Edmond — Jeff Sluman is enjoying his return to Oak Tree National for the 2014 U.S. Senior Open Championship. But the 57-year-old New York native is having difficulty grasping the fact that it’s been 26 years since he won the 1988 PGA Championship, also hosted at Oak Tree National.
“I would have to say that I have probably changed more than the golf course, but I guess it would also be safe to say that both of us have matured. I know I have and it looks like the course has aged gracefully.
Sluman’s unlikely victory in his first visit to Oak Tree National still remains close to his heart because of how it played out.
“America was looking for its next golfing hero, someone to take up the mantle of a world leader like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson. And even though Curtis Strange had won the U.S. Open, there was a widespread fear that the shift of power in the golfing world was shifting toward the Europeans,” Sluman said.
“Not only had they won the past two Ryder Cups, but the ‘foreigners’ had won three of the majors that year, so they were definitely looking for a hero to carry the American hopes onto the golf course,” he added.
There was little reason that Sluman would be considered for such a role in the scorching hot August heat in Oklahoma in 1988. He was hardly an imposing figure, standing at just 5'7" and weighing in at 148 pounds. Despite having played the professional game for eight years, he had yet to win a tournament on the U.S. tour.
But as all American eyes focused on the likes of Paul Azinger, Strange, Fred Couples and Lanny Wadkins, the 30-year-old from Rochester, N.Y., came in from the blindside to shock the world of golf.