The “kids " are taking over the Senior PGA Tour.
Seven professionals who became eligible this season to join the 50-and-over tour have made an impression as rookies.
The newcomers are George Archer, Frank Beard, Jim Dent, Tom Shaw, Rives McBee, Larry Ziegler and John Paul Cain.
All are playing in the $350,000 GTE tournament on the Ojai Valley Inn and Country Club course. A victory for any of them in the 54-hole event, which begins today, will give the group its seventh championship.
Although Archer did not become eligible until Oct. 1 and Ziegler Aug. 12, the newcomers have 38 finishes in the top 10 and have earned more than $1.3 million.
Both McBee and Cain won tournaments after qualifying on Mondays. Cain did not turn pro until he entered the senior qualifying school a year ago. Dent is the only two-time winner and Beard, who finished second in the U.S. Senior Open, and Ziegler have not won.
Archer, a former winner of the L.A. Open, has played in only three tournaments. He joined Arnold Palmer and Gary Player as the only players to win the first time out on the senior tour.
They are primed for the assault on the par-70 Ojai course. In the first round of the pro-am event that preceded the regular tournament, the six lowest scores were posted by newcomers. Dent and Ziegler shot 65s, five under.
Archer’s is a story of instant success after 25 years of struggle on the regular tour. He has played in only three tournaments, each time has finished in the top 10 and has earned $64,000. On the regular tour, in 20 tournaments this season, he earned only $63,000.
Despite his success, the years have taken their toll on Archer. In 1987, Dr. Frank Jobe had to repair torn ligaments in Archer’s left shoulder. Now he has a couple of troublesome elbows, although neither was caused by golf.
“I hurt the left elbow lifting my wife’s heavy suitcase,” Archer said. “I told her, ‘No more.’ If we can’t find a porter, she’ll have to make her own arrangements.
“As long as I wear the bands on my forearms, ice the elbows after playing and take a daily treatment, I’m all right. But, if I neglect them, I wake up in the middle of the night in terrible pain.”
The presence of the young newcomers and lack of tournament play have made it tough on Palmer. Everybody’s favorite has been so busy with his other businesses, including golf-course development, that he has not played in many tournaments.
He has won only $106,000, and his highest finish was a tie for fourth in the senior TPC. He hasn’t played for five weeks. Naturally, Palmer, 60, believes that he can still win.
“This is a fun golf course,” Palmer said. “It’s not extremely difficult and, playing conservatively, you should score well. If you get risky, you could score very well. It would be possible to make up several shots on the last day. That makes for an exciting tournament.”
Palmer said that although reporters are making much of Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus joining the seniors shortly, the large group of good golfers who joined this season was largely overlooked.
“The media didn’t pay much attention to Archer and Beard and the others, but they are good,” he said. “They make this a much better tour.”
The fans still think Palmer can win. When the largest gallery starts out at 11:20 today, it will be out to cheer on Palmer, not the newcomers, McBee and Beard.