Date: November 24, 2015
Author: Peter Stone

A tale of Peter Senior – and the four amigoes

There were four chaps at Huntingdale on Sunday who’ve been buddies for 30 years plus. Three of them, while no longer in their prime, still look fit enough to swing a club in competition while the fourth was, well, just the same as he was all those years ago.

Pete Senior has never changed, not his physique, nor his good humour but most of all his competitiveness that is still as matched by few others. His longevity in the game of golf is nothing short of amazing.

The other three – fellow Queenslanders Ian Baker Finch, Wayne Grady and Ossie Moore – were the bulk of the Channel Seven commentary team for the 2015 Australian Masters, their competitive careers behind them.

Senior is 56, and made golf headlines around the world for his victory in the Masters. IBF is the same age as Senior while Moore is 57 and Grady 58.    

Moore doing on-course commentary following Senior on Sunday and a spectator asked him: “Why aren’t you out there playing?”

“I couldn’t beat him 30 years ago. How could I beat him (Senior) now. It’s pointless,” Moore replied.

“He’s just so competitive. If you play a game tiddlywinks, he still wants to beat you, to take you right down to the line. It’s not that he’s mean it’s just his competitive spirit. He wants to win, but in a fair way,” Moore said yesterday.

Moore was yesterday at The Grand GC on the Gold Coast, where he is golf coordinator and resident professional, giving lessons. IBF was with wife Jenny playing nine holes at Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast while Grades was back home on the Gold Coast before heading to Sydney today for the Emirates Australian Open  – in the commentary box of course.

Senior? Apart from a couple of media interviews, it was a restful morning in Melbourne before heading to Sydney.

His celebration was, as always, subdued. The near-lifelong abstinence from alcohol takes care of that.

“It was just a quiet dinner with June (his wife) and Mitch (his 21-year-old son and caddie) and we reflected on the week. It was good. I actually went out on a limb and had two diet cokes. None of us drink so it’s hard to party. We just talked of the events of the week,” Senior said.

He did have a drink once – quite a few, actually. It was in the days of the Troppo Tour (the Queensland pro-am circuit) those 30 or so years ago. He played with the local doctor in Gladstone and they had a few Baileys.

Pete, his head spinning, headed back to his motel and sat in the square bath with the shower on full blast. Trouble was, his backside covered the plughole and the bath filled as he passed out. His roommate returned just in time to get his head above water.

Call it a near-death experience, but Moore remembers another for Senior.

It was in 1977. Moore, Senior and other promising young Queensland golfers drove to Sydney for the Open (won by David Graham) here at The Australian and sat behind the par three third green with an esky of soft drinks and cheered every shot that sucked back with spin.

Moore takes up the story: “On the way back on the New England highway, Pete was driving the front car and it hit a pothole just before a bridge and the car did a 360 spin on the bridge without touching the sides. He was doing 100 km. He’s fortunate to be even here. It was around one in the morning, and it was horrifying.”

We asked Senior about the incident, and he was puzzled – “I don’t know. I think they’re telling stories. I can’t remember that. Honestly I can’t remember,” he said.

A senior moment perhaps, or maybe it was a near-calamity pushed to the back of the old gray matter.

But, their times on the Troppo Tour remain vivid to this day for all four.

“They were two of the funniest years I’ve ever had in my life. Ten blokes in a 14-seater bus playing for $2000 among 60 guys – $360 to the winner. If someone ran out of money the others would throw in so no one was left behind,” Grady said.

There were ambushes of the bus by other players driving cars. They’d get ahead of the bus with a dozen dozen eggs and the bus would arrive at the next golf club splattered in egg yolk.

Other yarns are best saved for sportsmen’s nights.

Senior, it must be said, is a serial practical joker. There was a time in Japan when the late Roger Mackay had a hotel room with Senior and Craig Warren on either side. Mackay was a neatness freak. He would arrive in a hotel room, unpack his case and carefully fold all his clothes onto one of the twin beds.

Senior and Warren took turns at climbing the balcony to slip into Mackay’s room to re-pack his case. Mackay simply couldn’t understand and, finally, went to reception to ask that staff not keep repacking his case.

But, while Mackay was downstairs, the mischief makers returned over the balcony and tossed Mackay’s clothes all over the room, and disappeared just before their mate and the hotel manager entered the room to be confronted with underpants hanging from the ceiling lights and, all in all, total chaos.

Poor Roger, he only realised he’d been had when he heard the laughter from the adjacent balcony.

Then, there was the occasion again in Japan that Senior, known for his non-drinking, told Graham Marsh, who loved his red wine, that he was using a red  called Grangy or Hermy, whatever. He wasn’t quite sure, but he was using it to marinate his meat.

“Penfolds sent it to me,” Senior told Marsh.

“What? You’re using Grange Hermitage to marinate your steaks,” said in disbelief.

Enough said. Another victim snared.

Yesterday, IBF, Grades and Ossie were unanimous in their praise for their old mate with the major champion using the same description – phenomenal.

IBF said: “It was a phenomenal performance at Huntingdale and a credit to him for staying sharp enough when he’s 56. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke.”

And, Grady said: “He’s just phenomenal. He’s kept it up. He gets out of bed every morning and thinks about playing golf. Good luck to him. I don’t miss it, absolutely not. But, that’s the way it is with Pete, he’s been doing it … God, I started playing against him 42 years ago. He’s still going.”    

Well, not for much longer.

Playing the Champions Tour in the US is like taking your card to an ATM to withdraw cash. In the past six years, he amassed around the $7 million mark without a victory that remains his lament.

But, 2016 will be his finale.

“I’ve just had enough being away. I’m exempt for next year, but it will be my last. I don’t want to play any more (overseas). I’ve had enough. I love the golf and I’d still play if I didn’t have to go anywhere.

“I’d play every week. I just hate travelling. I hate the airport. I’ve been doing it for 38 years and I’m finally sick of it,” Senior said.

So, at the age when normal folk think of overseas travel after quitting a lifetime of work, Senior is quitting it just to spend a normal life at home. Well, he will take a few trips like a leisurely river cruise in Europe.

“I know it going to end,” he said of his golfing career, “but I’ve had a ball.”