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 firstname.lastname@example.org.