The holiday season was once a slow time for competitive amateur golf. With high school and college golfers tailgating and cheering for their home football teams, the door is wide open for senior amateur competition – and it couldn’t be better.
The world’s top senior amateurs converge this week on Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Fla., for the Golfweek Senior Tour Championship. It’s the penultimate ranking event of 2016 and crunch-time for the world’s top seniors as they try to claim Player of the Year honors.
Here’s what you need to know heading into the Golfweek Senior Tour Championship:
- Where: Black Diamond Ranch, Lecanto, FL – The Ranch and Quarry courses.
- When: Nov. 30-Dec. 2
- Who: 86 players, including five of the world’s top 10 senior amateurs (age 55-64), three of the top six in the super-senior division (age 65-69) and the top two in the Legends division (age 70+).
- What: 54 holes of stroke play
- Stakes: The 2016 Player of the Year honors are still in reach for both the senior and super senior divisions. In the Legends division, former Navy Captain, Walt Martin of Oakton, Va., has wrapped up the top spot and will receive the Player of the Year trophy. The award will be presented during the banquet following the Golfweek January Player of the Year Classic at Mission Inn in Howey in the Hills, Fla., Jan 16-18.
The scoop: Jim Starnes of Ft Myers, Fla., has been on a mission to unseat Bob Kearney of Houston as the top senior amateur in the Golfweek National Senior Rankings. Following his October victory at the Society of Senior’s Founders Cup, held at the Grand Cypress Resort, Starnes has finally become numero-uno.
“It’s kind of like David vs. Goliath,” said Starnes after claiming the top spot. “I did well in the U.S. Senior Amateur and my confidence grew. I gave it my all this year.”
With former number-one Bob Kearney sitting out this week, it’s a safe bet that Starnes will keep his current spot and win the 2016 Player of the Year award in the senior division.
Bob Hess of Casselberry, Fla., has a 1262-point lead over Gary Kirwan of McKinney, Texas, in the super senior division. Both are in the field this week and with 1,600 points still on the line in 2016 it’s a tossup for the super-senior Player of the Year award.