Brian Murphy: Nearing 50 with something to prove at Boise Open

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comJuly 17, 2014 

For many people, approaching their 50th birthday comes with a certain dread - and definitely not a countdown to the big day.

Skip Kendall knows exactly how much time he has left before his big 5-0 - now 54 days. His 16-year-old son and caddie, Noah, has it down to the hour.

"But who's counting?" Skip Kendall said with a smile on the driving range at Hillcrest Country Club on Wednesday afternoon.

Kendall, who turns 50 and thus becomes eligible for the Champions Tour on Sept. 9, will compete in his 10th Albertsons Boise Open this week as he tries to remain sharp in anticipation of the next step.

The Tour sells itself as the first stop for the next generation of PGA Tour regulars and stars. It is largely populated with up-and-comers, young players yet to make their mark in golf.

But the tour also has a place for Kendall and other veterans readying for the Champions Tour. Three spots in each field on the tour are reserved for 48- and 49-year-olds and assigned by career money earnings.

"There's a lot of us turning 50 this year, so those spots are tough to come by," said Kendall, who has played 420 PGA Tour events and recorded 26 top-10 finishes in his career.

Glen Day has one of those spots this week. The 48-year-old Day, who has two top-10 finishes in two appearances at the Boise Open, wants to remain competitive in advance of a potential Champions Tour career.

"That being said, don't get me wrong, I'd love to win this golf tournament and get a card on the PGA Tour next year," said Day, who has one career PGA Tour victory in 462 starts.

Their younger, stronger competitors are hungry and on the ascent. But the older, wiser vets aren't conceding anything this week - not at a tournament where winning the $144,000 first-place prize likely means a PGA Tour card next year.

"These kids don't want to get beat by a 48-, 49-year-old man. And I want to show them that I can still play," Day said.

It wasn't long ago that Fran Quinn bested the field on this course. Quinn, back for his 13th appearance in the event, was the 2009 Boise Open champion. Quinn turns 50 in March and is using the tour "as my preparation for moving forward to the Champions Tour."

Like Kendall and Day, he thinks he can win this week. The shorter, tighter course at Hillcrest is a good fit for the older players, and it requires shot shaping much more than raw power.

"The golf ball has no idea how old you are," Quinn said.

Quinn knows, though.

No longer can he use hitting wedges on the practice tee as his pre-round stretch. Now he spends an hour stretching and preparing, one of the few concessions to his age.

"The great thing about this game is you can play it for a long time if you keep yourself fit and you work hard," said Quinn, a four-time winner on the Tour who has one top-10 finish in 71 PGA Tour events.

The veterans are hoping to prove that by extending their careers - and, importantly, adding to their career winnings - on the Champions Tour. First, they've got to contend with really good players less than half their age.

"I know when I turn 50, I'm going to be in good shape," Kendall said. "I'm looking forward to playing with the guys I played my entire career with."

It'll be more of a fair fight.

But Kendall - and his veteran compatriots - wouldn't mind showing the young guns that they can still play. And showing everyone else that the Tour isn't just for the young ones.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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