The 2018 U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor was not for the faint of heart.
“Honestly, I thought I was having a heart attack,” said Scotty Gneiser, soaking up a cold Coors Light, and the moment, under the twilight shadows on the 18th green of the East Course on Sunday.
Gneiser is David Toms’ caddie — most of the time. The exceptions include when they fire each other (“He’s fired me,” Gneiser said, “And I’ve fired him.”) and when Gneiser checks himself into the Penrose Hospital (where the veteran caddie spent over nine hours on Thursday).
I think Gneiser, the caddie, was confused: to win a USGA championship at the Broadmoor, you must possess a slow heartbeat, not a stopped one. On the relentless, ravishing East Course it took three to triumph: Toms, who fired a 3-under 277 to win the 39th U.S. Senior Open championship after a rip-roaring back 9 on Sunday; Gneiser, who had a “crazy, scary night” in a nearby emergency room with heart trouble; and Carter Toms, a junior on the golf team at LSU who can’t legally drink for one more month or compete on the Champions Tour for 30 more years.
“He’s never caddied before in his life,” David Toms said.
Carter learned he would caddie for his father about 45 minutes before their tee time on Thursday. Sonya Toms, his mom, texted him.
“I was eating at the buffet,” he said.
If Gneiser fires Toms again, or Toms fires Gneiser again, Dad knows where to turn.
“We were Top 10,” said Carter, who caddied for dad on Thursday and Friday before Gneiser reassumed his duties for the weekend.
“I never wanted to hit it in the bunker because I didn’t want to see his rake job in there,” his dad joked. “Now I’ve got to figure out now what percentage (of the $720,000 first prize) he gets.”
And get this! Toms’ first PGA Tour win with Gneiser on his bag also came in Colorado — in 1999 at The International. (Carter snuck up to play Castle Pines on Wednesday. The kid’s had a good week). No wonder Toms had asked a Broadmoor member to plop a business card in his locker so they can connect for a day hunting Colorado pheasant. They love it here.
The Trio of Titleists shot down the field in a memorable scramble to the finish. At one point five men shared the lead at 2-under, with no more than six holes to play. Sunday’s back 9 had more twists, turns and tumbles than the Pikes Peak Railway when Spencer Penrose purchased it in 1925. The first passenger train carried a church choir from Denver.
The professional caddie sang “Hallelujah!” just to be standing there when Toms raised the trophy.
“I have so much respect for people who work in the ER,” Gneiser said.
I have so much respect for a human being who breaks par on the East Course. Only seven men did.
If Toms was holding a water hose next door, you’d say, “Howdy, neighbor.” He looks like a guy who’s married with 2.5 kids, a dog and a white picket fence. He doesn’t necessarily fit on the Champions Tour; he still has hair. Toms is a loyal supporter of LSU athletics and whipped out his cell phone to show off photos the ducks he shot on a recent hunting trip.
“Those are all mallards!” he said.
The distance between the 18th green and the media ballroom where Toms conducted his victory address is roughly a driver-7 iron. But the Broadmoor spares no details, and Toms lugged around the trophy on a golf cart — led by a police escort.
“Now I know what Nick Saban feels like,” he said.
I shadowed the Toms-Jerry Kelly pairing for 17 of their 18 holes. (I missed the 17th, where Toms won the tournament with a “phenomenal” par putt, as Kelly said. We’ll take his word for it.) Truth is, I thought Kelly would win. The happiest man to ever play golf whistled around the East Course without a care in the world.
After a bogey on No. 12, Kelly pouted by... munching a candy bar. After a bogey on No. 6, Kelly was so fed up he... handed the golf ball to a kid. Ryan Falender is an eighth-grader at Eagle View Middle School. He’s a 7 handicap and served as the standard bearer for Toms and Kelly. Ryan smiled and tucked the Pro-V1 into his apron pocket.
“Pretty cool,” Ryan said.
At the 1993 U.S. Senior Open at Cherry Hills, I had Ryan’s job — carrying the scoring sign for Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf and Gary Player, who graciously gave me his glove and a sleeve of signed balls. I’ll never forget it.
The next priceless memories will be made when the U.S. Senior Open returns to the Broadmoor in 2025. Who wants to wager the Tomses will be back? He should bring the fam. You never know.