- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2000

With four holes to play yesterday, it was pretty clear either Tom Scherrer or Steve Lowery by that time two shots up on the field was going to win the Kemper Open. The problem was telling them apart. Lowery was ranked 50th on the money list; Scherrer was ranked 57th. Lowery had made nine of 15 cuts this year; Scherrer had made nine of 16. Though a decade apart in age (Lowery, 39, is the older one), they pretty much occupied the stratum of the golf world. They even both had won events on the Buy.com Tour.

The Kemper tends to attract players like that. Earnest grinders, I call them. They come to Avenel while so many household names stay away thinking that if a putt or two drops for them and they get a favorable lie or a fortuitous bounce at the right time, it could be Their Week. Such hope, such optimism, for so many guys. Guys like Franklin Langham or Aussie Greg Chalmers or Kazuhiko Hosokawa, a complete unknown from the Japanese tour. All three shared in the second-place spoils yesterday as the tournament featured five runners-up.

But it was Scherrer the golf gods decided to smile on. It was Scherrer who hit his tee shot on 16 under a TV crane and lived to tell about it while Lowery plunked his tee ball on 17 in the water, essentially drowning his chances. It was Scherrer who got the important putts to drop, such as the 10-foot par-saver on 15. And it was Scherrer whose young wife, babe in arms, was waiting for him as finished off his round of 67 for a 13-under-par total.

It wouldn't be the Kemper if we didn't have a scene like that a first-time Tour winner, an emotional young wife, a squirming child. Avenel seems to specialize in such moments. That's why, when Scherrer was playing in Wednesday's pro-am, his partners were trying to pump him up, telling him, Hey, lesser lights always win here Rich Beem, Grant Waite, Billy Andrade, Tom Byrum. You could be next.

One of the amateurs, a fellow named Tom Hair, even gave him a solid-gold ball mark for good luck just a little token from a North Carolinian to a former UNC Tar Heel. "If you use this," he told Scherrer, "you'll win the tournament."

Scherrer, never one to look a gift ball mark in the mouth, said, "OK, I'll try it."

And here he is, the 2000 Kemper champ.

"I'm going to have that ball mark for a looong time," he said.

Scherrer doesn't exactly come from golf country. He's not a California guy or a Florida guy or an Arizona guy. He grew up outside Syracuse, N.Y., in Skaneatles, which sounds less like a hometown than a launching pad for a limerick. (There once was a golfer from Skaneatles/Whose swing was as melodious as the Beatles …) The golf season isn't very long in upstate New York "about six months," Scherrer reports but the area has produced a few players, most notably Jeff Sluman, Wayne Levi, Joey Sindelar and Mike Hulbert.

"They've done it," Scherrer said, so there was no reason he couldn't do it.

He married his high school sweetheart, as folks in Skaneatles will do. But when Jennifer Scherrer first began traveling with her husband, well, he wondered if she was cut out for the life of the Tour Wife. At her first tournament, in Tucson, "she was so nervous she couldn't even watch me putt," he said. "I looked over at her on the first hole, and she had her head in her lap and she was covering her eyes. And I said to myself: "This isn't going to work… ."

"So I told her, 'Look, if I birdie one of the first few holes, you have to watch me.' I figured, on that course, I had a good chance for [an early] birdie. And fortunately, I made one. So she's had to watch me."

Jennifer spent most of yesterday in the Kemper daycare center, tending to 11-month old Tommy. Finally, when dad was heading down the stretch, the two of them went out on the course to cheer him on. Having his young son around all week as the pressure piled up "was a great distraction," Tom said. "Just putting him on the floor and being able to watch him play …"

After being handed a winner's check for $540,000, Scherrer can afford to send Tommy to private college now. No UNC for him. And that's just one way in which his life figures to change. He still has to qualify for the U.S. Open this morning at Woodmont, but all kinds of other doors commercial and otherwise will open for him. One of the biggest things about winning a tournament, said Lowery, who captured the Sprint International in '94 "is that the doubt can I win? goes away. You know you can win. Maybe this will get him over the hump and he can win some other tournaments."

Scherrer didn't beat a world-class field at Avenel, but he did fend off Justin Leonard, one of the second-place finishers, who had waxed him 8 and 7 in the '92 U.S. Amateur final. That had to be pretty sweet. "This is what I've been dreaming about forever, since I was a little kid," he said, sounding very much like a little kid. "It's going to change my life, but it's not going to change me."

You can take the boy out of Skaneatles, but you can't take the Skaneatles out of the boy.

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