Billy Andrade seeks to recapture Maryland magic at Senior Players Championship
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Billy Andrade doesn’t have a direct connection to the nation’s capital, but the Champions Tour golfer always will have fond memories of the area thanks to a breakthrough victory 26 years ago.
On June 3, 1991, Andrade beat close friend Jeff Sluman in a playoff at the Kemper Open for his first tour win. The tournament took place at what was then TPC Avenel in Potomac. The course since has been renamed TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms following a recent redesign.
Andrade reflected on that triumph Tuesday afternoon during media day for the Senior Players Championship at Caves Valley Golf Club, roughly an hour from TPC Potomac.
“A couple weeks ago I thought about it,” Andrade, 53, said, referring to when he played at the Senior PGA Championship at Trump National. “It wasn’t that far away from Avenel from where we played, and I played well, so yeah, I’m going to continue those thoughts of my first win here.”
Andrade finished tied for third at the Senior PGA, five shots behind winner Bernhard Langer, who claimed his senior tour record ninth major championship to break a tie with Jack Nicklaus. Langer is the three-time defending champion at the Senior Players, the fourth of five majors on the 50-and-over circuit.
Andrade, meanwhile, is seeking his first major on any tour. He joined the Champions Tour four years ago after four wins on the PGA Tour.
“I showed my kids a video of the Kemper Open from 1991 where there was 100,000 people at that event,” Andrade said. “So you talk about his area having great golf fans and loving the game, I’m going to use all that and see if I can have a chance.”
At the Kemper Open, Andrade had to make birdie at holes 16 and 17, and then save par from a green-side bunker on the 18th, just to force a playoff with Sluman.
They played No. 17 again for the playoff, and Andrade landed his six-iron tee shot within eight feet of the flagstick. Sluman’s tee shot landed in the water, leading to a double bogey.
Andrade made the putt for birdie to seal the win after having matched Sluman with a tournament-record 21-under 263. The previous four-round record had been 268.
Even before he earned his PGA Tour card, Andrade had become familiar with the Baltimore-Washington corridor. As a student at Wake Forest, where he also played on the golf team, Andrade would stop in the District during drives back home to Rhode Island.
Andrade’s sister at the time was a nurse at Georgetown University Hospital.
Two of Andrade’s PGA Tour wins have come in the Mid-Atlantic region. He won the Buick Classic at Westchester Country Club one week after his triumph at the Kemper Open. Andrade also won a the 1998 Canadian Open in Toronto.
“This is more like what I grew up on,” Andrade said of Caves Valley. “It’s amazing how in golf players play well where they kind of grew up. The California guys, Mark O’Meara and Corey Pavin, always seem to play well out in California. Guys like me always struggled on Poa annua greens out there.
“Then you come east, three of my four wins, here at Kemper, New York, Toronto, on the PGA Tour, so I like this feel. I like this place. I like this area.”