The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 TeasersiSteve Blog
How Late in Life Can You Take Up Golf and Make It to the Top?
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

Lots of guys take up golf as grown-ups after they age out of contact team sports and then develop an obsession with the game. But is there an age window before you are fully grown that determines whether you can make it to the top? This seems like a good nature-nurture subject to explore.

Back in the 1980s, two star golfers hadn’t taken up golf until their early 20s: 3-time major champion Larry Nelson, who first started playing after getting home from combat in Vietnam at age 21, and 12-time tour winner Calvin Peete, the top African-American golfer of the decade.

I’m not familiar with any since then, although I don’t follow the game that closely these days. Do you know of any more examples?

Allen Doyle didn’t turn pro until age 46 and went on to win four major championships on the Senior Tour (half as many as Jack Nicklaus — note that being half as good as Jack means you are an extremely good golfer). But he started golf at 14 (but concentrated on hockey in college) and played regularly on the amateur circuit as a businessman.

Golf has a Champions Tour for guys at least 50-years-old, so, theoretically, there is plenty of time for a guy to take up golf as an adult and get good enough to qualify for the senior tour. Lots of team sport jocks like Michael Jordan have talked about doing that in retirement, but it doesn’t seem to happen much.

One of the reasons Tony Romo quickly retired as a quarterback after getting displaced by a star rookie in Dallas rather than hanging around the NFL for a couple more big paydays is so he can concentrate on his golf ambitions. He has scrupulously maintained his amateur status, donating all his prize winnings in celebrity tournaments to charity, so he can make a run at the U.S. Amateur title some day. But, so often, with golf …

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

NBA star Steph Curry, with his wonderful eye-hand coordination, is getting to be a quite good golfer. (He played on his high school golf team, so he’s not a novice.) It’s easy to project him as a Champions Tour player in 25 years, but that kind of development seldom happens.

A more subtle question, besides the obvious one about an age window, is whether becoming great at a different sport precludes you from becoming great at golf. For example, there are obvious similarities between swinging a hockey stick or swinging a baseball bat and swinging a golf club. And, indeed, many pro NHL and MLB players retire to the golf course where they are very good golfers. Some had played a fair amount of golf as teens. For example, I was at the big money Sherwood Country Club for a social event a few years ago and I picked up the club newsletter. On the cover was a picture of the winner of a recent club golf tournament: Wayne Gretzky, probably the greatest hockey stick handler ever.

On the other hand, very few retired team sport stars like Gretzky ever make it to the senior tour pro level, even if they started golf as a hobby when young. Does mastering one kind of sport somehow impede world class mastery in another sport, other than just the opportunity cost of lost practice at a young age? Does, say, Gretzky’s muscle memory of how to hit a slap shot somehow subtly interfere with him ever quite learning to hit a golf shot as well as his quasi-son-in-law Dustin Johnson?

 
Hide 23 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
    []
  1. BB753 says:

    Just don’t quit blogging for golf just yet, Steve!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
    AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
    These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
    Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
    Sharing Comment via Twitter
    /isteve/how-late-in-life-can-you-take-up-golf-and-make-it-to-the-top/#comment-1966352
    More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  2. TWS says:

    You have to have an empty cup to fill it with tea. If you’re full on hockey or basketball not a lot of room in the cup for golf.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  3. anonguy says:

    This is a similar question that adult beginning musicians often ask, how good can I get starting at age X.

    There are very few examples of musicians starting later in life and becoming a phenom.

    Probably even a better scenario for nature/nuture debate than golf (except for Steve’s interest in golf) because physicality, while still important to musicians, is much less of an issue generally although some instruments do present aging issues like the trumpet.

    BTW, nearly anyone can start playing an instrument at any age and get skilled enough to be a local gig player, amaze/entertain people, etc. Music starts becoming fun to both play and watch when the musician’s skills seem like magic to the audience and it isn’t too hard to get that far.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Chrisnonymous
    Pianists occassionally have conflicts between piano and other activities that develop their hands in non-piano-optimal ways.

    So I'm guessing the answer to Steve's question is yes.
    , @cthulhu


    BTW, nearly anyone can start playing an instrument at any age and get skilled enough to be a local gig player, amaze/entertain people, etc. Music starts becoming fun to both play and watch when the musician’s skills seem like magic to the audience and it isn’t too hard to get that far.

     

    I dabbled with keyboard and guitar for years, but decided to get at least semi-serious about guitar a couple of years ago, and started taking lessons from a local pro musician who also teaches. I've gotten good enough to show up at local jams and not be laughed off the stage. I'll never be the next Eric Clapton or Duane Allman, but damn it's a lot of fun.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  4. Marty says:

    There won’t be any more Allen Doyles, Walt Zabrieskies or even John Brodies. They changed the rules so that you need a regular tour pedigree to join the Champions Tour. There’s no “Q-School.”

