SENIORS POWER

January 20, 1997

I was more than a little hot last year when I read, in a Teeing
Off column by Jaime Diaz in the Oct. 14 issue of Sports
Illustrated, that the Senior tour had lost its appeal. I was
also annoyed to see myself categorized as one of "a highly
motivated group of grinders" who are "less talented and less
charismatic" than the stars who originally made the Senior tour
a success. I hate to be the one to remind everybody, but I won
two major championships on the regular Tour, which the last time
I looked was the same number won by Ben Crenshaw, Greg Norman
and Curtis Strange, and one more than Fred Couples and Lanny
Wadkins. I don't hear those guys being called grinders short on
talent.

But what really bugged me was Diaz's view that the Senior tour
is losing its juice because the biggest stars, players like
Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, don't dominate
anymore. It didn't seem to matter to Diaz that the level of play
on the tour is higher than it has ever been, that the
competition is fiercer and that we've had a close race for the
money title over the last three years. In the last two seasons,
in fact, Jim Colbert played superbly in our final event to
overtake me in 1995 and Hale Irwin last year. I loved what Jim
said afterward--that Hale has always been the better player and
still is, but that Jim is getting a little closer. How can you
criticize a man, or a tour, for that kind of attitude?

What Diaz failed to say is that the so-called lesser players,
guys like Colbert, John Bland and Bob Murphy, are winning for a
logical reason: They are skilled players who are outworking the
competition. Would Diaz like the Senior tour to be structured so
that a bunch of ex-superstars could go through the motions and
still win? I believe that would diminish the tour. As much as I
hate to lose, I know it's good for the game when a legend like
Raymond or Jack or Gary Player wins--but only if they've earned
it. In any credible professional sport, performance, not
reputation, is the final word.

I see an upside to what is happening on the Senior tour. We have
the best international representation of any men's tour in the
world. Players like Brian Barnes, Bland, Vicente Fernandez and
David Graham have joined other foreign stars such as Isao Aoki,
Bob Charles, Graham Marsh and Player as important figures on our
circuit. We might even see Jumbo Ozaki next year. You want a
world tour? We've already got one.

But more important, I believe the success achieved by the
so-called grinders sends this strong message to soon-to-be
seniors like Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Johnny Miller, Wadkins and Tom
Watson: "Get your games in shape or be prepared to look foolish."

I can't think of a healthier situation.

Dave Stockton has won three Senior majors, including last year's
U.S. Senior Open, and led the tour in earnings in 1993 and '94.

COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN [Dave Stockton]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)