DURHAM, N.C. -- Talk about the cream rising to the top, once again former Duke All-America golfer Charlie Bolling is at the top of his game heading into the 2014 U.S. Senior Open to be held July 10-13 at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Oklahoma. A 1981 Blue Devil graduate, Bolling posted a 68 on June 19 at the Scarsdale Golf Club in Hartsdale, N.Y. to qualify for this year’s U.S. Senior Open.
“I’ve been playing well lately,” said Bolling from his home on Long Island. “I’ve been able to get some time to work on my game as well as stay in great shape.”
Bolling finished fourth in the Senior Open qualifier with Barry Lane from England taking medalist honors with a 66. This is the fifth time he tried to qualify for the Senior Open.
“Qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open is very tough,” explained the 56-year-old Bolling. “There were 143 players playing for just four spots with some of the top professionals in America and Europe in the field.”
A native of Bryn Mawr, Pa., Bolling has put together a star-studded golfing career winning the Philadelphia Amateur in 1978 and the 1980 Pennsylvania Amateur early in his career.
In his senior season at Duke, Bolling claimed second team All-America honors after setting the school record for wins in a season (five) and finishing eighth in the 1981 NCAA Championship in Palo Alto, Calif. He opened the NCAA Championship with a six-over 78 before settling in to post rounds of 69, 71 and 70 to finish with an even-par 288.
Bolling turned pro in 1981 and for three straight years missed qualifying for the PGA Tour, one time by a single stroke. With only mini tours as an option in the United States at that time, he elected to play the South African Tour and the Asian Tour for three years. A turning point came in early 1983 when he became the first American to win the South African Open and finished third in their Order of merit.
The next winter, he finished 12th in the PGA Club Professional Tournament Series, which qualified him for the PGA Tour’s Tournament Players Series. The TPS was the PGA Tour’s second tour at the time. He got off to a slow start in the TPS tournament before taking some time off to recharge. Bolling returned to finish the year in exciting fashion on the west coast with two victories and a third place finish. He closed the year as the leading money winner, while posting a 69.92 scoring average.
As the TPS’s leading money winner, Bolling earned an exemption for the 1985 PGA Tour. He played four years on the PGA Tour before being sidelined in 1988 after breaking his arm in a non-golf accident. Bolling, who played in four U.S. Opens and three British Opens prior to 1988, could never quite regain his PGA Tour form following the injury.
Following his pro playing career, he worked on getting his class A status to become a working pro and ended up as the club pro at Fresh Meadow in Great Neck, N.Y. Three years ago, Bolling moved on to private instruction and has been giving lessons on retainer to one of the wealthiest men on Long Island while alos spending time on the European Senior Tour, playing in two British Senior Opens. In 2012, he held the second round lead at the Senior PGA Professional Championship at Creighton Farms in Aldie, Va.
“Golf is such a high maintenance sport,” Bolling explained. “When I was a club pro it was tough to find time to work on my game, but as I have gotten successful in the teaching side I have been able to improve my game.”
His consistent work ethic and competitive spirit kept Bolling striving to improve his game.
“What really brought me back to playing well was a love for the game,” he explained. “I played in some tournaments prior to the qualifier and feel my game is in good shape heading to the Senior Open.”
The Senior Open will be televised by ESPN2 on Thursday and Friday July 10-11 and by NBC Sports on Saturday and Sunday July 12-13.