Saturday Morning Drama: Unknowns Foil Faldo July 1, 2017 | PEABODY, Mass. By Dave Shedloski
One of the most intense intervals of the 38th U.S. Senior Open escaped TV coverage, though one of golf’s most noteworthy television personalities was a very interested witness to it, and it had a significant impact on the final 36 holes of this championship.
Early Saturday a pair of unknowns battled to make the cut at Salem Country Club, and despite the fact that they’ve never encountered that level of pressure in competition, each came up with a signature moment that allowed them to continue playing this weekend.
Stu Ingraham, a teaching pro from Newtown Square, Pa., and Robby Funk, an amateur from Canyon Lake, Calif., made the cut on the number at 1-over 141. Playing in the same group, each had to make a sizable putt on the last hole, the par-4 ninth, to do it. Ingraham, 57, converted a sliding, downhill 10-footer for birdie to get inside the top 60 and ties. Then Funk, an electrician by trade, made par from 7 feet.
Those results left 61 players at 1 over or better, and knocked out all five players at 2-over-par 142, including CBS Sports lead golf analyst and six-time major champion Sir Nick Faldo, who was watching with interest to see if he would get a third-round starting time.
“Yeah, I saw him. My caddie and I saw his head drop after I made the putt,” said Ingraham, 57, head professional at the MGOLF Driving Range & Learning Facility in Newtown Square. “I felt bad for him. I felt bad for all the guys that were knocked out. But that putt sure felt good. It might have been the best putt I ever hit in my life. If the hole was that big [about the size the ball], it was going in.”
Funk, who didn’t begin playing golf seriously until he was 27 years old but won the prestigious Trans-Mississippi Amateur in 2006 at age 43, had no idea Faldo was stalking the group. But he did see afterward that his famous sons, scooter-riding YouTube stars Capron and Cory, had come to surprise him. “That brought tears to my eyes,” said Funk, 54, who is guaranteed to realize his goal of being low amateur as the only one to make the cut, provided he completes 72 holes.
The two men were among 24 players who had to return at 6:45 a.m. Saturday after severe weather suspended play late Friday afternoon.
Playing in his first USGA championship, Ingraham arrived at Salem Saturday morning knowing he needed to play his three remaining holes in 1 under par. It didn’t look promising when he faced a 25-foot par putt at No. 7 (his 16th hole), but he poured it in. Then he drove into a deep divot on the next hole and managed to save par again. That set up a do-or-die birdie on No. 9. He “knifed” a 5-iron above the hole. Then he sank the putt for a 1-under 69.
It marked the fifth time in 11 major starts he had made the cut, having previously competed in six PGA Championships and four Senior PGAs. He was low club professional in the 1993 PGA at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, tying for 31st.
This was better.
“I looked up to the skies and thought, oh my God,” said Ingraham, who turned around and shot an even-par 70 in the third round that included three birdies in his last five holes. “This is my first USGA major ever. I was so tickled. It’s very meaningful. Being a club professional, I think I tried once to make a U.S. Open. So, yeah, this is very important to me.”
With Ingraham in for birdie, Funk had to make his putt to stick around. He had left a 40-foot birdie try 7 feet short. When his second putt found the cup, he let out a yell.
“I’m pretty sure I yelled because I came in this week wanting to be low amateur. My whole goal was to be low amateur,” said Funk, whose putt finished off a 72. He then carded 75 in the third round. “It’s my first major championship. I played in a lot of USGA events; it’s my first senior event.”
It won’t be his last. The low amateur gets invited to next year’s U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. “See, I don’t even know what the perks are,” he said with a huge smile. “To be invited back, that’s going to be awesome.”
And the best part of the day was having his sons in attendance. He helps manage their careers, but in the next day or so, they’ll be posting a video to their Funk Bros. site. Dad will be the star this time.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to USGA websites.