2003: NBC commentator Koch ready for full slate of Champions Tour events

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By Mike Mazur

Six-time PGA Tour winner and NBC golf commentator Gary Koch will make his debut this week on the Champions Tour, and he appears ready for a full schedule.

Koch, who turned 50 in November and will compete on the circuit for the first time Feb. 7 at the Royal Caribbean Classic, is playing under the newly created PGA Tour Victory category. The category awards two slots plus a sponsor exemption at each event to players who have won PGA Tour events during their career. Majors are multiplied by three, and the category is good for two years or until a player turns 52.

Koch falls second to Bill Rogers, who counts a major, the 1981 British Open, among his six titles. Andy Bean, an 11-time Tour winner, will supersede both when Bean turns 50 in March, bumping Koch to third.

Koch says he’ll get plenty of playing time, even with his commitments to NBC.

“The plan ideally is to play 18 to 20 events,” said Koch. “Plus, I’ll still do about a dozen telecasts, so it will be a very busy year. I’ll play the first three in Florida and then go back to work for NBC as we do Doral, Honda, Bay Hill, The Players and Atlanta (BellSouth). . . . I’ve talked to a number of the tournaments and they’ve been very positive should I need an exemption later down the line.”

Koch, who lives in Tampa, quietly has been sharpening his game on the Florida Senior Tour.

“It’s provided me with a great way to get tuned up,” said Koch at a recent event in Clermont, Fla. “Most of the events have been within an hour and a half away, so I’ve been able to drive out in the morning, play and go home.”

The Florida Senior circuit is open to players 48 and older, and it has become increasingly popular for players preparing for the Champions Tour. Koch has been competing against players such as Mike Smith, Al Kelley and Delroy Cambridge, who won three European Seniors Tour events last year. Mike Sullivan, a three-time Tour winner, and Brad Bryant, both 48, also have played the mini-tour.

“My biggest concern isn’t necessarily with my golf game,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing pretty well. It’s going to be how I adjust to playing the amount of golf I’m going to play. I haven’t done that in a long, long time. . . but until I get out there and actually do it, it’s hard to say exactly how I’ll do.”

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