Steve Alker won the US Senior PGA Championship a month ago – photo Montana Pritchard PGA of America 

First it was the ladies, then the men and now the senior men who get to contest a US Open Championship, this week’s US Senior Open at the Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, the greatest title in the game for the over-fifties.

Nine Australasians will tee it up in the first of three consecutive major championships on the PGA Tour Champions, this week’s event followed in two weeks by the Senior Players Championship at the Firestone Country Club and two week’s later by the Senior Open Championship at Gleneagles.

Steve Alker is the standout amongst the Australasians, the 50-year-old New Zealander having taken the PGA Tour Champions by storm over the last ten months, winning on four occasions since his debut in August of last year and in 2022 finishing inside the top three seven times in ten starts.

Such has been his domination in 2022 that Alker leads the PGA Tour Champions money list by a massive US$714,000 over second placed Miguel Angel Jimenez and his amazing run appears unlikely to stop.

Alker won a first senior major title a few weeks ago when he claimed the Senior PGA Championship and a second now appears at his mercy.

I have had the good fortune to caddie in two US Senior Opens, one when Graham Marsh bogeyed the final hole at Pinehurst in 1994 to lose by one shot to Zimbabwe’s Simon Hobday. I caddied in another the following year at Congressional when Marsh finished 8th behind Tom Weiskopf.

Marsh would go on to win the event in 1997 and in doing so he is the only Australasian to have won this event.

I make these comments as what those experiences displayed to me was that these events are not just exhibitions for those who have reached the age of 50 but even back then, nearly thirty years ago, I was struck by the quality of play on display and the typical classiness of yet another USGA run event.

The courses are, admittedly, shorter than those used on the PGA Tour (although this one is still 7020 yards), but the quality of play leaves one in no doubt that these events are hard fought, serious contests, those involved desperate to add a senior major to their resumé.

Alker’s most amazing consistency should ensure he is again in the mix on Sunday and it will be of some surprise if he is not contending for this week’s title especially given he possesses a game built around the requirements of US Open style golf.

Alker will be joined in the field by fellow Australasians, Rod Pampling, Stuart Appleby, Michael Campbell, Robert Allenby, John Senden, Richard Green, Mark Hensby and Gavin Coles.

Senden, Green, Hensby and Coles played their way into the field via final qualifying, Coles an alternate before gaining a start. Given there were over 3000 entries into the event, even to have made the field is an achievement in itself.

 

Graham Marsh won the US Senior Open in 1997 – the only Australasian to do so.