January 25, 2008
There’s something to be said for improvement, even if it is a bit incremental.
That’s perhaps the best approach to assessing Pete Oakley’s first tournament of 2008, the Champions Tour’s season-opening MasterCard Championship, held January 18-20 at the Hualalai Golf Club in Ka’upulehu-Kona, Hawaii.
The Rookery’s Director of Golf earned his spot in the limited field event thanks to his 2004 Senior British Open victory. He joined golfers who won Champions Tour events from the last two seasons, as well as other senior major tournament winners from the last five years, along with a few sponsor’s exemptions.
In 2007, Oakley tied for 38th place in the MasterCard, earning $9,750. This year, Oakley tied for 37th place, and earned $10,812.50.
That certainly beats inflation, and it all spends anyway.
Oakley called on Sunday night, January 20, as he sat in an airport lounge waiting for a flight to Kahaku, Hawaii. At the time he planned to attempt to join the field for the Turtle Bay Championship in the Monday 18-hole qualifier for this weekend, but ended up withdrawing instead.
That Sunday night, however, Oakley remained pleased with his performance in the opening season event.
“It was great fun,” he said. “It’s always nice to play with the big boys and talk with them. It’s not hard for them to remember who I am,” he laughed.
His opening round 67 put him at five under par, and in good shape for the weekend. However, the wind picked up, and so did his scores.
“I’m losing a little distance, and at 58, I’m not going to be hitting it any longer,” Oakley said. “I played with Fred Funk in the second round, and at the beginning of the day I was keeping up with him off the tee. As the day wore on, though, he was driving it 20 yards past me every time. Maybe Freddie’s in just a little better shape than I am,” he said.
When the Champions Tour moves its pro golf circus to Florida in February, Oakley plans to try qualifying again. He said he’d try to play in the Allianz tournament in Boca Raton February 8-10, and also in the ACE Group Classic in Naples, held February 15-17.
Otherwise, Oakley plans to spend most of his year competing on the European Senior Tour, where his British Senior Open victory helps assure his playing status. “I finished 35th overall last season, and between that and the British Open I’ll be able to play every event,” Oakley said.
The course set-ups in the European events also help him. “The courses are a little shorter, and there are more opportunities for me to bounce it onto the green, with my lower ball flight,” he said. “It’s definitely up my alley, and suits my game.”
The first European Tour event is in Barbados in early March, where Oakley has enjoyed some success in prior years. He’s also looking forward to the new $500,000 tournament this season, in Saudi Arabia, as well as events in Poland, Moscow, and the Czech Republic.
In addition, Oakley continues to qualify for a few more Champions Tour events, including the Legends tournament in April. “I’ll be playing with Larry Ziegler in the Rafael Division. That should be fun,” he said.
Zac Oakley, Pete’s son, caddied for his dad in the MasterCard event, and is continuing to try to improve his own chances at professional golf. “Zac’s playing hard,” Oakley said. “Besides caddying, he’ll be playing in minor league tournaments in Florida when he stays with me. Later this year, he’ll be back up north, working at The Rookery and playing in tournaments like the Delaware Open.”
Zac’s brother J.J., a former Cape Henlopen golf team standout, is focused right now on a different set of instruments. His proud dad mentioned how well J.J. is doing at the University of Maryland Dental School, with straight As, and said, “I’m tickled to death for him.”
As with last year, we’ll continue to follow Pete’s progress for the rest of this season.