Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Continued Success for the Senior Tour despite Problems

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Continued Success for the Senior Tour despite Problems

Article excerpt

The Senior PGA Tour wasn't really much of a tour in the beginning.

That was 1980.

"I didn't think it would work," said Burch Riber, general chairman of the Kroger Senior Classic, which heldthis month at The Golf Center in Mason, Ohio.

"I thought there were too many years between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. I didn't think they could sustain the interest with the other guys.

"But they have."

Have they ever.

From the $250,000 in combined purses in the two 1980 tournaments, the Senior PGA Tour this year will offer $40.8 million for 44 events.

Despite all the cynicism and criticism the tour has faced - about everything from courses being laid out too short and easy, to golfers using carts, to the inevitable fading of the nostalgic names - the purses have increased every year.

"There's a misconception about the Senior PGA Tour," said tour official Phil Stanbaugh. "It started off as a trip down memory lane, when the courses were much shorter and the pin positions much more generous. People still think we're playing those, and it's just not true."

At first, the Senior PGA Tour needed to showcase the great names, some of whom hadn't been able to seriously compete for years. It was great fun to see Arnold Palmer, but not if he were shooting 75 every round.

In late 1989 and early 1990, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino turned 50 and became eligible for the Senior PGA Tour, but only Trevino has played with any regularity, and this year he became the first golfer to surpass $7 million in career Senior PGA Tour earnings.

From 1990-96, Nicklaus never played more than seven senior events in a year, while averaging eight or nine PGA Tour tournaments annually. He didn't care to play much against the golfers he used to dominate, then he didn't care much to lose to the same players.

The fading of Palmer first, then Nicklaus, and eventually Trevino, was supposed to threaten the Senior PGA Tour.

"The same kinds of comments were made on the PGA Tour when Jack and Arnold and Lee and some others stopped winning regularly," said tour vice president John Morris. "This whole chant went up about how the tour has lost its identity, who are these guys, they're just a bunch of clones. …

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