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Whither T.C. Chen?
Not much has been heard from T.C. Chen in recent years. Of course, the native of Taiwan - now 53 - is best known for his double-hit chip shot on the fifth hole in the final round that led to a quadruple-bogey eight and an eventual one-stroke loss to Andy North in the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
But also in that very same championship Chen became the first player in U.S. Open history to make a double-eagle after holing out from 256 yards on the par-5 second hole in the first round, a score that led to a 65 and helped propel him to the 36- and 54-hole leads that year. And Chen almost tied North on the 72nd hole, but his chip shot, ironically, missed by an inch.
He played on the PGA Tour for 10 years - winning the 1987 Los Angeles Open for his only victory in America - before going back to Asia.
Chen has returned to the Wolverine State for the U.S. Senior Open, which starts Thursday at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion. In mid-June, he earned a spot in the Senior Open after shooting a 70 at Annandale Golf Club in Pasadena, Calif., in sectional qualifying.
Chen met with reporters Tuesday to discuss that fateful U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. He was joined on the podium by his son Jason, who'll be his caddie this week.
MODERATOR: We welcome Mr. T.C. Chen, who is here with his son Jason. Welcome. Mr. Chen is making his U. S. Senior Open debut after qualifying in Pasadena, California. His USGA Championship history includes finishing second in the 1985 U.S. Open right up the street from here at Oakland Hills where he recorded the first double eagle ever in U.S. Open history. Mr. Chen will be playing in the 7:50 a.m. group with Javier Sanchez and Lance Ten Broeck. Welcome. You seem to play very well here in Michigan. Can you talk a little bit about playing in the U.S. Open in 1985 and having played well then and then realizing it's 27 years later, how you're preparing for this week?
T.C. CHEN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is my first time on the Champions Tour, I mean first tournament. So I'm very excited to be here, and you know, I'll just try to enjoy myself this week. And about 1985, you know, I know somebody will ask me about the two chip. The two chip at that time probably bother me a lot for a while, but not anymore right now.
MODERATOR: Is it comforting to have your son here caddying with you this week?
T.C. CHEN: You know, but he carried for me when I qualified in Annandale, in Pasadena, so I made it. So I promised him if I can make qualify and let him carry for me here.
MODERATOR: Any questions for T.C.?
Q. Mr. Chen, can you for some of us in the room that haven't followed your career since Oakland Hills 20 some years ago, can you take us through what you've done in your life in the golfing world over the past 20 years?
T.C. CHEN: Okay. After '85, you know, I'm still playing the U. S. Tour until '90. After '90 I just went to Asian and Japan. I spent most of the time in Japanese Tour until when I turned 50, I just try come over to play again in the senior tour here. But I've been trying for the last three years. Just couldn't get in. It's very tough to get in here, they are so good.
Q. How much do you get to play golf these days, and did you play a lot leading into the qualifying.
T.C. CHEN: You talking about senior qualifying; right?
Q. Well, yeah. When you qualified for this event. Basically are you playing a lot of golf these days?
T.C. CHEN: Oh, yes. I think before 50 probably two I was prepared for the senior tour about two, three years before 50. I am working pretty hard. But the problem, you know, I believe it's 49, before 50 I just got my ligament, I took surgery. So I took about one year and didn't play golf.
Q. Where did you have that surgery? On your wrist?
T.C. CHEN: The ligament, uh huh.
Q. And it says you live in Taiwan or Taipei now?
T.C. CHEN: Yeah.
Q. Do you have a home here as well?
T.C. CHEN: My family live in California. But I still travel. I play most time in Asia and Japan.
Q. Are you enjoying golf still at this age? Are you having fun with golf?
T.C. CHEN: Oh, yes.
Q. I gotta ask you, then, about the double-chip. No, just in general when you look back at that championship, there was so much drama, not just the double chip, but just starting in the first round with the double-eagle. Nobody had ever made an albatross. And you actually set a couple of scoring records leading up to the last round. I mean you played really, really well. What was it about that week that just give you so much, I guess, confidence to play a really hard golf course that well?
T.C. CHEN: I don't know. You know, even the double-eagle, I even not even see the ball went in the hole because the No. 2, it was uphill. And the double hit, I know everybody someone will be asking the double hit today, but when I look when I see think back to '85, without the double hit probably nobody know who I am right now. So maybe double hit making me more famous.
