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Kirk Hanefeld: Diary of a Champions Tour Rookie #2

Kirk Hanefeld, Director of Golf Operations at The International in Bolton, Massachusetts and Titleist Staff Member for 25 years, does not turn 50 until May 24, but he secured his Champions Tour card for 2006 with an impressive runner-up finish at Qualifying School in November. This is the second installment of what will be a periodic feature on titleist.com chronicling Kirk's rookie season on the Champions Tour.

Kirk Hanefeld
Kirk Hanefeld

(Read Entry 1)

Unlike most people who dread the thought of turning 50, I'm looking forward to it and have tried to be as patient as possible knowing there is nothing I can do to speed up time.  I certainly don't feel old.  In fact, I'm probably in the best shape I've been for the past few years.  

To clarify the rule for those who are not familiar, the Champions Tour allows golfers to participate in its Qualifying School who are going to turn 50 years old the following year.  Even though I earned my card last November, it does not become official until my 50th birthday on May 24, the day before the start of the Senior PGA Championship.

Needless to say, I have been anticipating the day I become eligible to play my first event.  The only downside is that by not being able to play virtually the first third of the season, I have fewer events in which to earn enough money to retain my playing privileges for 2007.  Believe me, I'm not complaining, it just means that I will have to perform my best in every tournament I play going forward.  I'm looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge.

As I mentioned, my first tournament will be the Senior PGA Championship, the year's first major.  It is being held at Oak Tree in Edmond, Okla.  I have never played Oak Tree before but I know it will be a good test.  I plan to arrive on Sunday evening and play practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday leading up to the official start on Thursday.  

Just as exciting for me will be the third event I play in, which is the Bank of America Championship at Nashawtuc CC in Concord, Mass.  This will be a very special tournament for me this year because it is in my backyard.  It will be fun playing in front of family, friends and the great members of The International Golf Club, where I have been the Director of Golf for years.  The International will have a hospitality tent located just off the 18th fairway.  Although I have not played Nashawtuc for many years, I plan on playing numerous practice rounds in May in an effort to be as prepared as possible.

I have not attended any Champions Tour events so far this season, but I have watched a few rounds on television and talked with a guys like Lonnie Nielsen, Tom McKnight and Pete Oakley who I know well and have played with over the years.  They've been very helpful with giving me insights on what to expect.  A fellow club professional's son who will be graduating from college in May will be my caddy.  Although he does not have Tour experience, he is a former caddy master at an exclusive private golf club in New England, and is someone I know well and will feel comfortable with on my bag.

I have been preparing for the start of my Champions Tour career by playing in some events over the winter in Florida and Georgia.  I also visited the Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, Calif.  TPI was a fabulous experience.  It confirmed that the Titleist equipment that I've been playing, which is the Pro V1x golf ball and all 14 clubs, is perfectly fit for my swing motion.  Dr. Rose and Dave Phillips, the cofounders of TPI, tested my strength, conditioning and flexibility, and addressed any issues that I had that will help improve my performance.  I was also able to test new equipment options and prototypes, some of which I have incorporated into my new set make-up thanks to Greg Cesario and his team of clubfitters.  They duplicated my current Titleist Forged Forged 695CB irons and I added two prototype utility metals into my set composition.  Everything else remains the same (Pro Titanium 905R driver, Pro Trajectory 904F fairway metal, Vokey Design sand and lob wedges, Scotty Cameron by Titleist putter).

My next entry will follow the Senior PGA Championship when I'll  fill you in how my debut went. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions, you can send them to kirk.hanefeld@acushnetgolf.com and I will try to address as many as I can in my next report.

Best regards,
Kirk

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