Byrum recalls win at 1989 Kemper Open
July 27, 2015
By Phil Stambaugh, PGATOUR.COM
- July 27, 2015
- Tom Byrum, seen here in 1993, claimed his first PGA TOUR event in 1989 at TPC Avenel. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The waiting is the hardest part. Although he’d come close three times, Tom Byrum wasn’t sure if he’d ever get that elusive PGA TOUR win. But at the 1989 Kemper Open, Byrum used an ounce of perseverance, a dose of patience, a pound of experience, a ton of hard work and inspiration from his older brother, Curt, to finally get over the line at TPC Avenel in Potomac, Maryland.
For the man known more in his youth for riding bulls in a rodeo, the younger Byrum didn’t encounter many ups and down in turning in one of the most dominating performances of the 1989 season. His Kemper Open victory in the D.C. area came in his fourth year on the PGA TOUR, and prior to winning, Byrum’s first brush with winning came at the 1986 Western Open when, in his rookie year, he lost a lead with five holes to play at Butler Natonal Golf Club near Chicago. He then finished second to Mark Calcavecchia later that same year at the Southwest Golf Classic in Abilene, Texas. Two years later at the 1988 Pensacola Open, Byrum could not hold a four-stroke lead down the stretch, falling to Andrew Magee by a shot. It was the memory of the defeat at that Western Open that made him stronger and eventually led to his five-stroke victory in the Kemper Open three years later.
"It was a big help to my career. Any win is a big help. You question whether you are ever good enough to win and you don't know until you do it. I remember coming into that week feeling pretty good about my game and it all came together for me,” Byrum said.
Byrum shot four rounds in the 60s and, at the time, his 16-under 268 was a Kemper Open record. He trailed by three strokes halfway through the event, but then shot 65 on Saturday, capped by a 30-foot birdie putt at the final hole. The round vaulted him atop the leaderboard. Starting two strokes ahead of Tommy Armour III he built his lead to five shots midway through his Sunday round. Jim Thorpe managed to trim Byrum’s lead to three temporarily but Byrum hit his approach to within 15 inches of the flagstick on the par-4 16th for a tap-in birdie that clinched the tournament.
"I drove the ball about like I normally do, but my iron play was exceptional that week," Byrum said. "And my putting was exceptional. There was nothing real unusual about how it worked out – I hit a lot of greens, I was hitting the ball to good spots and I was making the putts."
Six weeks later and now, in turn, inspired by his younger brother, Curt won his first PGA TOUR event at what was then known as the Hardees Golf Classic. The duo, who came from an unlikely locale for TOUR success, became the first brothers to win in the same year since Dave and Mike Hill did it in 1972. Onida, South Dakota, population 850, was proud then and still is.