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Archive for Saturday, July 7, 2007

Keegan: Towner fights to end

July 7, 2007

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Three questions with ... Randy Towner, Alavamar Country Club head golf pro

Randy Towner, Alavamar Country Club head golf pro, talks about his performance during day one of the U.S. Senior Open.

— He was coming off a snowman, that's right an 8. And the next hole was not going any better for Randy Towner, head pro at Alvamar Country Club. Whistling Straits was having him for dinner Friday evening.

On the hole after he carded the 8, Towner's tee shot had gone onto one of the many dunes at Whistling Straits, site of the 28th U.S. Senior Open. His second shot went even wider right and landed in a fairway bunker. His third shot was a few feet from that, still in the bunker, and just a few feet from the gallery rope that separates the crowd from the players.

Towner and the two men with whom he played his two rounds were the last group on the course. By then, only a small gathering of family and friends, most of them there to see Towner, watched.

Libby, the oldest of the three Towner daughters, stood at the rope, right next to her tired, beaten dad, and after his first shot in the bunker didn't make it out, she ignored gallery etiquette.

"Come on, dad, finish strong," Libby urged him.

Those words served as the tourniquet he so badly needed. The green didn't seem so far away, the bunker so deep, all of a sudden. He blasted it just off the green to the back, chipped up and made the putt for a double bogey. Towner finished the final three holes 1-over par for his second consecutive 84. He finished 24-over par, or 150th in a field of 156 golfers.

Towner's not a tour player, and he never will be. So what? His daughter's words showed he has done well at his most important job.

"I knew then that I had won," Towner said of her encouragement.

The fact that a few Alvamar Country Club members flew to Wisconsin to watch him play was evidence of how well he's done at his second most important job, serving as head pro where he has worked for 19 years.

"Obviously, I'm embarrassed with the way I played, but I'll get better and play a little more, and next time, if there is a next time, I'll be way better," Towner said.

He thought he would do better than 84-84, but the fact that he booked a Sunday morning flight home indicates he didn't expect to make the cut.

"I'm obviously humbled, but so glad I had a chance to take part in this," Towner said. "I'm so glad other people had such interest in it. I feel a little bit like I've let them down, but it was a very valuable experience, and I'll be a better golfer because of that. The only other option would be to quit, and that's not going to happen because I've still got some golf left in me."

As the day wore on, he began to push his drives right, and the course demands accuracy off the tee. The good news: He made a 12-foot putt. The bad news: It was his 168th shot.

"Generally, I'm a good putter," Towner said. "That's the strongest part of my game. I could just never get a read. At home, I can look at a putt and lock in and know exactly what it's going to do, and I just never got that feeling."

He said he will try to qualify again for the U.S. Senior Open.

Any dreams of improving his game enough to become a Champions tour golfer?

"I'm so far off from where they are, I don't know if I have enough time to get to that point," he said with a laugh. "I like what I do, my day job."

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