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The patron saint of the dreamer who makes it on the Champions Tour is Jay Sigel, who turned pro at 50 and earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1994.

for the Cincinnati Reds, started think- ing about the Senior Tour after shoot- ing a 65 at age 46 in a hit-and-giggle exhibition tied to the Baseball Hall of Fame. (The course was just over 6,300 yards.) By the time he shot a 97 in a Senior event in 2003, Bench had pretty much ended the discussion of whether dilettante athletes can hang with hard- ened tour pros. But there is another archetypical

dreamer who annually makes a run at the Champions Tour: the top-fl ight amateur who had wanted to turn pro a quarter-century earlier but never did because of injury, fi nances, family obli- gations or any number of other reasons. The patron saint of these seekers is Jay Sigel. A standout player at Wake Forest, Sigel was pointing toward a pro career when he sustained hand and wrist injuries in a car accident. He was forced to make a living in the insur- ance business but he continued to play big-time golf, winning back-to-back U.S. Amateurs in 1982-83 and compet- ing on a record nine Walker Cup teams. Sigel turned pro at 50 and became one of the Senior Tour’s better players, tak- ing Rookie of the Year honors in 1994

Colin Montgomerie, the reigning U.S. Senior Open and Senior PGA champ, says there’s no chance a golfer who had never been a touring pro could fi nd success on the Champions Tour.

and going on to eight career victories and more than $9 million in earnings. Other top amateurs consider Sigel an outlier. “For a long time he was one of the 20 best golfers in the world but he just happened to be an amateur,” says Randy Haag, the NCGA Player of the Year three years running beginning in 2009. His fi rst POY award in that streak happened to come in the year he turned 50. (He previously won POY awards in 1993, ’95 and ’99. His six total are an NCGA record). Haag’s decision not to turn pro highlights the diffi cult choice that many very-good-but-not-quite- great players face as they reach the half- century mark. Haag calls himself a solid high

school player who never had the chance to maximize his potential. “My mom was a school teacher and as a teenager I worked two jobs to help us get by,” he says. “I fi t in golf when I could.” Haag was capable enough to walk-on at San Diego State but, he says, “My game didn’t really mature until I was 25.” By then he was building a career as an investment banker and on the verge of beginning a family that would ultimately include four kids. Playing out of The Olympic Club, he became a fi xture at NCGA events, and ultimately a regular at some of the most prestigious amateur events in the country, including the Crump Cup at Pine Valley and the Coleman at Seminole. “I had so much fun and made so many great friendships,” Haag says. “The best people I’ve met in my life all have come through golf.”

In his late 40s he began gearing up for the Senior Tour. At a gym in Burlingame he was atop a balance ball with two 50 lb. weights when the ball popped, and he suffered a nasty fall. The resulting back and wrist injuries slowed his Senior Tour preparations and forced Haag to consider golf ’s place in his life. “The decision wasn’t if I could do it,” he says, “because once I was healthy I felt I could, but it came down to, did I want that type of lifestyle? Unless you have your own jet and stay in 5-star hotels and have your own masseuse and nutritionist, life on the road is a grind. And there’s a lot of stress involved in

FALL 2014 / NCGA.ORG / 33


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