Last week was a good one for Michael Allen, but it wasn't perfect. Allen and his wife, Cynthia, walked out of the Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff game on Friday night with one second left, figuring the Orlando Magic had won. "It was one second what could possibly happen?" Allen says, laughing. "We were outside when we heard the roar. It was like an explosion."
That was the sound of LeBron James hitting a buzzer-beater from 23 feet to give the Cavs an unlikely 96-95 victory. Allen earned a roar on a much smaller scale on Sunday, although in some ways his two-shot victory over Larry Mize in the 70th Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury was equally startling. Allen, a journeyman who has had to go through PGA Tour qualifying school 15 times and hasn't won a tournament in 271 Tour starts, turned 50 in January. He won a Nationwide tour event in 1998, but his last and only major league victory came at the European tour's 1989 Scottish Open.
Allen played in the Senior PGA only by virtue of a special invitation offered by the PGA of America. Because he was 106th on the big Tour's money list, he is still fully exempt there, and despite this win he has no plans to switch to the Champions tour. "Now I want to be the first guy to win a senior tournament before he wins a PGA Tour event," Allen says.
A resident of Scottsdale, Ariz., Allen actually quit playing tournament golf for a few years in the mid-1990s and worked at several jobs, including as an assistant pro at Winged Foot, where he remembers having to wash and scrub the range mats; as a swing coach; and as a housing contractor. After he realized "how hard it is to make a hundred thousand dollars a year in the real world," he says he decided to stick with tour golf.
That decision paid off at Canterbury, where he won $360,000. Despite the prospect of future victories, Allen says he isn't interested in joining the seniors because he feels he still has something to prove on the PGA Tour. At the Senior PGA, Allen emphatically proved he was the class of the field. His last three rounds, 66-67-67, were six shots better than those of anyone else. As for validation, now he has his name on the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer. Allen and Palmer are the only players to win this event in their Champions tour debuts. "Before this, the only other thing Arnold Palmer and I had in common was probably drinking wine or something," Allen says.
Allen and Palmer in the same sentence? On second thought, Allen's week was perfect after all.