When the U.S. Senior Open Sectional Qualifier tees off at 7:30 a.m. Monday, June 1, at Loomis Trail Golf Course in Blaine, there will be a field of mostly 50- and 60-year-olds, plus at least one 72-year-old — Bellingham Golf and Country Club’s Rick Weihe.
Weihe is a past qualifier in the U.S. Senior Amateur Open, but he doesn’t expect to qualify for the professional Senior Open.
“I’m capabale of shooting a good score, but there will be a lot of players,” he said in a phone interview. “The distance is a big factor. The younger guys hit it a long way. They’re 40, 50 yards in front of me and come in with a lot easier second shots. So it’s tough. I can’t make any mistakes at all.”
Plus, there will most likely only be two qualifiers from Loomis to advance to the U.S. Senior Open, held June 25-28, at Del Paso Country Club, in Sacramento, Calif. There were three or four at the amateur qualifying when Weihe made it the four times he’s gone.
This isn’t Weihe’s first time trying for the big show, though.
“I’ve tried it pretty much every year since I turned 50,” he said. “I’ve been playing all my life, and I’ve been competing. A lot of guys my age don’t compete anymore, but I can still play decent for my age.”
He started playing at about 10 years old after caddying at the country club with some friends. His parents played, too, and after watching them and the golfers he caddied for, Weihe decided to try it.
“I didn’t really start playing decent golf until I got to college,” he said. “I graduated high school and was 5-foot and 100 pounds, but I grew a foot and could hit the ball further. I played in the service and represented the (United States) Air Force in a few events, like the 1968 Pebble Beach Bing Crosby tournament. That was when I really started to play good golf.”
The former insurance agent has a different goal, since he doesn’t expect to be in competition for the top spots at Loomis.
“I just try to shoot my age,” he said. “I started that at 65, and have been doing that a lot ever since. I practice pretty much every day, so now I try to beat my age. As you get older it gets easy. I just don’t want to make a fool out of myself. I would imagine the winner will be 4- or 5-under, and if I shoot par, I’ll be happy.”
The younger golfers may be able to hit harder or further, but Weihe expects his experience of playing since he was a boy to keep him competitive. He doesn’t often hit the ball out of play or into the woods, but knows he can have a bad or good day at any time.
“That would be an unbelievable goal if I could do it,” he said. “That would be the biggest tournament I’ve played in.”
But its not just the thrill of competing that keeps Weihe playing in these tournaments, he added.
“There are a lot of good memories in golf,” he said. “Some of the people you play with over the years and the people you meet and your friends make every round special. Some rounds are terrible, but they’re all special.”