“Ok, watch that bunker,” a golfer said laughing to a peer after his iron shot grazed the hazard. And, with that friendliness and casual atmosphere my afternoon began at Valhalla golf course the day before the Senior PGA Championship. Of course, much of that calm will have evaporated by tomorrow when play time is over. Still, in all of the good intention the friendly rivalries were apparent Wednesday afternoon, and if Wednesday is any indication this tour will be decided by the golfer’s fairway shots, as so many tournaments are.
Under a May heat broken up by a slight breeze golfers joked with spectators about the heat and their own games. This light attitude carried on into press conferences, as four time senior PGA champion Hale Irwin, who’s last PGA championship came at Valhalla in 2004 smirked when asked how he continues to push himself mentally and physically, “Can I bring you a stack of bills?”
Irwin continued by explaining what keeps him going in the tour, “I still have a desire to compete…I still enjoy the competition…that hasn’t stopped. And, I think as long as I keep feeling like that I owe it to myself. ”
Irwin did find common ground with tournament peer, John Cook, who has appeared in four consecutive Senior PGA tournaments, in the fact that due to how long Valhalla is playing currently this weekend’s tournament probably won’t be a low scoring affair. Still, Cook was optimistic mentioning, “I feel good now…I feel like I’m patient enough. ”
Cook and Irwin are just two of the golfers to look at for this event, others include the number 5 seeded Kentuckian Kenny Perry, Southern Indiana native Fuzzy Zoeller, legend Tom Watson, Florida’s Nick Price, and number two seeded Michael Allen who comes to Valhalla with a Senior PGA championship from 2009.
Defending senior PGA champion Tom Lehman is who a lot of spectators are looking for though, seeded number one Lehman made an interesting point about the game of golf saying, “(Golf) is about having train wrecks, getting back up, and making the best of it. ”
Tee-times start tomorrow morning, while national TV coverage airs on the Golf Channel from 12-3 both Thursday and Friday. Coverage shifts nationally to NBC for Saturday and Sunday, where they’ll be broadcasting from 3-6. Meanwhile, at Valhalla the event commences at 7:30 in the morning on both Thursday and Friday, and lasts for about twelve hours total. During the third and final rounds tee-times start at 8:40 and are set to continue till 6:00.
Image: D. Rose