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  5. Ganderson says:

    John Harris, who grew up in a golfing family in Roseau, MN, played for Herb Brooks on the 1974 U of Minnesota hockey team that won the NCAA championship in 1974. A few months later he won the Big 10 individual golf title. He played both pro hockey and golf, and won the US Amateur. He later played on the Champions Tour. He played both sports from an early age.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  6. pgbh says:

    Once dudes achieve exceptionally high status, their competitive drive declines enough to keep them from putting in the work required to beat younger, hungrier guys at competitive games.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  7. Ellsworth says:

    Babe Zaharias took up golf in her mid twenties

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  8. @anonguy
    This is a similar question that adult beginning musicians often ask, how good can I get starting at age X.

    There are very few examples of musicians starting later in life and becoming a phenom.

    Probably even a better scenario for nature/nuture debate than golf (except for Steve's interest in golf) because physicality, while still important to musicians, is much less of an issue generally although some instruments do present aging issues like the trumpet.

    BTW, nearly anyone can start playing an instrument at any age and get skilled enough to be a local gig player, amaze/entertain people, etc. Music starts becoming fun to both play and watch when the musician's skills seem like magic to the audience and it isn't too hard to get that far.

    Pianists occassionally have conflicts between piano and other activities that develop their hands in non-piano-optimal ways.

    So I’m guessing the answer to Steve’s question is yes.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ivy
    Pianists trying to build up their hand muscles through non-keyboard isolation exercises have had less than stellar results. Imagine over-stressing the tiny muscles and having them cramp up when trying to tackle the work of Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Chopin or another composer.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  9. Golf was killed by the mobile phone. The entire point of golf was always to get away from the wife for an hour or two. Now, there’s no way to slip the leash even for a minute.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  10. Hey Steve, any info on when Trump took up the game? Supposedly he sported a 2.8 handicap as recently as a few years ago according to a golf digest article I read. Guessing he had to have played as a kid.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ex-banker
    Trump started playing seriously when he was in college, at Cobb's Creek, a muni in Philadelphia. The place was well-integrated and he fell in with the crowd of avid players and gamblers.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  11. The hockey-to-golf-crossover angle was explored pretty neatly by Adam Sandler in a Happy Gilmore.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  12. cthulhu says:
    @anonguy
    This is a similar question that adult beginning musicians often ask, how good can I get starting at age X.

    There are very few examples of musicians starting later in life and becoming a phenom.

    Probably even a better scenario for nature/nuture debate than golf (except for Steve's interest in golf) because physicality, while still important to musicians, is much less of an issue generally although some instruments do present aging issues like the trumpet.

    BTW, nearly anyone can start playing an instrument at any age and get skilled enough to be a local gig player, amaze/entertain people, etc. Music starts becoming fun to both play and watch when the musician's skills seem like magic to the audience and it isn't too hard to get that far.

    BTW, nearly anyone can start playing an instrument at any age and get skilled enough to be a local gig player, amaze/entertain people, etc. Music starts becoming fun to both play and watch when the musician’s skills seem like magic to the audience and it isn’t too hard to get that far.

    I dabbled with keyboard and guitar for years, but decided to get at least semi-serious about guitar a couple of years ago, and started taking lessons from a local pro musician who also teaches. I’ve gotten good enough to show up at local jams and not be laughed off the stage. I’ll never be the next Eric Clapton or Duane Allman, but damn it’s a lot of fun.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  13. anon says: • Disclaimer

    Sort of off topic:

    Now, let’s look at where things continue to be headed. The two hottest selling irons of 2013 are duking it out as to who has the longest-hitting 6- or 7-iron. That’s what you hit in the demo day, so that’s where they are competing. To give you that, these two companies (and all their followers) have skewed the lofts to ridiculous points. The “p-club is now 44-45 degrees … and they have five degree gaps down to the 8-iron … where they begin to diminish to only 3 degrees between clubs by the time you get to the five or six, and the four iron is now what a historic 2-iron was – 20 degrees.

    http://clubsg.skygolf.com/content/the+wedge+guy/5-5005-Evolution_of_Iron_Lofts.html

    Everyone has heard of ‘vanity’ sizing of women’s clothes, no? Golf club manufacturers have flattened the lofts of clubs as part of their marketing schemes.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  14. Ivy says:
    @Chrisnonymous
    Pianists occassionally have conflicts between piano and other activities that develop their hands in non-piano-optimal ways.

    So I'm guessing the answer to Steve's question is yes.

