Constellation Senior Players Championship notebook: Lehman won't let one putt turn smile to frown

Roughly 5 feet of green separated Tom Lehman from a birdie at the 18th hole in the opening round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship at the Fox Chapel Golf Club. Had he made the putt, he would have finished his round Thursday at 4 under, two shots off the lead.

Instead, the ball failed to break right, and Lehman's day ended with a 3-under 67. It was a missed opportunity, but one he could brush off easily.

"I misread it. I hit a good putt, I thought it was going to for sure break right, and it started to, then it just stopped and went straight at the end," Lehman said shortly after finishing his round.

"Putts like that, I made a mistake and I left it above the hole. It's a lot tougher to make the downhill putts, because they're so quick, than the uphill ones, so I don't look at that as a real big deal."

Lehman, 55, had good reason to smile. Not only was he three shots off the lead, but he also was coming off a win in the Encompass Championship -- his first on the Champions Tour since the Schwab Cup championship at the end of the 2012 season. Making it sweeter, he said, was finding out that close friend and former pupil Kevin Streelman closed with a PGA Tour-record seven consecutive birdies to win the Travelers Championship the same day.

"I was really happy that we won on the same day; that was really quite cool," Lehman said. "He's a remarkable guy, he really is a quality, amazing person, so anytime anybody mentions my name in the same sentence as Kevin Streelman I feel like I'm doing pretty good."

Lehman and Streelman participated in "The Mentor Project," a 2011 documentary series that paired PGA Tour legends with up-and-coming golfers to form mentoring relationships. Both live in Scottsdale, Ariz., and connected through mutual friends and attending the same Bible study.

What Lehman tried to teach Streelman was to strive to perform at his maximum potential while still maintaining a humble, Christian mindset.

"What I wanted him to recognize was just how good he is, and to not be satisfied with him being less than his best," he said. "It's possible to be a great person and still be competitive."

After seeing such mentoring pay off, Lehman will be teaching again after the Senior Players Championship ends. The 1996 British Open champion plans to miss that event for the first time since the birth of his son in 1995. Instead, he will watch his two sons compete in a youth tournament.

While he hasn't had many opportunities to watch them compete, Lehman looks forward to helping improve their game, especially that of his older son, Thomas.

"I want to see it, I need to see it because I know I can help him manage his game and eliminate some of the biggest mistakes," he said. "I think that's what he needs, somebody to kind of help him work through the course-management part of golf."

Jourdon LaBarber: and Twitter @jourdonlabarber.

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