Paul Goydos never gave much thought to this part of his golf career.
“Being 24 or 44 is meaningless in this sport,” he said. “You have to go out there and play and beat the guy and the course. You get lost in that journey; your age kind of disappears.”
Then a funny thing happened earlier this season playing out a medical extension on the PGA Tour. Reality reared its head and hit Goydos in a way he could no longer deny.
The combined age of Goydos’ playing partners didn’t add up to his 49.
“Happened twice,” Goydos said with a sigh.
Three weeks ago, a month after turning 50, he tied for 70th in the John Deere Classic, just his fourth made cut of the season. Without enough earnings to continue his exempt status on the PGA Tour, Goydos took some time to finally come to grips with his age.
He was no longer on an eternal summer vacation under the sun. The time had come to move on with his career.
“I never looked at myself as being old,” he said. “I was always a 25-year-old playing golf and all of a sudden I’m 50.”
Any uneasiness about joining the Champions Tour already has been erased. Though Friday’s first round of the 3M Championship is his first official foray into the 50-and-over circuit, Goydos hit the TPC Twin Cities driving range on Tuesday and felt like he was home — or in a cozy bar in Boston.
“It was like a high school reunion,” he said a day later of the back slaps and handshakes he immediately received from contemporaries. “I’m looking forward to this. It’s nice to see people I’ve known my whole life. It’s kind of like walking into Cheers a little bit. Everyone knows your name and it’s a pretty comfortable place to be.”
That said, no one on this tour is going to give Goydos — or anyone else for that matter — a free pass.
The 3M Championship is traditionally one of the lowest-scoring events on the Champions Tour. The winning score has been at least 15 under par in each of the past seven years. Twice the winning score has been 20 under or lower.
Oh, and there’s a two-time 3M winner in this week’s field named Bernhard Langer who just won the Senior British Open by a record 13 shots.
That’s a bit of a rude awakening for the handful of players in this week’s field making their tournament debuts.
“People like to make birdies and people like to see birdies,” said Scott Verplank, who is paired with Goydos and Kevin Sutherland on Friday in an all-first-timer group. “So hopefully I’ll take part in all those festivities.”
Like Goydos, Verplank didn’t make the Champions Tour a career goal but Father Time crept his way into the picture. If he had his druthers, Verplank would be at Firestone Country Club in Ohio this week for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, an event for the top money winners on the PGA Tour and European Tour. But things haven’t been the same since tendon reconstruction surgery on his left wrist two years ago.
“I keep thinking I’m making progress but that hasn’t really happened yet,” Verplank said.
After turning 50 on July 9, Verplank made his Champions Tour debut at Oak Tree in Oklahoma for the U.S. Senior Open later in the week. He shot 75-75 and missed the cut at 8 over par.
In the short time since, Verplank has continued to work on swing changes made necessary by the wrist surgery. They are subtle and not noticeable to the untrained eye, but Verplank knows they are there and has vowed to make a better showing in his second Champions Tour event.
He knows it’s a must out here, where the scores are low and the competition is fierce.
“There aren’t a whole lot of donkeys playing golf out here,” he said.