When John Huston turned 50 on Wednesday (June 1) he was having a hard time making the adjustment to his "new life".
"It goes by fast," Huston said. "I can't really believe I'm 50 mentally, but physically, there's a few days I feel it. Hopefully I can play somewhat respectable and slowly ease my way into it," he added, referring to his Champions Tour debut at this week's Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa.
At least he wasn't required to go to a Qualifying School to get on the Champions Tour. With $15 million in career earnings and seven PGA TOUR victories the Mt. Vernon, Ill., native deserves his walk-up start. Huston has had this date circled on his calendar since the beginning of the year.
"I've been looking forward to it and I knew I'd want to play," he said. "Now it's finally here. The nerves aren't what they used to be but that's to be expected."
Huston's reputation as a streaky player belies the fact he was remarkably consistent during the first 17 years of his professional career, which began in 1983, finishing in the top 100 on the money list every year but one (1997) during that time. He posted top-10 finishes 15 percent of the time during his 562 career starts.
After winning three times, and representing the United States at the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994, Huston overcame serious shoulder injuries in 1997 to have his career-best season in 1998, claiming a pair of titles and the No. 10 position on the money list, his highest finish ever.
At the 1998 United Airlines Hawaiian Open he broke a 53-year-old 72-hole scoring record in relation to par by shooting 28-under-par 260, with his sister Julie on the bag. Later that season he traveled to Australia for his second Presidents Cup appearance.
Five of his seven titles were captured in the state of Florida. He proudly won the 2000 Tampa Bay Classic at his home course, Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead Course, where he has lived for several years. In a memorable finish, Huston shot 30 over his final nine holes and passed third-round leader Carl Paulson to win by three strokes.
When asked to rate his TOUR wins, Huston said, "Winning at home was pretty special because I grew up in that area and I've been playing at Innisbrook since high school. Although 28 under in Hawaii was pretty good too," he added.
Huston's best performance in a major championship was T3 at the 1990 Masters Tournament. He also posted a solo 4th place finish at the 2000 U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach when Tiger Woods posted a 15-stroke win over Ernie Els and Miguel A. Jimenez.
Huston has another reputation to go with his "streaky" moniker. He is a fast player. Television announcer and fellow Champions Tour professional Gary McCord once described Huston as "the fastest player on TOUR, with no one a close second."
This year, Huston has made five starts, three on the PGA TOUR and two on the Nationwide Tour, missing the cut each time. He plans on playing every Champions Tour event for the rest of the year and he'll be looking for a faster start amongst the over-50s.
"I'll try not to put too much pressure on myself and see how it works out," he said. "I'll just do my best, stay healthy and see if I can win a couple of tournaments."
Sounds like a nice birthday wish that might come true.