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WINDSOR — A slight breeze blew as Tim Bogue, 50, lined up his chip shot Wednesday morning. The faint sound of the occasional vehicle buzzing down Windsor Road was the only noise as he struck ball after ball, lofting every one to almost the exact spot as the last.

Bogue is a longshoreman by trade, but he’s a golfer at heart. And he’s a good one.

He’s spent years arranging his work schedule, and his life, around trying to make a go of it in golf. He regularly wins money on what he calls the “mini tour.” He’s made $20,000 some years. But the big prize has always alluded him.

For years he wanted to make the PGA Tour, and he’s gone after a spot in the U.S. Open.

“I tried it, I don’t know, seven or 10 times over the last 20 years,” he said. “I made it to the sectionals four or five times but never really got close.”

Maybe it was turning 50 in April, making him eligible play on the PGA Tour of Champions, which used to be known as the Senior Tour, or maybe it was all of those hours on the driving range he built on his family’s property in Windsor. Or maybe it was that 6-foot putt at the Diablo Country Club in Danville last month.

Bogue sank his putt on the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff and his rival at the moment, Jeff Wilson, missed a 4-footer. And with that, Bogue booked his ticket to the U.S. Senior Open Championship in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 28- July 1.

Play well there and he’s got a chance to make the Champions Tour.

“This is the biggest that I’ve ever played in, for sure,” he said.

But that was not what he was thinking when Wilson’s putt rolled past the hole.

“I’m not celebrating at all,” he said. “I’m still perturbed for what happened on 17 and 18.”

Turns out that Bogue was rolling into the final two holes of the sectional tournament in great shape. He was 2 under. The leader, who had already played 18, finished 2 under. The two guys behind Bogue were at par. The top two players would make the cut.

But Bogue didn’t know the full story. He didn’t know that his two nearest competitors were at par. And he didn’t ask. Bogue thought that he had to be 2 under to be in the mix. So when he bogeyed 17, then did it again on 18, he thought he was done. Close but not close enough. Again.

He was kicking himself.

But it turns out that his par finish was still good enough to earn a spot in a three-man, sudden-death playoff. Still, it took him five holes to vanquish two talented veterans.

But maybe that experience will serve him when he travels to the high altitude of Colorado Springs and plays against the most talented golfers he’s ever faced. Playing well at the Senior Open could write Bogue’s ticket onto the senior tour.

“I would like to play on the Champions Tour. That is the goal,” he said.

The names on the tour are familiar: Tom Lehman, Vijay Singh and David Toms. The recent winners of the U.S. Senior Open Championship are familiar, too: Bernhard Langer, Fred Funk, Kenny Perry and Colin Montgomerie have all won it. Langer is the current tour money leader with $977,500.

WESTERN STATES 100

The race begins at 5 a.m. Saturday. To follow Bob Shebest or any runner, log onto www.wser.com.

But if Bogue is intimidated, he doesn’t let on. He is committed. He wants a return on his investment.

“When I go out on the golf course and play tournaments, I treat it like a job,” he said. “I’m not out there carefree. I need to do good. I need to make money to make it worth my while to not be going to work. I do have fun now, but I’m still pretty serious.”

A longshoreman like his dad, Bogue works mostly out of Oakland. He operates machinery that is used to load and unload hundreds of thousands of pounds of material a day.

He’s been at it nearly two decades, so he is senior enough to adjust his spring and summer work week to make room for golf.

Most pros are regulars at country clubs. Bogue goes that route — he lives a stone’s throw from Windsor Golf Club — but he goes one further. He created a driving range in his yard.

A buddy got him some turf, a mix of Kentucky Rye and Bermuda grass. Bogue scraped away the rough dirt and brought in a load of decent soil.

“Then I brought my car and rode over it, rode over it. Then I raked it again,” he said.

Flowers bloom out of half wine barrels and the tee box is shaded by a towering tree. A homemade bench sits along the back border. Buckets of balls sit under the tree. His golden retriever Finn chases his divots.

He can let it ride to the tune of about 185 yards. He installed a steel water barrel as a target. But on Wednesday he just hit soft chip shots. One after another, all exactly the same.

“It’s kind of like my sanctuary,” he said.

Golf has been there for Bogue.

He had played the game as a young man but wasn’t serious about it.

“I played a little bit but that was just drinking beers and driving the cart,” he said.

His dad bought a family membership to the Windsor Golf Club when it opened in 1989. After playing baseball for the Healdsburg High Hounds and then for the Bear Cubs at Santa Rosa Junior College, Bogue found he had a feel for golf, too.

“People started saying, ‘Man you could be good,’” he said.

Balancing his work as a longshoreman and a young family, he had success. But fallout from his divorce in the early aughts derailed him.

“It was just sad,” he said of that period. “I thought I was playing for my family ... and then all of a sudden my family is kind of screwed up.”

He didn’t touch a club for five years, he said.

“For five years I didn’t even play,” he said. “Zero.”

Finally, some cajoling from friends got him back on the course.

“Some friends were playing in a fun Monday night league,” he said. “Time just healed stuff.”

But that time didn’t do wonders for his game. At least not at first.

“I went through not being super great,” he said. “But it was OK and I was playing with my buddies.”

But his game came back. So did the wins and the money that comes with victory.

His focus is not casual. It can’t be — he has adjusted his life, his income and his career to give his dream a chance.

“I don’t go to work as much as I should so I need to make money on the golf course,” he said. “It is fun golfing, it’s beautiful to be out there, but the life out there isn’t as great as some people think. If you are not playing good, it’s a grind.”

He plays Windsor probably twice a week. He goes to Bennett Valley in Santa Rosa once in a while. He travels to tournaments. And he hits balls in his backyard.

The U.S. Senior Open represents his best shot at making the Champions Tour. There is pressure in that. But there is excitement, too.

He’s heading to Colorado early in the hopes he can get a practice round or two, perhaps with one of the tournament’s bigger names. He wants to experience that but he also wants to get it out of his system.

“I’m hoping to play with a few guys that would be nerve wracking so on Thursday I’m not as nervous,” he said.

“The beautiful thing about golf is it’s not like you need to be seen by a scout,” he said. “In golf, you sign up for a tournament and if you do good, you do good.”

His good has never been quite good enough to move up.

“I have made it kind of far sometimes, but I’ve never made that next step,” he said.

In all of his years, he has never been this close to the next step. He’s hoping the import of the moment will help him finish well at The Broadmoor.

“I’m going there to have fun,” he said. “I’m going there for the experience but also to play great.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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