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Local golf: Getting a glimpse of history

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Peter Beames has played golf all around the world, against some of the greatest players of all-time.

So he’s been witness to some amazing shots and incredible rounds during his almost 60 years around the game.

Add one more entry to the Beames bucket list. He recently had a front-row seat to the greatest round in the history of the Champions Tour as well as one of the six top rounds ever recorded in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

Beames, who works and teaches at Ives Hill Country Club, was caddying for his good friend, Champions tour member Jeff Hart, at the En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott on Aug. 15 when he was paired with Kevin Sutherland during the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open. Sutherland, playing in only his third tour event since turning 50 in June, shot a 12-under-par 59, missing out on a record 58 when he bogeyed the last hole.

“It should have been a 55 it was that easy,” said Beames, who has played on tours around the world. “You could tell on the second hole, when he hit a difficult shot over the water and then made a long putt for birdie that it was going to be a special day. Once these great players get on a roll, they can do amazing things. But you never expect anything like that.”

Beames, outfitted in his usual tweed sport coat, tie and Scottish cap, said Sutherland “drove the ball down the middle almost every hole and made just about every putt he looked at. He uses a longer putter and really rolled the ball so well. That’s not a wide-open course by any means, so to hit it that straight all day was incredible.”

Sutherland, whose only PGA Tour win came way back in the 2002 Match Play Championship at LaCosta (Calif.), was an unlikely candidate to join the 59 club. His career low round had been a 62 in the 2010 Canadian Open, and he hadn’t exactly been tearing up courses in the past three months.

But when Sutherland turned the front nine in a remarkable 9-under-par 28, Beames and the growing galleries at En-Joie sensed history was about to be made.

“He didn’t seem really nervous or feel the pressure, until the last hole,” said Beames. “In fact, Kevin was kind of apologetic and kept shrugging his shoulders when he kept making birdies.”

He opened with four straight birdies — two of them longer than 30 feet including No. 2 — then hit a hybrid into the par-5 sixth and made the putt for an eagle.

He then ran off three more birdies, including a bunker shot he holed on No. 7 that hit the pin instead of rolling 10 feet away.

“Those are the things that seem to happen in rounds like that,’’ said Beames. “Every breaks goes your way.”

Sutherland then finished off the front nine with another birdie on par-5 eighth hole and a routine par-4 on No. 9.

“The fans kept coming and you could see them hanging on his every shot,” Beames said. “So when he made pars on 12, 13, and 14, you could sense their frustration.”

Beames said Sutherland. who birdied 10 and 11 to begin his back nine, “did run into some bad luck on 12. His second shot (on the par 5) hit the bunker and rolled back in. He made par, but if it doesn’t go back in the bunker, he’s probably close and has a great shot at eagle.”

Sutherland got back on the birdie train at the par-3 15th, then drove the par-4 16th and two-putted for eagle to reach 13-under. He stuffed his approach to tap-in distance on the par-3 17th and made another birdie.

“That shot on 17, to a back pin under that pressure, was maybe his best shot of the day,” Beames said. “But I knew 18 was a tough driving hole under any circumstances. And if Kevin was going to miss it, it was going to be to the right because of his strong grip.”

Which is exactly what happened. Sutherland pushed his tee shot into some trees right of the fairway. He hit a fine pitch shot to the front fringe, some 40 feet away from a two-putt par and history.

Unfortunately, he was too pumped up and his first putt sailed well past the pin. He couldn’t sink the eight-footer coming back.

“Thank God I didn’t four-putt,” he told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin.

Hart, a journeyman pro whom Beames has known for years, shot a 70 that day. “But it seemed like an 85,” Beames said.

Beames said that playing with Hart, generally acknowledged as one of the really good guys on tour, “probably helped Kevin stay calm. A lot of the great players said if they could play a round, they’d choose Jeff as a partner. They love to hit balls next to him because he is No. 1 on tour in hitting fairways.’’

Asked where the Sutherland round ranks among his many achievements, Beames said, “It’s up there. But meeting, playing and talking to some of the great champions of the game is pretty hard to top. Even this.”

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