Daniels, Lacrosse punch Senior Open tickets

Paul Daniels of Port St. Lucie lines up his putt with his caddie during a sudden-death playoff at the Gainesville Country Club on Monday afternoon. Daniels qualified for the U.S. Senior Open.

Jeremiah Stanley/Special to The Sun
Published: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 30, 2008 at 10:53 p.m.

Having been a club pro for 26 years, Paul Daniels understands the relationship between patience and success on the golf course.

On Monday, he had to endure the toughest test of patience he's ever known.

After posting an early even-par 72 in the Senior U.S. Open qualifying tournament at the Gainesville Country Club, Daniels had to wait, and wait, and wait to see if it would hold up and earn him one of the two Open slots up for grabs against a field of 80. The agonizing wait included many anxious moments in front of the scoreboard, followed by a rain delay and a three-man playoff.

"It was a huge wait, unbelievable," said the 50-year-old from Port St. Lucie.

It ended with a defining moment in his career a slippery, downhill putt from eight feet that found the center of the cup and sends him to the Senior Open at The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs at the end of July. Also going is Tampa's Doug Lacrosse.

"It was a huge relief to see that go in, because it could have easily gotten away from me," Daniels said. "It was just a long, hard wait, and I'm just excited to be going to the Open in my first time trying.

"I took a chance coming up here from south Florida. I don't know exactly why I thought it would be easier here, but I figured I had a better chance here. It worked out."

There was nothing easy about it.

With most of the field in the clubhouse, it looked like Daniels' 72 would earn him a spot in the Open, along with Beau Baugh, who also carded a 72. But Lacrosse, one of the last players off the course, also came in with a 72, forcing a three-man playoff for the two spots.

Then heavy rain and wind swept across the course.

After about a 45-minute delay, the three players went to the first tee to settle it.

Lacrosse bogeyed the tough par-4 after having to lay up in front of the greenside lake. Baugh hit his approach into the water, while Daniels' second ended up 20 feet right of the green.

Baugh rolled in a difficult 15-foot putt for a double-bogey six. Daniels was a little too aggressive with his par putt, leaving him the eight-foot downhill bogey putt. Make it, and he's in the Open. Miss it, and he and Baugh continue the playoff to determine the final spot.

His putt hit dead-center in the cup.

"It was downhill, downgrain, downwind, and it went in the middle," he said. "Its the biggest accomplishment I've ever had in golf, the biggest putt of my life. It's a dream come true."

Daniels said he ended his 26-year career as a club pro in Massachusetts a year ago to come to Florida and prepare for this moment.

"My wife and I both quit our jobs and came here to give it a chance and try to play (on the Senior Tour)," he said. "It's just so huge. This is a very big thing for me. It hasn't sunk in, but it will."

Florida golf coach Buddy Alexander just missed the playoff after shooting a 1-over 73. He is the No. 2 alternate for the Open from the Gainesville field. The No. 1 alternate is Baugh.

"I've been practicing a little bit, but not enough," Alexander said. "I don't play and practice much. I just entered to compete a little bit."

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