By Sam Weinman
Sure, we can chuckle at the idea of Vijay Singh seeking healing powers in a deer antler. But let's not mistake the 49-year-old Singh as the only graying golfer to think outside the proverbial medicine chest when it comes to battling the effects of aging. Mark Calcavecchia endorsed the same deer antler spray that Singh admitted to using before being told the substance was banned. And this week as well, the former British Open champ Bob Charles acknowledged he had been using a deer antler product for more than 20 years.
Charles, in fact, was a subject of a 1999 Golf Digest feature by Guy Yocom that described the extremes senior golfers were going to to keep their competitive windows ajar. Charles was 63 at the time of the story but still in remarkable shape -- "as toned and fit as most PGA Tour rookies," Yocom wrote. And one of his secrets, he said then, was deer velvet.
Photo: Charles was a proud proponent of deer velvet until he learned
this week that it contained a banned substance. Photo by Jim Moriarty
"Deer velvet consists of the blood and tissue from a fresh deer antler," Charles said. "It's filled with nutrients, vitamins, minerals and natural anti-inflammatory agents."
"Traditional medicines may provide you with relief but alternative medicines are curative," said Charles, who also described taking ginger, garlic, gingko, biloba, and bee pollen. "They strengthen your immune system."
Charles had company among his peers in seeking unorthodox cures for the aches and pains of middle age. Rocky Thompson was a believer in the curative powers of oxygen -- he used it to explain even the active libidos of Adam and Eve -- so he drank an oxygen-rich substance called hydroxygen twice a day. That's tame when considering he also took a vitamin that included the processed tail of a horse. Chi Chi Rodriguez, meanwhile, admitted to traveling to Germany to receive injections of lamb cells. And this is to say nothing of the numbers of seniors at the time who wore magnets all over their body for pain relief.
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None of those golfers had to worry about running afoul of tour regulations since the PGA Tour didn't even have an Anti-Doping Policy until 2008. But it's the Singh incident, however, that will open many golfers' eyes to the notion that "natural" substances doesn't necessarily mean legal.