Thats the great thing about golf, said Fuzzy Zoeller, who turned 50 last November. As an older player, you get to have some place to go.
He joins Ben Crenshaw, Mark McCumber and Tom Purtzer among the group that have recently had their 50th birthday. Among those who will turn 50 and become eligible to join the Senior Tour in 2002 are Wayne Levi (Feb. 22), Dave Barr (March 1), Dan Halldorson (April 2), Bill Kratzert (June 29), Mark Lye (Nov. 13) and Gary Koch (Nov. 21).
Im geared up and ready to move on, said Purtzer. I see a lot of first-year players doing well, and I just hope I can join them.
One of the reasons why they do well, I think, is that they come refreshed more mentally than physically. Weve got a good group of new players like Fuzzy and Ben. It should be a lot of fun, and Im looking forward to it.
Its quite a step from the regular tour to the Seniors. Some of those days will be missed, but the passage is eagerly anticipated by those who cross over.
Im going to miss those young guys, Zoeller admits. They keep your mind young, but Im going to enjoy the Senior Tour.
Crenshaw is the biggest name to come on board. He won 19 times as a junior, though the last was in 1995. Included in the victory total was a pair of Masters titles. Crenshaw is renowned as one of the games best putters, an attribute that should serve him well as a Senior. He was the U.S. Ryder Cup captain in 1999 and never quite recovered his golf game through that experience. His driver, once one of the longest in the game, got progressively shorter and more off-line. But his putter should make up for all those ills as he challenges the older set.
McCumber has 10 victories on the regular tour, including a three-win season in 1994. Included in that total were victories in The Players Championship and the Tour Championship.
Im ready to have some fun, though, said McCumber. This is a great opportunity to play again.
McCumber was greatly slowed in recent years by injuries. Rotator cuffs in his shoulder, a nerve problem which manifest itself in pain throughout the neck, hand and leg problems ' all have been put behind him as he tees it up this year on the Senior Tour.
Zoeller was also victorious 10 times on the PGA Tour, though the last time was a three-win season in 1986. He won a Masters and a U.S. Open along the way. In 1994, he finished runnerup five times, establishing a then-Tour record of most money won without a victory.
Zoeller has been plagued throughout his career with various back injuries which greatly reduced the time he could practice his putting. Therefore, that is the one area of his game which has never matched his iron play and his driving. He enjoys the give-and-take with the fans and should be hugely popular from the first time out.
Its going to take a little work, but the Senior Tour should be fine in a couple of years, he joked. I think (the new policy changes) probably should have started at the very beginning. It was designed to be a laid-back tour.
Levi won 12 times on the junior circuit, four times in 1990 when he cashed the last time. He has been largely inactive the last four seasons due to back injuries and isnt sure how many events he will enter as a Senior.
Koch won six times with the last coming in 1988. Purtzer has five wins, the last in 1991. Kratzert won four times (84 the last), Barr has won twice, and Lye and Hallderson once each.