On January 4th of 1980, I entered this earth at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. In 2019, I would return to South Bend and so would the US Senior Open. Just think about all of the details over the past 39 years that had to fall into place to align these two events. But honestly, who cares!?! I was here to explore some of the golf in South Bend, cover the US Senior Open and take on the Warren Course at Notre Dame. It was time to Visit South Bend.
My partner in crime for the week was Jake from Visit South Bend. Jake plays to a solid 6 handicap but in terms of a golf sidekick, he is a scratch player. Since Jake and I had decided that we needed to warm up our own swings before watching the professionals, we headed out to nearby Blackthorn Golf Club.
Designed by Michael Hurdzan, Blackthorn Golf Club opened up in 1994 to critical acclaim. Like many of Hurdzan’s designs, it was an instant success. Golf Digest ranked it as the #4 best new public golf course in the country that year.
Considered by many local golfers to be the #1 public golf option in the South Bend area, Jake and I tackled the golf course with enthusiasm.
After finishing the 12th hole at Blackthorn, the golfer is treated to a golf barn ride on the way to the 13th tee box. That’s right! The cart path goes right through an old rustic dairy barn! The golf course property used to be an old farm and the dairy barn has been converted into a golf barn. I would rank it in the top 5 golf barns that I have seen.
When I originally wrote this post, I decided to put these golf barn photos on Twitter to see what other golf barns people enjoy. It turns out that there are many folks that get into a good golf barn. This thread is worth a look if you a golf barn type person.
After managing to break 80 at Blackthorn, it was time to go watch the pros break 70 at Notre Dame’s Warren Course for the US Senior Open. Steve Stricker was the man in charge that day. He grabbed a hold of the early lead with a smoking good 62. He would follow up that 62 with a 64 to move to -14 and threaten the US Senior Open scoring record books. As I would later find out, the course isn’t really that easy.
Convinced that we had actually learned something from the professionals at Notre Dame, Jake and I hit the course early the next morning. This time we were headed to Elbel Park Golf Course. Located right next to the Mud Lake Wetlands, the course was not as muddy as we expected it to be. Instead of mud balls, we found mud birdies.
That afternoon, our group decided to gang up on Jake and beat him badly at golf. There was no real reason why we decided to go after Jake so hard, but it was our stated goal to “make Jake cry.” We threw everything we had at him, but Jake would not budge, he holed clutch par putts and hit fantastic iron shots down the stretch. Not only did he hold onto his wallet but he also defended his golf honor valiantly. That sunny day in South Bend, we did not make Jake cry.
That afternoon, we headed back to The Warren Course for some more Senior Open action.
Going into the final round, Stricker had built himself a 6 shot lead and it looked like Sunday was going to be a victory walk for the 52 year old. Jake and I decided to take a walk of our own around the Eberhart Petro Golf Course in nearby Mishawaka before catching the conclusion of the golf tournament. The golf course opened in 1929 and plays across the mighty St Joe River 4 times.
After another great round of golf at Eberhart, it was time to head back to Notre Dame to catch the final round of the US Senior Open.
After making birdie on the first hole, Stricker opened up a 7 shot lead and never looked back. The victory lap was on and we happily followed along for the ride.
After watching Stricker stroll around the Warren Course like it was a pitch and putt, I figured that I could probably break 80 on this golf course myself. Fortunately, I was going to get the opportunity to try. Playing from the same tees with the same Sunday pins as the pros, could I break 80? I asked this question on Twitter and Instagram. 61% of the audience voted that I could break 80. I knew there would be some disbelievers, so I decided to record every single one of my strokes. In the end, there would only be 77 of them. The video below is for the 61% of you who believed. The other 39% can go fly a kite.
One of the best parts about visiting South Bend, IN is that Chicago is just up the street. Even though South Bend had all of the golf that I needed, a trip up to Chicago is a nice little plus when visiting South Bend. I paid a visit to the Sears Tower and Chicago Golf Club before heading out of town.