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Around the links in Northern Kentucky: Hoping to qualify for British Senior Open, area trio travels overseas

By Marc Hardin
NKyTribune contributor

Three of the biggest names in Northern Kentucky golf are taking their games overseas this month for a chance to play in a bucket-list event on the most prestigious course. Ralph Landrum, Lance Lucas and Jim Volpenhein are traveling to Scotland, site of this year’s British Senior Open, for qualifying rounds that could pave a path to the famed Old Course at St. Andrews.

The 32nd British Senior Open is July 26-29 on the 466-year-old course, considered the oldest in the world and the home of golf. The sport was first played on the Links at St. Andrews in the early 15th century. The July 23 Monday Qualifiers are at Fairmont St. Andrews, Ladybank, Lundin and Scotscraig.

Lucas and Volpenhein play their qualifying rounds at Fairmont St. Andrews, situated next to the Old Course. Landrum will be at Scotscraig, about 10 miles north of St. Andrews. In addition to players who are exempt, a minimum of 24 spots will be contested in the qualifiers. The trio departs next week.

Jim Volpenhein (left), Lance Lucas (center) and Ralph Landrum (right) are heading back to the British Senior Open qualifying rounds for a chance to play on the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. (Photo courtesy of Lance Lucas)

“I’m pretty fired up about it,” said Landrum, who turns 61 in August. “The kids (sons Kyle and Joe) are going with me, and Jim (Volpenhein) is traveling with us. We’re going to fly into Edinburgh on Tuesday and stay there for a few days and play some golf before heading to St. Andrews.”

Volpenhein has won a record seven Metropolitan Amateur Championships. He’s a Legends of Cincinnati Golf honoree. He qualified for the British Senior Open in 2013. On Tuesday, he finished sixth at the 70th Metropolitan Senior Amateur Championship with a score of 149 at Stillmeadow Country Club. Lucas, a three-time Northern Kentucky Amateur champion, tied for seventh at the Senior Amateur with 150.

“I’m really looking forward to going to Scotland,” said Lucas, who is making his fifth trip. “All three of us went together in 2016 so it’ll be nice to go back (with Lucas and Volpenhein). It’s a different kind of golf over there. They call it links golf and I think it suits my game. You have to hit the ball lower. If you get it up in the air, the wind blows it around.”

Landrum, a PGA professional and general manager at World of Golf in Florence is one of Kentucky’s most frequently awarded pros. He earned the 2014 PGA Player Development Award. The Kentucky Golf Hall of Famer was the first Kentucky PGA Section member to receive the honor. He’s won more than a dozen awards at the Section level and was named a Top 5 Golf Instructor in Kentucky by Golf Digest.

On the course, Landrum earned a lifetime exemption at the Kentucky Open when he won the event in 1987. A three-time Kentucky Open winner, he’s a former PGA tour member from 1983-85. He played in six U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships and two Masters. He’s a three-time Kentucky PGA Player of the Year and the 2009 Kentucky Senior PGA Player of the Year. But he’s yet to qualify for the British Senior Open in six attempts.

“I’ve been close,” Landrum said. “The first time I played, I was in a playoff for second alternate. It’s just so much fun, and I’ve been blessed to play at St. Andrews three times. It’s a golf mecca, almost a religious experience because that’s where it all started.”

Competition will be keen should any of the three men qualify. One of the strongest fields is expected to assemble on St. Andrews’ hallowed links. Returning is Bernhard Langer, attempting to become the first since Christy O’Connor to defend the Senior Claret Jug. Langer won last year on Royal Porthcawl. The two-time Masters champion won a record 10th Senior Major Championship, three strokes ahead of fellow former Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin. An additional 30 former Ryder Cup players and nearly a dozen former captains are expected to contend.

“It would be great to qualify,” Lucas said. “Either way, it’s a great way to spend a vacation.”

Around the links in Northern Kentucky:

DEVOU PARK: Will Gillespie won Devou Park’s first club championship in five years with a two-day score of 3-over-par 143, good for a four-shot margin over runner-up Griffin Wurtz (147). The event was held June 30 and July 1 and commemorated the June 29 first anniversary of the completion of the new $5 million clubhouse. Travis Wilson won the first flight with a score of 161 after beating Michael Hudepohl in a two-hole playoff.

KENTON COUNTY: Union’s Christopher Harpum shot 75 and won Saturday’s boys’ 14-under competition at the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour Summer Series Event 34. It’s Harpum’s second win a row. He shot 1-over 72 in boys’ 14-under at Summer Series Event 33 at Oldham County Country Club in La Grange. Ben McDaniel of Union placed second in boys’ 14-under at Kenton County, five strokes behind Harpum. Edgewood’s Ian Asch was third. Other local boys taking first at Event 33 were Sparta’s Barry Alexander in 16-under with a score of 79 and Union’s Palmer McKelvey in 12-under with a nine-hole score of 39. Paxton McKelvey was runner-up in boys’ 10-under, carding 45 over nine holes.

SUMMIT HILLS: Member Brad Wilder leads Northern Kentucky golfers in the GCGA Player of the Year points race. The former Covington Catholic and University of Cincinnati golfer is currently third with 130 points in two events. He’s 410 points behind leader Will Grimmer, the Ohio State golfer from Mariemont who played in the U.S. Open and recently won the Metropolitan Amateur Championship.

TRADITIONS: The 78th Northern Kentucky Amateur Championship is July 23-25. Registration closes Monday at 11:59 p.m. The 54-hole stroke-play event will be divided into championship and senior divisions. In the event of a tie, there will be a sudden-death playoff to determine a sole championship winner. Former Northern Kentucky University golfer Matthew Wetherill is defending champion. Eligibility is limited to individuals who meet the following criteria: Amateur status, membership in the Greater Cincinnati Golf Association through the purchasing of a USGA Handicap Index for the current year and ownership of a player’s account through the USGA tournament management system. Senior Division participants must be 50 years of age on the first day of the tournament. Register at GCGA.org.

NKWGA: The Northern Kentucky Women’s Golf Association’s White Elephant Open, a foursome event at Kenton County Willows, is Monday. Cost is $50 including golf, cart, lunch, and prizes. There is a new twist involving a “White Elephant Safari” during play. The white elephants will be hiding on the course waiting for participants to find them. Safari or wild animal outfits and attire are suggested. Applications can be found at NKWGA.com.

U.S. AMATEUR QUALIFIER: Covington Catholic and Ryle high schools are well-represented at the July 16 USGA U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifier at Coldstream Country Club. From Ryle will be University of Cincinnati’s Austin Squires, fresh off a runner-up finish at the Metropolitan, and Northern Kentucky University’s Jacob Poore. Squires’ UC teammate Paul Huber, formerly of CovCath, and Huber’s former Colonels teammate Patrick Kennedy are also in the field. Squires and Huber won back-to-back at the Northern Kentucky Amateur, Squires in 2013 and Huber in 2014.

Marc Hardin’s summer golf column has been featured in The Kentucky Post and Kentucky Enquirer for 15 years. He’s covered all the local amateur tournaments and several PGA and LPGA events since 2003. His feature for The Cincinnati Post about how Chi Chi Rodriguez got on the album cover of a Devo record was PGA Story Of The Day from the 2004 Kroger Classic at The Golf Center at Kings Island. Marc has written for the Greater Cincinnati Golf Association and Greater Cincinnati Women’s Golf Association. He welcomes comments, story tips, feature ideas and your league’s standings. You can contact him at marcwriterdude@yahoo.com.

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