Wednesday, April 22, 2009
He isn’t where he could be. But he is where he wants to be. Of that, Michael Allen is certain.
“It’s always been my goal to win out here, and it’s still my goal,” Allen said during the course of his 332nd PGA Tour tournament, last week’s Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. It was the latest stop on a long and patient road for a man who started this all in a most improbable way – as a 29-year-old rookie in 1988.
If that strikes you as a bit unconventional, welcome to Allen’s pro golf odyssey, which began only after he rejected thoughts of being a stockbroker. Along the way there has been a stirring Scottish Open victory over the likes of Jose Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam, a two-year interruption as he settled into a job as assistant pro at Winged Foot, six-plus seasons and 127 Nationwide Tour tournaments and an unyielding passion to be a PGA Tour member.
Need proof? Consider those 13 trips to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, nine of which have been successful.
Oh, yeah, he’s where he wants to be, which gets to the heart of why he isn’t chasing the Champions Tour, even though he turned 50 Jan. 31.
“I haven’t accomplished what I want to out here,” Allen said. “Every week, I tee it up with that as my goal.”
As his 12th year on the PGA Tour wound down in 2008, Allen knew as a 49-year-old what was on deck – the 54-hole, no-cut world of the Champions Tour. But he also knew that that Champions Tour is the ultimate closed shop, a landscape where the unheralded and unknown are rarely made to feel welcomed. Because he wasn’t a PGA Tour winner or didn’t rank high enough on the career money list, it didn’t matter that he had more than 300 tournaments on his resume. Allen’s road to the Champions Tour was via the qualifying tournament where only five graduate from a field of 50,000 – or so it seems.
Allen studied the logistics and decided he was better off where he was.
“I had kept my card out here (on the PGA Tour, by finishing 106th on the money list) for one more year. I like it out here, I feel comfortable, and I feel like I’m playing better than ever, that I can still compete.”
Allen surpassed $1 million in a season for the first time in 2007 and last year placed in the top 10 twice in four weeks down the stretch to finish within the top 125 on the money list. Proof, perhaps, that indeed he is where he belongs, but Allen always has been aware of his surroundings, so he knows that the Champions Tour certainly is on the horizon.
He’ll get a taste of it May 21 when he tees it up in the Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury CC.
“The PGA (of America) offered me an invitation. It was awfully nice of them,” Allen said. “I’m looking forward to it.” And later this year? Allen said he’d probably go to Champions Tour Q-School.
But until then, “I’ll see how it goes.”
Knowing Allen, it will go passionately.
• • •
Verizon provides the capital, but you could say that ownership of the Verizon Heritage belongs to as passionate a group of volunteers that the PGA Tour is blessed with.
Just consider the way in which they answered the call from tournament director Steve Wilmot when a last-minute courtesy-car deal was struck with BMW.
“We needed 150 people to drive to their plant in Greer (S.C.),” said Wilmot, whose tournament’s courtesy-car deal with Cadillac was terminated in February. “We got 500 volunteers, just like that.”
Tournament officials rented six buses and had 300 box lunches made for the 150 volunteers who made the four-hour bus ride, then the four-hour ride back with the cars.
Oh, and with the tournament over, those cars have to get back to Greer. Care to guess who’ll take care of that chore?
One can only hope that players think of things like this when they cash those outrageous checks.