At an age when some players are winding down their careers, Bruce Lietzke is gearing up for his heaviest workload in a decade.
Lietzke turns 50 on July 18, and will make his Senior Tour debut two days later at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago.
He plans to play eight Senior events this year, increase that to 20 in 2002, and then play as many as 28 when his daughter, now a sophomore, graduates high school.
After the names of the eight Senior tournaments were mentioned Tuesday by a tour official, Lietzke said, "I'm exhausted just listening. That's about a five-year schedule for me. I guess that's how excited I am to get started."
A 13-time winner on the PGA Tour with one of the most maintenance-free swings in golf, Lietzke hasn't played 20 tournaments since 1989, devoting his time to being a husband and father while his children were in school.
The Senior Tour has been on his radar screen all along.
"I had done the math," he said. "I knew I would turn 50 in 2001. It was worth the gamble taking 15 years off and waiting for the Senior Tour. I'm very excited."
Here's another reason to get excited.
Lietzke's most profitable season was 1992, when he won $703,000. He hasn't earned more than $377,000 in any of his last seven seasons.
Already this year 30 seniors - many with far less ability - have gone over $400,000 and five have earned at least $1 million.
"I've been passing up a lot of money for a lot of years," Lietzke said. "I'm looking forward to getting in there."
Lietzke has never been fond of practice. That won't change on the Senior Tour. Still, he was forced to hit a lot of balls in the spring - three times a week! - because he was testing equipment so he could sign an endorsement contract later this year.
Lietzke is talking to four or five companies, but all have told them they can't negotiate until next season. He will show up in Chicago with a blank bag and the clubs of his choice.
He is clearly a man of priorities, a real touring pro. Lietzke doesn't do corporate outings, nor does he design golf courses. He tends to his family and his stable of cars, and plays when time allows.
With an empty nest on the horizon, he will have time on his hands.
"Tournament golf is all I do, and I'm pretty excited to go back to doing that," he said. "I never lost my love for golf."
BRITISH BOUND: Scott Hoch doesn't despise the British Open, just the most famous course in the rotation - St. Andrews.
Hoch, whose victory in the Western Open gave him his first multiple-win season on the PGA Tour, said he will be playing next week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, only his fourth appearance in the British Open.
"I'm looking forward to going over there," Hoch said. "I'm just hoping the weather is good."
BE PREPARED: Hope Kelley is doing everything she can to make the big leagues in women's golf. After missing the cut in last week's Futures Tour event, Kelley caddied for winner Angela Buzminski in the final round.
It was the second time this year Kelley caddied for one of the leaders.
"You can learn a lot when you're around players who are excelling," she said. "Hopefully, this experience will get me in the leading groups as a player next time, not a caddie."
SPARKLING EAGLES: Two eagles on the final three holes at the K Club did more than lift Thomas Bjorn into a tie for second place in the European Open. He also won a diamond worth about $150,000.
The prize was available to the first player to finish the par 5s in 14 under for the week. Bjorn was an unlikely candidate, at 10 under with only two par 5s left.
He eagled the 606-yard 16th, where the tee was moved forward to make it easier to reach the green in two, then hit his second shot on the 537-yard closing hole to 12 feet and holed that for another eagle.
"It was a nice finish," Bjorn said. "And I think my wife is going to be happy."
PLAYER'S ADVICE: When major championships are to be won, Gary Player is usually around to offer encouragement.
Jose Maria Olazabal told of a bizarre meeting with Player before the 1999 Masters - Player squatted and held out his arms as if he were casting a spell and said repeatedly to the Spaniard, "You have to believe in yourself!"
Two weeks ago, Bruce Fleisher bumped into Player during the U.S. Senior Open. He said Player told him, "You've proved yourself. You're a great player. Post a number, and watch what happens."
Fleisher closed with 12 pars to finish at even-par 280, and everyone else faltered.
"He was right," Fleisher said. "I posted that number. There were three guys at even par and they just fell by the wayside. I wanted to jump out of my skin."
Player will be playing his final British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. It might not be a bad idea for Phil Mickelson or David Duval to bump into him during the week.
DIVOTS: The Michelob Light Classic this week will feature a qualifier for the Women's British Open. Players must already have entered the British Open and sign up for the qualifier. From that group, the top five scores through the first 36 holes will be exempt. ... Tiger Woods is on another streak. His 1-over 73 in the Western Open was the third straight tournament in which he failed to break par in the opening round. ... Hee-Won Han is leading the LPGA Tour in scoring - on Mondays, anyway. The Korean rookie has made it through Monday qualifying the past six LPGA events, averaging 68.83.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Scott Hoch became the first player to win at least two PGA Tour events as a 45-year-old since Hale Irwin, won the U.S. Open and Buick Classic back-to-back in 1990.
FINAL WORD: "What can I say? I'm a Tiger Woods fan." - English soccer player Kieron Dyer, who was barred from driving for two months and fined $1,400 for going 104 mph. He didn't realize he was going that fast because he was distracted listening to the radio as Woods won the Masters.
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