The Loop

Hale Irwin experiences the Open from other side of the ropes

June 16, 2011

BETHESDA, Md. -- One of the most interested spectators at Congressional CC Thursday was one of the most successful U.S. Open players in history.


Photo by Getty Images

Hale Irwin, who won Open titles in 1974, 1979 and in 1990 became, at 45, the oldest golfer to win the championship, was with wife Sally watching their 36-year-old son, Steve, compete in his first U.S Open.

The elder Irwin had a little numerology on his mind prior to Steve's 2:41 p.m. first round starting time. "I have 45 Champions Tour victories," Hale said. "I won my last Open when I was 45. It's been 45 years since an Irwin played an Open as an amateur."

Hale played in 34 U.S. Opens, the first as an amateur in 1966 at Olympic Club. This isn't the first time he has been on the other side of the ropes. As a 15-year-old in 1960, he attended the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills.

"I remember Ben Hogan going out to practice. He dumped out a whole bag of brand-new balls. I thought, 'Wow,' " Hale said. "I watched Dutch Harrison hit a drive off the first tee. Where mine usually started going down, his started going up. I thought, 'Is that cool or what.' "

Wearing shorts and carrying a small backpack, Hale, 66, was eager to see his son play and proud he had made it into the field. "It's a long, hard, difficult process to make it to a national championship," Hale said. "This is his first one, but I don't' think it will be his last one. But we're very proud of Steve, regardless of the outcome."

--* Bill Fields *