Montgomery County residents have a reason to follow the U.S. Senior Open, one of the five major championship tournaments on the Senior PGA Tour, this year at the Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla. Olney resident Ricky Touma, the PGA Professional at Burning Tree Country Club in Bethesda, qualified for the July 10-13 event.
Touma, 50, earned his place in the field in his first year of eligibility at the June 16 The Homestead's Cascades Course in Hot Springs, Va., where 70 men were competing for two spots. He shot an even-par 70 and was part of a tightly contested five-person playoff. At one-over par after the 15th hole, Touma birdied the 17th to advance to the playoff, where he clinched his spot.
Touma has played in larger events in the past, most notably the 2004 Booz Allen Classic, but he has reached new heights with his latest qualification.
“I haven't totally got my hands around it yet, but it's an amazing feeling,” Touma said. “It's a big stage but my mentality is always the same. I hope I can just allow myself to play. I kind of just want to keep things as normal as possible. As long as I can give myself a chance, I'm looking forward to the pressures, the atmosphere.”
Touma is a lifelong resident of Olney (aside from a few years when he was on Nationwide Tour) and graduated from Sherwood. He is now the PGA Professional at Burning Tree where he helps handle all duties and aspects of the club. He credits a lot of success to the members at Burning Tree and expressed his excitement about representing them and the area.
“The club is so great, the members are great,” he said. “They really support and get excited about me playing.”
Charlie Briggs, the Club Manager and fellow PGA Professional says the members reciprocate the sentiment and view Touma's qualification as a source of pride.
“There's definitely a lot of excitement,” Briggs said. “[The members] are all thrilled. This is a great honor, everybody's behind him.”
Briggs also noted that many members will follow the tournament on their cell phones and do whatever they can to keep with Touma's progress.
Briggs said that he believes Touma will make the cut, but Touma said he has not set his sights that far ahead, and that he will keep his focus on each individual hole, while staying as loose as he can.
“Obviously, I would love to make the cut,” Touma said. “But I don't want to put the bar at something. I just want to free myself up and play.”
The pressure may be lightened by the presence of Touma's family, which plans to travel to Edmond with him. His son, a junior golfer in Maryland, is set to caddy for him during a practice round.
While Touma said he hopes to have many more opportunities to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open, he acknowledged that this year may, in fact, be his best shot to make a move on the leaderboard.
“I just turned 50, this was my first go,” he said. “It gets a little bit harder each year. That energized me a little bit. A guy told me, 'People always say there's next year, but next year there will be another 50-year-old in his first year of qualification.'”
The field consists of several past U.S. Senior Open champions, including Fred Funk (born in Takoma Park) and Kenny Perry. The tournament is set to begin at 8:15 a.m. on July 10 and is scheduled to air on ESPN2.