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A thousand official starts across the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions is definitely deserving of a first-tee cake.
On Friday, which happened to be his wife Brenda’s birthday, Mark Calcavecchia became the 23rd golfer to do so when he teed off at this week’s ClubCorp Classic near Dallas. PGA Tour Champions President Miller Brady did the honors of presenting the cake to Calcavecchia, who 40 years ago made his Tour debut.
“Does that mean I get to tee off up there?” Calcavecchia wondered aloud. “I get to play the Super Seniors tees.”
How’d it feel to hit that tee shot, he was asked? “Like I’d done it 1,000 times before,” he deadpanned.
1000 starts in golf!
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) April 23, 2022
Calcavecchia won 13 times, most notably the 1989 British Open, and four more times on the Champions Tour. Besides being a darn-good golfer, the 61-year-old “Calc” is an underrated follow on Twitter. He participated in a wide-ranging Q&A with PGA Tour.com earlier this week (and well worth a full read) that included some great nuggets, including that he first picked up a club “maybe around 5 years old,” and learned the game originally in his native Nebraska at Cedar View Country Club.
“The trees have grown in. It’s beautiful now. And you drive up Calcavecchia Drive to get there,” he said.
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) April 19, 2022
On his family’s move to Florida: “My father slipped on a patch of ice in the winter of ’72. He broke his elbow or his arm or something or other, and he said, ‘That’s it. That’s the last winter we’re spending here.’
“We lived right across Highway 1 from the 14th green at North Palm Beach Country Club. I’d take my shag bag after dinner, go to the 14th green and just hit bunker shots.”
On his maiden victory by three strokes at the 1986 Southwest Classic: “We play a practice round in Abilene, Texas; it’s blowing about 30, and I had four three-putts on the front nine. I had only brought one putter, my normal old (Ping) Anser, and I said, ‘I’m going in the pro shop to buy the ugliest putter I can find.’ I went through the locker room to go to the bathroom and the Titleist guy had put about 20 putters out in the locker room. Then I saw it, the big old black-headed putter called the Dead Center Titleist putter. I said, ‘This is the ugliest thing I can find. Can I try this for the back nine?’ And I went out and made everything, shot like 31 and took everybody’s money and then ended up winning the tournament with it. I still have that putter to this day.
“The winner’s check was $72,000. That’s when they gave us the big cardboard checks. I’m flying to West Palm from Dallas through Atlanta, and I’m dragging around this giant check. Everybody looked at me like I was a complete idiot. But I didn’t care. I was pretty happy. Pretty sure I still have the check in a storage shed somewhere.”
On where he keeps his Claret Jug from winning the 1989 Open: “It’s by my TV on the fourth shelf of this wall unit we built. I look at it every day. I need to take it down and get it shined. We had it shined up a couple years ago, so it looked like it was brand new. I can always put a little elbow grease into it with some silver polish, but it’s easier letting the jeweler do it. It sure looks pretty when it’s shiny.”
On his plans to take one final spin at the 150th Open in July: “My last Open (at age 60) was supposed to be two years ago at Royal St. George’s, and it was canceled because of COVID. Last year, I couldn’t play because I’d had back surgery. So I wrote a long letter in April when I knew I wouldn’t be able to play and I asked the Open committee to consider letting me play at St. Andrews, make it my last Open. They got right back to me and said, ‘Let me bring it up to the championship committee.’ And not even a few weeks later, I got an email back. The decision by the 25 committee members was unanimous. ‘We’d love to have you play your last Open at St Andrews. We love to take care of our past champions.’
“My daughter and my son will be coming, and my wife, Brenda, of course. And my goal is to make the cut … I really think I can make the cut. Either way, it’s going to be a blast.”