Forgive Jerry Smith if he appears a tad tuckered out this week at the 3M Championship. In the past month Smith has crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean and back for golf tournaments.
And it has been worth every mile.
Smith started his adventures in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland, over the July 4 weekend, picking up about $18,800 for a third-place tie in the Swiss Senior Open. He then flew to Chicago and won the Champions Tour’s Encompass Championship (for a cool $285,000) on July 12 before heading back overseas for last week’s Senior British Open near London.
He stumbled to a tie for 62nd at Sunningdale, shooting a 5-over-par 75 Sunday. But back stateside at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine on Tuesday, Smith was far from angry.
“It’s sure been something,” the Champions Tour rookie said of his whirlwind few weeks. “I’m confident about things and that win certainly opened some doors for me. If I want to play every week now, I can. I can work on things now and not have to go out there every week fighting for a job in the qualifiers.”
Smith, an Iowa native who was working as a club pro after losing his PGA Tour card before turning 50, is playing some of the best golf of his career. His Encompass Championship victory at 16 under beat Tom Lehman’s tournament record score by a shot. It was Smith’s first victory anywhere since picking up a victory on the Asian Tour in Guam nearly two decades ago. He went 245 starts on the PGA, Web.com and Champions tours without a win.
This week is his 3M Championship debut, and he expects plenty of friends and family to be in the gallery.
“I like this kind of tree-lined golf course and you can’t beat the people of the Midwest,” Smith said. “I’ve got a good bit of support from people around this part of the country; I had it in Chicago and will have it here. I’m anxious to see if I can keep my game in form.”
Irwin is a ‘Great’
Three-time 3M Championship winner Hale Irwin withdrew from the field, but he won’t be far away. Irwin, 70, will appear Saturday as part of the Greats of Golf event that also features Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Irwin finished tied for ninth in last year’s 3M after three consecutive rounds in the 60s. But it’s been a struggle on the Champions Tour this season. The three-time U.S. Open champion has only one top-25 finish in nine events played.
Chien Soon Lu was added to the 3M field, his ninth Champions Tour event of the year.
John Inman shot a 5-under-par 66 at Victory Links in Blaine to win the 3M Championship qualifier event. Jay Delsing and Guy Boros (4 under) and Greg Craft (3 under) also qualified.
Brooklyn Park’s Don Berry and P.H. Horgan earned the final two spots via a four-man playoff.
High winds and more than an inch of rain battered TPC Twin Cities early Tuesday morning. A large electronic scoreboard set up for the 3M Championship collapsed into a bunker on the back nine, but tournament officials reported no other damage.