US Open brings back fond memories for Senior
Jack Senior could be forgiven for a pang of jealousy when the tee times for the US Open were announced, with two groups in particular no doubt catching his eye.
At 8.35am local time on Thursday, former world number one Jordan Spieth will get his quest for a second title under way, while his good friend Justin Thomas tees off at 1.58pm in pursuit of major glory and a first prize of £1.7million.
And 4,000 miles away, the man from Heysham who beat them both in the 2011 US Amateur at Erin Hills will be contesting the Hauts de France Golf Open, a Challenge Tour event with a total purse of £175,000.
“It’s just a strange game and everyone seems to mature at different rates. I seem to be maturing a little slower than everyone else!” Senior said.
“You have to take the rough with the smooth. Someone like Tyrrell (Hatton) was playing Challenge Tour, just kept his card then finished top 15 the next year and has gone on to good things.
“It’s such a game of confidence.
“I remember winning the South of England championship at Walton Heath; I think was eight behind in the last round and shot 10 under to win.
“It’s just a stupid game because you never know what’s round the corner for you, everything can change so quickly.”
Although Senior has five professional victories to his credit, arguably the best golf of his career to date came back in 2011, when he won the prestigious Lytham Trophy and beat compatriot Andy Sullivan in the final of the New South Wales Matchplay in Sydney.
Senior and Sullivan would also go on to win both of their foursomes matches together at Royal Aberdeen as Great Britain and Ireland won the Walker Cup, defeating Russell Henley and Kelly Kraft on the opening day and Peter Uihlein and Harris English on day two.
But it had been at Erin Hills a fortnight earlier where Senior took his biggest scalps as victories over Corbin Mills, Thomas and John Hahn set up a quarter-final clash with Spieth.
“I remember Michael Greller being on the bag for Justin Thomas,” Senior said.
“He wrote a statement after Spieth lost the Masters (in 2016) and he spoke about that period and that was the first time he met Jordan.
“He wanted to express that Jordan had not really been in a low point in his career since that point at the US Amateur.
“It was a tight match all the way against Jordan and we managed to scrape through with a par down the last.
“My brother Joe was caddying for me and when we came off we knew that we’d just played someone really special, he was going to do big things in the game.
“He just had the demeanour around him. He was probably one of the best drivers of the golf ball I’ve ever played with and he was just out and out a nice guy.
“We played in the Walker Cup as well two weeks later - he got his own back and putted me off the park there - and he was just a nice kid and that comes across still now. Whether he’s shot 65 or 75 he’ll still come out and speak his mind.”
Senior’s superb run came to an end in the semi-finals at the hands of eventual winner Kraft, but he is now looking forward to seeing what the USGA has in store for some of the world’s best players at Erin Hills.
“I remember it being a really strong, tough golf course,” said Senior, who qualified for the Open in 2016 and hopes to do so again this year.
“The greens were really, really quick and undulating but I thought it was a good test of golf.
“They could make it quite scoreable, put the pins in the bowls where everything feeds to it - they may do it on the weekend to make it more exciting.
“But I think on the whole it’s going to be really, really tough. Level par will probably be around the winning score.”