The intrinsic value of an Open is that it is indeed open to anyone, however obscure, with enough game to qualify. There aren't many more obscure than Jeff Klein, a career grinder known to friends as Helmet in homage to a hard head that wouldn't allow him to quit and pursue honest work.
Klein's stubborn resolve to make a living from this game paid off Saturday, when he threatened for a time to post the lowest score in the history of the USGA's Opens (the U.S. Open, the U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Women's Open). He fell short, but still managed to put his name into the USGA record book by equaling the lowest nine-hole score in the history of the U.S. Senior Open.
Klein, 50, went out in six-under 30 on the East Course at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, the 15th player in the history of the event to play nine in 30 strokes. He birdied two of the first five holes on the back nine to get to eight-under par, and needed to play the last four holes in one-under par to shoot 61, which would have bettered by one Loren Roberts' Open record. Instead, he bogeyed two of the final four holes, but still shot a 64, the low round of the tournament (Scott Simpson also shot 64 on Saturday), which vaulted him into the top 10.
"I always wanted to play, but wasn't that good really," said Klein, who played college golf at Nebraska and lives in Scotts Bluff, Neb., in the northwest part of the state. "I was a decent player, but just kept working at it."
In 2003, he actually made it to the PGA Tour. "It took me 15 years to get my PGA Tour card, and then I got my lunch handed to me out there," he said. "I was already 45 when I did it, so thought, 'maybe we'll just wait for the next level.' And here I am. I guess I can still play a little. Sometimes you wonder.