Senior Scottish Open defending champion Gary Orr is joined by Phil Golding as they talk about longevity, swing speeds and why players need to engage more
There are an awful lot of good things to be said about the Staysure Tour these days and Gary Orr and Phil Golding are an integral part of the over-50s circuit. In a fascinating sit down with the pair they reveal the lessons they’ve learnt along the way as well as having some sound advice for those getting going in the game…
The run-up to turning 50 and the Staysure Tour is a strange time for most golfers given that you have long since left the European Tour. How did you get yourself ready for the next phase in your careers?
Orr: I finished when I was about 45 but even in my early 40s it was getting more difficult with the younger guys coming through and hitting it so far. So the last few years you know you are struggling to be competitive. There aren’t many guys over 45 on the main tour, personally I was quite glad of the break as I had played 20 or so seasons. In the interim I didn’t do a huge amount, I didn’t play for a year or two and took it easy.
Golding: I didn’t start playing until later, my first full card was in 1994. I did Q School when I was 47 and got my card back and then the last few years I played locally and in pro-ams to keep playing – Paul Broadhurst did the same to keep his hand in – and I remember chatting to Roger Chapman who played in small things to just have a card in his hand. I was teaching as well at the time.
Did you feel like a rookie in your first week back?
Golding: I turned 50 on Wednesday July 25 in 2012 and the next day was the Senior Open at Turnberry so that was incredible and I was lucky enough to make the cut. As I was a winner on the European Tour, the French Open in 2003, I was exempt into the Senior Open in my first year on the Staysure Tour.
Orr: You’re playing with guys your age and for the last few years everyone has been so much younger so to start again is great.
Aside from riches of the main tour what have been the perks of playing the Staysure?
Golding: Three days is nice rather than four and you can book flights to go Tuesday and come back Sunday. You’re not playing for the same money but we’re very lucky in our sport to have a second bite at the cherry on the Staysure Tour. I remember chatting to Monty in his heyday and he said he would never play senior golf but now he loves it. Just because you turn 50 it doesn’t mean you lose that competitive edge. Everyone still has that edge.
It’s also more family friendly and it’s not as intense though you are still trying to win. And there are only 54 players each week rather than 150+ players.
Will we see the same longevity as your generation in the years to come?
Golding: Players like Monty and Barry Lane were never much of a practiser. I remember talking to Monty at Wentworth years ago and the range there is very small and you had the player, caddie, trainer, coach and psychologist and he would say from the back of the range that these guys are wasting their time. His mental belief that he could win was so strong that he could win.
There are more injuries now in the attempt to get bigger so you wonder about the longevity side of it. Look at Nicklaus and Palmer, they lasted a lot longer, now a lot of players have these injuries.
Orr: These days players have shorter careers as the money and schedules that they play and all the travel is crazy and there’s only so much you can do. The odd one will keep going but I don’t think that will be the norm. The speed they are swinging it is unbelievable.
What is your clubhead speed with the driver and how is your body these days?
Orr: I’d be about 104mph. I’ve had some back problems over the years and it was grumbling during the last few tournaments last year, it’s always there so I’ve got to try and manage it properly. Most of the time I’m OK but I’ve cut down on my practice after I play.
If I knew what I know now it would have made a huge difference and I would have done things quite differently to help with the injuries. It might not have made much difference to my results but I would have had fewer injuries.
Golding: I’d be about 106mph which is probably above average. We’re all trying to increase our speed, I use super speed sticks and do core work and stability and I’m in the gym most days and there is so much technology there to help with speed. Phil Mickelson is a great example and his speed is still way up there, on our tour the average would be 100 or maybe a bit less.
I still like to hit balls after a round as a wind down. Even after a good round we still do it. I would have done more mental side rather than hit balls all the time. Now it’s a case of managing your body better.
Have you ever had any afflictions in your game?
Orr: I’ve never had anything too bad to overcome, it’s probably down to your outlook, some guys are quite tense though who knows. Maybe it’s just one of those things. i think it starts with bad technique and then goes to a mental block.
Golding: I’m the same, nothing too bad. Bernhard Langer is a great example of overcoming things. I don’t think it’s an age thing, some young guys get it.
How much better are the over-50s at working with the media and trying a bit harder?
Golding: You obviously mature and learn how to do these things better. The youngsters need to be educated, some amateurs are not interacted with in pro-ams which is crazy as they might be why you’re there. Social media is massive and people do that on phones rather than personally.
When you got your card we used to be educated at San Roque, I’m not sure what they do now. You almost need a contract. Look at Sky Sports, they are talking to players on the course which provides some amazing insight. It’s part of their job to keep the sponsors happy and the media is a big part of that.
We get told that we need to embrace social media and after the pro-ams it’s obligatory to attend the dinners with your playing partners.
Orr: You get more relaxed and more approachable as you get older and have more experience of dealing with media, sponsors and pro-am partners etc. The young guys now have huge rewards so the pressure is so much more and their focus is elsewhere.
You only realise this when you get older that you have the opportunity to reach out to a lot of people to promote the sport so maybe the tour could do a bit more to help with that.
Gary will be defending his Scottish Senior Open title at Craigielaw this week while Phil will be going for his sixth win on the Staysure Tour. Keep up to date with their progress here.