,” said Simson. “It’s not that I wasn’t paying attention last year, because I was. He just played better than I did.”
Simson finished strongly against Bouchard, making a 35-foot putt at the 16th and a 10-footer at 17, but he lamented some of his holes earlier in the round, especially poor wedge shots that led to back-to-back bogeys at the 12th and 13th.
“There was some brilliance out there and there was some ugly, too,” he said. “All in all, I need to work a little more on my concentration. I’ve just got to play the golf course and if the guy beats me, that’s fine.”
The other co-medalist, Pat Tallent of Vienna, Va., was eliminated by two-time champion (2001, ’03) Kemp Richardson of Laguna Niguel, Calif., 4 and 3.
“We both were a little sketchy at the start,” said Richardson. “I played pretty good golf near the end. I’m starting to hit it a little better and better, so that gives me some confidence.”
Richardson led at the turn after consecutive birdie putts from 3 feet at the eighth and ninth holes.
Tallent was 2-down at the 12th, where it looked like he might win the hole with an 18-foot birdie try. But that lipped out and stopped 5 feet away, and then Tallent missed that putt, too.
“I think I’m going to make it 1 down and instead I go 3 down,” he said. “That was a huge hole.”
The second and third rounds will be played Tuesday, with the quarterfinals and semifinals set for Wednesday and the 18-hole final on Thursday.