Jeff Thomsen of Boise, Idaho, has seen enough tapes of championship golf at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., to understand that exciting things are a tradition at a course that has yet to host a senior professional championship.
In two months, Thomsen will get up close and personal with Valhalla by competing in the 65th Senior PGA Championship, May 27-30. The head professional at Indian Lake Golf Club in Boise, Thomsen captured last yearís Callaway Golf PGA Senior Club Professional Championship just over a month after his 50th birthday. He will head a 35-player delegation of PGA Professionals into the oldest and most prestigious event in senior golf.
"I've played in four major championships in my career, but this will be the first senior major," said Thomsen, the head professional at Indian Lake Golf Club in Boise. "It was nice to win last fall just after turning 50. I'm looking forward to playing at Valhalla. I've watched a couple of tapes of the two PGA Championships held there (1996, 2000). I'd like to spend a week at the course ahead of the Championship, if I could. It would be nice to play a course where single digits under par wins. That makes it special."
Thomsen, who along with two brothers operate Indian Lakeís public-access layout, is a former Tour professional. He was a regular on the PGA Tour from 1979 to 1982, and played sporadically through 1998, accumulating 59 total starts. His best performance was a tie for 10th in 1979, in the former American Optical Classic at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Mass.
After last year's Callaway Golf Senior PGA Championship, Thomsen attempted to earn a berth on the Champions Tour. He finished three strokes from gaining a "conditional status" exemption.
"I hope that I can get some exemptions this year," said Thomsen. "It's a goal for many players who turn 50. Winning the Senior Club Professional Championship has been good for many players, and maybe it will be my moment. There are a lot of good club professionals who turn 50 and can compete on the Tour. They just need a chance to play and prove themselves."
Thomsen was the youngest champion of the Idaho State Amateur at age 16. He later attended Arizona State University, earning All-America honors in 1975 and 1976. Following graduation, he turned professional and competed on the Australia-New Zealand Tour, and followed with campaigns on the European Tour (1977-78) and the Asian Tour (1979). He has competed in the 1978 British Open, the 1983 U.S. Open and the 1990 and 1998 PGA Championships.
Following a full-time Tour career, he was elected to PGA membership in 1984. He has since won four Rocky Mountain PGA Section championships (1989, '90, '91, '93) and was a seven-time Section Player of the Year (1987, '88, '89, '91, '94, '96, '97). He also happens to hold six course records, recording each while in competition.
Thomsen has been attempting to prepare for the 65th Senior PGA Championship by keeping in shape and in enhancing one segment of his game.
"I've been a pretty good course manager," said Thomsen. "I will pick away at a golf course, just plodding along. Iím a good plodder."
The 156-player Senior PGA Championship field currently features defending champion John Jacobs, and past Champions Jack Fleck (1979), Arnold Palmer (1980, '84), Jack Nicklaus (1991), Tom Wargo (1993), Raymond Floyd (1995), Hale Irwin (1996, '97, '98), Allen Doyle (1999), Doug Tewell (2000), Tom Watson (2001) and Fuzzy Zoeller (2002).
Tickets to the 65th Senior PGA Championship are available by calling 1-800-PGA-TCKT (742-8258) or by visiting www.pga.com/seniorPGA/2004.
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