Date: November 26, 2013
Author: Peter Stone at Royal Sydney Golf Club

Senior forgotten, but still with a sense of humour

By Peter Stone Pete Senior might appear a little like Methuselah to some of the rising stars of Australian golf with several of them less than a third of his 54 years of age but, nevertheless, they look up to him as the defending Emirates Australian Open Champion. Walking into the media interview centre at Royal Sydney today, he joked: I d booked a courtesy car from the hotel, but it didn t turn up. They ve obviously forgotten all about me. Of course one of the chauffeur driven Volvo cars was there, just others were waiting for the headline acts of the championship Adam Scott (world No 2), Rory McIlroy (No 6) and Jason Day who rose seven spots to 11th overnight after his victory in the individual section of the $US8 million World Cup at Royal Melbourne on Sunday. Just 12 months ago, Senior struck a blow for all those reaching pensioner status when he won his second Open 23 years after his first in the ferocity of the wind at The Lakes when the final round of play was suspended for more than an hour because of Mother Nature s fury. It was a story for the ages and the aged. It was just one of those days where anything could have happened the delay (that is). I was probably the only person most who didn t want to go back out, but it worked in may favour, Senior reflected today. Unless the world is struck by an Armageddon-like global financial crisis, Senior will never be eligible for a pensioner s card though it wouldn t surprise if he applied for a senior s card down the track just get the discount. Fellow professionals joke he’s still got the first dollar he ever earned and there s been plenty, since especially in the past four years since turning 50 and embracing the Champion Tour in the US. This year, his prize money cheques totaled $US1.15 million, the third straight year head topped the $1 million mark. All up, it is more than a $US4 million haul from what Lee Trevino once called the fat-bellies tour. When it was pointed out to him that he doesn’t mind banking the occasional dollar or a million and the amount he’s won on the Champions Tour, he replied: I wouldn t know. I don t keep track of that. He likes a joke, our Pete. Of course he knows right down to the last dollar. He can make a dollar even playing cards. Back in the old days of the Vines Classic in Perth when most of the of the tournament caravan stayed in apartments on course, we d occasionally get together to play poker. Invariably Senior won. He once held a nine and drew four 10s and on another occasion he held a 10 and a king and came up with a straight. Just call him Lucky Pete but it also seemed he had some divine help from the poker gods. The Champions Tour is a great way to finish your career. I figured I may only have one or two years there (but) this will be my fifth year next year, so I m really excited about being there, but every year gets a little harder, he said. Every year we have four or five new guys come on tour. We ve got Davis Love, Scott Verplank, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin coming on next year, and Vijay (Singh) is going to play a bit more. You ve got to finish in the top 30 (to retain playing status) and if you re a little bit off your game you won t make it. And, Senior has won that $US4 million-plus without even winning a tournament. Mind you, he has had three playoff losses, but one suspects he will not be fulfilled until he wins on American soil, a country many years ago on the regular tour he turned his back on because some of the American players wives were rude to his beloved wife, June. A measure of his durable skills was at Harding Park in San Francisco just a month ago in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup when he carded an opening eight under 63 in a round that included nine birdies and an eagle, but with three bogeys thrown in. Today he was slightly bemused by the fact that the last player to win back-to-back Australian Opens was Aaron Baddeley who was an 18-year-old amateur when he won here at Royal Sydney in 1999 and then backed up the following year as a professional at Melbourne s Kingston Heath layout. And, here he is, aged 54, trying to repeat Baddeley s achievement. Senior, unlike others who perhaps should remain nameless, has never declared himself before a tournament. No, let s mention one bloke. Brad Hughes, who won his first of two Australian Masters in 1993, was adamant he would win when our paths crossed on tournament eve in the hotel bar. He was 40-1, so the punt did giveth on that occasion. So often it taketh away. Winning back-to-back? Senior repeats the question. If I have a good tournament I ll be very happy. The guys we ve got here this week, they are exceptional players. Adam Scott hasn t put a foot wrong in the last six months (and) we ve got Jason Day who played great last week. Even though Rory had a disappointing year for him, you can t count these guys out. As soon as he starts winning again, he ll be back to where he was before and then you ve got a multitude of other good players here this week. The banning of anchoring long and belly putters looms on the horizon. Well, on January 1, 2016 anyway. Senior was one of the pioneers of the broomstick, borrowing one of Scot Sam Torrance s big sticks in the eight 1980s just to try it out as he was so afflicted with the dreaded yips. Greg Norman hated the implement, and let it be known he did maybe because he was in his prime when Senior used to broomstick to sweep away the Open, PGA and Johnnie Walker Classic titles in 1989. At the Australian Masters tournament dinner early the following year, Senior and Norman were on stage together being interviewed by Channel Seven s Sandy Roberts who, mischievously, asked Senior what he thought of the Shark s criticism. Opinions are like a holes, everyone has one, Senior said. Now, though, Norman doesn’t have such a firm view on long putters and it is the resurrection of Scott s game that has caused the change of heart. I think the R&A (backed by the USGA to ban the anchoring of putters) had me in mind when they made the 2016 ruling. I think another two years will be the end of me, Senior said. Don t bet on it, but he does wonder how anchoring can be policed. On windy days when a player is wearing a lot of clothing and maybe has a bigger than average girth he feels a player might have his arms and hands just a centimetre or two away from the body and a gust of wind could cause perceived anchoring. So many grey areas, says Senior. But, all that is two years hence. For Senior, all that matters now is a respectable defence of the Emirates Australian Open starting on Thursday.