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Grad Heads To U.S. Senior Open

Grad Heads To U.S. Senior OpenWhilegolf usually takes a backseat to his dental practice, Dr. GeorgePirie will let his skills on the course take center stage duringthe upcoming PGA Senior Open. Rehobeth,Mass.

Boston [07.28.04] Dr. George Pirie is a periodontist by day, golfer by night - although his schedule doesn't always play out that way. Hitting the links at the crack of dawn, the Tufts graduate practices his swing almost as much as he practices dentistry. This week, with his latest amateur title under his belt, Pirie is about to sink his teeth into a new challenge - the PGA's Senior Open, where he will compete against some of the best senior professional golfers in the world for the national title.

"To me, this is the highlight," Pirie told The Boston Globe after qualifying for his first-ever trip to the Open. "To be able to play with some of the pros in today's game, that's something."

One of the senior tour's most historic and prestigious events, the Senior Open will feature an impressive field of competitors including Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Ben Crenshaw.

In comparison to the event's biggest names, Pirie - often described as one of the best amateur golfers in Rhode Island's history - downplays his talent.

"I'm a better periodontist than I am a golfer," Pirie - who graduated from Tufts School of Dental Medicine - told the Warwick Beacon. "And that's the truth. Golf is golf, but my practice comes first."

With a full schedule of patient visits and oral surgery, Pirie hones his swing at 6 A.M., often hitting golf balls before anyone else shows up at the course.

"It's very difficult, you just have to be very disciplined. You have to be able to take one hat off and put another hat on." he told the Beacon.

While his golf game may take a back seat to his dental practice, it certainly isn't suffering as a result.

"Pirie has gone from wanting to win one title to becoming one of the best players of his generation," reported the Providence Journal.

The 54-year-old golfer - named Rhode Island Golf Association player of the year three times - has racked up dozens of tournament victories around the state. His latest came in July, when he became the oldest golfer to win the Rhode Island Amateur title (his third).

The win - which he sealed with a dramatic birdie putt during a playoff round - was particularly meaningful for Pirie.

"I really wanted to win a third time. That's a special club," Pirie told the Providence Journal. "I'm so glad to have this third one. That's pretty important."

Only an elite group of golfers have ever won the title three times, placing Pirie in the ranks of players he studied while honing his own game.

"I'm a student of the game. I'm big into tradition. I grew up with a lot of those guys you see on that board,' Pirie said, nodding toward the list of other three-time champs. "I knew who they were. That's part of what makes me go. I want to get there with those guys."

The amateur title - which Pirie celebrated with his son (who was his caddy during the tournament) - also secured the Tufts graduate's first-ever berth in the Senior Open, which begins July 29.

While he's usually reluctant to take time off from his dental practice, Pirie will make an exception for the four-day event in St. Louis.

"It will all work out," he told the Globe. "We'll rearrange some things, and I have a great staff. My patients, they know. And they are always behind me."

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