Another Senior Tour story, and by now the theme should be
familiar: Week after week the same two players hog the headlines
as well as the top of the leader board, leaving their dispirited
colleagues the crumbs. Yes, Hugh Baiocchi and Bruce Summerhays
are running roughshod over the tour.
O.K., O.K., Baiocchi (by-OCK-ee) and Summerhays haven't
displaced Hale Irwin and Gil Morgan as the tour's most dynamic
duo quite yet. Last week at the Vantage Championship at
Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, N.C., it was Morgan beating Irwin
for the $225,000 first prize, thereby tying them atop the Senior
tour with six wins apiece in '98. Still, over the last month
Baiocchi and Summerhays have been the hottest twosome in the
game. During a memorable two-week stretch in late September,
Summerhays had a pair of second-place finishes, including a
hard-fought playoff loss. Not too shabby, except when compared
to Baiocchi, who was the victor in both those tournaments. By
the end of the Vantage, Summerhays and Baiocchi were up to fifth
and sixth, respectively, on the money list and on the cusp of
their first million-dollar seasons. Though they seem to have
little in common--Summerhays is a homebody from Utah and the
proud father of eight, while Baiocchi is a citizen of the world
by way of South Africa--both have reinvented themselves as elite
players, having finally grabbed the chance.
"When I was a kid, America was this big, huge place, almost up
in the sky," says Baiocchi, 52. "It was the land of opportunity,
the place we all dreamed of, and having played my way over here
and had some modest success, well, it's something."
"We are testaments to what this tour is all about: second
chances," adds Summerhays, 54.
October 11, 1998
Both players grew up as stud athletes--Summerhays was an
all-state quarterback and star point guard at Highland High in
Salt Lake City, and Baiocchi was a tennis champion and
crackerjack sprinter in Johannesburg--but saw their futures in
golf. Their career tracks diverged profoundly when they reached
their early 20s. Too intimidated to move to the U.S., Baiocchi
carved out a successful niche across Europe, Africa and South
America, winning 16 tournaments over 22 years. Summerhays,
meanwhile, allowed himself one chance to qualify for the PGA
Tour, in 1965. When he flunked Q school, he devoted himself to
his family and the Mormon church, settling into the routine life
of a club pro at San Francisco's Olympic Club and elsewhere.
Each made occasional cameos on golf's big stage. Baiocchi played
in three straight Masters from 1974 through '76, coming in 22nd
in '75, while Summerhays finished third in the 1974 Bing Crosby
National Pro-Am as a Monday qualifier. But they refused to be
seduced by the bright lights.
"You make your decisions in this life and you accept them,"
Summerhays said last Saturday. "I'm quite comfortable with the
way things have turned out." He finished an uncharacteristic
62nd at the Vantage, while Baiocchi, with a closing 64, was 18th.
Summerhays is so devoted to his children (four boys and four
girls, ranging in age from 18 to 33) that he would not venture
out on the Senior tour until all eight voted their approval
during a family summit in the fall of 1994 at the Summerhays's
adopted hometown of Heber City, Utah. Part of the deal, too, was
that the kids would caddie for him on a full-time basis,
rotating their services. This was not because Summerhays was
looking for cheap labor (in fact, he pays his kids a very good
wage) but because "he's a wimp," says his wife, Carolyn. "He
All these friendly faces on the bag aided Summerhays's
acclimation to the tour. After breezing through Q school at the
end of 1994, he was one of the big surprises of the '95 season.
He earned $729,021 to finish 13th on the money list, and he
followed with only the mildest of sophomore slumps, finishing
29th in '96. Last year Summerhays won his first tournament, the
Saint Luke's Classic, beating Baiocchi--natch--in a playoff, and
this July he won again, at the State Farm Senior Classic. His
success is borne of talent (Summerhays's 60 is the course record
on Olympic's Ocean Course) and an old-fashioned work ethic.
During one stretch spanning his first two-plus seasons,
Summerhays played in a lumbar-exploding 96 consecutive
tournaments for which he was eligible. In 1996 he played a
tour-record 119 rounds.
"Dad never gets tired of playing golf," is the simple
explanation of William Summerhays, 25, who caddied for his
father at the Vantage and was on the bag for both of his
victories, a fact not lost on the other Summerhays children.
"Oh, yeah, they hear about that all the time," says William.
