- - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — “This thing is heavy!” exclaimed Tom Watson when presented the Alfred S. Bourne trophy last year for winning the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.

Former University of Maryland golf coach Fred Funk wouldn’t mind taking a crack at hoisting it this weekend at Harbor Shores.

“It would be a big deal to have my name on it, especially the size of that trophy,” said Funk, the Terps coach from 1984 until ‘88 who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “I want to see if I can actually pick the thing up.”`

Funk carries some momentum from winning the Insperity Championship — the last Champions Tour stop before this week’s 73rd Senior PGA Championship — at The Woodlands Country Club outside Houston. Three years ago, Funk achieved a career milestone with a six-shot victory in the U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind. With a USGA major under his belt, Funk is thinking along the same lines for a PGA of America major.

“I’d love to get my name on a PGA of America trophy, especially with my background being a club pro for so long, a golf coach and an assistant pro,” he said.

Fred Couples, who shared the lead midway through the Masters last month before finishing in a tie for 12th, includes Funk among a handful of players he would consider contenders to win this weekend.

“I think the ones that are playing: a Fred Funk who won at Houston, Tom Lehman plays well every week, Bernhard Langer,” said Couples. “I don’t think you’ll see a lot of surprises come Saturday and Sunday.”

Funk played five events on the Champions Tour and four on the PGA Tour before his win at The Woodlands. Considering he had two surgeries on the same thumb and a knee surgery since last year’s last start at the U.S. Senior Open, the fact that Funk returned to either tour with any sense of regularity has been satisfying.

“I haven’t worked this hard since I was a kid the last six months trying to get my game back,” said Funk who will turn 56 next month. “The six months off with my [injured] thumb were a long time, and when I came back it still hurt like hell and I had to figure out how to get through that.”

No matter how badly he played — two missed cuts in four starts on the PGA Tour — Funk figured the only method to reverting to tip-top shape on the tour for the 50-and-over types was by simply playing.

Now he’s at a stage where he plans to play in a qualifier at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville for the U.S. Open.

“It got to the point [where] it started turning the corner,” Funk said, “and I’m really excited about playing again.”

He said he picked up the Stanley Cup one time at a Tampa Bay Lightning game. It wasn’t as heavy as he thought. The Bourne trophy might feel like a feather if he’s awarded it this weekend.

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