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The PGA Tour Champions (commonly known as the Champions Tour) is a senior golf tour specifically made for golfers above the age of 50. The Professional Golfers Association officially founded the tour over 40 years ago in 1980.
The beauty of golf is that it ages like fine wine. You’re never too old to play golf. Even if you want to play in a championship.
This article goes in-depth about the senior golf tour. It highlights everything you should know about the tour, including its origin & history, renowned championships, golfer stats, and a few fun facts.
Origin & History of the Senior Golf Tour
The Senior PGA Championship has been unofficially active since 1937 as a high-profile tournament. It was exclusive for golfers above the age of 50.
However, in 1978, a profitable tournament between teams of the best senior golfers called the ‘Legends of Golf’ gave birth to the idea of an official senior golf tour.
The PGA formally established the ‘Senior PGA Tour’ in 1980. This senior tour was designed for golfers aged 50 and above to showcase their talent.
The 1980 tour consisted of only four events. For comparison, the 2021 tour consisted of 25 events. A lot has changed over the years!
The total prize money in 1980 was $475,000, which would be worth $1,707,901 today.
The next ten years, from 1980-1990, saw a considerable increase in the popularity of the senior tournament. The 1990 season consisted of thirty-eight official events with four major tournaments.
The entire prize money for the 1990 season was a whopping $17.8 million. In 2022, this prize money would be worth around $40,349,753.63!
Fun Fact: Lee Trevino won 7 tournaments in the 1990 senior golf tour season. The most during the season.
Evolution of the Tour Name
In 2002, the tour was renamed the ‘Champions Tour’ till the 2015 season. The name PGA Tour Champions was adopted for the 2016 tour and onwards.
|Serial Number||Official Tournament Name||Year|
|1||Senior PGA Tour||1980|
|3||PGA Tour Champions||2016|
Playing the Senior Golf Tour
Competitors in the senior golf tour have to play multiple tournaments throughout the season. These events are usually played over three rounds or 54 holes.
However, the five major championships of the tour are played over four rounds (72 holes) and have a 36-hole cut. Playing an additional round ensures bringing the best talent to the top of the standings.
Fun Fact: The average male golfer is estimated to hit a 219-yard drive. While the Senior Golf Tour’s average driving distance in 2022 was 282.0 yards. The longest drive of the tour was 308.8 yards by Padraig Harrington.
Qualifying for the Senior Golf Tour
With age comes wisdom. And the opportunity to qualify for the senior golf tour!
Here are a few requirements to qualify for the PGA Tour Champions:
- The golfer must be at least 50 years old.
- Compete and qualify in the 72-hole Regional Qualifying Stage.
- All successful qualifiers and exempt players must come in the top 12 of the Final Qualifying Stage between 78 golfers.
Spots in the Senior Golf Tour
Understanding the qualification system of the PGA Tour Champions is complicated, and hardly anyone understands it, according to Bobby Clampett, a professional Golf player, and analyst.
PGA Champions from previous years make up 30 of the 81 players on the field. Another 30 spots are given to players in the top 70 of the PGA Tour and Tour Champions.
The rest of the players include the World Golf Hall of Fame members and winners of previous PGA tours.
Players competing in the qualifying sessions also have a few spots reserved for them.
The 5 Senior Major Golf Championships & Their Winners
The Senior Major championships are a big deal in the tour. The best of the best golfers participate in Majors. Meaning that only players that meet certain criteria are given a spot in the Major tournament.
Major champions have their names go down in history books. This is one of the reasons why golfers praise Major events.
There are five major championships in the PGA Tour Champions. These championships differ from the other tours as they are played over four rounds (as opposed to 3 in the standard events).
Here are the five majors of the PGA Tour Champions, along with their relevant winners.
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1. Senior PGA Championship
The Senior PGA Championship is the oldest of the five senior major championships. The Championship was established in 1937.
It was first played at the Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia, United States.
The event was one of the four events in the inaugural of the PGA Tours Championship in 1980. The Championship event was played in Florida in 1980. Over the next 42 years, the event has taken place on 17 different courses in various cities.
The eligibility criteria for the Senior PGA Championship are slightly different. The criterion includes:
- The previous winners of the Senior PGA Championship.
- Winners of other major tournaments are also eligible.
- Members of the Ryders Cup team and top European and Japanese Senior Tour players can also qualify.
2022 Senior PGA Championship Winner: Steven Alker won the 2022 Championship held in Michigan.
Most wins in the Senior PGA Championship: Since 1980, the record number of wins in this championship is held by Hale Irwin. Irwin claimed the trophy in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2004.
2. The Tradition
The Tradition, or the Regions Tradition, is one of the five senior major championships. This championship was established in 1989 in Arizona. In 2003 the event relocated to Oregon and had since moved to Alabama.
The event is now hosted at the Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama. where players complete four rounds on the course and play 72 holes.
The most recent event was held in 2022, marking its 30th year of play.
2022 Regions Tradition Winner: Steve Stricker took the trophy for the 2022 Tradition championship. The winner earned $375,000 for his victory in the tour.
Most wins in the Regions Tradition: The record for the most number of wins in the Tradition is held by Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus won the championship four times: in 1990, 1991, 1995, and 1996.
