When the Champions Tour first became popular in the 1980s (then known as the Senior Tour), much of the reason for its popularity was due to the fact that “baby-boomers” could watch their childhood idols play tournament golf again. Players such as Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Billy Casper, all great players in the 1960s could now be seen competing and winning once again. It was competitive golf and wonderful nostalgia all rolled into one.
Fast forward to today, and we see that the Champions Tour’s popularity has significantly waned. Players like Palmer and Chi Chi Rodriguez who had been instrumental in the Champions Tour’s initial popularity have long since shortened their playing schedules and are no longer competitive. In recent years, players like Hale Irwin have dominated the tour, and while they have displayed great skill on the links, they have failed to capture a great deal of attention. Let’s face it, while Irwin is a great player, is there anyone who can say they grew up rooting for Hale Irwin?
Champions Tour supporters will point out that hope is on they way because next week, Greg Norman, a player many people can say they followed with great enthusiasm in their youth (or later), will turn 50. Not since Jack Nicklaus turned 50 has a player of Norman’s star power joined the Champions Tour.
But like Nicklaus, Norman is not quick to embrace life on the senior circuit. For instance, despite turning fifty on February 10th, Norman is electing to wait until late-May at the Senior PGA Championship to make his Champions Tour debut, playing in several events on the European and PGA Tours in the meantime. Like a lot of players who have recently turned fifty, Norman still believes he can compete with the “flat-bellies” as Lee Trevino has called the PGA Tour players. Says Norman of his chances at this year’s British Open at St. Andrews, “I like St. Andrews, I have never won but I have performed well there over 25 years…That type of venue would suit me… From a venue perspective, and if my game is sharp, I would have a chance.” Clearly, Norman still feels like his place is on the junior circuit.
Norman could certainly enhance the popularity of the Champions Tour. But to do that, he will have to win regularly on that tour, and if he isn’t regularly entering tournaments, that is rather unlikely to happen.
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