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O’ahu-based Pro Strokes His Way to the Big Show

Dave Eichelberger won four PGA Tour and Six Champions Tour Titles, including the 1999 U.S. Senior Open. His victory in September’s Aloha Section PGA Professional Championship was still a little surprising, as it’s not every 67-year-old who shoots his age in the final round to win a tournament. What made it extraordinary is one of the perks: a spot in the 2011 Sony Open, where Eichelberger will be the oldest man to compete on the regular PGA Tour since 77-year-old Jerry Barber played in the 1994 Buick Invitational of California. HILuxury caught up with Eichelberger, a member and teaching pro at Oahu Country Club, a few weeks after his historic triumph.

HIluxury: Were you aware of the Sony open exemption that went with winning the Aloha Section PGA?

DE: Oh, yeah! But I didn’t consider it until there were about four holes to go and I thought I might have a chance to win. It wasn’t something I was thinking about all the way.

HIluxury: Were you nervous coming down the stretch?

DE: I was definitely more nervous than usual, especially after I made a birdie at 17 and thought I might really have a chance. I played rather conservatively on the last hole to make a par – I didn’t know exactly where I stood, but I didn’t want to do anything to give it away.

HIluxury: What was your first reaction to learning you’d won? DE: I thought, ‘What am I gonna do now?’ To get out and compete with the best in the world, that will be a pretty thorough test of my golf skills at this point.

HIluxury: And what are you going to do now? Any special preparations?

DE: Not really. I’ll do what I always do. I’m fortunate in that I’m a member of [Sony Open host] Waialae Country Club and play there two or three times a week anyhow. I’ll just have to start playing from the back tees – I’ve been playing from the white tees 90 percent of the time.

HIluxury: You’ve certainly got home-field advantage.

DE: There could not be a better event for me to play on Tour. Waialae is as much in my favor as you could hope. It’s not long by Tour standards, it’s flat and it’s generally pretty dry. The kind of ball I hit these days, I can get it out there about 280 yards, including 50 yards of roll. There are six to eight holes where those guys will be hitting 2-irons and laying up at the dogleg. I can hit driver where they’re hitting 2-iron-maybe.

HIluxury: What are your goals for the tournament?

DE: My goal is to play as well as I can. I don’t have any grand visions of a great finish. I hope to have my game as good as I can get it, then hope for four good days with a hot putter.

HIluxury: four good days? So you’re thinking about making the cut.

DE: Michelle Wie shot even par for two days and missed it by one shot [in 2004]. Making the cut is definitely a goal. There are lots of goals, starting with getting it in the fairway on the first hole.

HIluxury: Where does this rank among your career accomplishments?

DE: I’m not sure, but it’s something I’m excited about. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of exciting things happen in my golf career. Teeing it up in The Masters and the U.S. Open, those always got the adrenaline going, not to mention some of the tournaments you actually won. That will get your heart going pretty good. I’m expecting this to be an occasion something like that.