For most people turning 50 and planning retirement, their thoughts turn to winding down, travelling and spending time with the grandchildren. But for some, writes Olivia McMillan, reaching this milestone opens up a whole new career path in, believe it or not … professional sport!
The E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour brings together some of Australia’s best over-50 golfers to compete as professionals for prize money on a golf tour that’s as competitive as those of their younger counterparts.
At any given E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour events, played on some of Australia’s best golf courses, you will see legends of the game such as Peter Senior, Rodger Davis and Peter Fowler, who have 73 international victories between them, competing and displaying their phenomenal golf skills.
But it’s not just the stars you’ve seen compete in British Open and on the world stage that you find on the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour. It’s also your club champion, a member of your pennant team, and talented golfers who have turned 50 and decided to have a go at being a tour professional.
The Legends Tour is full of interesting and talent golfers who have established long and successful careers as builders, accountants, teachers, the list goes on. But as 50 approached their dreams of professional golf resurfaced and the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour provides them a second opportunity of living the lifestyle they dreamt of as children.
Getting on the Legends Tour requires more than turning up and declaring yourself available to play. Hopefuls must compete in Qualifying School, a gruelling three days of tournament condition golf which demonstrates if they are more than just a very good club golfer – it shows who has what it takes to mix it with some of Australia’s biggest names in golf. Each year only a few very lucky competitors sit atop of the leaderboard and earn their place on the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour.
It sounds tough because it is. It’s the first step to preparing graduates for what life is like on tour. While many excellent friendships are formed on the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour the professionals are still fierce competitors and the quality of golf is spectacular. Each player is there to win and earn their cheque.
This year it was 50-year-old Simon Jagot from The Australian Golf Club who claimed honours at Qualifying School with rounds of 76, 70 and 73.
After a successful career in financial markets which included time spent working in New York and London, Jagot decided to give golf his attention.
“It’s a great thing to be able to have a career in business, have golf as a hobby and then turn it into something else and play competitively,” says Jagot.
“I thought about turning Professional when I was about 18 and I was playing off scratch. “But I played with a couple of very good golfers, Brett Ogle and Steve Elkington and I thought they were way better than me so I took another pathway.”
Turning 50 years of age 10 months ago and with his children now adults, the timing was right for Jagot to turn professional.
“I just turned 50 so this is my birthday present to myself,” adds Jagot. “I was thinking about it for the last four or five years but it’s only been in the last 18 months where my game started to get a little better.
“My kids have just finished school so I was able to get out and practice a little bit more and in the last three months of 2013 I really decided to give it ago.”
Not overawed about life on the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour, it was multiple winner Mike Harwood who encouraged Jagot to try his luck.
“I had a practice go at an event in 2012,” says Jagot. “I played in the Senior Victorian Open as an amateur just to see what it was like. “I played with Mike Harwood in the last round and he was great, he encouraged me to come to Tour School and give it ago. “I don’t think it will be intimidating, it seems like a really friendly atmosphere and I am looking forward to playing in a few events.”
Jagot went on to win his first tournament after turning Professional, claiming the David Mercer Senior Legends Classic.
“We’ve got over 230 guys playing regularly on the Tour, and despite our ‘seniors’ status, we’re all still very competitive and want to play as well as we possibly can”
– Rodger Davis
The real beauty of the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour lies in the opportunity it creates for golf fans to interact with the stars of the game. For the majority of its tournaments the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour is played in a pro-am format allowing three amateur golfers of any ability to compete alongside the professionals. Not only do they get to interact with the Legends some will even pick up a few tips for their own game along the way.
According to Rodger Davis this is the soul of the tour and why it is so unique.
“It’s all part of the appeal of the Legends Tour,” says Rodger Davis, Chairman of the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour and a winner of 29 tournaments internationally, including the 2009 Handa Australian Senior Open and seven European Tour titles.
“We’ve got some really popular and successful golfers over 50 playing on this Tour and we’re all here to enjoy the day and share a story or two on the way round. “In recent years the Tour has grown to now include more than 60 tournaments with over AU$1 million in prize money on offer.
“We’ve got over 230 guys playing regularly on the Tour, and despite our ‘seniors’ status, we’re all still very competitive and want to play as well as we possibly can.”
For more information on the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour or to view the schedule, visit www.pga.org.au/pgalegendstour
An international movement
Over 50’s professional golf isn’t unique to Australia. In the US they have the Champions Tour and in Europe they have the European Seniors Tour.
In the US in any given week you will see players like Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Mark Calcavecchia competing for more than US$1million dollars. The quality of golf on that Tour rivals that of their younger counterparts. In fact you still see players like those previously mentioned teeing it up on the PGA Tour as well.
At the first major of the year, The Masters, where Adam Scott was defending and the big hitting American Bubba Watson won, we saw Fred Couples in the mix. In fact since turning 50 in 2009 Fred Couples has finished inside the top-25 every year at The Masters which assembles the best players in the world. This year he wasn’t the only player flying the flag for the over-50’s. Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, labelled the most interesting man in golf, finished fourth and the following week teed up in his first Champions Tour event.
Australia is well represented on the Champions Tour with Peter Senior being one of the most consistent players. Having never competed on the PGA Tour in the US most golf fans are unaware of Senior’s impressive credentials. During his career he has recorded victories on the European Tour, Japan Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and European Seniors Tour, most recently defeating his younger competitors to win the 2012 Emirates Australian Open on the PGA Tour of Australasia. Joining Senior is a man that needs little introduction in Australia or the world stage, Steve Elkington. While neither have had their breakthrough win on the Champions Tour it surely isn’t far away.
Over in Europe Australia is also well represented on the European Seniors Tour. Our marquee, Peter Fowler had a career year on the Tour in 2011, winning twice and taking out the Order of Merit as the player to have earned the most money on the Tour in that year.
Just like the regular tours the Seniors Tour require a player’s golf game to be as sharp as ever but it’s also important for them to be physically fit. There is no better example than Peter Fowler who most mornings you will find in the gym working on his strength and core stability and flexibility, all important attributes for a player who wants to remain competitive.
“Just like the regular tours the Seniors Tour requires players golf game to be as sharp as ever but it’s also important for them to be physically fit. ”
To be successful on the E-Z-GO PGA Legends Tour, at your club championship or even in just a fun round with your friends it is key that you master your putting.
PGA Professional Nick Bielawski details an activity below that will improve your green reading and ball control on the greens from a variety of distances and angles.
You will need your putter, three or more balls and four tees.
Using the tees create a square in the middle of the green or in an area that you can putt to from multiple directions. Place the tees 1.5m apart.
Find a straight uphill putt to begin from five metres away. Hit three consecutive putts aiming to stop each ball inside the box. As a reminder the length of a putt is controlled by the swing size.
When you have successfully completed the uphill putt continue the exercise on a downhill putt.
After completing the downhill putt, perform the same activity on the side hill putts.
Move around the green putting from five metres away on a variety of different breaks.
Perform the same activity from a longer distance, putting from as long as your practice green will allow. This may mean you are practicing from 20 metres or more.
There are several options to make this activity more difficult:
- Increase the length of the putt
- Select putts that are more undulating
- Increase the amount of balls to putt into the target area
- Reduce the size of the square you are putting into.
For any level of golfer, controlling the speed on putts is critical. Practice this activity regularly and you’ll notice the improvement in your medium and long putting.
For more golf tips from PGA Professionals please visit www.findapgapro.com.au[related_ad category=”998″ max_size=”3″ title=”Related Offers”] [related_ad category=”8″ max_size=”3″ title=”Related Stories”]