Champions Tour Insider: Winning out of the gate
Maggert's first win in first Champions Tour start was harder than it looked
March 26, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Jeff Maggert won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic last week after a 4-under 68 on Sunday. (Carroll/Getty Images)
It happened three times in 2009 before a four-year gap. Now it has happened twice in just over a year.
Joe Durant, Davis Love III, Paul Goydos, Scott Verplank and a few others probably will take note.
When Jeff Maggert won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic last week, he became the 17th player to win in his Champions Tour debut.
Rocco Mediate won his debut in February of 2013 at the Allianz Championship and went on to claim Rookie of the Year honors. Before Mediate, it had been four years since a first-timer had won. In 2009, Tom Lehman (Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf), Michael Allen (Senior PGA Championship) and Tom Pernice, Jr. (SAS Championship) achieved the feat.
Maggert is among the notable golfers who are becoming eligible this year for the Champions Tour.
The next Champions Tour event is the Greater Gwinnett Championship, April 18-20, where Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez will make his debut. Jimenez turned 50 in January.
The list of golfers celebrating their 50th birthday later this year is distinguished. It includes but is not limited to Durant (April 7), Love (April 13), Stephen Ames (April 28), Goydos (June 20), Kevin Sutherland (July 4), Verplank (July 9) and Lee Janzen (August 28).
Maggert acknowledged that his golf game hasn’t been what he’d like it to be but that was remedied at Fallen Oak. Perhaps it was the energy created by a new challenge. Something else he had going for him was years of experience playing at the highest level on the PGA TOUR.
“Once you're inside the ropes and playing, a lot of it is the same,” he said. “Every day is a little bit of a new experience. All I can say is I'm enjoying every bit of it.”
Plus, there was the familiarity with so many of those now on the Champions Tour.
“Just a lot of great names that I've been able to play the TOUR with for a lot of years, a lot of them coming up to me and welcoming me to the Tour,” Maggert said. “Some of them are telling me to go back to the (PGA TOUR) now.
“But anyway, it is pretty amazing. I guess that's one of the things that stuck in my mind is just going through the locker room and looking at all the great names that actually play the Champions Tour and the records that they've amassed over their careers. It is pretty special these guys are out here still playing and playing some very good golf.”
Maggert, who turned professional in 1986 and joined the PGA TOUR in 1991, became the seventh professional to accomplish the hat trick of winning on the PGA TOUR, the Champions Tour and the Web.Com Tour.
Maggert isn’t ready to turn his back on the PGA TOUR, where he has won three times and has posted 15 runner-up finishes. The victory in Mississippi might lead him to add a few more Champions Tour events but that’s something he’ll think about.
Maggert shot a final-round 68 for a 205 total and two-stroke victory over Billy Andrade, who closed with 71. Andrade is another of this year’s highly anticipated rookies on the Champions Tour.
Among the things Maggert will have to get accustomed to again is the media attention.
“Not used to this much in a few years,” he said. “I haven't played that well on the regular TOUR, so it's nice to get out here and get noticed.”
Certainly, he was noticed by other players.
“I think a lot of them were a little bit shocked to see me, actually,” Maggert said on the eve of the tournament. “They had to take a double-take and asked to see my ID and make sure I was (50).”
Andrade was among those players.
“I'm pretty happy,” Andrade said after posting his best finish in four Champions Tour starts this year. “I hung in there, I made a couple of birdies. I did make some mistakes coming in, but overall I can't complain too much. My only complaint is that Jeff should stay back on the PGA TOUR and let us hang out over here.”
Maggert said he was looking forward to the challenge and was approaching the Champions Tour with modest anticipation.
“I think other people have a lot higher expectations than I do,” he said. “I’m trying to take it just kind of one week at a time, try to play well and have some fun … I don’t expect it to be a cakewalk out here.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, you're going to turn 50, you're going to go out there, just play really well.’ But you have to beat a lot of good players out here, and I'm not taking anything for granted.”