The last man standing at the driving range at PGA West on Monday evening was the oldest player in the field at the final stage of PGA Tour Q-school. Tommy Armour III has enjoyed a long, fulfilling career, which includes playing professional golf since 1981 (before probably half of the guys in the field were even born).
At age 52 the two-time PGA Tour winner played full-time on the Champions Tour in 2011, notching four top-tens in 23 starts to finish 28th on the money list. While he didn’t play any events on what he calls the “regular” tour for the first time since 1982, Armour decided to give it a go again, signing up for Q-school and winning second stage at the Hombre GC site to advance to this week’s final test.
“I have a job next year,” he told me in the Adams Golf truck while getting some clubs adjusted and fine-tuned. “I’m just looking for some part-time work.”
When I pressed him for a reason, he said, “It’s easier to make money on the PGA Tour than it is on the Champions Tour.”
I started to ask him what it was like being the oldest player in the field, but before I could finish, he finished the sentence for me, laughing — “Where I don’t know anybody?” Well, yeah.
“I know half of the players,” said Armour. “Someone asked me what the difference is between the Champions Tour and the Regular Tour is and I said, ‘On the Champions Tour I play with my friends and on the Regular Tour I play with their kids.'”
During what many call the longest, most pressure-packed week of their lives, Armour appears to still be relishing the process and having fun. Well, maybe not the way he used to, but if he’s nervous, he sure has a great poker face.
“I’m just enjoying myself,” he said, smiling wryly. “I played 9 holes yesterday, I played 9 holes today, I’ll play a few holes tomorrow and then start on Wednesday…I’m just trying to play a little golf, then add up the scores and see how I finish.”
When Will Wilcox, a finals virgin who Monday qualified for the Nationwide Tour’s Station Classic in May and went on to tie for third, earning him exempt status for the rest of the NWT season, saw Armour at PGA West earlier in the week, he cracked, “Tommy Armour — he’s a baller.” Except he didn’t mean for Armour to hear him.
“Yeah, I said it under my breath, but he actually heard me,” said Wilcox, laughing as he recounted the incident. “He just kind of glared at me. I was just joking around with my caddie, but (Tommy) turned around and noticed I said that. It was kind of funny.”
While about 150 of the other 172 players have spent hours and hours obsessing over their preparation regimen and tournament strategy, along with cliched goals to “manage and conserve their energy” and treat it “like any other week,” etc., Armour is keeping it simple.
“Of course I’m sure I will (feel pressure) but like I said, I have a job,” he said. “I’m just looking for some part-time work. I’m looking for options.”
He insists that’s the extent of his motivation and basically woke up one day and figured he wanted to compete against the kids again.
“Midway through the year, I said I’m going to go back to the tour school, so I can have the option of playing wherever I wanted to,” said Armour, while asking the club technician the specs on the weight of his five-wood and a hybrid. “Other than that, there was no reason.”
Which was hard for me to buy, so I kept pressing him and asking him the same question in ten different ways.
“There was no particular moment or epiphany or anything like that,” he said. “I just said I want to go to tour school.”
C’mon. It can’t be that simple.
“It’s boredom,” he conceded. “It’s harder to make money on the Champions Tour than it is on the Regular Tour. There’s less money, smaller fields — it’s a lot more of a sprint.”
A-ha! What else could it be, right? A+B = B and $? (Well, also, the galleries on the PGA Tour aren’t limited to convalescent communities…)
Besides earning his card back, Armour hasn’t thought past starting next season playing with the under-50 guys. “I’ll start off the year on the regular tour and piece it together. See how I’m playing, see how I’m feeling, just kind of winging it. There is a plan, but in terms of what I’m going to play in, that’s not planned yet.”
Sounds like a plan. Just as long as I’m on the guest list to his party(ies) during the Byron Nelson.