Gene Sauers, who in 2011 nearly died from a rare skin disease, parred the 72nd hole on Monday at Scioto Country Club to win the 37th U.S. Senior Open by one shot over Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and PGA Tour Champions rookie Billy Mayfair.
Sauers, 53, looked in trouble after 16 holes when he trailed Jimenez by a shot, but he parred the last two holes — while Jimenez bogeyed them both — to win his first senior major title and the $675,000 winner’s check.
Sauers shot 1-under 69 and third-round leader Jimenez shot 1-over 71. Mayfair (tied for 2nd) shot 3-under 67.
Sauers did not touch a golf club for seven years beginning in 2005, when he gave up golf for three years. After getting sick in 2008 and suffering through Stevens-Johnson syndrome — a serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes — doctors gave him a 25 percent chance to live.
“I told my wife when I was in the hospital that I didn’t think I’m ever coming out,” he said during his victory speech.
He recovered, needing skin grafts, and in 2014 lost his first U.S. Senior Open to Colin Montgomerie in a playoff. This time he pulled it out in a Senior Open that experienced intense heat the first three days, then heavy rains that postponed Sunday’s final round to Monday.