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Stewart Cink making PGA TOUR Champions debut at Senior PGA

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MCKINNEY, TEXAS - MAY 11: Stewart Cink of the United States plays his shot from the fifth tee during the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch on May 11, 2023 in McKinney, Texas. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

MCKINNEY, TEXAS - MAY 11: Stewart Cink of the United States plays his shot from the fifth tee during the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch on May 11, 2023 in McKinney, Texas. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Turned 50 on Sunday, competing this week at Fields Ranch East

    Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour

    Stewart Cink turned 50 on Sunday and will make his debut on PGA TOUR Champions this week at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Fields Ranch East in Frisco, Texas.

    It was an easy decision for Cink, an eight-time winner on the PGA TOUR. He wasn’t qualified for this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, some 47 miles away via State Highway 121. So why not see a new course and some old, familiar faces?

    “I’m really looking forward to it,” Cink said Tuesday. “The pro-am today was the first time I’ve seen this course and it’s amazing. I’m really impressed. It’s set up well and I think it will be a fun challenge. It's kind of Erin Hills-ish. I’d say it’s a cross between Southern Hills and Erin Hills. Call it Southern Erin.”

    The course is new, so everyone will be getting a first look. What Cink is more familiar with is the competition, albeit a little while since he has seen many of them.

    He has kept in touch with the likes of friends Billy Andrade, Joe Durant and David Toms, but they haven’t come across each other on the course in a handful of years.

    “Some of these guys have been my buddies forever, so to be able to play practice rounds with them and have lunch and sit around and talk, that’s gonna be awesome,” Cink said. “I just can't overstate how much joy there is in being able to have a sunset in your career like this one.

    “I still like to grind, I still like to play and compete, the daily pursuit of being my best. But this grind is different. It’s more jovial. The PGA TOUR has become such a business.”

    Stewart Cink, on verge of turning 50, cherishes past while thinking to future

    Cink has sought advice from a number of PGA TOUR Champions players about how to fill out his schedule, but he said everyone had something different to say.

    “It’s really whatever works best for that individual,” Cink said. “Because of the new (Designated) events on the PGA TOUR, that’s going to be my focus through the FedExCup. I’ll play on the regular TOUR as much as I can in order to try to make it into those (Designated) events next year.

    “But I haven’t played that well this year (eight missed cuts in 16 events), so I can see maybe playing some Champions Tour events in the fall.”

    Cink did say he has entered two more senior majors -- the U.S. Senior Open and The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex. But it sounded as though even those were subject to change.

    For now, Cink is hoping to return his game to the form that saw him win twice on the PGA TOUR during the 2020-21 season.

    “It’s not like your calendar flips over by one day and you’re not as good a golfer anymore,” Cink said. “These guys out here play great. It's like any pro tour. You just kind of play your butt off. I know I can do that. Just want to keep on moving forward. …

    “It's hard not to have some expectations (when transitioning to PGA TOUR Champions), and that's part of preparation. Mentally prepare yourself for a little bit of everything. When you come into any golf competition. I just don't think it's any different coming out here. You still have to hit the shots. Plan for adversity. Yes, expect trials, and just be ready for everything.”

    Andrade figures once Cink decides to devote himself to PGA TOUR Champions, his ceiling will be plenty high, even for a guy who’s listed at 6-foot-4.

    “He obviously has had a resurgence the last couple of years,” Andrade said. “He’s long, he’s strong, and he’s been a helluva player for decades. I believe he will become a force on the Champions Tour for a long time.”

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