Area golf pro headed to U.S. Senior Open | AspenTimes.com

Area golf pro headed to U.S. Senior Open

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Doug Rohrbaugh did not see his tee shot at the 229-yard, par-3 17th land. Judging by the wide-eyed look on son and caddy Tristan’s face, however, the Ironbridge head professional knew he was in good position.

“He was watching and saying, ‘Go in. Go in.’ The ball ended up about six inches from the hole,” Rohrbaugh recalled. “That was kind of like stealing one – I would’ve been happy to make par. When I made that, I knew I had a chance.”

The unexpected birdie was one of four Rohrbaugh recorded on his front nine (he started at No. 10) during Monday’s U.S. Senior Open sectional qualifier at Heritage Golf Course at Westmoor in Westminster. He wound up carding a 5-under 67 and, after a few hours spent anxiously scanning the leaderboard, Rohrbaugh learned he had nabbed the second and final qualifying spot in a field of 70.

In little more than two weeks, the 50-year-old from Carbondale will be teeing it up in his first United States Golf Association championship alongside Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin and others at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich.

“I don’t know if I’ll fully realize it until I pull into the parking lot,” Rohrbaugh said. “These are guys I grew up watching. I always thought about this, dreamed about this. Now, I get my chance.

“(The qualifying format) is tough. If you get off to a bad or slow start, your day is pretty much over. I was fortunate to get off to a great start.”

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Rohrbaugh birdied three of his first six holes and tapped in at No. 17 to move to

4-under. He had 10- to 12-foot putts for birdie on the first four holes of his back nine, too, but he did not get one to fall.

Then came his lone hiccup.

“I missed a two-footer for par. … I thought to myself, ‘Oh man, I just blew it,'” Rohrbaugh said. “I really couldn’t afford that.”

He regrouped with two birdies down the stretch to establish the early mark to beat.

All told, Rohrbaugh missed just one fairway and two greens in regulation.

“I hit the ball extremely well. It sounds funny, but it was an easy 67,” he said. “I got done, and the guys I was with said, ‘What a great round. You’re in.’ You never want to say that for sure, though.”

Rohrbaugh had reason to be cautiously optimistic: He was part of the first group to tee off at 7:30 a.m. While that allowed him to avoid playing during the scorching afternoon hours in which temperatures hit triple digits, Rohrbaugh still was left sweating it out as he watched scores roll in.

“It was stressful, and what killed me was that a guy in the group directly behind me shot 66,” Rohrbaugh said. “I got to enjoy it for 10 minutes until I was back on the bubble. I knew the guy – he’s a great guy and a good player – and I looked at him and said, ‘Are you kidding me?’

“I sat there and watched a couple groups, but I realized I couldn’t do that – it was going to drive me crazy. My son and I went and got some lunch in the restaurant, and every 15 to 20 minutes he went and looked at the leaderboard.”

Rohrbaugh summoned the courage to watch the final four groups come in.

No one managed to break 70. Rohrbaugh’s spot in Michigan was assured.

“When that last score got posted, it was quite an emotional moment. It was hard to believe,” Rohrbaugh said. “I had this event on my radar for a while – I was telling people I couldn’t wait to turn 50. It’s kind of like a second chance. Now I’m the young guy.”

The young guy is looking forward to being inside the ropes at a USGA championship after coming so close in previous attempts.

“I was a first or second alternate for the U.S. Open. … These are not easy to get to,” Rohrbaugh said. “I’m going to enjoy it and have a good time, but I’m going there to compete.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com