Headed to Salem

Fort Collins' Smigelsky qualifies for his first U.S. Senior Open; former USGA champ Tuten also advances

by Gary Baines - 6/8/2017

When Dale Smigelsky was suffering through elbow and back problems over the last decade, he concocted a golf swing that was workable given his ailments.

It wasn't pretty, but it's what he had to deal with if he wanted to play the game.

But for the last couple of years, the PGA director of golf at Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins has been feeling better than he had for a long time, which has become apparent with his results on the course.

"I'm trying to transition out of a swing I had to create when my elbow was really bad -- before I got it fixed," Smigelsky explained on Thursday. "I created some really, really bad habits, and it's just this year where the swing is back to a decent golf swing. I had to make a really bad golf swing to be able to play when my elbow was damaged."

How much better have things gotten for the 56-year-old from Fort Collins?

Smigelsky (pictured), fresh off a top-10 finish at last week's CoBank Colorado Senior Open, shared medalist honors Thursday and qualified for the U.S. Senior Open for the first time.

He shot a 4-under-par 68 to lead a qualifying field that originally numbered 84 at Meadows Golf Club in Littleton. Also firing a 68 and advancing to the Senior Open was Billy Tuten of Sugar Land, Texas, a two-time U.S. Amateur Public Links champion.

This year's U.S. Senior Open will be contested June 29-July 2 at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass.

"(Qualifying) is pretty cool," said Smigelsky, who will be playing in his first major championship. "This is absolutely the tops for me thus far" as a golf accomplishment.

"We're playing against a lot of guys who just play golf for a living. It's exciting for me to at least be able to compete with them. Not that I'm going to beat them every time, but with as little golf as I play being a club pro, it's very satisfying (to qualify). It's exciting for me."

Smigelsky, the 2015 Colorado Senior PGA Professional Champion, played his final nine holes (the front at Meadows GC) on Thursday in 4 under par to earn the Senior Open berth. For the day, he finished with six birdies and two bogeys.

"I hit it well," he said. "I only missed one green (in regulation) and that was real close. My putter actually let me down. I didn't putt it very well. The birdies that I made were very close and I three-putted a couple of times. I thought that was going to keep me out of it. But I played my second nine in 4 under and that got me back in it.

"It's kind of funny to have the golf ball go where I'm aiming it. That's probably the difference right now."

Smigelsky has never competed in a USGA championship before. Twice the longtime Coloradan has been a medalist in U.S. Open Local Qualifying tournaments and five times he's gone to U.S. Open Sectional Qualfying, but he's never made it to the big show itself.

As for Tuesday's other U.S. Senior Open qualifier, Tuten carded a five-birdie, one-bogey round to tie for the best score of the day.

Charlie Post of Castle Rock will be the first alternate after posting a 69 at Meadows. Victor Minovich of Littleton carded a 70 for the second alternate position.

Five-time U.S. Senior Open qualifier Ron Vlosich of Lakewood recorded a 72 on Thursday.

U.S. Senior Open Qualifying
At Par-72 Meadows GC in Littleton

Dale Smigelsky, Fort Collins 32-36--68
Billy Tuten, Sugar Land, Texas 33-35--68
Charlie Post, Castle Rock 35-34--69
Victor Minovich, Littleton 36-34--70

For all the scores from Thursday's qualifier, CLICK HERE.

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