JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Mark Calcavecchia has teed it up 736 times on the PGA Tour, winning 13 tournaments and earning just under $24 million in a career that has not had very many dull moments.
Calcavecchia turns 50 on June 12, and he was thrilled – as thrilled as he ever gets – to get an exemption to the Memorial in what likely will be his final time playing a regular PGA Tour event.
“I started thinking about turning 50 when I was 47,” Calcavecchia said Tuesday.
The Memorial is an appropriate send-off.
He moved from Nebraska to south Florida when he was a teenager and immediately got involved in the junior golf scene. Calcavecchia competed throughout high school against Jack Nicklaus II, whose father often came out to their junior events.
“We lived about two miles from each other,” he said.
Calcavecchia first played Muirfield Village in 1987, the year after his first PGA Tour victory, and this will be his 24th consecutive year at the Memorial. The closest he came to winning was in 1995, when he tied for second behind Greg Norman.
But there’s more.
His wife, Brenda, grew up in Columbus, and her brother plans a party on Saturday. A few weeks ago, she wasn’t even sure if they would have reason to be in Ohio.
“I’m not sure if they gave the exemption to me or to Brenda,” Calcavecchia said with his typical sarcasm. “It will be the last Memorial for me, though, and it was nice of them.”
What to expect on the Champions Tour? Calcavecchia might not look like the model athlete, although his hand-eye coordination is superb. It was no fluke that he won 13 times, including the 1989 British Open, or that he was runner-up 27 times.
He plans to play 11 of the 12 events on the Champions Tour, starting with the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in upstate New York. He must be feeling good to want to play that many tournaments, right?
“No, I’m feeling horrible,” he said. “But I’ve got to find a way to make money or the house is going up for sale.”
As for his chances against the 50-and-older set?
“Someone asked me if I was excited to be going out there to the Champions Tour,” Calcavecchia said. “I said I would be excited if the hole was bigger. But I think it’s the same size out there, so I’m not that excited. I can miss ’em out there same as I can miss ’em out here.”
It won’t be the last time Calcavecchia tees it up against Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. He plans to go to St. Andrews for the British Open, where he is exempt for another 10 years.
FOREIGN FLAVOR: The PGA Tour has gone four consecutive weeks without an American winner, the longest stretch since international players won seven straight events in 2008. That’s an entire month without an American winner.
And that’s nothing compared with the LPGA Tour.
Michelle Wie of Hawaii is the only American winner on the LPGA Tour over the last year, which covers 26 official tournaments (and does not include the U.S. victory in the Solheim Cup).
Angela Stanford had a chance to become the LPGA’s first American winner this year until losing in the final of the Match Play Championship in New Jersey to Sun Young Yoo.
What to make of it?
“I don’t make anything of it,” Stanford said. “I think you guys make a lot out of it. We’re a global tour, and I wasn’t trying any less out there. If anything, I was trying harder because I know that it just kind of keeps coming up.”
PERNICE PLAN: Without any fanfare, Tom Pernice Jr. is going about business the way he always has.
He fell out of the top 125 on the money list last year for the first time in nearly a decade. He had turned 50 two months earlier, and won in his Champions Tour debut, so he had a comfortable alternative.
Instead, Pernice headed off to Q-school, where a double bogey on the final hole cost him his card by one shot. Just like anyone else in that predicament, he wrote for sponsors’ exemptions and tried to get into the tournaments he could.
He has played four Champions Tour events this year, mostly to keep his game sharp, and he is 18th in the Schwab Cup standings. But his heart is on the regular tour, and Pernice surely felt some vindication last week when he tied for seventh in the Byron Nelson Championship, then earned one of eight spots in a 36-hole qualifier for the British Open.
“I feel like I’ve kept myself in shape and my game is good,” Pernice said Tuesday. “I enjoy the competition. It’s a different feeling when you’ve got the cut on the line. It’s a totally different animal.”
He said Peter Jacobsen told him that as long as he could stay competitive, the PGA Tour is the place to be.
Pernice could not have agreed more.
“I’m just going about my business, working hard on my game, trying to get there,” he said. “I’m trying to play my way back in and be part of the FedEx Cup. When you get in contention, why would I not want to be here?”
He is at No. 122 in the standings, hurt mostly by his Sunday scoring. His final-round average is 72.8, with only one final round under par. Pernice is hopeful of taking some momentum from Dallas into an important stretch in his season.
He received his first exemptions of the year to the Colonial and Memorial the next two weeks, and he will play the St. Jude Championship, with a stop in Ohio along the way to try to qualify for the U.S. Open.
In a perfect world, he would stay in Scotland for two weeks to play the British Open at St. Andrews and the Senior British Open at Carnoustie. Depending on his FedEx Cup position, he might skip Carnoustie for the Canadian Open.
So many options, only one goal.
“My main focus is to get back there for the FedEx Cup (playoffs) and even get to Atlanta,” he said. “I’m off to a late start.”
But it’s a noble effort.
DIVOTS: Katie Detlefsen of Central Florida is the recipient of the Dinah Shore Trophy, awarded to a female college player who mains a 3.2 GPA and a scoring average of 78 or under. Detlefsen not only had a 4.0, she graduated in two years. … J.J. Henry tied for 32nd last week at the Byron Nelson Championship, earned $35,317 and became the 100th player in PGA Tour history to top the $10 million mark in career earnings. … A Texas native has not won the Colonial in 20 years, dating to Ben Crenshaw in 1990.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Jordan Spieth, 16, spent the final two rounds of the Byron Nelson Championship paired with players – Tom Pernice Jr. and Corey Pavin – who are a combined 100 years old.
FINAL WORD: “We have a full field of mostly millionaires, I think, and they’re all great golfers. I don’t think anybody in this room can compete with them, so I’m pleased with the people that we have here.” – Peggy Nelson on the lack of highly ranked players at her late husband’s tournament, the Byron Nelson Championship.