The weather is expected to be good, the mysterious injury has healed and, most importantly, Adam is home.
Everything is in place for Gary Lindeblad to defend his title when the 36th annual Washington Trust Bank Lilac Invitational golf tournament opens today at The Fairways.
“God willing and the creek don’t rise,” Lindeblad cracked over the weekend. He won last year’s tournament by four strokes over 1993 champion Scott Geroux of Olympia in a wire-to-wire performance with his son Adam, now 13, as caddy.
That there was any question of Lindeblad’s appearance was due to three cracked ribs, which kept him from playing golf from April 20 to June 16. The 44-year-old professional at Indian Canyon wasn’t sure how he hurt himself.
However, most important to Lindeblad’s participation is the return of his caddy.
“No Adam, no tournament,” Lindeblad said.
Last year the Lindeblad’s drew quite a following as dad consistently gave his son credit for reading his short putts. That can be even more important this year with all four rounds of the tournament at The Fairways. In years past the last two rounds were at Downriver.
“The Fairways is much more of a putter’s course,” Lindeblad said. “My putting is better now. I don’t have an advantage but I’m putting better and I don’t look at it as a disadvantage… . No doubt those are as good as any greens you’ll find anywhere.”
John Durgin of The Fairways said, “The consensus of people out playing practice rounds is they’re pretty excited about it. The golf course is in terrific condition. The fairways getting better reviews than the greens, and you know how the greens are.
The Fairways greens change a golfer’s approach.
“It becomes a little more of a strategic game. They’re so fast you don’t get above the hole, period,” Lindeblad said. The strategy becomes where you put it on the green as opposed to just knocking it close.”
How well Lindeblad can hit the perfect spot remains to be seen after an eight-week layoff.
“I’ve played three or four times the last couple of weeks,” he said. “(The ribs) feel pretty good. I can feel it but it doesn’t hurt. I should be 100 percent.
“The biggest thing is, I haven’t practiced. With my game, typically, I don’t play much but I practice a lot, which I wasn’t able to do. Today I don’t have the confidence in my swing. In a week, with three or four good practices and playing once or twice, I’ll be ready. I’m not going to use it as an excuse.
“I’d like to say I’m old enough, wise enough, to say (the layoff) doesn’t matter. But there’s no excuse. If I play good, I’ll be tickled pink, if I don’t, that’s the way it goes. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Lindeblad was even more excited to see Adam, who spent last week on a YMCA outing at Glacier Park. It was the first extended excursion for Adam, a severe asthmatic, without his family to help track his health. That had Lindeblad and his wife Kris a little nervous.
“No news is good news,” Lindeblad said just before Adam returned.
With all his other typical youth activities, Adam’s turn as caddy becomes very important to his father, whose busiest month is July with back-to-back tournaments and the Northwest Open at the end of the month.
“Having him around, spending time with him (means a lot),” Lindeblad said. “I would do others (tournaments) but we’re too busy. It’s hard to travel.”
Older brother Matt is the Lindeblad caddy for the Rosauer’s Open, which is next week at Indian Canyon, and Brian, 10, is due for his first experience on the bag, probably toward the end of the summer in Pro-Am’s.
But only Adam has won.
His $500 in payday was used to buy presents for his brothers and take the family to dinner.
The win - and payoff - did create a little jealousy, he said.
When he played the Rosauer’s last year, he said he was asked, “Why didn’t you win?”
Right now, winning is second or third on the list to being able to play with Adam as caddy, until Lindeblad reaches the first tee today.
Geroux and Chris Mitchell, a six-time champion who last won in 1989, are the only other previous winners entered… . A little more than 100 amateurs have entered, almost evenly split among the four divisions, 0-2 handicap, 3-6, 7-10 and 11-13… . About a dozen more pros have entered this year, Durgin said. “We’re going to miss some local guys. It’s difficult for a local guy to take two weeks off in a row.”
Mike Booth, a Californian who contended through two rounds last year, promised to kick in some prize money last year and he came through, adding $5,000 to the purse through Vi-Cal Metals. “We are able to bump first place a little bit, but we increased the payoffs from second to 25th place,” Durgin said. … Play begins at 6:30 a.m. today with threesomes (a pro teamed with two amateurs) teeing off until 2:30.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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