This is indicative of the kind of competitive jones present in
the Summerhays clan. Cutthroat family matches have forged three
other standout golfers: Joseph, 27, played the minitours this
year and is gearing up for the PGA Tour Q school in November;
Bruce Jr., 20, will accept a scholarship to either Utah or Utah
State in December upon his return from a two-year Mormon mission
in Brazil; and Carrie, the baby, just enrolled at BYU on a full
ride, spurning numerous basketball offers despite being an
all-state selection in that sport three years running. "I would
encourage any of them to chase their dreams and play golf
professionally," says Summerhays. "For me it wasn't the right
circumstance when I was that age. At Q school I missed getting
my card by four strokes, and that was with seven three-putts
over the final two rounds. That told me that the pressure of
trying to support a family on Tour was too great."
Baiocchi, also, was given pause by the ferocious competitiveness
of the PGA Tour, which was in stark contrast to the smooth
sailing he had encountered elsewhere after turning pro in 1971.
By '75 he had won three significant tournaments--and he and his
wife, Joan, had had two kids. Baiocchi won four more tournaments
in 1976 and the following season finished second on the European
tour's money list, behind a skinny young Spaniard named Seve
Ballesteros. "[Playing in the U.S.] presented an awful gamble,
and I had heard more than a few horror stories," Baiocchi says.
"Back then you could starve over here, or at least that's what I
had been told." So he became a fixture everywhere but the
States, known not only for the purity of his ball striking but
also for the variety of his outside interests. He was a breed
apart from the other notoriously hard-partying South Africans.
"I don't ever think I've seen him drunk," says countryman Simon
Hobday, sounding disappointed. Hobday, a five-time winner on the
Senior tour, grew up competing against Baiocchi, and, he adds
wistfully, "He was always my pal until 5 o'clock in the evening.
Then he ran away."
It was the Senior success of Hobday and another South African
contemporary, John Bland, that persuaded Baiocchi to leave his
beach house in Cape Town (he also keeps a flat outside of
London) and finally take a stab at making it in the States. But
even after five weeks of intensive work with David Leadbetter as
preparation, Baiocchi earned only a conditional card at the '96
Q school, and facing an uncertain schedule, he almost packed up
and went home. That was when Hobday provided some unsolicited
advice. "I said, 'Listen, mate, we were too scared to come over
here the first time around and that was a mistake. You only get
one second chance.'"
Taking Hobday's words to heart, Baiocchi began his rookie year,
1997, by playing in Monday qualifiers. It wasn't until April
that he made it into a tournament, the PGA Seniors, in which he
finished 35th. In his third start, the World Seniors
Invitational, he cracked the top 10, earning him entree into the
following week's event. Three consecutive top 10 finishes
ensued, including a playoff loss to Bruce Crampton at the
Cadillac NFL Classic. Thus established, Baiocchi began an ascent
that culminated that August with his first victory when he beat
Bob Duval in a playoff at the Pittsburgh Classic. For the season
he earned $906,565, good for eighth on the money list. "The golf
was altogether satisfying, but what was really thrilling was
finally getting to experience America," says Baiocchi. "To visit
the cities that I had spent a lifetime reading about made the
This season has also been one to remember. Baiocchi's scorching
play began during a practice round at last month's Comfort
Classic, in Indianapolis, when fellow pro Steve Veriato told
Baiocchi that he had been lifting the putter on his backswing.
Baiocchi won the tournament and the next week trumped Summerhays
in a playoff at the Kroger Classic. Says Summerhays, "Hugh might
be the best ball striker on tour. He hits it so sweet that when
he gets his putter going, he's right there with Hale."
Baiocchi has been equally impressed by Summerhays. "There is no
fright in that man," Baiocchi says. "Bruce simply crashes his
drives down the middle, fires his irons at the flag and rams his
putts into the hole. He exudes confidence and aggressiveness."
Both have played some of the most grueling schedules in golf.
With a month left until the season-ending Senior Tour
Championship, Baiocchi has already teed it up in 30 tournaments,
two fewer than Summerhays. "It's such a privilege to be out
here, it's hard to turn your back on any tournament," says
Adds Summerhays, "I think both of us are making up for lost time."
"[Playing in the U.S.] presented an awful gamble, and I had
heard more than a few horror stories," Baiocchi says.