U.S. Senior Open is pinnacle for Green Mountain club pro Kevin Coombs

His first-round 69 had him among the big names in golf

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For Kevin Coombs, it was the round of his life.

In the same field as major championship winners and Ryder Cup royalty, the Green Mountain Golf Course general manager and club pro more than held his own for 18 holes.

Coombs' 1-under par 69 had him within two strokes of the lead July 11 at the U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, Neb.

Tom Watson, Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Mark O'Meara and Colin Montgomerie were just a few famous names in the tournament won by Kenny Perry on Sunday.

"When I finished, (my wife) found me before I entered the scoring area and gave me a big hug and I was shaking," Coombs wrote on his blog shortly after the round. "When I found … my parents after the round and my dad gave me a hug, I lost it.

Though a second-round 78 doomed Coombs' chances of making the cut, his first round had a few dozen friends, family and co-workers buzzing at a welcome-home reception Monday at Green Mountain.

Buddies from the men's club pored over yardage books from the Omaha Country Club, pointing out green slopes and bunker placements. It was as if they were vicariously plotting how to attack the course Coombs played.

"It's a real uplift for everyone here," said Roger Lewis, a starter at Green Mountain, which is north of Camas. "It's a thrill for those of us who follow his game."

Yet for all the smiles and handshakes Monday, Coombs finds himself torn.

"Being a competitor, I'm more disappointed and contemplative about the 78 than reveling in the joy of the first round, at least right now," Coombs said. "But the 69 was an amazing experience."

That feeling doesn't just arise when Coombs, 50, reflects on the Senior Open. He also finds himself in a dilemma when he looks to the future.

That brief taste of success has whetted Coombs appetite for more. The U.S. Senior Open, for players 50 and older, was the biggest tournament he has played in since a pair of United States Golf Association amateur events in the early 1980s.

But 40 years of competitive golf have taught Coombs to keep realistic expectations.

"Yeah, I think there's a wariness," Coombs said. "You want to set reasonable and obtainable goals. My goal shouldn't be to shoot 69 in Open conditions all the time. But I think I can have an expectation of par or better on the courses we play locally."

There's also his full-time job of running a golf course. To compete consistently with the best in senior golf, Coombs would have to delegate more responsibilities at Green Mountain while he practices and competes more.

"Once we get into the fall, we'll re-evaluate how we'll organize work and life to see how much competitive golf we'll play and what we'll try and obtain," Coombs said. "A lot of staff members that had to cover for me when I'm gone."

The next large event in Coombs' competitive calendar is the Pacific Northwest PGA Senior Championship in September. It's the first step on a road that could lead to the Senior PGA Championship.

Reflecting on his round of 69 in Omaha, Coombs credits "staying in the moment" and his putting. He made four birdie putts of 15 feet or longer.

The second round started promisingly enough with a birdie on the second hole. That's when Coombs says he lost his focus.

"I started thinking 'oh this is really cool.' And then it all went in the tank right after that."

Coombs dropped five shots against par over the next three holes. His 36-hole score of 7-over missed the cut by two shots.

That didn't cloud the trip for Coombs' son Connor, 18.

"I'll just remember that my dad shot a red number in a major," he said. "I remember walking down the stairs into a player area, and Tom Watson was right there. For me, that's when it really hit me that this was a big deal."