Back 9: Hale Irwin Shoots His Age 66Written by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Hale Irwin won the U. S. Open at Inverness in 1979. Thirty-two years later, he shot his age, 66.
“Any time you can do that at any age, it’s pretty nice to do,” he said. “I hit a lot of really good shots. I played very well. I missed a few putts that I could have made. But all in all, I managed what I had very well, and I feel very good about tomorrow.”
When asked about his overall putting on the day, Irwin said, “If you hit the middle of the green, you’re not going to have a long putt. So what I was trying to do today was rather than just knock the flag out, I was just trying to put it in the bowl in the section where the flag was. I haven’t been reading the greens particularly well this week. They’re a little slower than I think all the players were anticipating and they’re a little soft, so the pace is not quite where they want. So instead of trying to do a lot, trying to get the ball close, I’m just trying to put it in the area, and that was pretty much the game plan today if you can have a game plan in golf, put it in the fairways and just put it in those areas where the flag is and go from there.”
Irwin was in contention at the PGA Senior Open at Valhalla but took a “Senior Siesta” as he called it for a couple of holes and let the title slip away. He feels that is the state of his game right now. At his age it is harder to find the intense concentration that it takes on every shot for a five hour round of golf.
“There’s just other interests,” he said. “Your life evolves and changes and ebbs and flows and I’m not worried about raising a family, I’m worried about spending more time with grandchildren, and that’s a good thing.”
Irwin was asked if he still had the confidence to win an event such as the U. S. Senior Open. He responded, “It would be foolish for me to stand up here and say there’s not an element of doubt. Hell, there was an element of doubt in 1979 when I stood on that first hole with a five?shot lead. How in the world do I hit the ball in the fairway? I wasn’t even worried about winning. Of course, there’s always that. There is always those demons that want to crawl up your leg and get inside your shirt and inside your head, and in my era I’ve played with some of the best players that have ever played this game. You learn from that, and see it’s there in everybody, but the great champions have a way of overcoming that doubt. That anxiousness they turn into a positive, and it becomes their driving force. Yeah, it’s there, but you acknowledge it and you move on and you say I’m just not going to let it overcome me.”
Irwin has had a story book career and has been a class act. He had 20 PGA wins and captured three U. S. Opens. His round today was another jewel in an already stellar career.