Taiwan native finally at peace with big gaffe
Like Bill Buckner's name in baseball, that of T.C. Chen lives in golf infamy, often uttered by those too young to have witnessed his costly gaffe in the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills.
Leading by four strokes in the final round, Chen struck the ball twice in one swing from just off the fifth green, incurring a one-stroke penalty on his way to a quadruple-bogey 8 and a loss to Andy North by a single shot.
When his mistake is repeated by hackers on golf courses in America, they often refer to T.C. "Two Chips" Chen.
|U.S. Senior Open|
|When » Thursday-Sunday|
|Where » Indianwood G.C.C.,|
|Lake Orion, Mich.|
|TV » ESPN2/NBC|
Twenty-seven years later, Chen is one of the long-shot hopefuls in the U.S. Senior Open. In a session with reporters Tuesday, Chen good-naturedly brought up his mistake before taking his first question.
"I know somebody will ask me about the two-chip," Chen said. "Without the double hit, probably nobody knows who I am right now. So maybe the double hit [made] me more famous."
Chen, 54, qualified for the U.S. Senior Open for the first time, shooting 70 last month in Pasadena, Calif. In an ironic twist, this year's tournament is being played at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Michigan, 20 miles north of Oakland Hills.
On Tuesday afternoon, Chen and his 23-year-old son, Jason, who will caddy for him this week, toured Oakland Hills, revisiting the scene of his infamous shot.
Another hole Chen was anxious to show his son was No. 2. In the first round of the 1985 Open, Chen made the first double-eagle in tournament history, holing a blind, 256-yard shot with a 3-wood.
"Growing up I saw videos, you know, news and media. I even went to Wikipedia to search about my dad," Jason Chen told reporters. "[Wanted to see] what went wrong on the last round."
Chen, a native of Taiwan, spent eight years on the PGA Tour, winning the 1987 Los Angeles Open, before returning to Asia, where he won 14 times as a professional. As he approached age 50, Chen planned a run at the Champions Tour and qualified for the 2008 British Senior Open. But subsequent ligament damage in his wrist required surgery, and he was sidelined for a year.
Chen came close to qualifying for the 2011 Senior Open but fell a stroke short and dropped to alternate status. When he tees off Thursday, it will be just his second event on the Champions Tour.
"I've been trying for the last three years, just couldn't get in," said Chen, who still plays often in Asia. "It's very tough to get in here. They are so good."
Perhaps another summer week in Michigan will inspire a run like Chen made in 1985 when he opened with a 65 and held U.S. Open scoring records after 36 and 54 holes before his disastrous shot.
"The two-chip at that time probably bothers me a lot for a while," Chen said. "But not anymore."