Q. How difficult is the course playing this week?
T.C. CHEN: The course is so great here. But it's tough. Especially the green here, No. 18. I never see the green like that.
Q. Have you gone back to Oakland Hills since the U.S. Open in '85 and would you go back this week or are you interested?
T.C. CHEN: Actually, no. But today maybe this afternoon we are going back there, because we just call maybe my son can tell this.
JASON CHEN: We met a guy who has a friend that's a member in Oakland Hills, and he actually gave us the contact number of that member, and we're planning to make a visit right after this interview.
Q. And why would you want to visit? What is your reason, your desire?
T.C. CHEN: Because my son, he was born in 1988. So '85 he not even know who is T.C. Chen. So now he is just going back to see the double hit No. 3 and double-eagle on No. 2.
Q. Along those same lines, I guess this is for your son. What do you know about that double hit? What have you grown up on and why I mean what is your impression about that?
JASON CHEN: Well, growing up I saw videos, you know, news and media. I even went to Wikipedia to search about my dad. No, you know, what's wrong with that tournament, what went wrong on the last round. And I mean double chip is, you know, everybody knows about it. And I didn't have the chance to I didn't have the privilege to see it, you know. And like you said, like him said, it's what make him more famous, you know. People now knows about the double chip. And it would just be great to be there on the fifth hole to see it.
Q. Are you going to try to take the same shot?
JASON CHEN: Yeah, maybe. But I won't make a double-chip. I don't think so.
T.C. CHEN: It's tough to do it.
Q. I was curious, you talked about the competitiveness of the senior players. When you went through qualifying, did you feel some of the same pressure when you were qualifying that you did back when you played in the U.S. Open or do some of those same memories of playing in competitive golf, was that similar to qualifying for this event?
T.C. CHEN: The qualifying, you're talking about Pasadena or what?
Q. To qualify to be here, and playing then, back in '85 and playing in this qualifier, was there the same pressure or was it different or what kind of feelings were there?
T.C. CHEN: Actually, I don't have that much pressure this week, because this is my first tournament, and actually I don't expect too much. I just try to play my game and try enjoy myself this week and enjoy with my son.
Q. Jason, what is this like for you caddying for your dad this week?
JASON CHEN: I mean it's really awesome because I've only caddied for him in the qualifiers and in some tournaments in Taiwan, but never in this kind of big stage as the U.S. Senior Open. And this is where he 20 some years ago qualified, too, and he almost won the championship. And to be here, maybe have a chance to walk him through four days of tournament, game, it's going to just be awesome to be next to him this year, and maybe even next year, too.
Q. Mr. Chen, there's been some success from folks from Chinese Taipei in professional golf and the U. S. Open, as a matter of fact. Andy Zhang was the lowest the youngest participant in the U.S. Open this year. Do you know him, Andy Zhang? He's a 14 year old.
T.C. CHEN: Oh, the ladies; right?
Q. No. He's a young man who played in the U.S. Open at 14 years old. Do you know him?
T.C. CHEN: From Taiwan?
Q. He's from People's Republic of China. Do you know him?
T.C. CHEN: I don't, no.
Q. And do you have any knowledge or relationship with Shanshan Feng who's been very successful on the LPGA Tour?
T.C. CHEN: I don't know I don't know.
Q. You do not. Okay.
T.C. CHEN: No, I don't.
Q. Forgive me if you've already answered this, but what was the big motivation to qualify for this tournament after all these years and you never competed in this tournament? What made you decide that I really want to try and qualify and be in the U. S. Senior Open?
T.C. CHEN: I always try to qualify the U.S. Senior Open in the last three years. Even the year before, I went to California. I lost you know, I lost my shot and we went to playoff for the I was the first alternate. But I didn't get in. But luckily this year I qualify.
T.C. CHEN: You know, I just try to the reason I try for the qualify here, you know, I just try to get in some tournament if I can play well and just get in to the Champions Tour. That's the most reason I come back.
MODERATOR: Mr.Chen, it's great to have you back in a USGA event. Good luck this week.
T.C. CHEN: Thank you very much.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.