What a week on the PGA Senior Tour at the Toshiba Classic, held at Newport Beach Country Club. This was my first professional event on the Senior Tour since turning 50 earlier this year, and there were some really memorable things about the tournament that stand out.
Since this was my first-ever event on the senior circuit, I’ll always remember what it was like having to Monday qualify to get into the field. With these one-round qualifying events, you’ve got to get over the nerves and realize that par isn’t going to get it done. You need to go low against some really tough competitors who also want to make the field. The 67 I shot in the qualifier was enough to get me into the field for the Friday start of the tournament.
Another reason this event stands out is the really challenging weather that we all faced for all three days of the tournament. If it wasn’t the cold rain on Friday and Saturday, it was the brisk but really windy day on Sunday that made the ball flight and feel for distance somewhat unpredictable. Remaining patient is really key on days like these, and those who let “the wind be your friend” were able to hang in there and do relatively well against the field.
An absolutely huge part of this event that no one in my family will forget is that my 14-year old son, Jake, was on my bag for tournament week. The experience for both of us was one of the best of our lives, and if player-caddy relationships are as important as everyone says, then you can imagine how much fun it was for us to make these three loops together.
Jake met some great folks at the tournament, including many of the players who continue to show you why they are so well-liked by the fans who follow the Champions Tour. They are gracious, full of great stories and love the competition that in many sports would see them long-retired, remembering the good old days. In golf, these guys continue to play well year after year and do a great job polishing their credentials as incredible ambassadors for the game.
I did manage to fight off a really tough back issue that hit me early in Round 1. I was able to get some help in the players fitness trailer on Friday, but Rounds 2 and 3 were challenging enough with the wind and rain without the back, too. But, as with the weather, a player has to fight through the aches and pains with patience and a positive attitude. Otherwise, the mental part of your game can break down, undermining any chance you have to see your shots, feel confidence in your swing and ball-striking, and remain focused for all 18 holes of the tournament…one hole at a time.
Last but not least, I managed to to shoot -3 for the tournament and finish T-12, bunched in there with players such as John Cook, Mark O’Meara, Jeff Sluman and my really good friend, Jay Haas. While Jay and I didn’t get paired during the tournament…maybe next time!
I was pleased to see a nice article in this week’s GolfWorld Monday about my first Champions Tour event. The photo with Jake really made me proud of our achievement together. I also thought I’d include a link to the entire digital magazine in case you are interested in subscribing. It provides Monday coverage of all the tour events that wrapped up on the preceding Sunday. I think you’ll enjoy it.
I’m looking forward to a few more Senior Tour events this year, along with something else I love: teaching professionals and aspiring amateurs how to play their best.