When I turned pro two years ago, at 46, I had an eye on the Senior tour, which I'll be eligible for in June 1998. Little did I know I would wind up spending two years on the regular Tour competing against guys young enough to be my kids.
I'd had a long and successful career as an amateur, winning five events, including the Porter Cup and the Cardinal Amateur, in 1992. I also represented the U.S. in the World Team Amateur three times as well as on three Walker Cup teams. Still, I knew the pro game was a different animal and that if I was to be competitive on the Senior tour, I would need to improve my game on the Nike tour. But when I got out there, in 1995, I finished second in winnings and earned the right to play with the big boys in '96. I did O.K., ending up 140th on the money list last year, and although I lost my Tour card, I got it back for 1997 by being co-medalist at Q school last December.
Most of the places we play, reporters treat me as a novelty. They seem especially interested in my primary source of income before I joined the Tour (I own a driving range in LaGrange, Ga., my hometown) and my form (I was a hockey player growing up in Massachusetts, and my swing has a little slap shot in it). And then there are the travel stories. Last year I got lost half a dozen times going from the airport to the hotel or golf course—the tournaments never send directions. I guess they assume you've been there before.
But now that I'm out here, I want to prove that I'm more than just an interesting story. I want to prove that I belong. Yes, I picked an odd time to set that sort of goal—how many athletes in their late 40s feel there's still a lot left to accomplish? And as you might have guessed, I'm not as long as most of the guys out here (I give up 70 yards to Tiger Woods off the tee). But I'm straighter, and outside of the top tier of great golfers, I know I can play with them. For example, I had a better stroke average than 40 of the guys ahead of me on the '96 money list.
More important, if I can hang in there week after week with the best golfers in the world—and I think I can—I'll be one of those rare individuals who can't wait to turn 50, even if it means getting calls from the AARP.