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PGA professional John Pillar finishes strong on Day 1 at US Senior Open

By Marty Myers
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It wasn't quite perfect, but John Pillar will take it.

The 50-year-old director of golf at the Country Club at Woodloch Springs posted a 2-over-par 72 in Thursday's opening round of the U.S. Senior Open at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Massachusetts.

"Right out of the gate I made a bunch of pars," said Pillar, who will tee off today at 2:40 p.m. "I made 10 straight pars, which normally in a U.S. Open is what you want to do."

Kirk Triplett dispatched with that thinking for the rest of the field, blistering the course with a 62, leaving Pillar 10 strokes off the pace.

That number, and whatever the cut line is today, are two numbers that currently don't concern Pillar.

"I haven't looked at it," Pillar said of the projected cut. "My kids are all over it. The craziest thing is, and I don't know if it's age or time, but I have no expectations. I'm just playing each shot the best that I can and whatever it is, it is.

"I know if I play a good, solid round, I'm not worried about the cut. I can't let nerves jump in. The other day I was playing with (Tom) Watson and (Fred) Couples. It can't get much scarier than that. I'm not going to be more nervous than I was (Tuesday)."

There were some early nerves in the opening round. Pillar quieted them with a great save on the par-4 11th, his second hole.

After driving it into the deep rough, Pillar hacked it out about 45 yards short of the green. His approach settled a foot away for an easy par.

He remained at par until the 481-yard second hole, where he striped his approach shot 185 yards.

RELATED: Pillar getting second shot at Senior US Open

Unfortunately, a yardage miscalculation left him well short of the green.

"We had 205 to the hole and just messed up the number," Pillar said. "My caddie said 'get tight,' I said 'get down.' It was 20 yards short."

He followed with his lone birdie, knocking his tee shot on the par-3 third to 5 feet and sinking the putt.

Again, on No. 4, he wasn't comfortable with the yardage to the green, which led to another bogey.

"A mental error, essentially," Pillar said.

He followed with a bogey on the 205-yard, par-3 fifth, and like it did on the par-5 14th, a shot got away on the sixth, the other par 5 on the 6,769-yard layout.

"I let so many shots go," Pillar said. "Those two mistakes with clubbing, but I also didn't capitalize on the two par 5s. I was literally right in front of the green in two."

On the bright side, a minor mid-round putting adjustment left him feeling very comfortable down the stretch, which paid off when he saved par with a pair of 15-footers on his 16th and 18th holes.

"The last four or five were really good," Pillar said. "We'll see what happens. I missed several opportunities, but I was very solid."

Pillar hit 11 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens in regulation, but two of his best holes came after he missed greens.
 

"I made really good up-and-downs on Nos. 7 and 9 from nearly impossible spots," Pillar said. "I hit it on the 10th tee on No. 9 while there were guys teeing off. I made a 15-footer there, and it was good to make that in front of the crowd."

That crowd included his wife, Eileen, sons Alex and Kyle.

"My best friend Ralph Scartelli, his sister and her husband and members of the club, there were a lot of people there," Pillar said. "It was just great. I'm really missing my son, John. He's in Philly working. I wish he could have made it, but he is coming up for the weekend.

"That's my inspiration to get to that. I'm enjoying the experience. I'm glad I finished the way I did. I'd like to have made some of the putts I had, but I'm very happy with the way it went today."

This article is written by Marty Myers from The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.