When Stu Ingraham tees it up in the PGA Professional Championship presented by Club Car and Omega at the Bayonet and Black Horse Courses in Seaside, Calif. later this month, it will be the 30th time he has appeared on a national stage under the auspices of the PGA of America.
That’s why it was so surprising when the 58-year-old head of instruction at the M Golf Range in Newtown Square qualified for the U.S. Senior Open last summer that he would be playing in a United States Golf Association event for the first time in his life.
And, you know, he kind of liked it. He needed a birdie in the last three holes when he resumed his weather-delayed second round early on a Saturday morning at the Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass. to make the cut. And he did just that on the 448-yard, par-4 ninth at Salem to complete a 1-under 69 that gave him a 1-over 141, the cut line right on the number.
He would finish tied for 49th at 6-over 286, proving once again that he can compete with any senior professional golfer on the planet.
Of course, around these parts the fact that he is the Philadelphia Section PGA’s reigning eight-time Robert “Skee” Riegel Senior Player of the Year certainly emphasizes that point. And the Philly Section has to be among the most competitive for over-50 types anywhere in the country.
Ingraham just couldn’t resist taking a shot at a return trip to the U.S. Senior Open and a 2-under-par 70 at the qualifier administered by the Golf Association of Philadelphia Monday at Indian Valley Country Club in Telford assured that he will do just that.
Took medalist honors by two shots over 60-year-old Joey Sindelar, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour who raved about the 6,850-yard, par-72 Indian Valley layout.
For much of the day, it looked like the third and final berth up for grabs at Indian Valley was going to go to another legendary senior player in this area, Merion Golf Club’s George “Buddy” Marucci, the 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur champion who posted a 1-over 73 early in the proceedings.
But professional Bobby Gage, a New Smyrna Beach, Fla. resident who is playing out of Green Woods Country Club in Winstead, Conn., caught Marucci with a 73 and then outlasted him on the fourth hole of a playoff to nab the final ticket to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the U.S. Senior Open, which tees off June 28.
Of course, if a spot does open up, at least the USGA will recognize the name of the first alternate from Indian Valley as the same guy who captained the U.S. to back-to-back Walker Cup victories in 2007 at Royal County Down Golf Club in Northern Ireland and in 2009 at his home course, Merion Golf Club’s historic East Course.
Ingraham was probably a little disappointed he wasn’t in the field for the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich. over the Memorial Day weekend. He finished just outside the top 35 in the Senior PGA Professional Championship presented by Mercedes-Benz and supported by Golf Advisor and John Deere last fall at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz.
But he will get his turn on a major stage at The Broadmoor’s East Course later this month.
“It was the most fun week of my life in golf,” Ingraham told the GAP website of his week at Salem Country Club last summer. “I finished in the top 50 and knocked Nick Faldo out with a putt on the 36th hole in front of about 800 people. When you get a chance to rub elbows with Fred Couples, it’s special. It’s a dream come true.”
Two years ago when he finished second in the Philadelphia Section PGA Championship -- not the Senior version, the one that includes all the young bombers -- at Philadelphia Cricket Club, Ingraham said he never dreamed that he would be playing the best golf of his life in his mid-50s.
Well, he seems to still be playing at a pretty high level. The guy birdied five holes on the front nine Monday, although he admitted the shot that might have saved the round was a 22-foot putt that saved par on the second. He said Indian Valley has always been a personal favorite of his in this area, but come on.
He hit a sand wedge to eight feet at the par-5 third and dropped that putt, fired an 8-iron to eight feet on the par-3 fourth and made that for the first of three birdies on Indian Valley’s four par-3s, got a hybrid to stop 10 feet away on the 207-yard, par-3 sixth and made it, wedged it to six feet at the par-5 eighth and made that putt and finished off a masterful outward nine by hitting a wedge to eight feet at the par-4 ninth and holing that birdie try.
He saved bogey after finding the water with his approach on the 10th, but got that shot right back with another birdie on a par-3, hitting the hybrid again to 15 feet at the 211-yard 11th and making the putt for his sixth birdie of the day. The putter finally cooled off a little after that, but he got it to house in 2-under, more than good enough to get the job done.
So the Philadelphia Section PGA will be represented at the next PGA Tour Champions major and by its best old guy, Stu Ingraham. Surprising? Not even a little bit.