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TPC holds special place in his heart

Bruce Summerhays got his start at the TPC of Tampa Bay, qualifying in 1994.

By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 17, 2002


LUTZ -- Just about every Senior PGA Tour player gushes about the quality and the challenge of the TPC of Tampa Bay, but to Bruce Summerhays it is more than just a favorite stop on the circuit.

LUTZ -- Just about every Senior PGA Tour player gushes about the quality and the challenge of the TPC of Tampa Bay, but to Bruce Summerhays it is more than just a favorite stop on the circuit.

The golf course is a part of him, just like his wife, eight children and, ahem, 17 grandchildren. It is where he truly started his senior career, one that has added up to more than $6-million in earnings.

And who knows, maybe today it will be the place where he wins again.

Summerhays, who starts today's final round at the Verizon Classic at 9 under, two shots behind Bruce Fleisher, has been coming here since 1994, when he placed fourth in the senior qualifying tournament.

"I'll remember that forever," Summerhays said. "I couldn't putt out, I had a 1-footer left and I would have stepped in someone's line. Just to sit there knowing you've made it, you just get tears in your eyes."

The Homestead, Utah, resident did more than just take his exemption, play a few events, make a few bucks and ride off -- he has become a tour mainstay.

Summerhays' career earnings rank 22nd, not bad for a man who earned $10,302 on the PGA Tour. He became a club pro, working at San Francisco's famed Olympic Club and later in Utah. He raised his family, who then pushed him out at age 50 to try the senior tour.

"The family said, "Hey, Dad, you need to try that,' " Summerhays said. "So I got ready and prepared to win, not just qualify."

He has two victories, though the last came in 1998. Summerhays turned 58 on Thursday and believes he has more success ahead. Whether that third win comes today, he's not likely to stop smiling.

"No matter how I do on this golf course, it's a wonderful place to be," Summerhays said. "It holds a special place in my heart."

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