Tour Insider: Chapman looks to write encore to 2012

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Roger Chapman was the surprise story of 2012 with two major titles.
January 16, 2013

By Vartan Kupelian, Champions Tour Insider

In baseball, the popular refrain is, “Wait ‘til next year.”

On the Champions Tour, there’s no need to wait. Something is going to happen this year. It always does.

What exactly that will be is a mystery but count on it. The plot might begin to unwind this week when the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai kicks off the Champions Tour campaign. Or it might take a few events for the plot to reveal itself. But when it does, it will be a microburst – a current that hits the ground running and then whips up plenty of momentum.

A year ago, Roger Chapman found himself in such a whirlwind. Out of nowhere, he carved out a season that defined his golf and redefined his career. Chapman, who started the 2012 season as a conditionally-exempt player, won two major championships in a seven-week stretch. What he accomplished was beyond the unlikely but it was real.

Chapman has a theory on why things like his story happen on the Champions Tour.

“I think a lot of it is people getting a new lease on life,” he said. “I know I did. You get to be 45, 46, struggling on the regular tour and wondering what you’re going to do. You have four, five years sort of to wait for the senior tours. When you get out here, it is so much more relaxed and because all of a sudden you are relaxed, things happen.

“I think that has a big influence on a player’s career. Look at Willie Wood. He got a new lease on life, new confidence. You start remembering, ‘This is how I used to do it. And he won twice quickly.”

For Chapman, it was a surreal episode to his career when he won the Senior PGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Open in opposite corners of Michigan in a seven-week stretch last year. Just as Chapman embraced his accomplishments, the media embraced Chapman. Never in his career, essentially all of it on the European Tour, have so many words been written about Chapman and his golf. It continued into this year when Chapman was named the Champions Tour Player of the Year by the Golf Writers Association of America. He will attend the annual GWAA Awards Dinner in Augusta on April 10.

“Never had anything like this before,” Chapman said of the acknowledgments coming from every corner. “It’s phenomenal what’s going on … just all over the place. Lovin’ every moment of it.”
And Chapman is not normally like that.

“It’s unusual,” he said. “I’m a person who sort of likes to step away from that – I do not seek adulation. Even here this week, guys are coming up to me, like Ben Crenshaw, and saying, ‘I’m so happy for you.’ When Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson are saying these things, it’s very special. It’s something I’m getting used to.

“When it first started, I’m thinking, ‘OK, nice, I did well.’ My old self would have wanted to slip into the background. Now I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, I did that and it is nice that people recognize it. I’m more comfortable with it.”

There were so many things that set Chapman’s 2012 season apart. The U.S. Senior open victory made him the first Englishman since Tony Jacklin, at the 1970 U.S. Open, to win a USGA championship. The Jacklin connection is interesting because it is from Jackson at last year’s Regions Tradition that Chapman got a final bit of incentive.

The tale resonates and Chapman never tires of telling it, as he did again Wednesday. Jacklin and Chapman played a couple of rounds together at Shoal Creek. When Jacklin approached Chapman and said, “Roger, I want to tell you something,” Chapman’s initial reaction – honest-to-goodness – was, ‘God, what have I done wrong?”

Nothing at all. Jacklin simply had this message: “Roger, you're a really good player, you can make lots of money on the Senior Tour, go out and do it.”

Chapman took it to heart.

Jacklin was correct about the plentiful rewards, too. Chapman was one of 15 players to surpass the $1 million mark in season earnings, and he added a $200,000 annuity by finishing fourth in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race.

What does Chapman do for an encore in 2013?

We won’t have to wait long to find out. The balls are in the air Friday at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

“I keep saying if I have a year half as good as 2012, I’d be happy,” Chapman said. “The old adage is you set another height on the bar and try to get to that height again. I’ve got my own set of goals this year. Just work hard and play hard.”