Kirk Hanefeld: Diary of a Champions Tour Rookie #1Kirk Hanefeld, Champions Tour rookie and Titleist Staff Member, will chronicle his rookie season on Tour through regular updates on Titleist.com.
Kirk Hanefeld, Director of Golf Operations at The International in Bolton, Massachusetts, does not turn 50 until May, but he has already secured his Champions Tour card for 2006 with an impressive runner-up finish at Qualifying School in November. A Titleist Staff Member for nearly 25 years, titleist.com will chronicle Kirk's rookie season on the Champions Tour.
I started thinking seriously about attempting a career on the Champions Tour about two years ago. A lot of people asked me if I was planning on playing competitively when I became eligible and my standard response was: 1) If I have the opportunity to work more on my golf game leading up to age 50; 2) If I remain healthy with no serious injuries; and 3) If I get a lot better. Then, and only then, would I consider going in that direction. To a certain extent, all three of those variables came to fruition. I started focusing on the Champions Tour Qualifying tournament about two months prior to the event when I began practicing pretty regularly. As it turned out, I continued to play well and felt good about my game leading into the qualifier.
The tournament was held at the PGA of Southern California Golf Club in Beaumont. It was extremely windy throughout the week with the Santa Ana winds gusting from 25-35 miles per hour at times. I started out the six-round event 77-73, but bounced back with a 68 in round three, which was the best score of the day. The fourth round offered near perfect scoring conditions as the winds died down for most of the day and I shot a bogey-free 5-under 67 to move into the lead at 3-under 285. I closed out the tournament with a 76-70 to finish at 1-under 431, two strokes behind the winner Massy Kuramoto of Japan. I have to say, even when I took the lead, my only goal was to finish in the top 7 and receive full exempt status. Finishing second was not a disappointment.
After graduating from the University of Houston I had aspirations of playing on the PGA Tour and attempted Qualifying School three times in the late 1970's. I came very close on two occasions but fell just shy. Shortly thereafter, I began my career as a PGA Club Professional in the New England area, and am currently the Director of Golf Operations at The International in Bolton, Masachusetts. It is a truly great club where the owner, General Manager, staff and membership have always supported and encouraged me in my desire to play competitive golf. They were all as happy as I was that I achieved this goal.
My first official Champions Tour event will be the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmund, Oklahoma which begins on May 25, the day after my 50th birthday. I expect to play in every event that I am eligible for in 2006 in order to give myself the best chance of retaining my exempt status. I haven't spoken to Dana Quigley yet, but as a fellow New Englander, maybe I will have to get some tips from him on how to pace myself. Dana is the real ironman of the Champions Tour and a tremendous success story.
I am headed to Florida tomorrow for about a month to work on my game and play in some local tournaments. I also plan to visit the Titleist Performance Institute and new Scotty Cameron Putter Studio in California at some point this winter. Without question, Titleist is at the forefront of equipment technology and serious player development. I am a 24-year member of the PGA of America and I am proud to say I have been associated with Titleist since day one.
I will check in again when I return from Florida to fill you in on my experiences as I prepare for one of the biggest opportunities of my life. I am looking forward to the challenge and hope you enjoy my periodic updates.
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