Ron Agostini

Agostini on Golf: Vince Buzzini prepping for U.S. Senior Open appearance

If I’m Vince Buzzini, I’m visualizing nothing but good scenarios.

A holed putt while friends cheer. Walking down the fairways alongside some of the best players in the country. Hearing the announcer on the first tee, “From Palm Desert, California, Vince Buzzini.”

And Buzzini, while his heart does handsprings, rips it straight and true.

“No matter what happens,” he said, “it will be a great week.”

Buzzini, 51, has earned one of the coveted 156 berths in the U.S. Senior Open, to be held June 25-28 at Sacramento’s Del Paso Country Club. It will be his first appearance in a USGA event and, better still, he’ll enjoy the support of more than a few family and friends.

Buzzini, the son of longtime area club professional George Buzzini Jr., did not make golf his livelihood. But like many in his family tree, he plays the game well.

He carries a plus-1 handicap at Bighorn and Ironwood in the desert. Golf fans may remember Sergio Garcia’s televised prime-time victory over Tiger Woods in the 2000 “Battle At Bighorn.”

It takes more than a low handicap index, however, to make the Senior Open. It’s “open” to pros and amateurs with indexes not exceeding 3.4 who are 50 or older at the start of championship play. The USGA accepted 2,445 entries this year.

Buzzini tried many times to qualify for the U.S. Open over the years but never got closer than two strokes from a playoff.

This time, Buzzini took his shot, along with 89 others, for three spots at Fairbanks Ranch in Rancho Santa Fe – one of 34 sectional qualifying sites – on June 1. He turned five birdies and steady play into a round of 70, a low-amateur medal, and a trip to Sacramento.

Also advancing were pros Mike Mitchell of Rancho Mirage (68) and Bruce Nakamura of Vista (69). Former big-league shortstop Garry Templeton and former UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel also were in the field.

“I was fifth off the tee that day, and the wind kicked up on the final three holes,” Buzzini said. “My score and the other two qualifiers already were on the board. We had to wait 21/2 hours to see if they would hold up.”

They did, and Buzzini – the owner of an insurance agency in the Coachella Valley – is practicing three hours a day.

A 1981 graduate of Manteca High School, Buzzini walked away from the game for a few years before he restarted. He was a member at Del Rio and Brookside before he eventually migrated to the desert.

“My iron play is the best it’s ever been,” he said. “In USGA events, you can’t always go at the pin. Pars are good in those tournaments.”

His goals aren’t too high, which is a good idea against a field which includes 11 past champions. A made cut probably would guarantee a successful week.

The Shag Bag – The 33rd Modesto City Golf Championship tees off Saturday and Sunday as Stockton’s Raymon Tira pursues his third consecutive men’s titile. Defending women’s champion Jane Findarle chases her fourth city title since 2008. The championship, senior championship and first flights begin Saturday at Creekside, while the women, second, third, fourth and senior flights start at Dryden. The groups rotate for Sunday’s final round. ... Southern Methodist junior Bryson DeChambeau, the NCAA individual champion who took his first swings at Spring Creek Golf & Country Club in Ripon, will play in the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis this week. He received a sponsor’s exemption, which happens when you win the NCAA. Past NCAA champions: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson (three times), Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Hale Irwin, etc. ... DeChambeau also qualified for the U.S. Open this week. ... Coming up: The Drail (Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living) Charity Tournament, Saturday, June 27, at Dryden Park. Call Tanja Wright, 521-7260.

Holes in one – Dick Jacobs, Modesto, 90-yard fourth at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, wedge. ... Charles Dugo, Escalon, 74-yard second at Escalon, pitching wedge.