DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Mark Calcavecchia, professional golfer for nearly 30 years and wisecracker for almost 50, is not the sentimental type.
As he approaches the end of his days as a full-time member of the PGA Tour – this week’s Memorial Tournament will be the last time he tees it up this year before joining the Champions Tour in earnest – it’s enough to make even the most cynical, sarcastic and brutally honest veteran grow wistful.
“I should have kept myself in better shape, which is still the case. I should have won more tournaments. I should have practiced harder – a lot of should haves,” he said Tuesday, when asked whether he had any regrets. “On the other hand, I had a great time. I’m incredibly lucky. I stop to think about all the things that I’ve been blessed with, and I just had a blast.”
No one could ever dispute that. In addition to winning events around the world, Calc – what everyone calls him – won a lot of fans. He, along with his followers, usually had a good time.
Laughter followed him wherever he went, walking along the long, thin line of long, thin golfers on the range, or whenever he was asked a question. Blunt, emotional and demonstrative, no one ever accused him of being a workout fanatic or being bland like so many of his peers.
“He’s fun,” Jim Furyk said. “Obviously, he’s got a sarcastic side to him. He’s really well liked out here. I’ll definitely miss him but obviously he’s excited about – I don’t know if he’s excited about turning 50 – but he’s excited about playing the Champions Tour.”
The over-50 league beckons. Calc, who hits the big 5-0 on June 12, will make his debut at the Champions stop in Endicott, N.Y., late this month.
He welcomes the new circuit and the old friends. And the new challenges.
“It’s a great change of pace,” he said. “New courses, new towns, new holes to screw up. I’m tried of screwing up the same holes every year.”
The Memorial will be his 737th PGA Tour event. He’s won 13 times and made 516 cuts while cashing almost $24 million in checks. Those stats speak to his longevity, his talent and his competitiveness.
“Well, the amount of money I’ve made, that’s all gone, so that doesn’t blow me away at all,” he cracked. “Yeah, 700-some odd tournaments I’ve played in, that’s a lot. That’s a large number. To have made (that many) cuts, that’s a lot too. It seems like I missed more cuts than that. But I did have a stretch there in my prime where I’d miss three or four a year out of 25. So it kind of added up.”
Clearly he has reflected on what has been a solid career.
“It’s gone by fast,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like I’ve played that much. But I still get excited about waking up on Thursday mornings and getting ready to play in a tournament.”
He just doesn’t get as excited. He concedes that he still enjoys himself but that it has been less fun the last couple of years. Knee and foot problems have slowed him. He won his last tournament (the Pods Championship) and almost $3 million in 2007; since then, he has collected around half that much.
There is no question what the highlight moment was for Calc. In 1989 at Troon, he defeated Wayne Grady and Greg Norman in a playoff, sealing the British Open with a fearless 5 iron to 7 feet on the fourth and final hole. It was his only major win.
If he were to somehow pull off some magic and win the Memorial, he would become only the third tour player to win events in four decades, joining Raymond Floyd and Sam Snead.
To do that, he’ll have to putt a lot better than he has. And to putt better, he’ll have to handle the new, thick-wrapped grip on his putter.
“My hands barely fit it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens Thursday. The grip’s called ‘The Fatso,’ by the way, so I thought it was aptly named.”
There’s no question that he’s looking forward to stepping on the practice tee at a Champions Tour event and seeing familiar faces – Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara, Joey Sindelar. He’s grown tired of having to catch a name off a golf bag to figure out who the newest hotshot is hitting those long drives next to him.
Times have changed. Calc hasn’t.
“(The PGA Tour) is definitely more of a big business, a serious business,” he said. “When I was young, we stayed out later. We went out and didn’t worry about it too much. Now the kids work out and are going to the gym and whatnot. … Now it’s just a bit stiffer.”