November 4, 2005
Pete Oakley is a bit tired of golf right now, but as he himself recognizes, it’ll soon pass.
The Rookery’s Director of Golf recently completed his first full year as an exempt player on the PGA Champions Tour. He finished 68th on the money list, earning a total of $192,293.
That’s not enough to maintain his fully exempt status for next year, but it’ll spend.
Oakley took advantage of the fact that some other Champions Tour players were taking off from playing in the fall, and was able to compete in all four of the last regular tournaments of the season. Unfortunately, he didn’t perform nearly as well as he would have liked.
In the SAS Championship in early October, for example, he blew up on the last day with an 80. That put him in 75th place, earning an underwhelming $1,140. His game improved a bit at the next event, the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn, North Carolina. “I played fairly decently at Hickory, although I didn’t start well. I had a 42 on the front nine the first day, with a triple bogey. Then I went 6-under for the rest, and finished under par for the tournament,” Oakley explained. He earned $5,920, in 45th place.
Things didn’t improve in the last two events, though.
“I don’t know what happened in Houston [at the Administaff Small Business Classic]. I had a good first round, but then I really don’t understand how my scores the next two rounds went up to 79 and 78,” Oakley said.
Actually, it was a 79 and 75, but still.
After picking up $1,360 for his tie for 70th place, Oakley then traveled to San Antonio for the season-ending SBC Championship. “I did a little bit better there—finished at 2 or 3 over par, and won three grand,” he said.
“I’m glad to be home now,” Oakley said. “I was feeling really stale about my golf.”
I asked Oakley what he thought was his greatest disadvantage in competing on the Champions Tour. His response didn’t mention any part of his game, such as being noticeably shorter off the tee compared to Tom Watson or some of the other, better-known players.
“I think the main thing was that the competition is just at such a high level,” Oakley said. “Just knowing that you have to shoot 5 or 6 under to do well puts such pressure on you. And then, even if you do that, someone comes along and shoots a 63, and you just wonder how in the world he did that, on such a tough course. I know it’s a cliché and all, but these guys really are that good, like they say on the commercials.”
“I was way more erratic, but I think I now know a lot more about myself and my swing. I have to work on making some improvements, and then make them habitual. For a lot of the year it was either feast or famine with me. I know my patience was wearing thin at times,” Oakley said.
He plans to travel to southern California later this month for the 6-round Q-School event, hoping to finish in the top 8 places and earn fully exempt status for the Tour’s 2006 season. The next 8 places qualify those players to play in several events, with more tournaments possible depending on how they play. Oakley noted that Q-School shouldn’t produce the same steep competition he faced on the Champions Tour, but he’s not making any assumptions that it will be easy.
In addition, Champions Tour player Dana Quigley asked Oakley to accompany him to a couple pro-am charity events later this year, and Oakley was looking forward to the experience. “They should be a lot of fun, just relaxing rounds, playing with amateurs,” Oakley said.
“And next year, even if I don’t make the Champions Tour, I’m still exempt for the European Seniors Tour. So no matter what, I know I’ll be playing somewhere next year,” he said.
Sometimes it’s just nice to know you have someplace to go.