In June of 1980, 63 golfers gathered for the Atlantic City Senior International, the inaugural event on the Senior PGA Tour. They knew they were on the ground floor of something, just not exactly what. Texan Don January won the event. It was first of his many victories on what is now known as the Champions Tour.
What they had was their persimmon drivers, their Sansabelts, their stories and, as Dick Taylor described in Golf World, “enough aches and pains in the field to keep an orthopedic wing working overtime.”
They had no idea that what officially began in New Jersey and had been seeded in Texas the previous few years at the Legends of Golf-where it was clear these 50-and-older golfers still had game-would endure for more than three decades and reach a milestone unfathomable during those long-ago 54 holes near the Jersey shore.
On October 18-20, The Greater Hickory Kia Classic at Rock Barn, in Hickory, North Carolina the Champions Tour celebrated it’s 1000th tournament.
Today the Champions Tour is run by the PGA Tour and hosts events annually in the United States and the United Kingdom. The tour is for qualifying golfers 50 years of age and older and many of the PGA Tour’s most successful golfers have gone on to play on the Champions Tour.
Most of the tournaments are played over three rounds (54 holes), which is one round less than regular professional stroke play tournaments on the PGA Tour. Because of this and having smaller fields, there are generally no “cuts” between any of the rounds. However, the five senior majors have a full 72 holes (four rounds). A golfer’s performances can be quite variable from one round to the next, and playing an extra round increases the likelihood that the senior majors will be won by leading players.
In 2006, the Champions Tour Division Board of the PGA Tour organization voted to allow players the option to use golf carts during most events on the tour. The five major championships and certain other events, including pro-ams, are excluded.
LEADING CAREER MONEY WINNERS
The leading career money leaders on the Champions Tour through the 2013 Greater Hickory Kia Classic
1—HALE IRWIN—U.S.– -$26,749,972
2—GIL MORGAN—U.S.— $20,372,449
3—TOM KITE—U.S.— $15,787,251
4—DANA QUIGLEY—U.S.— $14,847,286
5—BRUCE FLEISHER—U.S.— $14,836,386
6—LARRY NELSON—U.S.— $14,431,593
7—JAY HAAS—U.S.— $14,146,595
8—JIM THORPE—U.S.— $13,859,563
9—TOM WATSON—U.S.— $13,818,322
10—TOM JENKINS—U.S.— $13,684,849