LAKE ORION, MICH. - Three years of attempting to qualify for the U.S. Senior Golf Open came to fruition for Sunnyside High School class of 1977 alum Ron Gonzalez. The dream of playing against the "big boys," however, proved to be a bit nightmarish for the Lower Yakima Valley native.
Gonzalez, in yesterday's opening round at the U.S. Senior Open, fought his way around Indianwood Golf & Country Club near Lake Orion, Mich. and eventually posted an 11-over-par 81. That leaves the 52-year-old Gonzalez, now a resident of the community of Goodyear, Ari., tied for 150th from a field of 156 golfers.
Grabbing Thursday's first round lead at the 33rd edition of the U.S. Senior Open was PGA veteran Tom Kite. He sailed around the nearly 7,000-yard course with a 5-under 65. Another long-time veteran of the PGA, Corey Pavin, also thought he nailed down a 65, but after finishing his round was assessed a two-stroke penalty because it was discovered his ball moved ever so slightly when addressing one of his chip shots on Thursday. That dropped Pavin into a four-way tie for fourth at 3-under.
Two golfers head into today's second round action just one shot back of Kite, with identical 4-under-par 66's...Bernard Langer and Lance Ten Broeck.
Gonzalez's opening round yesterday started on No. 10. He got off in fine fashion, picking up pars on the first two holes. But on No. 12, a par-4 hole that plays almost 500 yards, he absorbed his first hiccup of the day and took a triple-bogey. Gonzalez righted the ship and slipped in back-to-back pars on the next two holes, but went bogey-bogey on 15 and 16 and found himself at five-over. He salvaged his opening nine with a pair of pars, hitting the turn with a 40.
Moving to the front nine, Gonzalez never quite found his rhythm. He parred four of the final nine holes, but four bogeys and one double left him at six-over 41, giving him an 18-hole round of 11-over 81.
Statistically, Gonzalez didn't fare all that badly yesterday, especially considering it was his first appearance ever at one of golf's major events. The former Sunnysider averaged 253 yards off the blocks while hitting 9 of the 18 greens in regulation.
The stats also bear out, though, Gonzalez was having to scramble to keep his game together, as he only hit 5-of-14 fairways with his tee shots. He also didn't particularly find Indianwood's greens to his liking, as it took him 35 putts to complete his round.