How Paul Broadhurst, the Birdie Machine of Benton Harbor, Won the 2018 Senior PGA Championship
By Mike Lopresti
This is the way a major should be memorably won – with remarkable numbers, a nerveless putt in time of crisis, and a story or two to tell.
Paul Broadhurst, the birdie machine of Benton Harbor, had all that Sunday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. Paul Broadhurst? He’s the guy who shot a 72 in the first round Thursday and called his travel agent, looking for a weekend flight, since making the cut didn’t look so good.
Then he turned into the prince of darkness. Went 66-64-63 the last three rounds. Finished at 19-under 265, matching the best score in the 79-year history of the event. Didn’t have a birdie to his name until the 12th hole of the first round, but stacked up 26 of them in the last 61 holes. And transformed Harbor Shores into his personal stage.
Paging course designer Jack Nicklaus. Did you see what this guy just did to your greens? You mentioned how they had some “spice” to them. Gee, the slope on No. 10 makes it look like the start of the giant slalom. But for Paul Broadhurst the past few days, Harbor Shores was Putt-Putt.
“I just wish I was playing like this on the main tour 20 years ago,” he said, after torching the place.
By the last birdie of his 63 Sunday evening, there was no doubt he had become the unstoppable force of the week. The rest of the field was only there to witness. Poor Tim Petrovic, for instance. He hadn’t won a tournament in 13 years, but co-owned the lead going into Sunday, with Broadhurst two back, and shot a very respectable final 69. He finished with four rounds in the 60s.
Plenty of times, that would have been good enough, and his life would be changed today. But he didn’t have a prayer.
Not with the Broadhurst birdies coming like the waves off nearby Lake Michigan. He finished four behind, with his 15-under the second best non-winning score in Senior PGA history, behind only Colin Montgomerie's 16-under in 2016. “In hindsight, I think it was all for naught,” Petrovic said of his Sunday efforts. “He was just so far ahead of us.
“We just got beat.”
Turns out maybe the hardest thing Broadhurst had to do all week was lift that golf bag-sized trophy at the victory ceremony -- the one with all the past champions’ names on it. “I grew up watching some of these greats names – the Nicklauses, the Watsons, the Trevinos,” he said. “So to have my name along those, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
It doesn’t get any better than his putter was the last few days, either. He started Sunday with a 30-footer for birdie on No. 1. He ended with a 30-footer for birdie on No. 18, with Petrovic watching, playing in the pairing behind him. “I almost started clapping out in the fairway and waved the towel,” Petrovic said. “It was well-deserved.”
In between, Broadhurst buried a – you guessed it -- 30-footer or so to save par on No. 14, which was about the last glimpse anyone had of catching him. “Massive,” he called that putt. He had 36 – count ‘em – 36 one-putt greens. Half of his tournament.
“Seems like every green I holed a 30-footer today,” he said, and imagine what it would be like trying to stay up with that. “I hadn’t a clue what score I was shooting out there. All I was looking at was the leaderboard.”In many ways, Broadhurst’s career has been like the game he adopted for life. Never simple, never easy, never to be taken for granted.
There have been some days of trials, some days of triumph. Darkness and light. His first golf inspiration came from his father, a 10-handicapper, until he lost his arm in a work accident.
To support himself during his amateur career, Broadhurst did odd jobs, from gardening to a fiberglass factory. The day he turned a professional in the late 1980s, he had $200 in the bank.
But he thrived in a hurry on the European Tour. He put up a 63 in the third round of the 1990 British Open at St. Andrews to tie the course record. For an English golfer, that’s getting pretty close to Heaven. In 1991, he was a pain in the golf pants to Team USA in the Ryder Cup, beating Mark O’Meara in singles and teaming with Ian Woosnam to defeat Paul Azinger and Hale Irwin in four-ball.
But later came a serious hand injury and a career stall, and in his late 40s, he had been reduced to mostly pro-ams and mini-tours, losing his European Tour card. “A panic situation,” he said of his predicament in one interview. He was hoping senior golf would give him a second wind.
And it has. He has seven senior victories in two-plus years, one more than he had in a quarter-century on the regular European Tour. The highlight was the 2016 Senior Open at Carnoustie. Well, it was until Sunday’s Tour de Birdies, anyway. He’s gone from struggling to winning to – for at least for one golden Memorial Day weekend – owning Harbor Shores, lock, stock and trolley cars.
“I’m never sure what’s going to happen with my game,” he said. “I’m not blessed with a consistent swing like someone like Bernhard Langer, but when it’s on, it works. If I’m putting well, then anything can happen really.”
It just did.
#2018 Sr PGA Championship