Juneau’s Gary Murdoch begins play early Saturday morning in the U.S. Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship at Virginia’s Kin Loch Golf Club just outside of Richmond.
Murdoch, 62, qualified after winning the Alaska Senior State Amateur Golf Championship a couple of weeks ago in Fairbanks, a two-day tournament Chena Bend Gold Course, shooting a 7-over par 171. Murdoch tied with Ross Walther of Anchorage, but Walther had to catch a flight and didn’t compete in the sudden-death playoff.
“A win’s a win,” Murdoch said with a laugh on Wednesday from Virginia.
Murdoch began playing golf at age 10 before giving it up for about 30 years. He moved to Juneau in 1977 before there was a local course, and then Mendenhall Golf Course opened in 1986, allowing him to pick up his clubs and hit the links again.
“That was like a dream come true. Juneau’s the worst place in the world to have a golf addiction,” Murdoch chuckled. “Mendenhall is a really good beginning and iron course. I have to give it credit for that.”
There are 53 qualifying courses in the country, and 156 golfers earn a spot in the USGA Senior Am for two days of stroke play, and the top 64 then move on to match play. The field is again cut in half after a round and each golfer plays two more rounds the next day, and two more again if they make the cut. The last day on Sept. 15, the final two competitors face off for the championship in one round of play.
Murdoch said he feels like he’s playing well right now and it will all come down to putting.
“If you’re putting well you’re playing well,” he said. “I usually don’t have any trouble getting to the green. It’s after I get to the green that I have problems. But I’m hitting the ball really well and it’s working for me.”
Murdoch has been in Virgina for a couple of days already but hasn’t been able to play a practice round because of heavy rains.
“We got rained out completely (Wednesday),” he said. “I had a 9 o’clock tee time and I hit balls for about a half-an-hour, and then hit the practice green. Then came the downpour and they shut down the course for the rest of the day.”
Murdoch still has today and Friday to play the course before the tournament starts.
“If it quits raining,” Murdoch chuckled. “But the practice facility is just unbelievable and the course, they call it the Augusta National of Virginia and I see why. It’s all bentgrass and everything is just immaculate. It’s better than carpeting.”