TOLEDO, Ohio -- Rick Rhoden has gone through tough days
before. Only this time, he didn't have a manager to come out and
take the ball from him.
Rhoden, who pitched in the big leagues for 16 years, made his
Champions Tour debut with an 8-over-par 79 in Thursday's opening
round of the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club.
''In all games you pitch you're nervous at the start,'' said
Rhoden, 151-125 with the Dodgers, Pirates, Yankees and Astros. ''I
wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be today.''
Rhoden retired after the 1989 season and has played plenty of
golf in retirement -- although not the same kind many retirees do.
He's a regular at celebrity events.
Moving to the center stage at a senior major is a mammoth step,
The 50-year-old Rhoden was even-par through the first 10 holes,
then bogeyed the next five. He birdied the difficult par-5 eighth
hole (his 17th of the day), then closed with a double-bogey.
''This place wears on you. You hit a bad shot or a bad club and
you're going to make a bogey. Then you start making bogeys and it's
hard to stop. It snowballs,'' he said. ''I knew it was going to be
hard. I would like to be in a regular senior event before this
Rhoden played to the crowd by wearing a Toledo Mud Hens hat.
''Maybe I'll wear a Dodger hat tomorrow,'' he said.
Defending champion Don Pooley surprised himself
with a 1-over 72, and also was surprised by the course.
''It didn't play as tough as it did Monday in the practice
round,'' Pooley said after his best competitive round since
shoulder surgery in January. ''The greens were softer and slower.''
Gary McCord had no problem with the greens but sure had one with
the pin placements.
McCord, a TV golf analyst and Champions Tour player, finished
off a 73 and then shook his head.
''It was very entertaining,'' he said with a laugh. ''If you've
ever put a pin on top of an igloo and putted, that's what it was
like out there. Don't hit it too hard -- it's going to go off the
other side. Don't hit it too short -- it'll come back at you.''
McCord said the course nearly got the best of him.
''I'm still standing up,'' he said. ''Barely.''
Randy Reznicek never saw the shot of his life.
The amateur from Vesta, Calif., aced the 168-yard 12th hole. The
green on the shortest hole at Inverness Club is surrounded by deep
bunkers that cut off a golfer's view of the tee shot.
''I tried to hit a 7 iron and it landed right on my target,''
said Reznicek, who shot a 79. ''I'm watching over the bunker
because it's a blind shot. You can see people, you can hear a roar
-- a rumble -- and then you see people are standing up and all of a
sudden they raise their hands and cheer. It was an incredible
feeling. I can't even express.''
It was his first hole in one; at least it was his first hole in
one on a regulation-sized course.
''As a young man, I worked at a lighted par-3 golf course -- 18
par 3s,'' he said. ''Some days I'd go around that thing six or
seven times and never made any.''
For a while, it appeared Arnold Palmer was well
on his way to his stated goal of making the cut (and his unstated
one of shooting his age, 73).
A huge gallery followed him as he teed off at No. 1 after
turning the back side in 38 to stand at 2 over. But he
double-bogeyed No. 1, then added three more bogeys before closing
with another double and a 79.
''What (started) out to be a fair round turned out to be a lousy
round,'' he said.
The final starting grid included 17 players who have
won 66 major championships, 10 former Senior Open winners, 11
players who have won the U.S. Open along with 29 amateurs. ... The
drives of Bob Murphy and Hubert Green ended up an inch apart in the
gaping bunker left of the 17th fairway, requiring a USGA ruling.
Murphy had to mark his ball before Green blasted out, then raked
his lie and re-placed his ball and hit his second shot. ... One of
the highest scores of the first round was amateur Dave Sergeant's
89, a lawyer from Fort Dodge, Iowa. His caddie was Mark Cady, an
Iowa Supreme Court Justice. ... Leonard Thompson withdrew after six
holes, saying he was experiencing chills and dizziness. He was 5
over at the time. ... Fuzzy Zoeller after shooting an even-par 71:
''My 3-wood had a minor virus in it.''