August 5, 2005
Pete Oakley didn’t understand how nervous he was about defending his 2004 Senior British Open championship until after it was all over.
“I’m so relieved,” said The Rookery’s Director of Golf. “Now I realize I was really anxious about it, but I couldn’t tell that at the time. I feel fine now, despite how disappointed I was in how I played (he missed the cut with an 82-80 finish in the first two rounds).”
“On the other hand, there’s some good news,” he continued. “Thanks to finishing 49th overall in last year’s Champions Tour standings, I’m qualified to play in more Tour events.”
In fact, when we talked recently, Oakley was in Minneapolis for this week’s 3M Championship, held at the TPC of the Twin Cities course.
Oakley’s total earnings last year didn’t make him fully exempt for the Tour after the Senior British Open event, but if enough higher-ranking players skip an event or two, he’s among the first pros contacted to fill the open slots. “By this time of year, the top 30 guys have made their money, and start taking off,” Oakley explained. “I’ll be in Seattle for the next event, and maybe Baltimore after that.”
Oakley completed a month of majors in July, in which his opening event was his best. He finished the Ford Seniors Championship on July 10 with a 6-over-par 294, earning $2,875 for his 66th place tie.
From there Oakley traveled to St. Andrews, Scotland for his first-ever British Open. His appearance there was among the benefits of winning last year’s Senior British, and he loved nearly every minute of the experience.
“It was so cool. I loved it, but some of it was just bizarre. I’d need to play that course a dozen times more just to get some idea of how to play it,” he said. “The bunkers there were beyond penal. Your ball would go in there and it’d be lying right up against one of these 90-degree faces. I took an unplayable lie one time, and learned that I had to keep the ball in the bunker. I got out that way, but it was one of my triple bogeys,” he laughed.
Oakley was deeply impressed by the fans at the British Open. “Golf is revered there. The fans were really great. I signed more autographs there than anywhere else I’ve been.”
He also liked playing links golf. “Most golf here [in the States] is so straightforward by comparison. At St. Andrews, though, you just never knew what was going to happen. I drove the 18th green from the tee in one round, and that was the longest tee shot of my life.”
After missing the cut in the British Open, Oakley traveled to Aberdeen for his title defense. “That was a great links golf course. It was a little easier to hit out of the bunkers than St. Andrews, because the faces weren’t so steep. But the wind blew so hard, and the same way each day. I played best when the hole was into the wind or was crossing from left to right. I couldn’t control the ball when I was with the wind or when it was running from right to left. That killed me,” Oakley said.
On the other hand, he was proud of his brother David’s performance in the same event, highlighted by a 65 in the third round in cold, windy conditions. Pete also won the Pro-Am event before the tournament, but he also said winning it turned out to be the “kiss of death” so often described by other tour pros.
Oakley then returned to the States for the U.S. Senior Open at the NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio, where he missed the cut by a single stroke. “I had a double bogey on my first hole and another one on my 36th hole. Those two holes alone did it. But I’m hitting better now, and I’m so much less tense. It was more mental anxiety than anything else. I’m happy to return to my relative anonymity.”
Just the same, I don’t think Pete would really mind winning another Tour event if he had the chance.