Colorado Senior: Kidney wins both senior divisions

AURORA, Co. (Sept. 9, 2010) -- With three holes remaining in his round Friday, Jerry Kidney won't deny he had thoughts of grandeur.

With the CGA Senior Stroke Play title all but sewn up, the retired fireman from Littleton knew that if he played those final three holes at Valley Country Club in 2 under par, he would shoot his age.

"I haven't done that yet, so it would have been nice," he said. "But I was kind of thinking about that, believe it or not."

While the 63-year-old from Overland Golf Course didn't accomplish that goal, he closed with three straight pars and matched the competitive course record at Valley with a 7-under-par 65. In the process, he became one of the few players to simultaneously win both the overall and super-senior titles in the event.

Kidney, who will turn 64 in November, isn't the oldest Senior Stroke Play champion in history -- former state senator Les Fowler, for instance, was 65 when he won in 1989 -- but he certainly ranks right up there.

"I just assumed I was never going to win," said Kidney, who earned his first individual CGA title. "You get to be my age ... I've been playing so bad I didn't think I had any shot. And those 50 year olds, they look so young, they hit it forever and they're enthusiastic. Guys my age, none of us are hardly playing anymore."

Kidney, who placed third in the Senior Stroke Play last year, was 10 under par the last two days of this week's event and posted an overall total of 8-under 208. On Friday alone, he made eight birdies, offset by one bogey.

Only one player in the field stayed within a single-digit margin of Kidney. Kelly Crone of Highlands Ranch Golf Club, the 2003 champion, started the day tied with his playing partner and despite shooting under par on Friday (71), he finished six strokes behind Kidney. Tied for third at 220, a dozen strokes back of Kidney, were Robin Bradbury of Legacy Ridge Golf Course (73 Friday) and Tad Willenbrock of Glenmoor Country Club (69).

With Crone being 59 years old, this was a week to chalk one up for the older guys. Crone, also a Littleton resident and a good friend of Kidney, was just happy to be an interested spectator to one of the best rounds in tournament history.

"Getting to watch someone play a round like that is just fantastic," he said. "I played real good, but it happens. Someone shoots 65, you're going to get second. That's all there is to it because I don't have that in me."

Crone trailed by only a stroke after 10 holes on Friday, but his bogey on No. 11 and Kidney's 15-foot birdie there accounted for a two-shot swing. Then Kidney reeled off three consecutive birdies on 13 through 15 and the rout was on.

Kidney said he had no inkling coming into the week that some stellar play was on the horizon. In fact, he was pretty discouraged about his golf game after shooting 73-78-83 last week in the HealthOne Colorado Senior Open.

"I was putting so bad," he said. "Eighty would have probably been a closer guess to what I thought I would shoot (this week). It was that bad."

But after being embarrassed by his play on the greens at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, Kidney switched to a claw grip at Valley, and it seemed to work wonders. Many of his birdie putts were from short range on Friday, but he also dropped several from more than 10 feet.

"Jerry is one of my best buddies, and to see him play that well, it actually made me play better, and it made me try harder, of course," Crone said. "I didn't come through, but I enjoyed it."

For the record, Kidney has shot lower scores -- most notably, a 61 on his home course of Overland -- but he admits that under the circumstances Friday's round will go down as arguably the best of his life. And it led to the Senior Stroke Play title, which he acknowledges is his biggest accomplishment in golf.

"I amazed myself, I guess," he said.

Kidney won the super-senior division for players 60 and older by 19 strokes over Harry Johnson of Eagle Ranch Golf Course. It was his second consecutive super-senior title in this tournament.

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