ENDICOTT, N.Y. (AP) — Joey Sindelar has accomplished a lot in his brief tenure on the Champions Tour: 11 top-10 finishes in 30 starts and more than $1.4 million in earnings since turning 50 just over a year ago.
One thing grates: No victories.
The next stop on tour is the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, which begins Friday at En-Joie Golf Club, which offers Sindelar as good a chance as any event for that breakthrough victory. He won twice here when the B.C. Open was a regular stop on the PGA Tour and nearly won a year ago as a Champions Tour rookie.
“Somehow, the fans motivate me into it here,” said Sindelar, who lives less than an hour away in Horseheads, N.Y. “They really support me and I don’t want to disappoint them.”
Sindelar has given back to his upstate New York fans several times at En-Joie:
– In the 1985 B.C. Open, Sindelar aced the par-3 14th hole on the final round to pass leader Mike Reid, who bogeyed the hole in an amazing four-shot swing of momentum, and held on to beat Reid by one shot.
– Two years later with his father as his caddie, Sindelar beat Jeff Sluman by four shots to win the B.C. Open again.
– Last year, Sindelar holed a pitching wedge from 130 yards for eagle to tie for the second-round lead and was within one shot of the top entering the final hole before making double bogey and finishing fourth.
“This is as good as it gets for me,” said Sindelar, who first played En-Joie as a teenager. “I had so much fun last year. It’s fun being able to play in front of the people that supported me all the way from the beginning.”
Sindelar would seem to be poised for that elusive win. His 69.77 scoring average this year ranks second on tour and he’s fourth in earnings with $647,369.
But the field for the third edition of this event is deep with 19 of the top 25 Champions Tour money winners among 78 players scheduled to play for the $1.65 million purse.
Among those in the field are six other players who also have won at En-Joie: Fred Funk, the 1996 B.C. Open champion who has top-seven finishes in his last three Champions Tour events; Sluman, the 2001 B.C. Open champ and a two-time winner on the Champions Tour in 2008; 1995 B.C. Open winner Hal Sutton; 1984 B.C. Open winner Wayne Levi, who will be making his first start since undergoing double-bypass heart surgery in April; R.W. Eaks, the inaugural Dick’s winner in 2007; and defending champion Eduardo Romero.
Count Romero as a friendly nemesis. Not only did Romero hold off a spirited challenge from Sindelar a year ago, his only top-10 finish this season was a victory in the Toshiba Classic in March, where he edged Sindelar by one shot.
“I’m feeling strong this week,” said Romero, who played the rainy U.S. Open at Bethpage Black last weekend but missed the cut. “I’m very psyched to come here.”
As befits his status as the tournament’s goodwill ambassador, Sindelar will tee off in the final threesome on Friday, and he, too, is psyched.
“There is a certain advantage to having played somewhere 100 times versus three times,” Sindelar said. “I would say there’s certainly a little bit of an advantage, but I’m not going to bank on being the tournament winner. You still have to put the ball in the hole.”