Not so long ago ' early last year, actually ' golf was not fun. Stadler was 49, just crossing off the days until he turned 50 in June. He was hitting the ball sideways the last three or four years on the PGA Tour. Once one of the putting wizards, his putting was now just terrible. And golf was merely a way to make a buck or two. He long ago had ceased to enjoy it ' it was simply a means of making a living.
I think everybody will admit, 45-50 and playing the regular tour, you dont really have a whole of fun, said Stads. Youre non-competitive, not nearly as competitive as you used to be. That wears on you after awhile.
Then, on June 2 of last summer, the Champions Tour became a reality. That marked the demarcation point ' one day he was walking around just existing, the next day the light bulb went off.
Last summer I had an absolute ball, the time of my life, Stadler said only a couple of months ago. And that was before his fifth Champions Tour win in the Bank of America Championship Sunday. That was before his son won on the same day. Has a Fathers Day present ever been so sweet?
This is probably the best golfing day I will ever have,'' said Stadler. I don't think individual accomplishments even come close to this. It's incredible.
It was at the Father-Son Tournament last November that Stadler was losing patience with junior. Kevin is 24 now, and at the time he wasnt eligible for the regular tour, or for the Nationwide Tour. He was wallowing around in no-mans land. Advice from dad, perhaps?
Theres been a lot probably given I dont know how much has been heard, said poppa at the time, a deep-throated laugh starting deep within his belly. Pretty much in one ear and out the other. Then I just kind of bagged it for three years. Everything I said kind of set him off a little bit ' which was fine.
And now ' this. Craig could hardly keep up with the business of hand Sunday ' shooting 64 on the final day of a Champions Tour event. His caddie said Stadler was hugely disinterested in his own game. On every tee, Stadler asked for updates from the Nationwide.
I am so happy for him and so proud, said Stadler. He's struggled with his game and struggled trying to find out where to play, but he hung in there and he's worked hard at it.''
Kevin has a place to play now, competing on the Nationwide through the end of next year. And Craig ' well, Craig cant remember life being any more fun.
You know, its nice to be back and be in contention all the time, he said. Its wonderful to be back playing with the guys I started playing with when I first started playing, 10-15 years ago. We are all pretty good friends.
Its a combination of everything ' just being out here, three rounds, hop in the cart and get around a couple of days in pro-ams it all adds up to a pretty good time and Im really enjoying it, said a contented Walrus.
A great life, isnt it, Stads? Its a little bit of golfing heaven.
Yes, he agreed. No kids at home. You play so-so and you make a good check. You play decent and you make an awesome check.
And Ive gotten very used to no cuts very used to waking up Thursday and just kinda, Yeah, Ill play sometime today. I never realized how much I enjoyed three rounds with a no-cut format. Its awesome. You have a schedule and you can play around it. In that regard, its a lot easier that playing the tour.
Tweny-five events on the Champions Tour, five wins. And to think that Stadler didnt enjoy golf only a year or so ago.
I have no regrets being out here, he said. I played 27 years on the PGA Tour ' which is probably six more than I probably wanted to play. I didnt have much fun playing the last 5-6 years.
Now, hes having a ball. And his son seems to be feeling the same, after winning last week and making the cut at the U.S Open. Being a Walrus was never so much fun.
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