    Pianists trying to build up their hand muscles through non-keyboard isolation exercises have had less than stellar results. Imagine over-stressing the tiny muscles and having them cramp up when trying to tackle the work of Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Chopin or another composer.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  15. Danindc says:

    Wasn’t Ted Williams the best hitter, angler and jet fighter in the world at various times?

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  16. It seems to have been easier in the past to mix sports at the highest level. Denis Compton played soccer and cricket for England. And further back C.B. Fry played soccer and cricket at the highest level, was joint world record long-jump holder, considered for the vacant throne of Albania, and ‘failed to persuade von Ribbentrop that Nazi Germany should take up cricket to Test level‘.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._B._Fry

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Thanks.

    John Weitz, the father of the Weitz Brothers, directors of American Pie, had a huge number of interests such as fashion designer, race car driver, and historian. My mother bought a lot of his socks for my wardrobe when I was young and I read his biography of von Ribbentrop.

    On the other hand, I gather this C.B. Fry was a truly great cricket player and his fans believe he could have been great as some of his other interests if he'd concentrated on them.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  17. @YetAnotherAnon
    It seems to have been easier in the past to mix sports at the highest level. Denis Compton played soccer and cricket for England. And further back C.B. Fry played soccer and cricket at the highest level, was joint world record long-jump holder, considered for the vacant throne of Albania, and 'failed to persuade von Ribbentrop that Nazi Germany should take up cricket to Test level'.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._B._Fry

    Thanks.

    John Weitz, the father of the Weitz Brothers, directors of American Pie, had a huge number of interests such as fashion designer, race car driver, and historian. My mother bought a lot of his socks for my wardrobe when I was young and I read his biography of von Ribbentrop.

    On the other hand, I gather this C.B. Fry was a truly great cricket player and his fans believe he could have been great as some of his other interests if he’d concentrated on them.

    Read More
    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
    There is an even greater number of players who competed in soccer and cricket at the top level (top league in UK cricket and soccer) without making the England team. When I first started watching cricket as a small boy, one of the bowlers for 'my' team had a European soccer winner's medal. Many such cases!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Standen

    I find John Surtees (who has just died this year aged 83) achievements very impressive - the only man ever to be world motorcycling champion and then world Formula One champion, something we're unlikely to see again any time soon. On the other hand, many of the judgement skills needed are pretty identical.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Surtees

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  18. being the best of the best is very subtle, in tennis Federer is the master of the grass court, quite good on the hard courts and has the won the French so he ain’t too shabby on the clay, but Nadal is greatest of all time on clay, Gretzky is probably in the top 1% or better of all golfers as is Michael Jordan, being the best at something is so transitory, so hard to quantify, great grist for a column!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  19. Sigh. Being the old guy is hard to get used to: John Brodie. Very good NFL qb, then decent senior/champions tour career, including one win. Signing off…

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  20. @Steve Sailer
    Thanks.

    John Weitz, the father of the Weitz Brothers, directors of American Pie, had a huge number of interests such as fashion designer, race car driver, and historian. My mother bought a lot of his socks for my wardrobe when I was young and I read his biography of von Ribbentrop.

    On the other hand, I gather this C.B. Fry was a truly great cricket player and his fans believe he could have been great as some of his other interests if he'd concentrated on them.

    There is an even greater number of players who competed in soccer and cricket at the top level (top league in UK cricket and soccer) without making the England team. When I first started watching cricket as a small boy, one of the bowlers for ‘my’ team had a European soccer winner’s medal. Many such cases!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Standen

    I find John Surtees (who has just died this year aged 83) achievements very impressive – the only man ever to be world motorcycling champion and then world Formula One champion, something we’re unlikely to see again any time soon. On the other hand, many of the judgement skills needed are pretty identical.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Surtees

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  21. Ex-banker says:
    @TheHardRight
    Hey Steve, any info on when Trump took up the game? Supposedly he sported a 2.8 handicap as recently as a few years ago according to a golf digest article I read. Guessing he had to have played as a kid.

    Trump started playing seriously when he was in college, at Cobb’s Creek, a muni in Philadelphia. The place was well-integrated and he fell in with the crowd of avid players and gamblers.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  22. Ian M. says:

    Wayne Gretzky, probably the greatest hockey stick handler ever.

    I don’t know about greatest stick handler ever (Mario Lemieux?), but more like simply the greatest hockey player ever (and no ‘probably’ about it).

    By the way, Gretzky was also a good baseball player: he was offered a contract by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1980.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  23. Samir says:

    Big Ben Roethlisberger has spoken up about possible retirement — few know that he is one of the top amateur golfers in Pittsburgh, routinely winning the country club tournaments here.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to All Steve Sailer Comments via RSS
PastClassics
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
A simple remedy for income stagnation