LA QUINTA, Calif. – Starter Gary Rich greeted Vijay Singh appropriately at the first tee of the Arnold Palmer Private Course at PGA West during the second round of the Golf Channel Am Tour senior national championships.
“Thank you for taking time off from your tour to play with us today,” Rich said.
“I’m going for the cheap money,” Singh said, not missing a beat.
Singh, 58, from Valley Stream, N.Y., is used to such banter. Every golf fan certainly recognizes his name. The other Vijay Singh, 52, is a former world No. 1 from Fiji who has 34 career victories on the PGA Tour and made nearly $70 million in earnings.
“I get grief all the time,” he said. “I’m older than him, so I had the name first. He stole it from me.”
Singh, the amateur, is competing in the Senior Sarazen flight (for handicaps 12.0-15.9) at nationals, which began Friday and conclude Monday when champions will be crowned in six different flights after four rounds on four courses at PGA West. Singh said fellow golfers on the Golf Channel Am Tour always want to beat him because of his name.
"Guys tease him all the time," Am Tour golfer Readus Smith said.
Singh, the professional golfer who lives in Florida, hasn’t played since The Barclays at the end of August, the end of his run in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He hasn’t won on Tour since 2008, although he continues to make plenty of cuts and cash.
“I look up to him, Tiger and Phil,” said the amateur Singh. “If you ask me, Vijay hits from the wrong side of the ball.”
Singh, a lefty, has only been playing golf for about six years. A co-worker recruited him to the Golf Channel Am Tour in 2011. Singh quickly fell for the game. He watched his more famous namesake at The Barclays a couple years ago, following him for a couple of holes. He even has a swing analysis video with Singh’s golf swing juxtaposed against his.
Singh is proud that he’s moved up several flights since he started playing the Golf Channel Am Tour. He grew up playing cricket in Guyana, the third-smallest country on the continent of South America. “There are some similarities in how you hit the ball,” he said. “I try to apply what I’ve learned (about golf) from my co-workers.”
Singh has performed well on the Am Tour. He kicked off the 2015 season with a win in the Puerto Rico Amateur and followed it up by taking the tournament at The Vineyards in May. He came into nationals hot, finishing the regular season with a tie for second and another second place before consecutive wins at Tallgrass Golf Club and The Golf Club at Middle Bay in July. He placed second at the Tour Championship at Cherry Creek.
“I love this game,” he said.
Spoken like a true Vijay Singh.