Kevin Coombs played his greatest round of golf on the biggest stage.
The 50-year-old from Camas shot a one under par score of 69 strokes during the first round of the Senior U.S. Open July 11, at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club.
“It was my best round of golf, given the circumstances. I’ve put up lower scores, but to put up a red number in a PGA tournament was an incredible experience,” Coombs said. “It was great to have my parents there, my wife there and my son on the bag. Some of my best friends were also there watching me. It was special for me to be able to share that moment with all of them.”
Coombs started off with a bogey on the 10th hole, but he bounced back with birdies on holes 12 and 14. Coombs saved par on 16 after his tee shot landed in a sand trap. He also made birdie putts on two and four.
“I am now three under par after 13 holes in the Senior U.S. Open,” Coombs said. “I am having fun and not worried about where I stand. Just playing well.”
As he approached the fifth green, Coombs saw his name on the scoreboard.
“I didn’t know I was tied for the lead,” he said. “At that point in time, I’m thinking, ‘I’m on the leaderboard. That’s cool, but I have more work to do.”
Coombs bogeyed the fifth hole, the first one since the first hole he played. Although disappointed, Coombs reminded himself that “it is only a bogey in a U.S. Open.”
Coombs also bogeyed the sixth hole, but battled back with pars on seven and eight. His approach shot on the final hole landed in a sand trap, but Coombs was determined to save par.
“The bunker shot is fairly simple. Get it out and the ball will roll to the hole. I hit the shot to about 3 feet,” Coombs said. “I am encouraging myself to make the putt for a 69, so I commit to a line and a pace. I hit the putt solidly and turn my head just in time to see it drop in the center.”
Coombs started shaking with emotion as he hugged his wife, Minda. He found his son, Connor, and parents, Ben and Judy, by the locker room. He broke down in tears as he hugged them.
“I am not the most emotional guy playing in a sport where you can’t be emotional,” Coombs said. “To have performed this well at this event was very unexpected, and something I had once dreamed about doing as a career. It seemed as if the 42 years of playing golf had culminated in this round.”
Coombs couldn’t keep the magic going in the next round. He birdied the second hole to drop to two under. When Coombs realized he was only one stroke behind the leader, he fell out of his comfort zone. He suffered a double bogey, bogey and another double bogey on the next three holes.
“Once I acknowledged my standing in the tournament, that’s when I started to lose focus,” Coombs said. “Even Connor said I acted differently after that second hole.
“Sometimes when you set a goal, in the middle of pursuing that goal, the goal becomes too easy,” he added. “The goal I had set for myself was no longer relevant to the position I was in. Because of that, my intensity and focus must have waned.”
Coombs rolled a chip shot to about a foot from the 15th hole to set up an easy par putt. He was told this shot was on television.
Bogies on 16 and 17 prevented Coombs from making the cut into the final round. He rebounded with a 2-hybrid shot that dropped about 10 feet from the hole on the 18th green. This shot was also on television. Coombs missed his birdie putt and settled for par.
“If somebody told me I would shoot 147 in the Senior Open, I would say ‘thank you,’” Coombs said. “But a 69 [round] followed by a 78 makes it harder to accept.”
Coombs enjoyed having his son by his side on every swing. He couldn’t have asked for a better caddy.
“I’ll remember I played the best round of my whole life and my son was right there with me through the ropes,” he said. “That is something both of us will never forget. Hopefully, we get a chance to do that again.”
Coombs plans to enter the Pacific Northwest Senior PGA Championship Sept. 5 and 6, at Oak Brook Golf and Country Club, in Lakewood. He will leave no stone in his golf game unturned to discover if there is another 69 round in his future.
“Is it important enough for me to work on my game more to have that become more of a regular event instead of just a fluke?” Coombs said. “You don’t want to discount your abilities, but I know I had opportunities to shoot a 66 in that round. Even after 42 years of golf, I’m still learning.”