Dee Sanders thought he had come just short of an invitation to the U.S. Senior Open.
Hoping to join the 156-man field, Sanders made the trip to Kansas City for the qualifier at Oakwood Country Club. There, he and Larry Sock both shot even-par 72 while the winner, John Towner, put together a round of 71. Sanders had missed the automatic bid, but the door was still open for the two second-place finishers.
After topping Sock in a three-hole playoff, Sanders earned the first alternate spot out of the Kansas City site, one of 42 alternates from around the country.
Sanders didn’t think he had much chance to get an invitation, but a phone call changed his outlook.
“I got a call about a week ago Monday from the USGA,” said Sanders by phone. “Someone, I don’t know who, had dropped out.”
With that, he and his wife, JoDean, were headed to Whistling Straits Country Club in Haven, Wis., to compete in the 18th U.S. Senior Open.
Sanders, who turned 50 last July, is in his first year of eligibility for the Senior Open. Just happy to be there, he admits that the course is much different than those that yielded his nine Columbia City Championships.
“It is a unique setup,” Sanders said. “It’s more of a target golf course. The rough is much more difficult and the green complexes are pretty severe. The greens are faster than a normal day at a normal course, but not as fast as I was expecting I guess.”
The most difficulty, however, has come from mother nature.
“The wind blows constantly,” said Sanders with a chuckle. “It’s always changing directions.”
Well known in the Columbia golf community, Sanders will be playing in front of the largest crowd of his career.
“The crowds are something else,” Sanders said. “But everyone has been really friendly. I don’t really notice them when I’m playing.”
Those crowds are definitely going to notice some uncommon things about him. Sanders favorite caddy is his wife, who he describes as nothing short of outstanding. He also has one long-standing superstition.
“I always mark the ball (on the green) with a tails-up penny,” Sanders said. “It doesn’t really matter what penny, just as long as it’s tails-up.”
Sanders will also have the opportunity to play alongside some of his favorite golfers.
“I got a chance to meet Ben Crenshaw and Benny Edwards already,” Sanders said. “It’s interesting to see them play in person, they look different than they do on TV.”
Sanders will be teeing off at 12:40 p.m. with Ray Lease and Peter Krause on the first hole of the 6,441-yard course. As for expectations, Sanders said he isn’t feeling any pressure.
“I have no idea where I’ll finish,” Sanders said. “I really hope to be there Saturday, but most of all, I just want to play well. If I can do that, I’ll be happy no matter what.”