Rooting for Kenny
Friday, April 10, 2009
AUGUSTA, Ga. — The first rule of golf writing, and all sports writing, for that matter, is to remain objective and never become a cheerleader for one of the competitors.
So much for that rule.
I want Kenny Perry to win the Masters. At 48, he would be the oldest major championship winner. At 48, he would be the man who defied Father Time. At 48, he would be riding shotgun with the game of a lifetime, the sport that both pros and amateurs can play for most of their lives.
Perry, along with about-to-be senior stars such as Freddie Couples and Tom Lehman, is showing the world why golf is such a remarkable game.
Try playing full-court basketball or tackle football at 48.
Even in tennis, which can be a lifetime activity, pros in their 40s do not challenge younger players for major championships. Golf is exceptional.
With players in their late 40s experiencing so much success on the golf course, it is an appropriate time to examine senior age plateaus in golf.
Originally, the age for senior professionals was 55, but it was reduced to 50 for the U.S. Senior Open when Arnold Palmer was 49 and knocking on the senior door.
Palmer was viewed as the savior of senior professional golf, and that’s exactly what happened. The minimum age for the senior tour was cemented at 50.
While this was happening, the age for senior amateur men remained at 55. Neither the U.S. Golf Association nor anyone else could figure out how to gracefully and equitably reduce the age to 50.
It was a different story for women, though. The USGA declared 50 to be the qualifying age for the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur, and it stayed at 50.
So male and female amateurs operate today with two different senior ages in the eyes of the USGA.
Many state and regional golf associations agree with the USGA, using the age of 55 for senior men and 50 for senior women. However, many others bumped the age for men down to 50.
A survey by Golfweek, conducted two years ago, found that golf associations in the United States were almost evenly split between the senior ages of 55 and 50 for men.
Meanwhile, super senior competition among men has emerged in recent years, causing dissension over what the age should be. Golfweek, which organizes the national senior amateur points schedule, eventually was able to standardize, with one exception, the super senior age at 65.
The World Super Senior Championship remains at 70 and has declined to change.
Lost in the senior shuffle are senior women professionals. The USGA so far has refused to start a U.S. Senior Women’s Open, although independent groups of former LPGA players have used 45 as a minimum age for a handful of senior events.
So different senior plateaus exist at 45, 50, 55, 65 and 70. This may be confusing, but there is one great thing about the senior community: Nobody seems to feel old.
“I feel like I’m about 30,” Perry said.
If yesterday’s 50 is today’s 30, let’s praise golf for its role in allowing golfers to compete for most of their lives. What a great game.
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