Abendroth Hopes Home Course Leads to Senior Open Spot April 1, 2015 By David Shefter, USGA

John Abendroth will try to qualify for the Senior Open at The Olympic Club, his home club for the past 48 years. (USGA/Jed Jacobsohn)

John Abendroth has been “Hooked on Golf” for the past 21 years, as thousands of Bay Area golf enthusiasts tune in every Saturday morning for his aptly named radio show on KNBR-AM 680.

On March 4, Abendroth hovered over a computer keyboard instead of a microphone. At 9 a.m. EST, entries officially opened for the 2015 U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento, Calif. By 9:04 a.m., Abendroth had filed the championship’s first entry and secured a qualifying berth.

Given that The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif., Abendroth’s home course for the past 48 years, is one of the 34 sectional qualifying sites, he expected interest to be high. Abendroth’s assessment proved accurate, as all 84 available spots at Olympic were filled by March 7. 

“I wanted to make sure I was in the site,” said Abendroth, 62, of Burlingame, Calif. “A lot of guys around here don’t get to play there very often. I figured they would want to play there. It’s a good test because you don’t have to shoot 6 under [par] to qualify.”

Abendroth, the media chairman for the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in May at Olympic, is aiming to compete in his first USGA championship since the 1970 U.S. Junior Amateur, when he lost in the first round of match play at Athens (Ga.) Country Club. He has twice been an alternate in U.S. Open local qualifying.

For the past 21 years, John Abendroth has educated golf fans through his popular Hooked on Golf radio show. (USGA/Jed Jacobsohn)

Fully recovered from a pair of hip surgeries and benefiting from a rigorous exercise program that has helped him to lose 30 pounds and 4 inches off his waistline, Abendroth feels prepared for the grind.

“I feel like it’s helping my game,” said Abendroth.

A four-time club champion and two-time junior club champion, Abendroth knows the Lake Course at Olympic better than any venue. He joined in 1967 through the club’s junior program, which annually awards two memberships to juniors whose parents are not members. That program also produced 1973 U.S. Open champion Johnny Miller. By being a junior member, Abendroth had the option of joining full-time when he turned 21.

“I feel indebted to The Olympic Club,” said Abendroth. “I have great successes there. When this [Senior Open qualifier] came together, I felt this is my chance.”

After graduating in 1974 from Weber State University, where he was an honorable-mention All-America selection, Abendroth spent two seasons on the PGA Tour (1975 and 1977) with an interlude in Australia/New Zealand sandwiched between.

Abendroth landed his radio show through former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Gene Washington, a golf pupil of Abendroth’s. Washington had a nightly radio show on KNBR, so when he needed a golf expert to come on the air, he called Abendroth. When The Tour Championship came to The Olympic Club in 1993 and 1994, Abendroth was asked to be an analyst for some live shows.

That led to “Hooked on Golf.” Abendroth and his partner, Mitch Juricich, have done the radio show since 1994, as well as a successful TV show for 15 years.

Neither envisioned the radio show lasting 21 years because, as Abendroth said, “We didn’t have any big goals to start with.”

The radio show is only part of Abendroth’s involvement in golf. At age 50, he became a Class A professional, having completed The PGA of America’s Education Program. When friends purchased two golf courses, Abendroth managed the courses for 12 years. He also operated an indoor teaching facility not far from San Francisco International Airport.

On the club side, he was the vice chairman for the 2012 U.S. Open and served as media chairman for the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur and 2007 U.S. Amateur. He’s also one of a handful of golfers to be inducted into The Olympic Club’s Hall of Fame, which includes athletes from many sports. The Olympic Club is the oldest athletic club in the U.S. and has routinely sent athletes to the Olympic Games.

Abendroth would love to parlay the long experience at his home club into a berth in the U.S. Senior Open.

“I feel good about my qualifying chances,” said Abendroth. “I have no big premonition that I’m going to win the thing. But just getting there on the stage would be a wonderful opportunity for me.”

Note: The first 2015 U.S. Open entry was filed by professional Darren Ernst, of Trabuco Canyon, Calif. The first 2015 U.S. Women’s Open entry was from professional Sally Watson, of Scotland, a two-time Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup competitor (2008 and 2010).

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.