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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Wild road to Rhode Island: How Dave Christenson of Spokane went from nearly quitting golf to playing in the U.S. Senior Open

Given the sequence of events over the last eight months or so, it makes perfect sense Spokane’s Dave Christenson is teeing off Thursday at the prestigious U.S. Senior Open.

Like it was meant to be – in an improbable, meandering sort of way.

There’s probably not another player in the 156-man field that seriously considered giving up on golf last winter. Christenson made his annual winter trek to Florida to work on his game but his scores soared in the wrong direction.

“I told my wife I was tired of it, putting in all this work and not seeing the results,” Christenson said Wednesday, just before his final practice session at Newport Country Club in Newport, Rhode Island. “She told me to hang with it.”

Wise words that helped Christenson find his game again. He didn’t play well in Florida tournaments but he gradually made strides when he returned to Spokane.

“I’ve worked with (instructor) Cheryl Anderson the last couple years,” said Christenson, who retired after a five-year stint as Circling Raven’s director of golf and now works part-time at The Club at Black Rock. “It seems like every time I go there, she tells me something Gary Lindeblad used to tell me when I worked for him (at Indian Canyon).

“It’s many of the same teaching philosophies and techniques. I kind of refocused on golf when I retired. She helped me tune things up, make some changes. It just all started clicking in the spring. I think my confidence just grew, but it was also more experience and competitive rounds from getting my brains beat out in Florida and struggling.”

The 56-year-old Christenson had come close to qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open a couple times before he made the drive across the state to Oakbrook Golf Club near Tacoma for a qualifier in May.

Time for round two of there’s probably not another player in the U.S. Senior Open field who had a qualifying experience like Christenson, who was in the first group out and carded a solid even-par 71. He checked on scores of players on the course and quite a few were under par. Christenson believed 3 or 4 under would be necessary to contend for two qualifying spots out of 80 players.

“I hopped in my car and headed back to Spokane,” he said. “As soon as I got back, I got a call that I was in a playoff for the second spot in 10 minutes. Well, I’m not going to make it.”

Jeff Coston was the medalist with a 1-under 70 and Steven Dorigo (71) received the second spot.

Christenson was the first alternate. Longtime friend Pete Caruso, who is caddying for Christenson this week, suggested making plane reservations for Rhode Island just in case.

“They called me at Black Rock and the guy says, ‘I hope you’re having a great day but I’m going to make your day better,’ ” Christenson said. “Coston dropped out, I think he was experiencing back problems, so that’s why I was able to get in.”

Christenson played in a U.S. Amateur Public Links, but called the U.S. Senior Open “kind of the biggest golf tournament I’ve played in.”

He tees off Thursday at 7:10 a.m. Eastern and 12:50 p.m. on Friday. He’s spent three days studying the links-style, par-70 layout playing at just over 7,000 yards.

Newport Country Club reminds him of Gamble Sands in Brewster. Christenson was the head pro when Gamble Sands opened in 2014.

“It’s fairly wide open off the tee,” he said. “Interestingly enough, there’s no irrigation on the fairways, they only water tees and greens. They had a wet spring so it’s real lush and the course is playing long.

“The tricky part is going to be the wind. It’s fairly exposed and the wind could be a huge factor. Most of the greens, there’s entry from the front so lots of guys will be bumping and running and hitting low shots. Tons of slope on the greens. A true test of golf.”

One that requires sound execution, trusting his abilities and the right mindset.

“My goals are just to play the course and really not make it bigger than it is,” he said. “A guy who I looked up to in Florida said, ‘If you ever make it to a tournament like this, go have fun and enjoy it; don’t overreact and practice nonstop.’ So that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

What will be going through his mind on the first tee Thursday with an interesting last eight months in the rearview mirror.

“I’m sure there’ll be some nerves, but I think it will be fun,” Christenson said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity to see where my game is at and where I need to improve.”

Jim Meehan can be reached at 509-459-5585 or at