3. U.S. Senior Open
The U.S. Senior Open is one of the most renowned five major championships in the PGA Tour Champions. The championship is administered by the United States Golf Association. The PGA has recognized it as a major championship since its establishment.
The championship was introduced in 1980 and was one of the four events in the first PGA Tour Champions in New York. It is currently played at the Saucon Valley Country Club in Pennsylvania.
The US Senior Open is open for both amateurs and professionals. However, experienced players tend to dominate the championship, like any other.
2022 U.S. Senior Open Winner: The most recent champion is Padraig Harrington. He received $720,000 for his winning share.
Most wins in the U.S. Senior Open: The record for most wins in the event is held by Miller Barber, who won 3 events in 1982, 1984, and 1985.
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4. Senior Players Championship
The Senior Players Championship is currently known as the Kaulig Companies Championship. It is also recognized as a major championship in the PGA Tour Champions.
The Championship was first held in 1983, 3 years after the establishment of the PGA Senior Golf Tour. It was most recently held at the Firestone Country Club in Ohio.
2022 Senior Players Championship Winner: The 2022 champion was Jerry Kelly, who received $450,000 for his victory in the event.
Most wins in the Senior Players Championship: Bernhard Langer holds the record for winning the most trophies in the Senior Players Championship. He won the majors consecutively in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
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5. The Senior Open Championship
The Senior Open Championship was recognized as a major in the PGA Tour Champions much later in 2003.
The Championship was established in 1987 in the United Kingdom. Currently, it’s known as the Senior Open Championship by Rolex for sponsorship reasons.
Fun Fact: The Senior Open Championship is the only senior major championship in the PGA seniors tour held outside the United States.
2022 Senior Open Championship by Rolex Winner: The 2022 champion for the Senior Open Championship is Darren Clarke. He earned $432,080 for winning the major title.
Most wins in the Senior Open Championship by Rolex: Bernhard Langer also holds the title for most wins in Senior Open Championship. He won the tournaments in 2010, 2014, 2017, and 2019.
|Major Golf Tournament||Winner in 2022||Most Wins – Player|
|Senior PGA Championship||Steven Alker ($585,000)||4 wins – Hale Irwin (1996, 1997, 1998, and 2004.)|
|The Tradition||Steve Stricker ($375,000)||4 wins – Jack Nicklaus (1990, 1991, 1995, and 1996.)|
|U.S. Senior Open||Padraig Harrington($720,000)||3 wins – Miller Barber (1982, 1984, and 1985.)|
|Senior Players Championship||Jerry Kelly($450,000)||3 wins – Bernhard Langer (2014,2015, and 2016)|
|The Senior Open Championship||Darren Clarke ($432,080)||4 wins – Bernhard Langer (2010, 2014, 2017, and 2019.)|
Other Noteworthy Senior Tours
Everyone deserves to play competitive golf. At every stage and age.
Let’s have a look at some well-known senior tours.
Legends of the LPGA (Women’s Senior Golf Tour)
Legends of the LPGA is a women’s senior golf tour. It’s a tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) for women over the age of 45.
The tour was established in 2000 by 25 retired LPGA players who modeled it after the men’s senior tour.
From its initial days, the tour grew from two annual events to eleven events in 2013.
In 2017, the Senior LPGA Championship was also inaugurated. This tournament is an annual tour event alongside the Senior Women’s Open.
2022 Senior LPGA Winner: Karrie Webb won the 2022 Senior LPGA championship. She got prize money of $60,000 for her win.
Most wins in the Senior LPGA Championship: Trish Johnson holds the most wins in the Senior LPGA Championship. She won the championship twice in 2017 and 2021.
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Senior Amateur Golf Tour
The Senior Amateur Golf Tour was established in 1999 for amateur players above the age of 50.
It’s open to play for golfers of all skill levels. The only requirement is to be above the age of 50 and get a membership.
Players can get a membership to play in their local flights. Membership cards cost between $85 to $100 annually. The price variation depends on your location.
Moreover, you’ll need to pay a tournament fee to enter each tournament. The price again varies on your location but ranges from $65 to $100.
Note: This price includes your green fee, golf cart, and range balls. The winning prize is also calculated from the tournament fee.
Players earn points by regularly playing in their local flights.
Players can then compete in stroke-play tournaments locally. The tour concludes with a National Tour Championship.
Top amateur players from across the country can compete with each other for the title. The golfers need a set number of points to qualify for the National Championship.
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The Sunbelt Senior Golf Tour
The Sunbelt Senior Golf Tour is one of the most recognized golf tours to prepare yourself for the PGA Tour Champions or the European Senior Tour.
The Tour allows golfers of ages 49 and above to experience a competitive senior golf tournament beforehand.
The Sunbelt Senior Golf Tour has a schedule similar to the PGA Tour Champions. The various events on tour are spread out across the country.
You can get an annual membership of the Sunbelt Senior Golf Tour for $750. This can save you a couple of thousand dollars if you plan to play regularly.
Senior Golf Tour Final Thoughts
So that’s a wrap on Senior Golf Tour Ultimate Guide. This series of tournaments is truly an incredible offering for golfers above 50. I’d love to know your thoughts about the PGA Tour Champions and your favorite tour event.