Buddy Allin was playing on familiar turf, over a course he traversed dozens of times as a teen-ager.
Never, however, had he played it any better. Then again, neither had anyone else.
Allin shot a course-record 61 Saturday, pulling into a third-place tie with Dave Stockton, Dave Hill and Tom Wargo, three strokes back of co-leaders Bruce Devlin and Dave Eichelberger going into today's final round of the FHP Health Care Classic at the Ojai Valley Inn.
Playing before a gallery which included a large contingent of family and friends, the former Santa Barbara resident and Saticoy Country Club teaching professional equaled the best round recorded in the 16-year history of the Senior PGA Tour.
The record was established by Chi Chi Rodriguez in 1992 and matched in last year's tournament by Jim Colbert and Jay Sigel.
For a 50-year-old rookie on the geriatric circuit, that's pretty fast company.
Typically, even at his best, Allin was more steady than spectacular.
His round consisted of nine pars and nine birdies--including four in a row on holes 6 through 9.
"He played a great round of golf," said Ken Still, who played in the same threesome and was only one shot back of Allin's pace through nine holes. "It was a pleasure to watch."
The crowd agreed, roaring its approval when Allin sank a birdie putt on 18 to set the record.
Nice to be home, Allin said. Sort of.
"For me it's a little harder to play before some of the hometown guys," he said. "There was a lot of hand-shakin' and how-do-you-do's."
And plenty of way-to-go's.
Allin missed only two greens and one fairway. His only real trouble came on the 442-yard, par-4 13th hole where he launched his tee shot into the left rough. Even then he salvaged par, pitching to within four feet on his third shot and burying the putt.
At that point, Allin was six under for the round, four under for the tournament and one birdie away from reaching his goal for the day.
Early in the round, Allin said, the number 5 kept "flashing" in his head. Taking it as an omen, he set his sights on a score that would place him five under going into today's final round.
"I usually don't do that, but something just clicked in to me," he said.
It was that kind of day.
Allin went five under for the tournament by sinking an eight-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole, and bettered his best-case scenario by tapping in a two-footer for another birdie on 16.
On the 18th hole, an eight-foot putt stood between Allin and the course record. He rolled it in, dead center.
"You're not going to get to the last hole with a putt for 61 and miss it," Still said. "He put it right in the middle of the hole."
All day long.
"I just made some good putts," Allin said. "(Friday) I couldn't make any of those. (Saturday) they all went in."
Allin said his round of 72 on Friday benefited him two ways. First, it placed him in a threesome that started its round early in the day, while the greens were fresh and before a steady rain started to fall in the mid-afternoon.
Second, it prodded him into additional practice on the driving range and practice greens.
"I found a little tip from myself on the putting green last night," said Allin, who took to placing his hands a little higher. "It worked for a day anyway."
Allin's stellar play kicked in just in time. His warmups weren't pretty.
"If you'd have asked me out on the range what I'd shoot, I'd have said a 75," he said.
Considering that prediction, maybe it's best that Allin balked when asked if he might allow himself to dream a little about winning the tournament.
"I leave all opinions to everybody else," he said. "I'm just out here enjoying each day as it comes by."
Allin is playing in only his fifth Senior event after spending 14 years away from competitive golf. His best finish was 19th place at the Royal Caribbean Classic in Key Biscayne, Fla., a month ago.
"I'm just a rookie," he said several times after his record-setting round.
"Just this one day, everything went real good."
Indeed, better than ever.