FAIRFIELD, CONN., JULY 9 -- By the time the U.S. Golf Association sent a golf cart out for Charlie Owens in the opening round of the U.S. Senior Open today, it was too late. He already had withdrawn.
Owens, who suffers from a variety of lower body ailments since a 1952 parachuting accident suffered while serving in the army at Fort Bragg, N.C., played in protest of a USGA rule that prohibits the use of carts in a championship tournament.
Owens has a fused left knee and ankle, has had four operations on his right knee and suffers from chronic arthritis in his lower back, his doctors say.
The 57-year-old needed crutches to get up hills on the third, sixth and eighth holes on the Brooklawn Country Club course.
Then, after putting out on the ninth hole, finishing the front nine in 1-over-par 37, he limped slowly to a bench at the 10th tee, took a sip of water and decided to withdraw.
"I went as far as I could go," he said while waiting for a medical cart that was summoned to return him to the clubhouse.
"I wanted to go further, but I was feeling pain everywhere. I knew if I wanted to play next week, I had better quit."
Playing partners Butch Baird and amateur William Hyndman III shook Owens' hand for his effort.
Despite letters from his doctor and four advocacy agencies for the disabled and a telegram from Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), the USGA steadfastly refused to make an exception for Owens.
While expressing sympathy for Owens, the USGA reasoned that it considers walking and stamina integral to the game of golf.
He was followed through his abbreviated round by two emergency medical service technicians as the temperature rose to 87 degrees and the humidity reached 59 percent.
"I'm just not satisfied with the USGA," he said. "I feel this is the worst thing they can do to a senior player, making them walk on a hot day on a course that's all uphill."
Owens bristled at USGA officials for using carts to get themselves around the course.
"If the USGA makes me walk, they should officiate the tournament on foot," he said. "It would give them a taste of their own medicine."
As far as the tournament went, Gordon Jones, little-known after 30 years in professional golf, and Peter Thomson, trying to rebound from a difficult year, shot 5-under-par 66s to take a one-stroke lead after the first round.
Their scores fell one stroke shy of the tournament-record 65 Miller Barber shot in the final round to win in 1982 and tied defending champion Dale Douglass for the Senior Open's lowest opening-round score.
Former NFL quarterback John Brodie was alone at 67, and Chi Chi Rodriguez, Doug Sanders, Larry Mowry and Gene Borek were at 68 after the opening round.
Seven players, including Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, were at 69.
Jones, who is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago, had seven birdies during an eight-hole stretch after falling behind with two bogeys on the first seven.
"I just feel very fortunate to be here walking. I hope I can finish the four rounds," Jones said.
Jones birdied the eighth and ninth holes, parred No. 10 and then strung together five straight birdies to take an early lead.
His 30 on the back nine tied a Senior Open record set in 1985 by Richard King.
A 55-year-old former Korean War pilot, Jones has $240,847 in earnings but no victories in a professional career that began in 1957.