Castle Rock golf pro keeps fingers crossed about pain

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Hitting drives off the tee, trying to reach the green with a fairway wood and constantly bending over to mark your ball on the green or grab the ball out of the cup can lead to back pain for golfers.

Bill Loeffler, a Castle Rock resident, is dealing with chronic back problems as he prepares to play in the U.S. Senior Open, which starts July 11 at Nebraska's Omaha Country Club.

Loeffler, 56, earned a position in the U.S. Senior Open field when he carded a one-over-par 72 during a qualifying tournament June 17 on the West Course at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

He participated in the PGA Professional National Championships at Oregon's Sunriver Resort during the last week of June when his back problems flared up.

“My back gave out in Oregon and I'm just now recovering,” said Loeffler. “I'm hoping that I can be at least close to 100 percent health-wise for the Open. The heat should help, I hope. I really struggled in Oregon. I had a sinus infection and my back went out. I felt like I was 10,000 years old.

“It's a chronic deal and it seems to be good for a while and then decides to turn the other way. I'm just hopeful than I don't do anything stupid with it over the next few days. When you have a disc pressing on a nerve, your leg goes numb sometimes.”

Loeffler is anxious to see if his back will bother him and let him play well, since he will be competing against such well-known golfers as Fred Couples, Joey Sindelar, Hale Irwin, Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer, to name a few.

“It's an issue but it is certainly not an excuse because these guys are all seniors,” he continued. “Everyone has issues. It's something you deal with and go forward and still play the best you can.

“The doctor said it's not going to get any worse if I play. If I can stand the bending and twisting, then I can practice. And I've been practicing a little bit and got some tips from one of the local pros who has been helping me a little bit. I'm optimistic that I will be OK and do well. You just kind of have to do it and put the pain aside and say you're here and a lot of people wish they were here, and just have fun and try to play good.”

Loeffler, president of Fairways and Greens Inc., which owns The Links Golf Course in Highlands Ranch, will be playing for the first time in the U.S. Senior Open, but he knows what it's like to play in premier tournaments.

He won the 2007 senior PGA Professional National Championship, the 1992 PGA Assistant Professional Championship, the 1986 U.S. Mid-Amateur title and was a member of the 1987 U.S. Walker Cup team.

Loeffler, a member of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, is a three-time Colorado Open champ and the 2009 Colorado Open Senior titlist. He has won several Colorado Golf Association tournaments.

“My preparation is not anything different than a state open or anything like that,” admitted Loeffler. “It (U.S. Senior Open) is a big-time event with the best players in the world. Freddie Couples and all those guys will be there. So it's fun to get to play against that caliber of player and play on courses that are usually just immaculate.

“I don't really set any goals. I don't play in a lot of tournaments so I'm kind of just going there and feeling my way around and see if my game kind of fits the golf course. Then if it does, I start thinking about what I can do and what are the possibilities. Then you always have to say, `it's one hole at a time' and all that baloney, but it's true that it's hard to do because of the distractions and all the people there. All the tournaments that I usually play, there is not a lot of gallery, but it's fun to hit some good shots in front of a big group of people.”

Loeffler won't be teeing it up at any famous course like Pebble Beach, Augusta National, Cypress Point or Shinnecock Hills, but he's looking forward to playing at the Omaha Country Club.

“I've heard a lot of good things about it,” he said. “I understand it's a very old course. I have an affinity for playing courses that are 1920s vintage. They're just a lot of fun. It's Omaha in July, but I hear the city has really rallied around the tournament and it's going to be very well attended.”

Loeffler hopes he can ignore his back woes and just absorb the fact his is playing in a major tournament.

“I feel very fortunate,” he said. “There were 100 guys for two spots in the qualifying at The Broadmoor, so the odds are against you. If you are lucky enough to get in, you had better go in with the attitude of you're lucky to be here, enjoy it and like it.

“I played in the Senior PGA (2010) out at the Colorado Golf Club. I had a lot of fun. I got to play a practice round with Couples, Jay Haas and Ben Crenshaw. Playing with those guys every once in a while is a blast. They are so good and they are so nice to put up with a club pro. Jay Haas gave me a short game lesson and that was nice of him. I actually played good. I think I was in third after the first day, hit a wall but made the cut.”

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