The best senior amateurs in the United States have descended upon The Forest Golf & Country Club in Fort Myers, Florida, for the 2023 Golfweek Senior Tournament of Champions.
Three of the four age brackets are duking it out not just for the Tournament of Champions title, but for Golfweek Player of the Year honors, too. Alabama’s George Walker ran away with the Legends (ages 70-74) PoY title, clearing the field by nearly 3,000 points for the season.
With three PoY titles up for grabs, every shot matters just that much more this week.
Florida’s John Barry paces the senior field after 18 holes of play with an opening salvo of even-par 72.
Sitting at 2 under through five, Berry bogeyed five of his next eight holes to fall to 3 over. Locking back in, Barry closed his round strongly with birdies on Nos. 14, 16 and 18 to take a one-shot lead into Wednesday’s second round.
Four players are tied at 1 over while last year’s ToC winner, Ken Kinkopf lurks in solo sixth place at 2 over.
Third-ranked Kevin VandenBerg can pull off a massive comeback, as both No. 1 Bob Royak and No. 2 Jon Lindstrom are not in the field this week. With 800 points separating VandenBerg from the top spot, he needs a win to take a 300-point lead. A second-place finish would put him about 50 points off Royak with one point event remaining on the calendar.
No matter what happens this week, Lindstrom and VandenBerg both have an opportunity to take the top spot, as they are teeing it up next week at the Society of Seniors Ralph Bogart Tournament in Palm Harbor, Florida.
Currently tied for 27th, VandenBerg has a hill to climb, but with tough scoring conditions making the Jack Nicklaus-design playing even harder than normal, VandenBerg’s consistency can easily help catapult himself back into condition.
Super Seniors (65-69)
Fifth-ranked Greg Goode had a consistent day, as he took a one-shot lead into moving day. He closed out an even-par round with birdies on Nos. 14 and 17. Navigating the chilly and breezy conditions, he sets out to fend off Golfweek No. 2 Steve Humphrey (+1), No. 3 James Starnes (+2) and No. 7 Mike Arter (+2).
A win for Humphrey or Starnes would allow them to slide by No. 1 Marcus Beck for Player of the Year honors. A win would also make two Senior Tournament of Champions wins for Humphrey, who took the title last year at PGA National.
North Carolina’s Pete Allen enjoys the largest lead among the four age divisions, commanding a three-shot lead following an opening round 2-over 74.
Allen peppered his card with four birdies, showing promise as the event turns to the final 36 holes.
Paul Schlachter (5 over) and John Osborne (6 over) round out the podium.
Super Legends (75+)
Texas’ Gary Hardin matched his age with a first-round 75. He holds a one-shot lead over No. 6 Super Legend, Jack Marin. Top-ranked Johnny Blank is tied for eighth while No. 2 Bill Engel is one shot behind Blank at 11 over.
With 505 points separating the two, plenty of golf is left before we crown a Player of the Year.