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Elders Knock Kids Off Tour Perch

Editor's Note: This is part of a series of articles highlighting the top stories of 2003. Check back through the end of the year to see the rest of the list.
2003 Stories of the YearThey are certainly older now, the gray has started to creep in, the waist lines have started to get slightly larger. But - so have the victories. The Year of the Veteran was 2003, a golf season in which no less than a 11 different players over 40 years of age have wins.
Would you like to talk about Vijay Singh, Scott Hoch, Fred Couples or Kenny Perry? How about 50-year-old Craig Stadler or 49-year-old Peter Jacobsen? An old warhorse like Bob Tway or John Huston, someone like Kirk Triplett, or relative unknowns like J.L. Lewis or Tommy Armour III? All won this year, and all are old enough to have grandkids.
In fact there are no grandchildren among the bunch, but their children are mostly in the 18-and-above range. And after the Year of the Youngster in 2002, the aging gents took over the spotlight this year.
What happened? Why did these men start winning again, just when conventional wisdom says they should start winding down? If this form holds up, the Champions Tour is about to become much more competitive.
You know, I got to be honest with you - I never think of my age when I tee it up out here, said Jacobsen. I joke about it because people ask about it. I crawled up the hill on 17 there and people were yelling, go Jake. I said, Let me catch my breath. I got a little winded coming up the hill. In fact, I got light-headed screaming at you.
I joke about it. Today when I am playing with Chris Riley, or Aaron Baddeley or Tiger Woods, I'm not thinking about age.
But there are reasons why the over-40 set was dominant this year. It starts with the over-40s themselves. And look at their conditioning. Look at their equipment. And ' well ' look at their wins.
I've worked out more, said Jay Haas, who turned 50 Dec. 2. You can't get a seat in the fitness trailer anymore. Everybody does it - or most everyone, young and old. To me it would be easy for the young guys to do it, but when I was young I didn't, just because I felt like I didn't need to.
But just with the standard of play that's seemingly elevated every year and every week - and what Tiger and the other guys have put out there for us - I think we all believe that that certainly can only help exercising and being more fit. I guess I'm looking six or eight years down the road still trying to be competitive on the Champions Tour.
No one is denying that equipment gets partial credit. These guys find they can rope it 20, 30 yards further with the new-age metals as they could with the old clubs. Putters have improved tremendously when it comes to resisting torque ' or twisting. There is definitely a difference with the balls. It doesnt take just muscle anymore ' EVERYONE hits it a long way, the over-40s as well as the 20s.
I got this new driver, deep-face TaylorMade driver that goes forever, said Perry. The X ball from Titleist goes forever. I know I don't have the same club head speed back when I was 25. There is no way. But I'm able to hit it just as far, or maybe even further. I think that has been a big deal to all of us is equipment.
Sometimes, just seeing the over-40s do well is enough to get the other graybeards playing better. Davis Love III, who is standing firm at 39 years of age, noticed that earlier in the year, and once one of the elders got hot, the others couldnt help but follow.
A guy like Kenny Perry inspires a lot of people, who say, Hey, Kenny's playing good, we can all follow along with him, said Love. And Jay Haas - it's fun to watch a guy like that play good. He's a veteran guy that's a great player. And then obviously you get inspirational ones like Freddie. I guess part of it is just success of the older guys breeds more success for us.
And pride? I think pride enters into it, too, said Jacobsen. It's no surprise. Craig (Stadler) is another one in my age group and I think, Would you look at this guy? If he can do it, I can do it. You can always light the burner and get the fire going again. Sometimes it takes your fellow competitors to do it.
And theres no denying that experience has had a lot to do with it. Thats huge, said Perry.
You can't put a price on experience because you know playing 17 years out here, I know where all of these pins have been. You kind of understand how the golf course is going to play, where they will stick the flagsticks - when they are in those positions you know where to hit the ball.
I have had a lot of putts that are similar. I had this putt I don't know how many times. You get a good feel for the putt and, you know, I'm just not as uptight as I used to be. I'm very relaxed, going out there if I play good great. If I don't fine. Let's find out what's wrong and fix it.
As you get older, says Price, you get smarter, hopefully. You don't make as many mistakes. When you make mistakes on the golf course, you try not to beat yourself.
The older men dont live solely for golf, not at their age. They have a variety of interests, things that dont really involve the younger men. Families are an all-consuming passion, as well as other outside interests
I have more time now, said Nick Price. My life is more my own now. And I certainly dictate, you know, what I want to do in my life.
My family comes first, obviously. And then my golf. But I have such a wonderful balance in my life now and that's thanks to my wife and family, because they don't mind me going away for two weeks at a time. But I'm home an awful lot. It's definitely a great time for me right now.
A little maturity has served Perry very well.
I don't feel as guilty working on my game, he says. I kind of refocused and dedicated myself to the game a little bit. My oldest (daughter) is in college, my other two, I have a senior and sophomore. They're doing real well.
I felt guilty being out here because they always wanted me to come home. It seems like now I am just pushing harder. I'm trying to enjoy what few years I have left out here.
For that reason, says Haas, the over-40 set will always be more comfortable than the 20s and 30s.
I enjoy my time at home more than I used to, I guess, Haas says. But I think just being passionate about the game is probably the most important thing for me. I think this year I have a renewed passion for the game. I keep saying that.
You know, I kind of went out with the idea, I have nothing to lose this year. I'm exempt for the Champions Tour, I don't have to worry about making (the top) 125 (on the money list), what am I going to do the next year and all of that. I just kind of relaxed. I was very relaxed starting off the year. It's just kind of built on itself. I tried to have that same mindset the whole year.
Its that relaxed demeanor that has proved so successful to these middle-aged men. Life is good, the golf is good, and the wins were never better.
Related Links:
  • No. 1: Sorenstam's Season Transcends Wins
  • No. 2: Tiger Goes Majorless in 2003
  • No. 3: What a Year for Watson
  • No. 4: Player of Year Down to the Wire
  • No. 5: Elders Knock Kids Off Tour Perch