Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Summer Champions John Lindholm
By John Bebow

In the span of four days in June, a 51-year-old tax attorney from Grand Blanc won the Michigan Amateur and then strolled the fairways of the U.S. Senior Open with Gary Player and Bob Charles, two guys who've won a combined 10 majors.

"It was the thrill of a lifetime," said John Lindholm, whose previous golfing claim to fame was a series of also-ran performances in state tournaments.

So how do you build on the momentum of winning your first big title and then making the cut in the Senior Open_all in one sizzling week?

"I've been gardening," Lindholm said in mid-July. "I needed a break from golf."

That kind of seasoned attitude_taking what the game gives you and walking away satisfied_was at the core of Lindholm's great June run.

"I think the Amateur was really more of an accomplishment," Lindholm said. "That's really playing against your peers. The Senior Open was a lot of fun, but just making the cut in a tournament isn't something that you usually think of as a major accomplishment."

Lindholm's Amateur victory at the University of Michigan Golf Course June 21 marked the second straight year a player in his 50s claimed the crown.

Three of Lindholm's six match play opponents were younger than his two grown children. And they out-distanced him by up to 50 yards off the tee.

"I'd rather hit a wedge into all the par fours, too, but you can only do what you can do," Lindholm said. "That's what age does for you. The experience lets you see your own strengths and limitations."

"I really putted the course quite well," Lindholm said. "In the Amateur, all you want to do is make the cut in stroke play and then steadily build in match play."

Some of his best putting came in the second round of match play when Lindholm knocked off stroke play medalist Shawn Koch 2-and-1. A 30-foot birdie on 15 punctuated that match. However, by the back nine of the finals against U of M varsity player Michael Harris, Lindholm's putter hinted at betrayal. He three-putted 15 and 16 and walked to the 17th wondering if he was headed for another bridesmaid role.

"I just wanted to get the ball in the fairway," Lindholm said. "Win or lose, you're going to get up Monday morning and go to work and your family is still going to love you and those are the important things. And that takes a long time to learn."

Lindholm got the ball in the first cut of rough and managed par as Harris bogeyed. They both parred 18, giving Lindholm the win.

"It was a relief not to be a bridesmaid again," he said.

Lindholm was back at work the Monday morning after the Amateur, just like he said. But early Tuesday he drove to Olympia Fields, the U.S. Senior Open course outside Chicago. He was exhausted before he even took the clubs out of his trunk.

"I had just played 144 holes in five days at the Amateur," Lindholm said. "I don't know where the energy came from for the Open. You just suck it up and know it's an opportunity of a lifetime."

An old University of Michigan fraternity brother, PGA Tour journeyman John Schroeder, said he'd set up an afternoon match.

"So when I get to the tee he's standing there with Gary Player and Bob Charles. I said to myself, 'Well, I'm not going to make a chump of myself,' " Lindholm recalled. "I didn't learn much about the course that day because I was concentrating on my swing more than usual and just tried to stay out of their way."

Within a few holes, Player was chattering away, discussing swing theories and complaining about his own flaws in between autograph sessions.

"Really, it was just like any other foursome," Lindholm said.

Of course, Olympia Fields was not the same as any other course. The 6,840-yard, par 72 layout ate the seniors alive, leaving them with a stroke average of 75.5 per round.

"You ever wonder why they have that swath of mowed grass from the tee to the fairway?" Lindholm asked. "Because you couldn't walk in that stuff. It was like walking in a field. That rough was six or eight inches high and the greens were rock hard."

Lindholm got through "with whatever I could summon up." He opened with a very steady 73, just four shots off the lead, but fell back on Friday with a 78.

"In the first round on number 12, I hit it into the right rough, about a foot into the second cut. I had about a hundred yards to clear a creek in front of the green. I took out an eight iron but put it back in the bag and chipped out into the fairway. I couldn't hit out of that stuff."

Over the weekend, he was paired with a couple of no-names like himself_Hal Eastwood, a Texas club pro, and David Oakley, a grinder on the senior tour.

"They make a living, but_" Lindholm said. "Motels, playing golf six days a week_ that would get old pretty quick."

In the end, Lindholm was 22 over par, tied for 58th. That was eight shots better than Arnold Palmer, six shots worse than fellow Michigander Buddy Whitten (a senior tour rookie). Had he played as a pro, the Open would have earned Lindholm $3,583.

"It cost me a lot more than that," Lindholm said, referring to two straight weeks away from work. "I can't just stop my practice to play golf."

Lindholm is back to shagging balls a few days a week now, having learned his swing is good enough to compete with the big boys but his personality isn't cut out for the Tour.

"It sounds funny to say this about guys who make millions, but I felt sorry for them," Lindholm said. "One of the things about golf that I really enjoy is the solitude. The Nicklauses, the Palmers, the Trevinos_ they don't get any solitude."

John Bebow is senior writer-producer for Michigan Live, an internet news service based in Ann Arbor.

In Lindholm's Bag:

DRIVER: Founder's Club, steel head, steel shaft.
THREE WOOD: A Callaway with a small head.
IRONS: 3-PW, Titleist DCI
WEDGES: Callaway lob wedge, Snake Eyes sand wedge
PUTTER: Odyssey Rossie 2

(Note: Lindholm played forged irons and persimmon woods until last summer. "When I switched to the new irons, I was mis-hitting shots and they were still staying on the green," he said. "It was like cheating, but everybody else was doing it so I did too."

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