You can play in your 70s, 80s, and I have played with those in their 90s. I dont think there is another sport that can say that.
What he didnt say was that, if you play the Senior Tour, youd best make your lucre from the age of 50 until 54 or 55. Less than a month into this Senior thing, having just turned 50, he won the 3M Championship outside Minneapolis last week. One person he beat was a guy who won just about everything he entered two or three years ago ' Hale Irwin. Irwin, incidentally, is 56 now. Hes good enough to win three or four times a year now, but not the seven he won when he was 53 or the nine he won at 52.
Maybe its not ironic that another rookie, Bobby Wadkins, won two weeks ago in his Senior Tour debut. Both got ready for the Seniors in unusual ways ' Lietzke cut his schedule way back to between 10 and 15 events for the last 10 years, Wadkins joined the Buy.Comers for the past two years. Wadkins wanted to play the shorter Buy.Com courses with the much lower scoring to get ready for 50-and-over golf. Lietzke wanted to spend time with the family during the kids school years.
Both fit the mold of newcomers who should do well. Wadkins never won in more than 700 events on the regular tour, which would signify that he still is hungry when he came out to the Seniors. Lietzke hadnt won since 1994, but even more important was that he hadnt played a full schedule since 1989 ' 12 years ago. So he certainly wasnt burnt out.
Tom Watson is, more than anything, burnt out on playing a full schedule. Tom Kite plays a fairly full schedule, but his putter is too unforgiving to allow him more than two or three wins a season ' max. Lanny Wadkins, Bobbys brother, is too injury-prone. Those three are the big names who have come in the last two years. Each carries some major baggage.
Lietzke, in particular, doesnt. He has looked forward to the Senior Tour for the last decade on the regular tour. He plans to play until he is 60, which should give him about $10 million ' more than enough to retire and live very comfortably in his golden years. Until he reaches 60, though, there should be many, many days like Sunday.
Lietzke has one shot ' the high fade. He doesnt mess around trying to draw the ball, and he surely doesnt care about being known as the consummate ball-striker. He pops it there with gusto, he is at least an average putter with his ever-present broomstick, and then he totals it up. What he comes up with should certainly be sufficient to keep him at the head of the Seniors class for a few years.
Lietzke never has had an instructor except his brother, Duane, who taught him how to play at age 5. He never had an agent ' I wanted to play golf on my own terms, he explained. I did not want outside distractions and offers to distract me from tournament golf. I have never seen an agent help you with an eight-foot putt to win a tournament.
Lietzke won 13 times on the regular tour, four of those coming in one year ' 20 years ago in 1981. However, the rest were pretty well scattered out over a 17-year period, but 1977 and 94. And he almost won again in 1998, at the Bob Hope. He reached a playoff in that one before losing to Fred Couples.
He fits in well with the Allen Doyles, the Doug Tewells and Jim Thorpes and Bruce Fleishers of the Senior Tour, the guys who are winning nowadays. He isnt golfed out. He isnt burned out. He isnt pooped out. Bruce Lietzke will be around quite awhile in the winners circle.