Vermont Club Pro Set to Climb Major Mountain June 28, 2017 | PEABODY, Mass. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Vermont club pro Ron Philo has had the luxury of uninterrupted practice time at Salem Country Club. (USGA/Chris Keane)

Ron Philo’s preparation for the 38th U.S. Senior Open Championship was not typical of many others in the 156-player field.

“The day before yesterday, I was able to practice from 7 to 8:30 in the evening,” said Philo, who is the director of golf at Stowe Mountain Club in Stowe, Vt. “The day before that, I had a lesson at 1 and a lesson at 3. The 2 o’clock window opened up so I could hit some pitch shots. It’s whatever the situation affords.”

Philo, playing in his first U.S. Senior Open this week at Salem Country Club, is 1-for-1 in sectional qualifying. Last year, in his first year of eligibility, work conflicts prevented him from competing in the 18-hole qualifier. He got in one practice round at Salem a couple of weeks ago, and a second one on Wednesday.

Philo, 51, has not always juggled work and golf. The game was his vocation for several years, and he toiled on the Nike (now Web.com) Tour in the mid-1990s, collecting 10 top-10 finishes without a victory. Since then, the native of Schenectady, N.Y., has spent his career stepping from lesson tee to practice sessions, and managing it well enough to have qualified for the 1999 U.S. Open, as well as seven PGA Championships.

“What I’ve learned is that you can’t change things very much,” said Philo, who won the 2006 PGA Professional Championship, helped along by a hole-in-one in the final round. “You have to really trust what you bring to the golf course. You can’t do much tinkering. You practice what you know and try to get as good at it as you can.”

Philo, whose sister is longtime LPGA Tour pro and four-time Solheim Cup player Laura Diaz, parlayed that philosophy into a spot in the field here. He shot 69 at Kernwood Country Club, just a few miles away from the Senior Open site in Salem, to earn one of two available spots.

“I am lucky to have worked with [noted sports psychologist] Bob Rotella,” said Philo. “Bob is from Rutland [Vt.] and is part of the rich golf history in our mountainous state. He always said to play the shot that course gives you. Just do what you can do and give yourself the best chance.”

Philo played in the PGA Professional Championship last week in Sunriver, Ore., missing the 54-hole cut to the top 70 and ties after rounds of 72-74-77. From there, he returned to Stowe and helped to run an invitational event last weekend.

“You have to be able to prioritize,” said Philo, who is in his eighth year at Stowe. “The members and the business of the game that we’re in are certainly the priorities. But it’s nice when opportunities come along to play.”

Opportunities don’t come any bigger than this week, and it is on a course where Philo has competed in a couple of New England sectional events.

“The four letters – USGA – say it all,” said Philo. “It’s the United States Senior Open. I don’t know that you need more than that. I’m just going to enjoy the venue. It’s a great golf course and a great golf community. I’m just going to celebrate the chance.”

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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