Oft-injured Glasson contending at Senior PGA

Bill Glasson at the 2005 Reno-Tahoe Open.

Bill Glasson at the 2005 Reno-Tahoe Open.

PARKER, Colo. – Next to the champion, there’s no question who the most satisfied player is at this week’s 71st Senior PGA Championship at Colorado Golf Club. The hands-down winner of that honor is Bill Glasson.

You remember him, don’t you? Led the PGA Tour in driving distance in his rookie season (1984), rang up seven wins in his career, 65 top 10s and earnings of $6.9 million.

But he also had a career filled with injuries that have required 25 surgeries, including recent back and neck fusions that had him laid up for the better part of two years.

“It’s awesome just to be hitting the ball again,” Glasson said Saturday after a third-round 70 put him inside the top 10 at the Senior PGA and, perhaps stunningly, within reach of third-round leaders Jay Don Blake and Tom Lehman; Glasson and three others are four strokes back. “When you’re laying on your back, staring at the ceiling for two years, this is a personal accomplishment for me. Walking onto the first tee is something for me.”

As he waited to turn 50, Glasson’s golf career had been put on hold. He hadn’t recorded a top-10 finish since 2004. In 2007, the last year he played tournaments of any kind, he cashed one check for $1,463 in 14 starts.

So it was with great anticipation that he turned 50 a month ago. Two weeks later he was teeing it up at the Regions Charity Classic in Alabama, where his 8-under-par total earned him $10,767 – more than he’d won in the previous five years combined.

His latest surgery was as recent as last Thanksgiving, so even as Champions Tour eligibility approached, there were no guarantees he’d be up to the task. There still aren’t.

“I’m week to week,” he said. “I hope to play 12 (events) this year, but because I got off to such a late start, my schedule will be so condensed. This golf course itself is so brutal, I was just concerned about playing the course, let alone playing it well. I’ll have a hard time moving next week, that’s a given.”

The physical problems have forced Glasson to forget the golf swing he used for most of his life. “I’ve had a lot of soft-tissue damage,” he explained, “a lot of tendon tears, ligament damage. Everything I do with the swing now is different, and it’s difficult to tear away the things you’ve done for 30 years.”

There are other parts of the game he’s relearning, too. He hit into two unplayable lies in Friday’s second round and forgot the rule about how to proceed. “I one-putted for a triple and I one-putted for double,” he said. “I’ve just hit it into some bad places.”

But the fact that he’s back on the golf course at all is reason to celebrate.

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