Hot putter helps golfer who fought off a rare disease

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Gene Sauers, who was given only a 25 percent chance of surviving a rare disease earlier this decade, set a front-nine record Sunday at the Boeing Classic.

Sauers shot 30 on the first nine holes, bettering the mark of 31 co-held by more than a dozen golfers since the tournament began in 2005.

Sauers was surprised to learn he had set a record.

“I didn’t know that,” said the 55-year-old from Savannah, Ga.

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A hot putter enabled Sauers to set the mark and his best putt was a 40-footer on the second hole.

Sauers suffered from the rare Stevens-Johnson Syndrome that attacks skin.

“I’m a lucky guy to be here,” he said.

The last time a nine-hole score in the Northwest made news was in 2015 when Louis Oosthuizen shot 29 on the back nine at Chambers Bay in the final round of the U.S. Open.

Notes

• The final threesome of winner Jerry Kelly, runner-up Jerry Smith and Billy Mayfair played bogey-free golf Sunday and made 20 birdies.

Vijay Singh, who won the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club, finished tied for 29th at 210 (68-70-72) in his Boeing Classic debut. He said his unfamiliarity with the course was a factor. “You have to know the golf course,” he said. “I’ll come back next year and see if I can do a little better.”

• Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse caddied the 18th hole for Brian Mogg, a fellow Pierce County product. Kearse has taken golf lessons from Mogg and plays out of Sahalee Country Club with a 13 handicap index. Mogg bogeyed the 18th hole and finished at 2-over 74 for the day and in 64th place with a 220 total.

Bernhard Langer was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” repeatedly during the day on his 60th birthday. “It was like the whole world knew about it,” he said. The defending champion’s quest to become the first three-time winner of the tournament fell short and he finished tied for third at 200 (70-65-65).

• Australian David McKenzie, who got the final tournament berth by winning a playoff in the Tuesday qualifier, then was co-leader Friday after an opening-round 65, returned to earth. He wound up finishing 36th with weekend rounds of 73-74. McKenzie said the round Sunday was his 13th in 13 days. “I started to get worn out yesterday (Saturday) and today,” said McKenzie, who flew in from Fiji. McKenzie’s next stop is a Tuesday qualifier in Calgary.

Fred Couples, the biggest draw in the tournament, shot a final-round 70. “I never got on a roll,” he said. Couples finished tied for 20th at 208 (72-66-70). It was his lowest finish in six Boeing Classic appearances. When he spotted a sports writer near the scoring tent, Couples asked how the Mariners had done and winced when told that Seattle committed five errors in the first inning of a 10-1 defeat against the Yankees.

• Tournament winner Kelly is among the golfers in the stable of Dr. Harry Sese, the Bellevue chiropractor who operates Golfletica with his wife, Shawn Farmer. Among the PGA Tour golfers who work with Dr. Sese (“The Golfing Doc”) for fitness and flexibility are Jon Rahm, Kevin Chappell and Kyle Stanley.

• Thirty-one golfers in the field of 77 went for green on the par-4, 14th “Canyon Hole.” The result was one eagle and 12 birdies. The gamble of trying to fly the canyon, also resulted in the day’s highest score — a 9 by Lance Ten Broeck. The proclivity of golfers to go for the green was good news at the “Canyon Club” on the 14th hole, where fans got half-price beers during the tournament for the next 10 minutes after a player made a birdie or eagle.

Duffy Waldorf, who sank a 150-yard 8-iron for an eagle on No. 2 Saturday, had a pair of eagles Sunday on par-5 holes No. 15 and 18. He finished tied for 20th at 208 (66-73-69).

• Talk about a turnaround. Scott Verplank shot 81 Friday and then shot 66 Saturday and 65 Sunday.

Billy Andrade can’t seem to catch a break on the fourth hole in the final round. In 2015, he went on to win despite making a triple bogey. Sunday, while getting ready to hit his tee shot, a bee landed on his shoulder. He swatted it away, and asked the gallery if it was gone. He regrouped quickly and came back with a nice tee shot in the fairway.

• The tournament scoring average of 71.13 was the second-lowest in the 13-year history of the event. Dry conditions that enabled drives to roll long distances and well-conditioned greens that rolled well were cited as the main reasons.

• Couples said he expects David Toms, winner of the 2001 PGA Championship, to make a splash on the PGA Tour Champions. Toms turned 50 in January and this is his rookie year on the Tour. He finished tied for sixth at 69-68-67-204. “I’m just shocked that he hasn’t won one,” Couples said. “But when he does win one, I’d go to Vegas and bet he wins the next week.”