2006: Champions OK to ride again
By Jeff Babineau
The Champions Tour is all about comebacks, so here’s one: Carts will be back in 2006.
The PGA Tour’s Champions Tour Division Board voted last week to make carts available to players and/or their caddies beginning with the Puerto Vallarta Golf Classic March 31.
Starting in Mexico, 15 of the remaining 23 events on the Champions Tour schedule will allow the use of carts. The exceptions: the tour’s five major championships, as well as competitive rounds at the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, Charles Schwab Cup Championship and the Greater Kansas City Golf Classic. (Going forward, carts also will not be permitted during tournament rounds of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am near Tampa, which was played last month.)
“It’s something that has always been out there, the possibility of players wanting carts back in some capacity,” said Champions Tour commissioner Rick George, reached March 9 on the West Coast.
Carts had been allowed for 25 years, since the inception of the Senior Tour in 1980, but beginning in 2005 their use was prohibited unless a player qualified under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
George has said the removal of carts on the Champions Tour helped enhance the circuit’s competitive image. In an interview with Golfweek last year, he said players walking down the fairway at the same pace as the spectators was something he deemed important, and it looked better on television than the image of competitors who were riding.
George termed a cart ban “the right thing” for the Champions Tour.
The Division Board March 6 voted otherwise.
“We have so many good things going on, we just move forward,” George said March 9. “I think they (the players) got pretty used to it (walking), and I thought it was a good look. But I respect the board’s decision.”
Players will be able to ride in a cart on the front nine, back nine or for the entire 18 holes, and caddies are permitted to drive the cart should a player choose to walk.
The situation with carts was a divisive issue on the Champions Tour in 2005. There were even discussions of a possible lawsuit against the Tour.
“It never was a problem before, but two guys (Rick George and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem) decide that it needs to get changed, and lo and behold, that’s what happened,” Tom Purtzer, one of four player directors on the Champions Tour Division Board, said early last season. “The players don’t want it changed, and don’t see a problem – and that’s a lot of the guys that walk. They don’t want to see it stopping a guy from being able to play out here.”