Bellerive head pro has no favorite

News-DemocratMay 20, 2013 

— Bellerive Country Club head professional Mike Tucker stopped short of picking a tournament favorite for the 74th Senior PGA Golf Championship when asked on Monday.

But Tucker does know the type of player who will be in contention heading down the stretch on Sunday afternoon.

"In 1965 Gary Player won the U.S. Open, in 1992, it was Nick Price who won the PGA Championship and in 2004 it was Peter Jacobsen who won the Senior U.S. Open. None of those three are real long off the tee, but they have the ability to hit it straight and they hit a lot of greens,'' Tucker said.

"The greens are very large here and I think you'll see a of greens hit in regulation. But because they are so big, you're going to have a lot of putts in the 40- to 60-foot range for birdies. So I think the players who can make the 4 to 6 putts coming back for par will have a good week.''

Play in the 74th Senior PGA Championship begins on Thursday with 156 players in the field.

Former Masters champion Bernhard Langer -- the lone player with two or more wins on the Champions Tour in 2013, headlines the field which includes golf legend Tom Watson, Belleville native Jay Haas and four-time champion and St. Louis native Hale Irwin.

Langer is the current Charles Schwab Cup points leader and is a player Tucker thinks fans should keep an eye on this week.

"He's had a real strong first half of the year and in talking to his caddy today, he said Bernhard is playing very well right now,'' Tucker said. "It would be nice to see a player with some local ties be in contention. So a player player like a Tom Watson, Hale Irwin or Jay Haas comes to mind.

"Jay (Haas) knows the golf course. But he knows the old golf course before the major rennovation we did in '06. I think his biggest advantage will be the support he'll get from the St. Louis area.''

Haas is a two-time Senior PGA champion, winning the event in both 2006 and 2008. Haas is currently 12th on the 2013 money list with earnings of over $358.000.

Couples out

A history of back ailments has sidelined Fred Couples from the 74th Senior PGA Championship.

Couples, who was formally inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame earlier this month, informed PGA of America officials Monday of his inability to play this week at Bellerive Country Club.

Couples is the current Champions Tour scoring leader with a 68.11 average.

He is being replaced Roy Vucinich.

Tee times

Haas will tee off from Hole No. 1 in first round play at 7:55 a.m. Thursday and will be paired during the first two rounds with Vucinich and former U.S. Open champion Tom Kite. The threesome will tee off at 1:05 p.m. on Hole 10.

Other marquee pairings in the first two rounds include:

Eduardo Romero, Fred Funk, Loren Roberts: Thursday at 8:35 a.m., 1st Tee; Friday at 1:45 p.m., 10th Tee

Roger Chapman (defending Senior PGA Champion), Jim Woodward, Michael Allen (2009 Senior PGA Champion): Thursday at 8:45 a.m., 1st Tee; Friday at 1:55 p.m., 10th Tee

Steve Elkington, Tom Watson (Two-time Senior PGA Champion), Peter Jacobsen (2004 U.S. Senior Open Champion, at Bellerive): Thursday at 1:05 p.m., 10th

Tee Friday at 7:55 a.m., 1st Tee Rocco Mediate, Bernhard Langer, Jeff Sluman: Thursday at 1:25 p.m., 10th Tee

Friday at 8:15 a.m., 1st Tee

Mark Brooks, Hale Irwin (Four-time Senior PGA Champion), Mark James: Thursday at 1:55 p.m., 10th Tee: Friday at 8:45 a.m., 1st Tee.

What a rush

In 1992, Rocco Mediate was preparing to play in the 74th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club, when he learned that his favorite band, RUSH, would be in town at the same time. So, Mediate sent an invitation to the members of RUSH to join him for a round of golf at Bellerive. Guitarist Alex Lifeson accepted the offer, and the two played a round of golf close to the time of the PGA Championship. It was one of the first rounds of golf that Lifeson--who was inducted along with fellow band mates Geddy Lee and Neil Peart into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame last month--ever played.

The golf bug struck a sweet chord with Lifeson. Since then, Mediate and Lifeson went on to appear together in the first-ever episode of"Playing Lessons from the Pros"on Golf Channel. While on tour with RUSH, Lifeson is known to play golf regularly and reportedly has a handicap in the single digits. In 2006, Lifeson became a co-owner of the Tom Fazio-designed Coppinwood Golf Course near Toronto. When Mediate played the Canadian Open in 2010, he sported a RUSH hat during a round and was also seen wearing Coppinwood apparel.

Mediate makes his debut in the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, this week at Bellerive.

Despite his low handicap, Lifeson characteristically uses self-deprecating humor to describe his golf game, even to this day. "I remember how thoughtful and considerate Rocco was," said Lifeson. "He spent a great deal of time with me, a truly novice golfer, on the range hitting a million 7 irons. The thing is, he still spends time with me on the range, so either he's a dear friend or I'm a pretty lousy golfer... or maybe both! This photo is of that day."

Tickets available

Tickets are still available at spga2013.com or by calling 800-PGA-GOLF (742-4653).

Tickets will also be available daily at the Will Call/admissions trailer - located at the main entrance to the Championship across the street from the Kirk of the Hills Church. As a reminder, attendees do not need a ticket to board the shuttle buses from Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.

How to get there

Directions from Illinois to public parking at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights.

From the North (Chicago)

*Take I-55 South to Exit 20B

*Merge onto I-270 West toward Kansas City

* Continue on I-270 South

*Take Exit 20A-20B to merge onto I-70 W toward Kansas City

* Take Exit 231A for Maryland Heights Expressway

* Merge onto MO-141/141/Maryland Heights Expressway

*Turn right onto Riverport Drive

* Follow PGA Public Parking signage to the entrance of the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

From the East (Metro East - Illinois)

* Take I-64/40 West

* Continue on I-64/40 West

* Take exit 25A-25B for I-270 S/I-270 N toward Memphis/Chicago

* Take exit 20A-20B to merge onto I-70 W toward Kansas City

* Take exit 231A for Maryland Heights Expressway

* Merge onto MO-141/141/Maryland Heights Expressway

* Turn right onto Riverport Drive

* Follow PGA Public Parking signage to the entrance of the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

Gate Hours

Tuesday & Wednesday: 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Thursday & Friday: 6:45 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Saturday & Sunday: 6 a.m - 7 p.m.

Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or dcriddle@bnd.com

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