It would be a miracle shot even for Tiger Woods. But for an amateur golfer who barely qualified for a spot at the 2008 U.S. Senior Open, it would be one in a million.
The crowd lining the 17th fairway on the Broadmoor’s east course thought so too as whispers of doubt weaved through the gallery. But this was no run-of-the-mill amateur looking to chip out of a cavernous sand trap after his tee shot sailed off course. This was a man whose athletic exploits have been the stuff of local legend for decades. Only this time he was performing on a different stage.
Still, he sank his feet firmly in the bunker, slowly drew his club back and unleashed a mighty swing that sent his ball exploding through a fine mist of powdery white sand and toward the hole whose location he could only imagine.
“Nice slap shot,” someone yelled amid the explosion of cheers and applause as the ball landed near the lip of the green and rolled toward the cup for a birdie. Skepticism was replaced with shouts of, “I knew he could do it” and “Way to go Dave!”
Dave Delich had done it again.
Commanding the attention of a large crowd has always come as second nature for the 51-year-old Delich, whether on a golf course or a hockey rink.
Born and raised in northern Minnesota, Delich played hockey as if it was a rite of passage, skating on an outdoor rink located within wrist-shot range of his front door. Playing countless hours with his four brothers and other kids in the neighborhood, he learned the skill sets necessary to excel. Those skill sets, as it turns out, that would also pave the way for a better than average golf swing.
“There are a lot of foreign skills that you have to learn as a hockey player, nothing is natural,” said Delich.
“It seems like the skilled players from hockey can attribute that to golf. I think it is part of the competitive advantage that [we] have also from a sport like hockey.”
It was hockey that brought Delich to Colorado Springs via a scholarship to Colorado College in 1975, but it was the people and the picturesque setting that kept him here.
“Even though I’d leave in the winter and play hockey somewhere else I always seemed to come home in the summer time,” he said.
During his four-year career as a Tiger, Delich captivated the crowd with his uncanny ability to rack up the points. He set the school record for most points scored in a single season with 84 in 1978-79, and still holds the mark for most career points with 285.
Even as he was teeing off in his first U.S. Senior Open, Delich didn’t have to look far either to catch glimpses of his hockey playing days. Former teammate and college roommate Scott Owens, the men’s hockey head coach at CC, made an appearance to show his support.
The support came from all sides as friends, family and long-time fans made up the gallery of close to 300 that followed Delich’s every move around the course where he is a six-time club champion.
Through the chips, putts, slices and near misses, Delich was humbled by the amount of support he received from his adopted hometown, especially as he made the final ascent over the hill at the 9th green and was greeted by a raucous ovation.
“I don’t know how you repeat that,” said Delich, who missed the cut after shooting 152 for the first two rounds.
“To have a USGA Championship in your own community, let alone your own golf club, and the thrill and the honor of hitting the first ball is something I’ll remember for the rest of my days.”
So many years after starring on home ice, and even after traveling the world on U.S. National Teams, including seven months with the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team prior to the Olympics, and playing a season in Switzerland, the community that once embraced the star hockey player was more than willing to support him in his new endeavor.
“It was actually pretty emotional,” said Delich. “I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t make the cut, but I’m so thrilled about the way things were so much more than I expected.”
To make it even more memorable, Delich’s brother, Chuck, was by his side for every step and every swing, serving as his caddie.
It would be the beginning of a roller coaster couple of weeks for Chuck, the former head coach of Air Force hockey, who was scheduled to donate a kidney to his older sister soon afterwards.
“We talked, at the end, about next week actually,” Delich said. “We got through this week with the tournament and all the events we’ve had to attend, and hopefully I can be there for him next week.
“And I said, ‘we’ve got one week down, let’s get through the next one.’ ”
Photos - Chuck Bigger, Colorado College