BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Peter Senior had just missed a 15-foot birdie putt that would have given him the Regions Tradition championship in a playoff. The ball tickled the edge of the cup but refused to drop, eliciting a groan from the large gallery gathered around the 18th green at Shoal Creek on a postcard-worthy Sunday afternoon.
Senior literally was an inch away from what would have been one of the biggest moments of his lengthy golf career. A victory in the Champions Tour major would have been the first win of any type in the United States for the Australian native. He was so tantalizingly close, and for it not to happen must have been extremely disappointing.
Yet moments after he tapped in for a par to extend his playoff with Tom Lehman, Senior could be seen smiling as he talked with his caddie. He even chuckled briefly.
The caddie was Senior's 17-year-old son, Mitchell. And if there was anybody who could get Senior to smile in the face of such frustration, it was Mitch.
"I've always been a little disappointed on the course when things aren't going right, but Mitch has just been absolutely fantastic," said Senior, who would up losing to Lehman on the second hole of the playoff. "He comes up with the weirdest things.
"I'd have a three-putt and I'd be mumbling to myself to the next tee, and all of a sudden Mitch would say, 'Jeez, Dad, did you see how good I raked that bunker bank there?' You know, just completely random stuff."
When Senior decided to embark on the Champions Tour last season he made it a family affair, bringing his wife, two daughters and Mitchell along for an American adventure.
"I thought I may only get one chance being on the Champions Tour, and I was going to have a really good time," Senior said. "It was the best family year I've ever had because they were there every week. It was just great having them around."
Senior played well enough to finish 20th on the Champions Tour money list. He had 18 top-25 finishes in 25 starts, including another runner-up showing in Birmingham in what was then known as the Regions Charity Classic and was played at nearby Ross Bridge Golf Course.
So Senior decided to come back this year for another season on the Champions Tour.
This time, however, he wanted to pare down his family entourage and concentrate more on his golf game, and he told Mitchell he could join him only if he was willing to be his caddie.
Little did Senior know he was going to end up with a comedian carrying his bag.
"We'll be walking around, I'll be muttering to myself, and he'll say, 'Gee, how many of these girls are looking at me today, Dad,' " Senior said. "It's just been great to have him on the bag. We've spent quite a bit of time together these last two months, and I think we're going to have a great year."
Senior certainly is off to a good start. His runner-up finish in the Regions Tradition gives him three top-10 finishes in six Champions Tour events this season, and he has yet to finish worse than 17th.
Senior played himself into the a share of the lead with Lehman during Sunday's final round by making three birdies over the final eight holes. Then on the first playoff hole Senior found the center of the green while Lehman was scrambling for an up-and-down to save par.
And so Senior stood 15 feet away from victory, and when he struck his putt Lehman thought it was going in.
"He hit a beautiful putt," Lehman said. "It just missed. It didn't break."
Senior was surprised as well.
"It looked like it was going to go to the left and it was on the right edge of the hole, and the last 3 feet it just went dead straight," Senior said. "I really thought with 3 feet to go I'd definitely holed it, but it stayed straight. It was pretty disappointing."
Disappointing, that is, until his son made him smile, and helped him remember all the good things that had happened at Shoal Creek.
"I had a really great week," Senior said. "You couldn't have asked for better weather, and the course was just a joy to play. All in all I played pretty well, and I'm really happy with the way I'm going."