SNOQUALMIE — This week’s Boeing Classic is the first PGA Tour Champions event since the Aug. 11-14 U.S. Open, an event won by Gene Sauers. It was his first victory on the 50-and-over tour for Sauers, who turned 54 on Monday.
The outcome was “a dream come true,” Sauers said this week. “I was almost kind of beginning to doubt myself whether I can win again. This is my fourth year out here (on tour) and I hadn’t won. I’ve won on the PGA Tour, I’ve won on that Nike Tour (today the Web.com Tour), and that was one of my goals, to win out here on the Champions Tour. And I got me a good one.”
A decade ago, Sauers seemed unlikely to play competitive golf again, let alone win a pro tournament. In 2006 he was diagnosed with a rare and often fatal skin disease called Stevens-Johnson syndrome. He underwent numerous skin grafts — his forearms still show the scars of those procedures — and “I didn’t touch a club for seven years,” he said.
Upon his return, “you’ve got to relearn everything,” he said. “Hitting the ball wasn’t so bad, but just (the play) around the greens, chipping and putting, the bunker shots and all that, that kind of took a little extra time to try to master.
“Just coming back from all that stuff, (the U.S. Senior Open win) is extra special,” said Sauers, who made his Champions Tour debut at the 2012 Boeing Classic.
This year’s three-day, 54-hole Boeing Classic has a field of 81 players chasing a total purse of $2 million. The first-place prize is $300,000.
Of the players in this year’s field, 62 have totaled 326 PGA Tour victories. Fifty have won 240 times on the PGA Tour Champions.
The tournament will begin this morning with the traditional 11:20 a.m. flyover of a Boeing jet.
New tournament contract
The Boeing Classic will be around through 2021 after the PGA Tour Champions announced a five-year title sponsorship renewal with The Boeing Company on Thursday.
Langer the leader
German Bernhard Langer is again one of the stars on the PGA Tour Champions. He has played in 14 tournaments to date and is the tour money leader with $1,784,659 in earnings, having won three times.
The season “has been very good, there’s no doubt about it,” said the 58-year-old Langer. “Obviously there’s days when I putt bad or there’s days when I don’t do this right or that right, but overall over a period of three or four days it’s been very consistent and pretty good.”
Scott Simpson became the field’s first casualty when he was disqualified for missing his Wednesday pro-am starting time. Pro-am rounds are mandatory on the Champions Tour, though there are occasional excused absences.
Simpson, winner of the 1987 U.S. Open, shot a 61 in the 2006 Boeing Classic, tying the record for the tournament’s low round.