Achenbach: At Q-School, age is just a number

Tommy Armour III, 52, was insulted when somebody asked him early in the week what he was doing at this Q-School.

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Here at PGA Tour Q-School, 50 may not be the new 30, but golf’s age equation continues to evolve. Golf careers are being stretched beyond historical boundaries. Many golfers are maintaining their skills well into their 40s and 50s.

Some vital statistics from among the 29 qualifiers at PGA West:

• 4 were 45 or older;

• 13 were in their 40s or 30s;

• 4 were younger than 25.

Huh?

Good guess. The youngest qualifier was 21-year-old John Huh, while the oldest were Scott Dunlap and Marco Dawson at 48.

Just look at what is happening around the world in professional golf.

Greg Norman, then 53, led the 2008 British Open by one stroke after 63 holes. Ultimately he tied for third.

Tom Watson, 59 at the time, lost a playoff at the 2009 British Open. His achievement was not only an inspiration but also a signal of things to come. At the 2011 British Open, Darren Clarke, just a few weeks shy of his 43rd birthday, was unstoppable.

Looking back three decades, some commentators were saying Jack Nicklaus would never win again. In 1980, at 40, Nicklaus captured both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. That fueled the age debate and forced observers to redefine the age ceiling. Nicklaus, of course, won the 1986 Masters at 46.

Ray Floyd, then 47, lost a layoff to Nick Faldo in the 1990 Masters. At the end of that season, the 48-year-old Floyd was ranked 14th in the world.

If Nicklaus and Floyd opened the door, Norman and Watson kicked it down.

Today more golfers in their 40s and even their 50s are confident enough to talk about winning on the PGA Tour and PGA European Tour.

Dunlap, who will turn 49 next August, was the oldest player to make it through this Q-School. He may not be a household name, but he has played in 184 PGA Tour events.

Although he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour, he did tie for third in three separate tournaments. Furthermore, he has won titles around the world -- Peru Open, Argentine Open, Manitoba Open, South Africa Masters, Canadian Masters.

Playing on the Nationwide Tour in 2011, Dunlap posted a 60 in the Midwest Classic Presented by Time Warner Cable. He had a 66 in the same tournament, although his other two rounds were 71 and 73.

There is one word that isn’t used much in golf any more -- old. That’s because age is a subject in transition. Tommy Armour III, 52, was insulted when somebody asked him early in the week what he was doing at this Q-School.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could make it through,” he said.

He didn’t make it, but it’s clear seasoned players are using their knowledge and experience to prolong their careers.

Golf, the game of forever.

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