ST. LOUIS — Steven Alker is again in St. Louis this week. And, man, is that bizarre.
He’s not purported to be right here. He wasn’t purported to be right here final 12 months, when he tied for ninth on the PGA Tour Champions Ascension Charity Basic. He’s not purported to be anyplace on the Champions Tour, not Alker, not gamers like him.
The times of Jay Sigel, Roger Chapman and Dana Quigley are over, no less than they’re purported to be over. The store is all however closed to journeymen like Alker, or darn near it.
And but right here he’s — Steven Alker, 51-year-old placebo turned participant, proprietor of 4 Champions Tour wins and 13 top-5s during the last 10 months, the main cash winner in golf’s Second Metropolis, the last word fly within the ointment.
“The place did Steve Alker come from?” Kirk Triplett says, feigning as if he had by no means heard the identify. “I’ll inform you the place he got here from. He got here from busting his butt all these years, that’s the place he got here from.”
The general public might not learn about these credentials, however the gamers do. Golf programs don’t learn resumes, the sport doesn’t reward nameplates. Triplett is aware of rattling effectively who Steven Alker is, recognized for years. And he doesn’t begrudge him one bit.
“I feel the one factor that skilled golfers who’ve performed the sport for a very long time respect is a man that’s enjoying effectively,” says Triplett, who had three PGA Tour wins earlier than becoming a member of the Champions in 2012. Triplett has eight Champions Tour wins.
“We glance out and we are saying, ‘Man I want I used to be that man,’” he added. “Not for what he did earlier than, not for what he’s going to do sooner or later, however for what he’s doing proper now. So from that facet, I feel he has the respect of the entire gamers round right here, no matter what path he took to get right here.
“Now, you will have a man who comes out and perhaps performs nice for per week, catches lightning within the bottle, all people goes, ‘Hey, nice job, strategy to go.’
“However a man like (Alker), who has performed nice for a 12 months? Yeah he’s bought the respect of everybody out right here. He’s earned it as a result of he’s proved it over time. Doesn’t matter if he performs left-handed, right-handed, one-footed, one-armed … you shoot the scores, you get the respect of your friends.”
Alker turned skilled in 1995. He performed on the Korn Ferry Tour, when it was Purchase.com, when it was Nationwide, when it was Nike. In 2003, he graduated to the PGA Tour and missed cuts in 17 of 30 begins. In 2014-15 he was again within the present, however missed 13 cuts in 22 occasions. In 2016-17, he was again for 23 appearances, however missed the weekend 11 instances. He made solely $218,681, a lot much less after bills and taxes.
Even in success it was a battle. In 2014, he received the Internet.com’s Cleveland Open. It took a tour document 11 playoff holes earlier than he lastly bought the higher of Dawie van der Walt. Earlier than, after and in between, he has performed in his New Zealand homeland, Australia, Canada, Europe … just about anyplace they stick tees within the floor and put balls within the air.
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Then he turned 50, and every thing modified. After all, you don’t stroll on to the Champions Tour primarily based on what number of candles have been on the cake. It takes an utility, a $3,000 price, letters of reference, a severely low handicap and a exceptional spherical of golf on a Monday to snare one in all a handful of qualifying spots. Then it takes a top-10 end within the occasion correct to maintain your seat.
Alker ran the desk in August 2021 on the Boeing Basic. When he left the course on Sunday, his 9-under par rating wasn’t within the top-10. By the point he reached the airport, a couple of extra finishers had backed up and it tied for seventh. And so started his Magical Thriller Tour.
The next week on the Ally Problem he completed third, then got here ties for ninth, seventh, fifth and seventh. He performed so effectively within the quick time period he certified for the playoffs. He received his second playoff begin at TimberTech in Boca Raton, Florida, then pulled up second to Phil Mickelson within the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
The tempo has by no means slowed. This 12 months, Alker has 11 top-5s and three extra wins — together with a Champions main, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. His $2,491,881 in earnings leads the Champions Tour cash record. At 5-feet-11-inches and 143 kilos, he’s Cinderella, Rocky Balboa, Kurt Warner and Roy Hobbs all rolled into one.
“Yeah, you realize, it’s a mix of issues,” Alker says. “I imply, I knew I used to be enjoying effectively proper across the time, as I turned 50, and it simply type of carried by.
“I feel it simply exhibits that it’s attainable. Different guys have completed it, guys have completed it earlier than me. It’s on the market, and that evokes guys like me. It may be completed, there are avenues. It’s powerful, however I feel you see that guys who’ve stayed in form and stored enjoying have an opportunity, and I really feel lucky that I did that.”
Oh, a ball change was in there. The motive force has been swapped out, a couple of different small tweaks. However when he joined the older set, Alker was now not distance-impaired, now not hitting lengthy irons into small greens, now not maintaining with Korn Ferry youngsters. Champions grew to become chowder soup for his hard-grinding soul.
“There was nothing large when it comes to adjustments,” Alker stated in regards to the transition. “I am not a man that adjustments my tools. I assume simply the entire thing, the health and the method … every thing type of got here collectively. And it’s a unique setting, one I used to be trying ahead to enjoying. All that mixed, I simply constructed on that.”
There may be one huge remorse, nevertheless, a repentance Alker can’t change with a birthday, a golf swing or a exercise. After seeing his decided son by all of the ups and downs, Invoice Alker isn’t right here to rejoice the gorgeous arrival. Steve’s father succumbed to most cancers on the age of 79 in 2019.
He typically thinks of his dad, as he checks the yardage ebook, ponders the subsequent shot, seems on the leaderboard … as he pinches himself.
“Completely,” Alker says. “He was enormous for me, and bought me into golf. I’d love for him to be right here. He bought the possibility to see me play once I performed on the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry, had the chance to be out right here a bit.
“The work we did collectively and the recommendation he gave me, I can nonetheless pull on that at instances, which is large. He was an enormous affect, we used to play loads collectively. I miss that.”
In spirit, maybe Invoice Alker is watching, maybe he knew all alongside his son would get right here. Maybe he is aware of he belongs.