ShareThis Page
Sports

Baloh enjoying Open, Palmer pairing

| Friday, June 27, 2003

TOLEDO, Ohio -- Bill Baloh had modest goals coming into his first U.S. Senior Open.

He did not allow himself to become bogged down with concerns of making the cut or setting a hard and fast score he wanted to shoot on the difficult Inverness Golf Club.

"I was determined above all else that I was going to have fun," he said Thursday after shooting an opening-round 82. "I got here Sunday afternoon and have spent a lot of time at the course, soaking it all in. I want to experience it all. And it's been terrific."

The first "un-terrific" part Baloh experienced happened Thursday when it took him 35 putts to get around Inverness. He three-putted the first two holes, setting the stage for what was to come.

"My whole day revolved about my putting," Baloh said. "I'm striking the ball better than I ever did and if I'd have had the putting of old, well, I think it would have been a different story."

After shooting 42 on his first nine holes, Baloh was feeling pretty good about himself on his back nine, until making a triple-bogey 7 on the signature hole at Inverness, No. 7, a 456-yard uphill par four.

"I'm disappointed, surely," he said. "You always feel like you should be able to break 80. There's just something that seems so much better about a score that starts with a 7 instead of an 8. But this is a course that definitely punishes all the average shots."

Baloh got into this field as a result of his making the semifinals in the 2002 Senior Amateur at Timuquana CC in Jacksonville. And as soon as he knew he was in the field, he started making plans for a hoped-for practice round pairing with Arnold Palmer.

He wrote a letter to Palmer's office and got a response saying that pairing would definitely happen. And, despite some scheduling snafus that almost broke up that pairing, the Westmoreland County natives played together Tuesday.

"It was an awesome experience," Baloh, 59, admitted. "I just couldn't believe the number of fans that were out there on every hole. It was almost like walking through a corridor from every green to the next tee. That was a special day."

For quite a while on Thursday, it appeared as though Palmer was going to provide golf with a special day of his own. He started on the back nine and, after making birdie on the 15th hole, he was one over par and a buzz was starting about what was happening. He bogeyed the 17th to make the turn at 38, two over par.

"And then I promptly three-putted the first hole for a double bogey," Palmer said. "But then I birdied 2 and that was some consolation and I was back to 3 over. I made a couple good putts for pars and then I kind of started messing up."

Messing up to the tune of three bogeys and a double in his last five holes.

"I made some mental mistakes and that bothered me," he admitted. "When I made the turn at 2 over I really wasn't thinking about maybe making the cut. What I did allow to get into my mind was starting to think about shooting 70 or 71, bettering my age. That was one of my goals for this week."

The 73-year-old finished with a 79, eight over par. If he can somehow manage to pull off that bettering his age thing in today's second round, he might have a chance to be in his first hunt for a cut since 1998 in the Senior Open ... despite a very un-Palmer like decision that backfired.

"On the 8th hole (a 554-yard par 5), I hit one of my big tee shots that I haven't done in a long time and was in a position of giving it a shot at going for it. I was going to go over the trees and try to get to the front edge of the green," he said. "I changed my mind and tried to lay up and hit a bad layup shot, which is not my style, as you know. I never laid up successfully in my life."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me