Area pro scrambles into U.S. Senior Open |

Area pro scrambles into U.S. Senior Open

Jon Mitchell
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Jon Mitchell / Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Doug Rohrbaugh has learned quite a bit about how to cope with close situations on the golf course recently.

The 51-year-old Carbondale man found that out a year ago when he played in the U.S. Senior Open for the first time when it was held at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich.

He finished three strokes away from making the weekend cut, and he attests his early exit to a triple-bogey he had on the second day of the tournament.

He considered playing professionally on the Senior PGA Tour and went to the tour’s qualifying school, just missing the cut to advance past the first stage.

But Rohrbaugh, the head golf professional at Iron Bridge Golf Club, was close on the other end of the spectrum on June 17 during this year’s qualifying round for the U.S. Senior Open. His even-par 72 at the Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs not only tied him for first place with Bill Loeffler of Castle Rock, but it gave him one of two qualifying berths in the Open and a one-stroke victory over seven other tournament competitors.

“When there’s only two spots up for grabs, you’re on the bubble no matter what you shoot,” Rohrbaugh said. “All it takes is one or two people to beat that. That’s not much. With that, when you play well, you know you’re going to be on the bubble.

“But I’d rather be the bubble guy,” Rohrbaugh said, “than be the guy who shot a 75 and knows they might as well just go home.”

Being the bubble guy this time was good enough for the longtime resident of the Roaring Fork Valley, who has been named the Player of the Year for the Western Chapter of the Colorado PGA every year but one since 2000. He’s also won plenty of tournaments around the state during a golf career where he ran the Aspen Junior Golf Foundation in the early 1990s and served as the director of instruction at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale before coming to Iron Bridge.

All of that playing experience — along with a competitive fire which hasn’t dissipated over the years — again has helped thrust him onto the biggest stage on the Senior PGA Tour.

“If you can get over the fact that there’s a bunch of people watching you and you can block that out, you just go about your business and play your game,” Rohrbaugh said. “This time around, I’m not going to be like, ‘Oh, look, there’s Hale Irwin.’ Or, ‘Oh, look, there’s Tom Watson.’ I don’t care about that this time. I’m going in there with a goal, and I think it’s realistic. My goal is to be competitive.”

Rohrbaugh showed that’s definitely a possibility in May when he triumphed at the Colorado Senior Open at Green Valley Ranch in Denver — a result which wasn’t very close.

He earned a six-stroke victory during a three-day tournament that featured 30 mph wind gusts on the final day. He opened the tournament with a 65 on the Par-72 course, then went into the final day with an eight-stroke lead after shooting a 74 on the second day. And on the third day, a conservative approach turned out to be enough for him to lose just two strokes off the lead in the final results.

“A very good friend of mine (Tad Holloway) called me and said to me, ‘Now, you know that you’re good enough to compete with these guys,’” Rohrbaugh said. “He said, ‘I’ve always known it, but I don’t think you’ve known it until now.’

“I’ve always thought I was good enough, but it gets so frustrating when you’re always so close,” Rohrbaugh said. “Winning that one and winning it decisively was real, real big.”

Obviously, that was not the case at the U.S. Senior Open qualifier. Rohrbaugh was one of the first players to come in off the course and admitted that he “got an ulcer” waiting in the clubhouse for two hours for the other golfers to come off the course. That proverbial weight lifted off his shoulders when he saw the final results.

Now, Rohrbaugh will go back to a familiar tournament that left his nerves in flux at first sight. But those nerves are gone, which he hopes could translate into, this time, making the weekend cut.

If he does well, he’s open to looking at other possibilities to stay in tournament play. Before that happens, however, he needs to finish close to the top of the leaderboard in Omaha next week.

“We’ll deal with that when the time comes,” Rohrbaugh said. “Right now, it’s a matter of seeing if I can compete with these guys.”