Mastery Sunday – Mr. Houston, The Old Guy

You know those old guys on the Champions Tour, the ones whose best playing days are behind them? After last Sunday, we may have to be a little more precise in our definition of what old is. And maybe this conversation can help us watch ourselves with a higher state of awareness as we age. 

As in golf, a lot of age is a state of mind; being positive and optimistic. Yes, we lose our flexibility as we grow older and, yes, we pull things quicker and heal slower, but those are manifestations of the body that can largely be managed with exercise, basic weight training and stretching. Just today, the young woman who cuts my hair, a 38-year-old, mother of two who deliberately schedules fitness classes into her week, said, “In my culture, everybody starts talking about everything breaking down at forty. I’m determined to prove them wrong.” She thinks of herself as young and it didn’t sound like she was going to stop doing that anytime soon. That’s happening more and more. 

State of mind goes to consciousness, the linchpin of our conversations here about mastery. The arrogance and invincibility of the young has them blind to the aging process and, even as the slouching and stooping begins, the middle-aged in murky denial about it. But if you are conscious about it and are proactive about it, as most players on the Champions Tour are, it is possible to live affirmatively in your relative youth rather than in resignation over your age. 

Take Fred Couples, for example. The poster boy for bad backs in his days on the PGA Tour, he now walks on a treadmill while his girlfriend goes through her workout routine. His back is still tight, but he’s lost weight and it’s better than it was. And it was enough on Sunday. 

Fred played like his days as a star at the University of Houston, thrashing the field by an impressive seven shots in the Administaff Small Business Classic at The Woodlands CC Tournament Course, The Woodlands, Texas, a northern suburb of Houston.  

Because of his university ties, for Fred’s entire career on the PGA Tour and now his first year on the Champions Tour, he’s always been welcomed home as a favorite son. And he’s lived up to the adoration, finally winning the Shell Houston Open back in 2003 and now this week’s tournament at The Woodlands. And he did it going away shooting a 9-under par 63. 63! 

People tend to think of Champions Tour courses as short, and they are shorter than the PGA Tour courses. But The Woodlands was still 7,018 yards. Fred managed his 63 by making two eagles and seven birdies leaving him ample room for a double-bogey on the par-3 8th. He shot 29, the hallmark of the magical score of 59, on the back nine. As good as Fred’s round was, you can appreciate just what it takes to shoot the revered 59; there have only been four of them in PGA Tour history (Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, and just this year, Stuart Appleby).  

Nevertheless, you’d have to argue that what Fred did was the epitome of mastery, whatever tour you play on, however old you are.  

Nice work, Fred.

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