Jim Carter is on Cloud Nine. He's a rookie again.
Carter is one of three rookies who will tee it up this week at the Allianz Championship. It won't be his Champions Tour debut -- he qualified for two majors last year -- but that won't suppress his joy.
"It's amazing," Carter said. "I wasn't ready to be done as it was and the chance to be a rookie again, it's like 'Wow.' Just awesome. Kind of at a loss for words.
"I couldn't be more thrilled."
Carter will join Jeff Hart and P.H. Horgan as rookies on this year on the Champions Tour. All have played previously -- Hart played in four events last year and two in 2010. Horgan has played in three tournaments.
Carter played in two Champions Tour events last year -- the Senior British Open (MC) and the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club (T50). He was sixth at Q-School, one place shy of qualifying, but is eligible to play until Q-School medalist Jeff Freeman turns 50 on Tax Day, April 15.
Carter isn't sure what's ahead when Freeman returns. But he is certain of this:
"Playing good cures all the ailments. That's the way I'm looking at it. I'm not trying to look too much down the road. I know I've got five starts, which is a big deal. I'll take it one at a time, play the game, have some fun, do the things I know I can still do, enjoy it and play as hard as I can. I'll treat each one like it's gold."
Carter won the 1994 Nike New Mexico Charity Classic (Nationwide Tour) and the 2000 Touchstone Energy Tucson Open (PGA TOUR). That makes him a candidate to join a select group. Only five golfers have won on all three tours -- the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour. They are Ron Streck, Keith Fergus, Tom Lehman, Gary Hallberg and Olin Browne.
Carter, who was unaware of the distinction that could await him, said, "That's a little added incentive, (but) that's what I'm really there to do. We're all shooting to win. We all want to compete with the best players and to win.
"You've got to set the goals high. You don't want to just show up; you want to get into contention and to win."
Carter shot 68 to Monday qualify for the PGA TOUR's Sony Open this year but missed the cut. It says something about his level of preparedness and state of his game.
"I feel good about pretty much every part of my game," Carter said. "I've had shoulder issues that derailed me there at end of career on the PGA TOUR. Played some on the Nationwide Tour, solid but not anything great.
In a 2011 Nationwide Tour start, Jim Carter nearly aces the par-3 9th hole at the BMW Charity Pro-Am.
"I can just feel that good things are around the corner. I'm pleased with the way I'm hitting. It would be nice to make every putt you look ..."
But nobody does that.
Not surprisingly, the closer he's gotten to the Champions Tour, age-wise, the closer he's paid attention to what's happening with some of his old friends, colleagues and competitors.
"Sure looks like a lot of fun," Carter said. "You might wonder why guys would want to play so long -- there are guys out there 65 and still going strong -- and not really understand. In talking to the guys, they've having so much fun. They don't know why they would want to go anywhere else or do anything else. They've got all their friends, they're playing golf, making some money. It's a pretty amazing deal."
Hart was fourth at Q-School. He played four events in 2012, with a tie for sixth at the AT&T Championship his best finish. In his first start, he tied for 16th at the Principal Charity Classic in June.
Horgan earned his start by finishing fifth in the Champions Tour Q-School in November. In three 2011 starts, he tied for 44th at the Toshiba Classic, tied for 57th at the Senior PGA Championship and missed the cut at the Senior Open.