Doyle gets into the swing of things rather late as a pro

  • Article by: BRIAN WICKER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 5, 1998 - 11:00 PM

Allen Doyle slashes at each golf ball with an abbreviated backswing, resembling the slapshot he once used as a hockey player. The swing evolved in his basement during the never-ending Massachusetts winters of his youth, where a low ceiling prohibited a long swing.

"There was still snow on the ground, so what are you going to do?" Doyle asked. "I'd go down in the cellar and take a half-swing at it. It was better than nothing."

Doyle and his improvised stroke turned out to be better than most of his competitors with the flowing, instructional-video swings, and he became one of the best amateur golfers in the country.

He played on three Walker Cup teams and three World Amateur teams before becoming, at age 47, the oldest rookie in the history of the PGA Tour.

His 50th birthday in June opened the door to the Senior PGA Tour, and his round of 67 Monday at the Links at Northfork qualified him for this week's Coldwell Banker Burnet Senior Classic at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids.

"You hope you make it [into the tournament], but the odds are not that great if you're playing Monday after Monday," Doyle said. "But you can't be worried about it. Everybody's in the same boat. You have to go out there and think you're better than most of those guys, 'cause if you don't, you probably shouldn't be out there."

Doyle has proven he belonged at every level. His last golf visit to Minnesota was in 1993, when he played at Interlachen with Edina's John Harris on the Walker Cup team that defeated Great Britain.

U.S. captain Vinnie Giles tried to arrange to have Justin Leonard play Ian Pyman in singles, pitting the then-reigning amateur champions of each country against one another. When the British captain declined to alter his lineup, Doyle volunteered to lock horns with Pyman.

"[Doyle] was our emotional leader," Harris said. "When he beat [Pyman 1-up], it sent a pretty good message through the ranks on both teams and got us off to a great start."

For all his amateur success, turning professional didn't tempt Doyle until a few years ago. He was content to run a driving range in Georgia (he has won that state's Open six times) until several factors made him think about new worlds to conquer -- and new bills to pay.

Doyle's oldest daughter, Erin, was starting to look at colleges. Even though she was third in her class and likely to attract a scholarship, he couldn't bear the thought of not having enough money to send her to an exceptional school. He turned pro.

"I'd have felt bad if that happened," Doyle said. "In 1994, I won five major tournaments around the country and had played on world and U.S. teams. I didn't have a whole lot left I wanted to accomplish as an amateur.

"I made $176,000 on the Nike Tour [in 1995], and it would have taken me six, seven years to make that at the range. I felt like I'd won the lottery."

It is that side of Doyle -- the father, not the golfer -- that most impresses Harris.

"He's served as a mentor for me, and it's been an inspiration to play against him," Harris said. "More than the golf, it's how he lives his life and raises his kids. He's been a real role model to follow."

His performance on the Nike Tour earned Doyle a PGA card at age 47. He earned $136,789 in 1996, then slumped to $66,555 last year.

Now, after his latest birthday, Doyle can compete on the senior tour and pick on golfers his own age. Unlike his basement practice area when he was growing up, there is no ceiling on how well the pro with the half-swing could do.

"It's a little different, but technically it's pretty solid," Harris said of Doyle's swing. "It fits what he's trying to do. He trusts it and he believes in it."

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