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Lintelman goes from long shot to limelight

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Lintelman goes from long shot to limelight
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(Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)

ST. LOUIS - Meet Bud Lintelman, folks.

As late as last week, the 53-year-old PGA Professional from Purcellville, Va., was the 15th alternate for this week's 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid at Bellerive Country Club.

By Sunday, he was the fifth alternate. When he became the fourth alternate on Tuesday morning, Lintelman decided he'd better make the trip to St. Louis just in case a few more guys dropped out and he'd somehow sneak into his first ever Champions Tour event - a major no less.

And it's a good thing he did because now Lintelman has an amazing story to tell for the rest of his life.

If he had decided not to travel to St. Louis, there's a chance he'd be in Oklahoma helping out with the tornado clean-up.

About three months ago, Lintelman left a job as a club professional to work for Interstate Restoration, a privately owned, for-profit, national disaster recovery service company.

"We assist in hurricane situations, fires, water losses, tornadoes and stuff like that," he said. "What happened in Oklahoma was devastating. My prayers go out to them for sure. We did have people on the ground there, but I'm not sure if we're doing any work there. But our heart goes out to those people."

Just to get the particulars out of the way, Lintelman did get a spot in the field and he missed the cut big time with rounds of 80-83 for a 21-over-par 163 total. Sure, the competitor in Lintelman will tell you he sure wishes he'd played better.

"I played like an 18-handicapper," Lintelman said. "It was a little embarrassing, but I'm going to keep my head high because I know I'm a little better than what I was showing out there this week."

He'll be smiling from ear-to-ear for a while too, though, because the fact that he got in the field doesn't even begin to tell his story.

Imagine for a second, if you can, the range of emotions Lintelman experienced this week. He was the 15th alternate at this time a week ago. A few days later, that number trickles down. He makes the trip to St. Louis with the hopes that he'll get his first start on the Champions Tour - in the most historic and prestigious of majors for those 50 and over.

Got all that? Now, imagine arriving at the golf course shortly after 6:00 a.m. on the morning of the first round, like Lintelman did, hanging around on the practice green in between the first and 10th tees with his girlfriend Lynne LaFond DeLuca, who flew in from Los Angeles to offer her support, ready to tee off at a moment's notice if his name was called.

"I was teasing Lynne as I watched Loren Roberts chip," Lintelman said. "I said, 'Lynne, I don't know if Loren knows this, but he just gave me a chipping lesson.' I was kidding around here all morning while I was watching the tour veterans get ready to play. As I was kidding, I said to Lynne, 'I wonder if Tom Watson knows I'm going to be in his group this afternoon.'"

Good one, jokester.

The entire first wave teed off. Nothing.

So Lintelman did what any sensible person would do. He went back to the parking lot with DeLuca to take a break from waiting around. After a few minutes, DeLuca suggested he should go hit some balls on the driving range.

"I said, 'I don't know if I need to hit any golf balls, I'm not even going to play,'" Lintelman said. "But, she convinced me to do it. I went down to the range and started hitting a few balls."

While he did that, DeLuca snuck over to the tournament office to see if maybe, just maybe, his number had come up.

It did. Steve Elkington, citing a migraine, had just withdrawn. But, there was more and DeLuca couldn't wait to get to the range to deliver the news.

"Well, you're in, but that's not it," DeLuca told Lintelman, "You're playing with Tom Watson."

No way.

Lintelman played the first two rounds of his very first Champions Tour event and very first major championship with Tom Watson, an eight-time major winner, and Peter Jacobsen.

"It was really just a great dream come true," Lintelman said shortly after signing for his second round, 83. "I hope I handled myself professionally out there."

It sure wasn't easy, DeLuca said.

"Bud probably wouldn't admit this, but he thought he might pass out the first six holes," she said. "We found out he was in at around 11:00 a.m. on Thursday. They didn't tee off until 1:05, so he had plenty of time to think about it."

"This whole thing has been a little overwhelming, to be honest," Lintelman said. "The course is hard enough. If you play this course on a Tuesday and there's no tournament, it's a hard golf course. To go out there and perform well when there's nothing on the line is hard. But then you throw in the fact that this is a major championship, the galleries, my first Champions Tour event and two superstars as my playing partners, then, yeah, I hardly remember a shot from my first nine holes.

"I was actually almost a little light-headed. I four-putted my second hole, which blows your mind a little bit. I felt like I could compose myself a little bit and played some good holes out there."

Throughout the two rounds, Lintelman hit some good shots. In fact, he had two birdies in the second round, including a long-range putt on the 17th hole. He bantered up and down the fairways with Watson and Jacobsen and, when all was said and done, he received heartfelt handshakes and pats on the back from both players.

Lintelman also got a kick out of the folks who wondered out loud in the gallery, "What is that guy doing with his head when he tees off?"

DeLuca said she loves Lintelman's "fierce sense of humor." When asked what the deal was with that thing he does with his head when he tees off, Lintelman, funny man that he is, asked: "What are you talking about?"

Immediately after address, and just before he pulls the club back, Lintelman turns his head almost as if he's looking behind him. It's different, but it serves a purpose.

"I look away so I can find it in the fairway is what my slogan is," he said. "The truth is, I had the driver yips years ago - probably 10 years ago - and my teacher David Newsom at the River Creek Club in Leesburg (Va.) got me to look back to take the anxiety out of the swing. It also helped my physically in regard to how I turn my shoulders. It gives me a little better rotation and took that mental block off, if you will, and allowed me to swing through the shot. I started it as a practice drill, but then stayed with it.

"To be honest, when I got out here I tried to take every opportunity I could to do it in front of people to get comfortable because I've never really done it in front of a lot of people. I've done it in state opens and club professional championships and things of that sort, but never anything of this magnitude. It really didn't bother me. I actually drove the ball pretty darn good."

All in all, though short, it was a week of "pinch me" proportions for Lintelman.

So what was that all about, telling DeLuca, "I wonder if Tom Watson knows I'm going to be in his group this afternoon?"

A premonition?

"I guess I said it because I knew he was in the feature pairing for the afternoon wave and he's one of my favorite players of all time," Lintelman said. "My mother - Watson is her favorite golfer ever. Ever since I was a kid, my mother has loved this guy and I've always loved him. What a story."

It sure is. And it's one Lintelman will be able to tell for as long as he lives.

By: T.J. Auclair, PGA.com

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