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Pro Golf's Late Bloomers

For many talented golfers, even former PGA Tour winners, the Champions Tour gives them a shot at the big bucks
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Tom Berenger, July/Aug 2007

(continued from page 1)

David Edwards seems to be Bryant's polar opposite. Edwards is decidedly reserved and seems reticent to talk about the game. His play is so steady, it can be mind-numbing. Last year on the Champions Tour, he won the 3M Championship and finished in the top 10 eight times, an especially impressive accomplishment considering he wasn't eligible for the tour until mid-April.

Edwards won four times on the PGA Tour, including the Walt Disney World National Team Championship in 1980, and the others were significant tournaments: the 1984 Los Angeles Open, the 1992 Memorial Tournament and the 1993 MCI Heritage Golf Classic. His ability to consistently hit fairways no wider than a cart path helped him overcome his lack of power off the tee. But as the courses got longer, the younger players got better, and as Edwards got older, it became difficult for him to compete, or even make the cut.

Driving the ball 260 doesn't get you to the ladies' tee on the PGA Tour anymore, but on the Champions Tour you might at least make the fairway cut. That's what Edwards has been doing with regularity since he joined the tour.

"It's more about competing to win now instead of trying to make the cut," says Edwards. "You get paid better, I've noticed."

The shorter courses of the Champions Tour play right into his hands. "I don't have the length of a lot of guys, but I've always hit it straight," says Edwards. "On the regular Tour I was giving up 40 to 50 yards a hole and that's pretty difficult to make up for. But out here it might only be 15 yards a hole, so I don't consider myself at that much of a disadvantage."

Like Bryant, Edwards quit playing Tour golf at age 45, needing a couple of years off to right himself after losing his card. He gave up his twin-engine Cessna 340, which he had been flying to tournaments, and his minor involvement in auto racing. He played some local tournaments, then tried to get back on the PGA Tour, though he had to rely on sponsor exemptions to do so. "I wasn't good enough," says Edwards with a mixture of melancholy and amusement.

During his time off, Edwards tried to make it in the real world, becoming involved in a car dealership. "That didn't work well for me," he says. "I had to go back to work."

Except that getting a job on the PGA Tour isn't automatic, even for a past champion. Edwards went to Tour qualifying and didn't make it. His only option was playing against the youngsters on the Nationwide Tour, who were all hungry, talented and strong. "I was in no man's land," says Edwards.

He drifted until 2006 when he became eligible for the Champions Tour, a tour he had once said he would not play. He's brutally honest about the game even after a season of success, and his quiet, candid words speak loudly. "Early on I said I wouldn't play the Senior Tour," says Edwards. "Golf isn't the major goal of my life. Being a father and husband is. If I had made more money on the regular tour, I wouldn't be out here.

"I liked flying my airplane. I liked racing those little cars. I liked motorcycles. I like being with my family. When I took a week off from playing, I wanted to take two weeks. That's just the way golf is for me," says Edwards. "Of course, when you are winning, competing, cashing a nice check every week, it's easy to keep on doing it. But I don't foresee doing it for 10 years. A good four or five years out here is probably enough."

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