Durant sees opportunity, not dilemma, in age 50
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
After he mentioned that he was waiting to see if he got a spot into the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island, Joe Durant was asked if he’d heard that Tom Watson and Nick Faldo had been awarded sponsor’s exemptions.
Durant smiled. “Just got knocked down two more spots,” he laughed.
He could afford such levity, because on the eve of his 50th birthday (April 7), Durant knows he has options, and good ones. Should he not receive a spot into the tournament at Harbour Town, Durant will tee it up at the Champions Tour stop that week, the Greater Gwinnett Championship at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga.
Ah, the perks of reaching 50 in pro golf. Double the options, for some.
“It’s good, it’s all good,” said Durant, who played in his first PGA Tour tournament in 1987. He broke onto the Tour in ’93 and has carried himself with great character ever since. A consummate professional, Durant has played in 437 tournaments with nary a complaint. But while he’s riding a wave of five straight missed cuts this season, that doesn’t mean he’s in a rush to switch tours.
“There is always that part of your ego that thinks you can still compete out here,” said Durant, “and you don’t want to let go of that.”
In Durant’s rookie season, Nick Price topped the money list with $1,478,557. In Durant’s most recent tournament, the Valero Texas Open, Steven Bowditch won a $1,116,000 check. Talk about a sweeping change of scenery in his 20 years, but Durant takes great pride in having been part of it. After a few lackluster years on the old Ben Hogan Tour, Durant got his license to sell insurance and worked in the golf equipment business, only to give the PGA Tour another shot.
He stuck in 1993, won a tournament three years later, and in 2001 he won twice in three weeks, going a whopping 54-under for his combined nine rounds at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and Genuity Championship at Doral. By this point in his career, Durant was watching the unfolding of the Tiger Woods phenomenon, so clearly he’s been around to get a wide view of perspective.
“It goes in both directions,” he said. “At one point, I’m amazed that I’ve done what I’ve done, but in other ways I’m kind of disappointed. I know how good I’ve been at times, I guess, and if you try and base your entire career on when you play your best, that’s like beating your head against the wall.”
It’s been a demanding challenge to win in this era of Woods and Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, but it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
“Just having been out here as long as I have, the friends I’ve made over the years, to take care of my family: That’s been the most rewarding (aspects).
“It’s been a pretty good gig.”
Jeff Maggert is one who could offer testimony to Durant that Champions Tour life is OK. The PGA Tour veteran won his debut on the older circuit, holding off another rookie, Billy Andrade, in Mississippi. Yet Maggert, like Durant and so many others, concedes it’s tough letting go of the PGA Tour, so there he was one week later playing against the younger guys in the Valero Texas Open.
“I’ll probably play 60 percent (PGA Tour) and 40 percent out there (Champions Tour) the rest of the way,” said Maggert. “But we’ll see how I play. It might flip-flop.”
Also among Champions Tour rookies, one week after he makes his 15th Masters appearance, the engaging Miguel Angel Jimenez will travel a short distance from Augusta National and make his Champions Tour debut at TPC Sugarloaf.
Wine and cigars for all.