Back on the bag
Alexandria native Tom Lehman was back in a familiar spot at the Alexandria Golf Club on Tuesday afternoon as his 11-year-old son, Sean, took to the 10th tee box in the Junior 10-12 Division at the Resorters golf tournament.
He wasn’t just walking the same fairways that he grew up playing. Lehman was back on the bag again, serving as his son’s caddy, which is exactly where he got his start in the Resorters Tournament as a kid about Sean’s age.
Back then, there was no Junior Division for him to play in. The only way for him and his friends to take an active role in the tournament was to caddie for other players. Lehman was on the bag for perennial players like Dennis Beard from Oklahoma and former Resorters champion Pete Passolt. That only heightened the anticipation when the time came to actually start playing.
“You get to the point where you’re sick and tired of caddying and you want to play yourself,” Lehman said on Tuesday. “We all grew up thinking this was our U.S. Open. This was the biggest event of the year by far and to win the Resorters was every kid’s dream.”
Lehman went on to accomplish that dream as a college player at the University of Minnesota in 1980. He was runner-up in the Men’s Division in 1977 where he lost to Jerry Gruidl of Golden Valley.
Everything came together for him a few years later. He took on Bemidji’s Bill Israelson in the championship match that summer and outlasted him 3-2 to win his first and only Resorters championship.
“I remember playing really well,” Lehman said. “The whole week I played extremely well, shot a lot of really good rounds, way under par nearly every match. This golf club has always been the kind of club where if you play well you can shoot low. I remember that week playing really well and shooting really low.”
Lehman has gone on to win bigger tournaments during his professional career, but as a kid growing up in Alexandria, that win was as good as it got back then. Those memories of the Resorters are one of the reasons he makes it a point to try and get back here almost every year now to share the week with his family.
“Most importantly, I love it here,” Lehman said. “My mom is still here and Alexandria has always meant a lot to me and always will. To be able to come back and visit my mom, have my kids take part in this tournament that I played in all those years, it’s a way of kind of staying connected to things that are really important to me.”
Lehman lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Melissa and their two sons. Their two daughters are recent college graduates.
Lehman said it is fun for him to make the trip back to Alexandria and see old friends whose kids and grandkids are playing in the same tournament that they played in. Lehman’s two sons and his nephew, Jackson, are all a part of this year’s Resorters field.
Sean qualified for the championship flight in the Junior 10-12 Division after shooting a 46 through nine holes on Tuesday afternoon. Lehman’s other son in the field, Thomas, did the same in the Men’s Division. He qualified with a 71 on Tuesday morning and was one of just six men’s golfers to shoot under par during qualifying.
Thomas, 18, didn’t even play much golf back home in Arizona. He focused more on baseball and football in high school, but the Resorters has been the one week he has devoted to golf over the last handful of years.
“Now he’s kind of turning more toward golf, so it’s fun to kind of see him progress,” Tom said. “Sean, I think because Thomas is so into it right now, is really into it. It’s fun seeing him kind of catch the bug. I just think that this has always been a great family event, the Resorters. There’s always been so many people that reconnected year after year after year here. It’s fun to be a part of.”
“PLAYING WELL, PUTTING POORLY”
Lehman’s own game has featured a lot of good with a bit of frustration lately while playing on the Champion’s Tour.
Lehman battled through sickness this past weekend to play in the 3M Championship at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. He tied for 47th there, but has six top-10 finishes in the 2014 season. Included in that is a win at the Encompass Championship in Glenview, Illinois in late June.
“Playing well, putting poorly,” Lehman said of where his game is at. “I liken it to basketball where you play great defense and you rebound and you get the fast-break going and you miss the layup. That’s kind of the way I’ve been playing golf. Doing a lot of things right, getting a lot of easy baskets and missing layups. Hitting it close and missing putts, very frustrating right now.”
Lehman’s career on the PGA Tour will always be highlighted by his 1996 win in the British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. He had other close calls in major championships before and after winning the Claret Jug, with many of those coming at the British Open.
His win in 1996 is something he’ll always be proud of. Now at age 55, that tournament is still one he looks forward to every year after putting himself in contention to win it again in recent years.
“It’s probably one of the few that I still look forward to playing, thinking I still have a chance to win,” Lehman said. “I’ve had some really good rounds over the last four or five years where I’ve been right there in the mix, top 10 after 36 or 45 holes. I just haven’t been able to finish it, but it’s the style of golf that allows an older guy with experience to still have a chance. I still see myself as having a chance in that one.”