Hall gets the call
Grand Junction golfer lands U.S. Senior Open berth
When Nick Price, Craig Stadler and Allen Doyle withdrew from the 2013 U.S. Senior Open Championship on Wednesday, Matt Hall knew a call was coming. It was just a matter of time.
He expected more people would withdraw before the tournament starts this week, and sure enough, two days later, past U.S. Senior Open champion Brad Bryant announced he was withdrawing because of a knee injury.
Hall’s phone rang Friday. It was the United States Golf Association, telling the first alternate from the Colorado Springs sectional qualifying site that he would replace Bryant.
And that’s how a former baseball player turned pretty darn good amateur golfer from Grand Junction made the field of the U.S. Senior Open for the first time.
The 52-year-old Hall, who was trying for the third time to qualify, also can thank the birdie he carded on the first playoff hole at The Broadmoor Golf Club on June 17. Of the six players who tied for third place with a round of 73 that day, he was the only one to birdie the hole, and it made him the first alternate from the U.S. Senior Open qualifying event, which was one of 34 in the nation.
Having put himself in a good position to get into the U.S. Senior Open, “I then waited to see if people were going to bail out,” he said.
As he expected, they did. He just hoped it would happen soon enough that he’d be allowed to play three practice rounds at the tourney site, the Omaha (Neb.) Country Club. It did.
So, Hall drove Sunday to Omaha with Grand Junction golfer J.P. Whitacre, who will be his caddy. Today, Tuesday and Wednesday, Hall will play practice rounds on the course. Thursday, when he tees off at 8:34 a.m. CDT, he’ll be playing for real in an event in which he plans to enjoy every minute.
Hall already has talked to friend Scott Sullivan about what to expect because Sullivan knows. The fellow Grand Junction golfer qualified for the U.S. Senior Open three years ago.
“He said what a great and lucky and wonderful experience it is,” Hall said. “I’m going to take it all in. It’s an experience you may never get again.”
And as happy he is to be there, he wants to be more than that.
“I want to be competitive,” Hall said.
While he played minor league baseball for a time in Omaha when he was part of the Kansas City Royals’ farm system, that was a long time ago, before Hall took up the game of golf, so he’s never played Omaha Country Club. What he’s been told is it is an old-style golf course with smallish, undulating greens.
“It’s a lot more hilly and more slope to it than you would expect from Nebraska,” Hall said.
Hall figures he’s long enough off the tee that it will be an advantage for him, provided he keeps the ball in the fairway. He added he’s been putting well lately, and he’s had good tempo. Continuing it will be a key to success.
Hall, who got a job at Home Loan & Investment Co. in Grand Junction 26 years ago and took up golf at that time, is happy to have Whitacre with him.
“He was the guy 26 years ago that when I was starting to play golf, he gave me the fundamental start,” said Hall, who is vice president of insurance at Home Loan. “He taught me how to go about this game. He’s the first guy I was indebted to in golf.”
Hall said his appearance in the U.S. Senior Open warrants thanking several other local golf pros who helped him over the years. He proceeded to list Bookcliff Country Club pros Brett Winder and Tim Tafoya, city of Grand Junction head golf pro Mike Mendelson and Dan Sommers, a local teaching pro.
Hall hopes he’ll reward their efforts with four good days of golf in Omaha.
Regardless, he said, “If I play well, that will be a bonus in what should be a fantastic experience.”