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Steven Alker making most of limited status on PGA TOUR Champions

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GRAND BLANC, MI - AUGUST 29: Steven Alker plays his tee shot on the fourth hole during the final round of The Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club on August 29, 2021 in Grand Blanc, Michigan. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

GRAND BLANC, MI - AUGUST 29: Steven Alker plays his tee shot on the fourth hole during the final round of The Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club on August 29, 2021 in Grand Blanc, Michigan. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

    Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour

    Steve Alker is not a household name.

    He’s a native of New Zealand with four Korn Ferry Tour wins to his credit, the last of which came at the 2014 Cleveland Open.

    But he was playing a full schedule on KFT right up until turning 50 on July 28.

    “I’ve just been out there grinding with the young guys, and it really deserves a lot of the credit for keeping my game where it’s at,” Alker said from Pebble Beach, California, where he was preparing for the PGA TOUR Champions PURE Insurance Championship. “I’m one of the shorter hitters out there, but on PGA TOUR Champions I’d probably says I’m at least above average, probably in the top 30 off the tee.”

    Alker is trying to turn what little status he had into full-time status on the Champions Tour. He made it through the Monday qualifier for his first event, the Boeing Classic outside Seattle, and promptly finished in a tie for seventh on the strength of a 5-under 67 in the final round.

    A top-10 finish automatically got him into the field for the next event, the Ally Challenge, and Alker was even better. He fired rounds of 69, 65 and 67 to finish in solo third. It netted him $144,000, the largest check of his pro career, and automatic entry into another tournament.

    Alker posted a T9 at the Ascension Charity Classic and followed with a T7 at the Sanford International. That’s four top 10s in four events, and he already is at No. 63 in the Charles Schwab Cup standings. He was No. 111 on the KFT standings through 29 starts.

    “The key is to get as much status as I can over these next two events before the playoff and do the best I can in the playoff and we’ll see,” Alker said.

    Alker, his wife and their two children have made their home in Arizona for 12 years while he bounced from the KFT to the PGA TOUR and back. He said he hadn’t given PGA TOUR Champions much thought until he was 49 and the pandemic had turned the golf calendar on its ear. He knew he’d have a tough road with little status, but he was undeterred.

    And it all fell into place, from playing great in the Monday qualifier (which actually was on a Tuesday that week) to the final-round 67 after a second-round 73 that had dropped Alker out of contention at the Boeing.

    “I was in 20-something place, but just came back and played really well in that third round,” Alker said.

    Alker said he was offered advice from a few friends on his way to getting on the Champions Tour, including New Zealand legend Bob Charles, 85, the smooth left-hander who won 25 times on PGA TOUR Champions. Of a more recent vintage he looked at fellow KFT veterans Dicky Pride and Doug Barron, both of whom have won on PGA TOUR Champions in calendar 2021.

    “We’re not similar players, but to look at the success of Dicky and Doug certainly gave me hope that I had a chance to do well on the Champions Tour,” Alker said. “You still have to grind and put in the work and stay in good shape, and that’s what I’ve been able to do on the Korn Ferry Tour.”

    Alker described his game as “I’m a guy who hits fairways and greens. Bit streaky with the putter.”

    He’s not lying about hitting fairways. Alker currently leads the KFT in fairway percentage at more than 75%. He hasn’t played in enough events to qualify for the Champions Tour yearly statistics, but he was first in greens in regulation at the Ally.

    If he keeps hitting it like that, he’ll have a chance to make it to the Charles Schwab Cup Championship season finale. And that at least would get his name out there in a few more households.

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