J.C. Goosie, in a professional golf career that began 33 years ago, has never won a tour event. Maybe his time has come.
A fantastic birdie on the 15th hole Friday at the Vintage Club was the first of three in the last four holes that enabled Goosie to move into a tie for first place at the halfway point of the Vintage Chrysler Invitational for seniors.
Goosie, who had to go to qualifying school at 59 last January, caught opening-round leader Bob Charles, who faded after a 33 on the front side to post a 71 and a 36-hole total of 139. Goosie had a four-under-par 68 to match that total.
Contenders run deep, though. Miller Barber, the leading money winner is a stroke back after his second 70. Newcomer Tom Shaw, playing in only his third event for the 50-and-older set, and Don January, who dominated the tour for six years in its infancy, were another shot back. Both shot 70 and were at 141. Larry Mowry was alone at 142, and defending champion Orville Moody and Lou Graham were at 143.
Goosie, best known for running the Space Coast mini-tour in Florida, is a personable, likable golfer who seems to enjoy himself immensely on and off the course. He was asked if it bothered him that he never has won a tournament.
“It did years ago, but only because I was broke and needed the money,” he said, then laughed. “I’ve got money now so nothing bothers me. I love to play golf. I also love these events when I get a chance to play with and help amateurs. I think this is what the Senior Tour is all about.”
Goosie, playing in a threesome with Charles and Barber, was hitting the ball very well. On most holes he was inside both of them. But Goosie has a putting problem. He carries at least two putters in his bag and sometimes he’ll throw out the six-iron and stick in a third.
He uses one putter in the conventional manner. The other, with a slightly longer handle, he uses when he putts in the side-saddle style perfected by Sam Snead.
On his most memorable hole, the one that gave him the thrust to zoom into a tie for the lead, he didn’t have to choose a putter.
The 15th is a 515-yard par-5, reachable in two shots. Goosie sent a booming drive 250 yards, only it came to rest just a few inches from a small tree.
“I wanted to put a blanket over it and hide it,” he said laughingly. “I tried to hit a seven-iron out into the fairway. But it caught the lip of a fairway sand trap and buried. With a four-iron, I got out down the fairway. I was still 115 yards from the cup, hoping I could get up and down for the par. I took a pitching wedge and hit it just right. It went into the cup in the air for a birdie.
“That pumped me up. I thought I could walk on water.”
Goosie came close to a hole in one on the par-3 11th, missing by four inches. He settled for a easy birdie. He sank a 2 1/2-foot putt--side-saddle style--on the 18th to tie for the lead.
At first, it appeared that Charles was going to take charge of the tournament. He led by two shots going into the second round and shot a 33 on the first nine to take a four-stroke lead. Then he started playing tentatively, leaving putts short.
“I three-putted 11 and seemed to lose confidence in my putter,” the left-hander from New Zealand said.
Shaw, who started preparing for the Senior Tour six years ago, when it became apparent it was not going to be just a passing fancy, is the baby of the tour and looks to be about 35.
“They kid me about it, but it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here. This place is something else. It is the most beautiful golf course I’ve ever seen. The next step must be heaven.
“This round could have gone either way. I started out missing a three-foot putt for a bogey on one and a five-footer for bogey on two. Then, I sank a 20-footer to save par on three and that made up for everything.”
January, who is director of golfing at Stonebriar in Frisco, Tex., outside of Dallas, has been playing just 10 times a year and cannot play more than 12 tournaments because of other commitments. But, from 1981 through 1986, he never finished worse than fourth on the money list.
“I don’t know what I’m doing here,” he said. “I shot a 70, but I’m no threat to anyone.”
There was one other thing bothering January. He couldn’t understand why they were teeing off at 6:30 a.m.
“Talk about the tail wagging the dog,” he said. “That’s so early I might as well stay up all night.”
“I hope those SOBs back east enjoy watching it on television.”