The secrets of Steven Alker’s rise to Charles Schwab Cup champion
6 Min Read
Career grinder outduels Padraig Harrington to win PGA TOUR Champions’ season-long race
Written by Jim McCabe @PGATOUR
Steven Alker makes par putt to win 2022 Charles Schwab Cup
PHOENIX – Being from Utah with a passion for golf, Tyson Marostica was naturally a Tony Finau fan. Followed his progress, checked in on his scores, and noticed the little things. Like this one time when a name he’d never heard of finished better than Finau in some tournament.
“Guy named Steve Alker,” said Marostica. “No idea why, but I starred him (as a favorite player on the PGA TOUR app) for like six or seven years.”
Not that Marostica ever gave much thought to this New Zealander with the star next to his name – until one day in the fall of 2020 “when the receptionist in my office said a Steven Alker was calling,” said Marostica. A Doctor of Chiropractic in Mesa, Arizona, Marostica works with several golfers.
“Steven said he had ‘vetted’ me with other golfers. He said he was getting ready for the (PGA TOUR) Champions and wanted my help,” said Marostica. “He wanted to make sure his body does what he wants it to.”
Marostica laughed. “Crazy, isn’t it, how I had his name starred in my app all those years and then he calls my office.”
Truth be told, sir, it’s no crazier than all the other layers to this wildly fun and deliciously tasty feel-good story of Steven Alker, which received an emphatic exclamation point Sunday at Phoenix Country Club.
Having toiled in relative anonymity for 27 years and resisted thoughts of quitting on a number of occasions, Alker officially completed a remarkable 16-month ride from Monday qualifier to winner of the $1m Charles Schwab Cup for season-long excellence.
Let the record show that the final act to Alker’s 2022 PGA TOUR Champions season was Sunday’s round of 3-under 68 for 19-under 265 and a third-place finish in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Resigned to the runaway Irish express named Padraig Harrington (65 – 257 and a seven-stroke win over Alex Cejka), Alker’s focus was finishing in a two-way T5 or better to secure the season-long competition. Staggered by his first two bogeys of the tournament at Nos. 12 and 13, Alker bounced back with birdies at 14 and 16.
The celebration with Alker’s deep and faithful gallery that had traveled in from his adopted hometown of Fountain Hills, Arizona, some 35 miles from Phoenix CC, was free to commence, and cheerful they were. But as Tanya Alker fought back tears, she remembered the days that were not so joyful.
In 2011, there was $16,904 earned for the Korn Ferry Tour season. A year later, Alker missed the cut in six of his last eight tournaments and made a total of $53,149. He was 41. Was it time to quit?
Probably, “only we couldn’t,” said Tanya, who was asked why.
Choking back emotions, she said: “We were close, it didn’t look like there were any options, but we didn’t have a backup plan.”
Years ago as a young woman in England, Tanya had gone against the grain and joined the Royal Navy. People looked at her quizzically and told her it wasn’t something women were doing at that time, but she went anyway. So, yeah, she has some fight in her, too.
Post-Navy, she worked on Princess Cruises to see the world and in 2000, on a whim, she took a vacation to New Zealand. There, she met a professional golfer named Steven Alker.
“Sort of my souvenir from the holiday,” she laughed.
They were married in 2003, back when Alker had graduated onto the PGA TOUR following a robust Korn Ferry Tour season. He would return to the Korn Ferry Tour in ’04, part of a sojourn that would see Alker play a whopping 508 tournaments on four different tours – PGA Tour of Australasia, DP World Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, and PGA TOUR.
There were highlights – four Korn Ferry Tour wins, three others in Australasia and three seasons on the PGA TOUR – but golf did not define her husband, this did: “He’s a great husband, a great father (to son Ben, 19, and daughter Skye, 17), a great life partner,” said Tanya.
While spirited wins on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2013 and 2014 did much to push Alker onward and he got one last PGA TOUR try in 2017, the reality was this: In 2020, he was 49 and competing against kids half his age. Only now, he did have a backup plan. With his 50th birthday (July 25, 2021) circled on the calendar, Alker put his plan in place. It started with a phone call to Marostica.
“He said he wanted to get ready for (PGA TOUR Champions) Q-School (that would be in the fall of ’21). He knew exactly what he wanted with his swing and wanted me to get him there,” said Marostica.
An exercise regimen was put in place and “Steven blew me away by how much he wanted to win, how much he wanted to grind.”
The pandemic had disrupted everything in the pro golf world of 2020, but Alker was committed to his journey. He signed up for three tournaments on the Outlaw Tour, a mini-tour staple in Arizona, finishing T15 in the Sedona Open, winning the Longbow Classic, and adding a T45 in the McCormick Open.
“Steven Alker is a class act; we could not be happier for him,” said Troph Peterson, director of the Outlaw Tour. Asked what he was looking for in these mini-tour starts, Alker told Peterson: “I've just been focusing on eliminating bogeys.”
When the Korn Ferry Tour season resumed in February 2021, the 49-year-old Alker was on board once more. He played in 15 tournaments and while he felt he played well and was in great shape, it was a young man’s tour. His focus was on prepping for the PGA TOUR Champions, and Q-School was hopefully going to be his ticket.
Then came one of the greatest detours in golf history. Alker Monday-qualified for the Boeing Classic in late August 2021, finished tied for seventh to ignite a run of six straight top-10s. Q-School would not be needed; he had earned his card.
One year ago at Phoenix CC, Alker finished second in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. But if that put a nice stamp upon his rookie season, what he did for an encore is remarkable: 23 tournaments, four wins, four seconds, four thirds, season-long Charles Schwab Cup winner.
Celebratory hugs came in every direction, Team Alker was in great spirits, and Alker tried to find the words to explain it all.
“I’ve played everywhere,” said Alker. “Just a lot of hard yards. It’s been an amazing journey.”
One might say it’s beyond amazing. Consider, for instance, that compared to the approximate $3m he earned on four different tours in 25 years, Alker has piled up $4,469,632 in 33 PGA TOUR Champions starts.
Oh, and the $1m bonus that will be filed into a Charles Schwab account, the sort of icing on the cake that Tanya Alker could barely get her arms around.
“It means we have family security, something we’ve never had,” she said.
She worked to wipe away tears. But the grateful emotions she will keep forever.
Jim McCabe has covered golf since 1995, writing for The Boston Globe, Golfweek Magazine, and PGATOUR.COM. Follow Jim McCabe on Twitter.