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Tom Harding's lost track, but at least he's got a ballpark figure.

"Oh God," he said, with a sight. "I probably tried for the U.S. Open 15 times, I bet, and tried for the Senior Open, this is my second time."

And at long last, Harding will play in a USGA-sanctioned tournament, after qualifying for this year's U.S. Senior Open.

Harding shot a 1-over 72 on May 24 at Orchard Ridge Country Club, and hardly thought he had a chance for the lone spot available that day.

Still, Harding and his caddie — daughter, Priscilla — waited it out, as the best score in the clubhouse. And they waited. And they waited some more — two hours in all, until there were six guys left on the golf course.

Then came a thunderstorm.

"And they were delayed for another hour," Harding said.

When the last player got finally arrived at the last hole, he needed a birdie to tie Harding, but he couldn't do it, and the ticket was his.

After all these years, and a few more hours just for good measure — outlasting a field of 47 at the qualifiers.

So, what kept him going?

"Just passion for golf," he said. "That's my business."

Harding, 53, of South Lyon, is a golf pro The Kendall Academy in Ypsilanti, a former golfer at Michigan State, and a long-time staple on the state scene, having twice been the GAM Player of the Year, and having won the Michigan PGA and Tournament of Champions. He also played twice in the PGA Tour's Buick Open, when it was in Grand Blanc.

But this feat ranks right up there, he said.

"This is a little bit more," he said. "The cherry on top of the cake."

The U.S. Senior Open will be at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass., from June 29 through July 2.

Priscilla, who just finished her freshman year on the Michigan State golf team, will continue caddying for him, by default. His two other daughters will be out of the country. Carolina, who just finished her redshirt freshman season at Michigan State, will be studying abroad in Spain, and his youngest daughter, in high school, will be on a trip to Peru.

Harding's golf career has taken him all over the world, to tours in Canada, Australian and Asia. He tried to get his PGA Tour card 10 times, but never did, finishing in the finals twice.

Birmingham's Kevin Muir also has qualified for the event, as medalist at a qualifier at Dearborn Country Club on May 15. The director of golf at The Wyndgate in Rochester Hills shot a 70. Spring Lake amateur Craig Adams completed a 71 at the same qualifier to earn alternate status.

Harding and Muir are good friends. This will be Muir's second U.S. Senior Open in three years.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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