MODESTO -- Kids are asking Jamie Looper for his autograph this week while Looper asks himself, "Why?"
Looper, 51, has not beaten Tiger Woods, at least not yet. The former three-sport star at Oakdale High always enjoyed his golf as an amateur. His tee shots travel far for his height but do not airmail county lines.
OK, he can golf his ball. He's won 18 club championships 13 at Oakdale Country Club and five at Mountain Springs in Sonora but does that warrant him signing his name for kids 2,417 miles from home?
"It's a little out of my comfort zone," Looper said, "but I sign 'em anyway."
The attention targeting Looper is taking place at Lake Orion, Mich., where he will tee off Thursday in the United States Senior Open at Indianwood CC.
It will be Looper's third appearance in a USGA-sanctioned tournament. He failed to reach the match play portion of the 2002 and 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateurs, but he has two things going for him this week: 1. His game is sharp, and; 2. His back, an issue with him on occasion, so far is not aching.
"The humidity is keeping me loose," he said.
Looper, one of 2,479 to file entries for the Senior Open, earned one of 156 berths for the tournament the hard way. He shot a 1-over-par 73 on a windy Monday two weeks ago at Turlock CC and annexed one of two berths available for the Open. He survived a six-man playoff (the other five were pros) for the final spot. Three pars did the trick.
Pulling the most fun from this week is one of his major goals. So far so good. He played a practice round Tuesday with Chip Beck, with another one scheduled today with the ageless Hale Irwin, the three-time U.S. Open champion.
Good weather is expected this week. Last year at the Mid-Amateur in Houston, Looper and the field were paralyzed by eight hours of lightning and storm-induced delays.
Indianwood, located about 45 minutes north of Detroit, promises a major test.
"The greens are very fast with a lot of undulations. If you get above the hole, you can't stop it," Looper said. "Pars will be good here. The rough is very high. If you miss the green, you have to hit a flop shot."
Topping his priority list is a good night's sleep. He tees off Thursday at 7:30 a.m. in the first threesome off No. 1.
Which will give him more time to perfect his autograph.
THE SHAG BAG Cal State Stanislaus star Teddy Schrier of Atwater successfully defended his Merced County title last weekend with rounds of 69 and 69 at Merced CC. He beat runner-up Sam Smith, the USC senior from Turlock, by four strokes. Stanislaus teammate Andre Navarro, the Modesto City champion, shot even par and tied for fourth. Schrier twice drove Merced's 330-yard first hole en route to a birdie and an eagle, the latter after holing a 7-footer. ...
The Ripon, Ca., team from Spring Creek CC traveled to Ripon, England, last month and came home with a 12-12 tie at the rain-shortened 18th Ripon Cup Matches. That allowed the local side, captained by Mike Weintz, to keep the cup. The teams will resume the series in 2014 at Spring Creek. ...
A leftover note from the U.S. Open: Beau Hossler, the Santa Margarita High senior who briefly led the Open during the third round before he tied for 29th, did not win the CIF state title. He was beaten by two strokes by Del Oro graduate Austin Smotherman, the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champion, at San Gabriel CC. Smotherman will continue his golf at Southern Methodist. Hossler, the first high-schooler since 1951 to compete in back-to-back Opens, eventually will go to Texas.
HOLES-IN-ONE Denis France, Modesto, 138-yard eighth at Creekside, 9-iron. ... Claudio Bonaccinie, Modesto, eighth at Creekside, 7-wood. ... Allen Doty, Modesto, 176-yard third at Del Rio CC (River), 7-wood. ... Rod Plett, Modesto, 152-yard 15th at Spring Creek CC, Ripon, 8-iron. ... Adele Hamilton, Manteca, 80-yard fourth at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 6-iron. ... Zack Trio, Ceres, 133-yard eighth at River Oaks, Ceres, pitching wedge.. ... Ken Troche, Sonora, 155-yard fifth at Mountain Springs, Sonora, 7-wood.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302.