US Senior Open doubles as homecoming for two local golfers
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Some of the biggest names in golf have arrived at Notre Dame's Warren Course, but there are also some participating in the US Senior Open field for the first time.
Two in that category have a little extra motivation this week, playing in front of friends and family.
“I love this city. It’s great to be home," said Tony Soerries, a graduate of South Bend Clay. "It would be obviously ten times (better) if I could play well or perhaps make the cut. But this has probably been the best week of my life already.”
That excitement comes from the opportunity to participate once again on one of the sport's biggest stages and against some of its biggest names.
“On the driving range it’s nerve-wracking, and even going in to eat food," said Soerries, whose last major appearance came at the 2002 US Open. "I’ve been nervous the entire time. If I can just put that aside and play golf, whatever the results are, I’ll be happy.
Those feelings can only truly be matched by one other player in the field.
“It’s just really nice to get up this morning, just drive over to the course and play golf,” said Chris Smith.
“I got on the range an hour and a half before, and I ended up having like five minutes to hit balls before teeing off because every person, it was nice to see them and catch up with every body. It was a really nice day to see everybody.”
A Rochester High School alum and former Indiana state champion, Smith will have some pressure even beyond his local cheering section. His 7:30 am tee time on Thursday will be the first of the championship. The US Senior Open will then officially be underway.
“I was honored that I get to start the tournament, so hopefully we’ll hit that first shot down the fairway," he said. "There will be butterflies when I’m warming up and there’ll be butterflies on the first tee. I’m going to embrace it and enjoy it.”
And that's been the key for both Smith and Soerries.
No matter how they play, the experience of taking part in this field in their old stomping grounds will make it a week to remember.
“Some remember me, and some don’t," Soerries said of the fans and volunteers with whom he's interacted. "It’s a great venue for the tournament. It’s going to be awesome.”