By Ryan Buck
He has spent a lifetime on the golf course. Sharon native and well-known area golf professional Denny Dolci has played in and won numerous golf tournaments since he began teeing off at courses across western Pennsylvania and over the border into northeastern Ohio.
“I graduated from Sharon High and went to University of Louisville on a golf scholarship,” said Dolci, who was relaxing after a day spent giving lessons. “I graduated in 1983 and came back to the (Shenango) Valley.”
Upon his return home, he turned his passion into his profession.
“I was an assistant at Sharon and ended up being the head golf professional there. In 2006 or 2007, when Avalon (Golf and Country Club) had taken over there, I moved on. For the last few years I’ve been popping around. I’m teaching now at Avalon and Squaw Creek and at Tam O’Shanter.”
John Kerins, a colleague and co-owner of Tam O’Shanter of Pennsylvania, also noted that his friend is no stranger to spending his winters caddying at the renowned Seminole Golf Club in North Palm Beach, Fla.
When not teaching, Dolci competed in numerous tournaments across the United States.
“I’ve played in the Public Links National Championships,” Dolci said. “I’ve played in three of those and the [Professional Golf Association] Club Pro Championships. I’ve qualified for five of those.”
His next pursuit and the course, however, offer a new proving ground. The U.S. Senior Open is one of five major championships on the Champions Tour.
On June 21, Dolci earned a spot after shooting a four under-par 68 at Valley Brook Country Club in McMurray, Pa., just one of 34 sectional qualifying sites.
He was three shots better than runner-up Roy Vucinich, a U.S. Senior Open veteran, and four better than Oakmont Country Club pro Bob Ford.
“It’s an 18-hole qualifier,” Dolci said. “They have different sites all over the country. It was 42 players for one spot at Valley Brook Country Club.”
Dolci knows little about the United States Golf Association’s first-time host site, Omaha (Neb.) Country Club, but has sought advice from some of his many friends in the game.
Despite his many business trips, Omaha Country Club, a 6,711-yard par-70 layout, has never been a destination.
“I haven’t been that far out into the midwest to play,” Dolci said. “I really haven’t looked at the golf course. Some friends have told me that it’s not tremendously long. I’m sure it’s going to be set pretty difficult with the rough and I’m sure the greens will be pretty slick.”
The event tees off July 11. Until he arrives for practice rounds, Dolci will rely on friends and colleagues to advise him on how to play the course and prepare emotionally.
“I’ve called a lot of friends that have qualified and played before,” he said. “I’ve been picking their brains, asking what their experiences were like, just trying to see what it’s going to be all about.”
He is also relying on fundamentals and a life-long routine for what he can control on the course.
“This week here coming up I’m going to focus a lot on the short game I think — a lot of chipping, bunker play, and work on the putting,” Dolci said. “With a USGA Championship setup, they’re going to make it difficult.
“Pars are a good score in any type of championship like this.”
Some 2,700 professionals and amateurs sought qualification for the U.S. Senior Open. There are 78 Champions Tour professionals, including 12 past winners, who are exempt.