When you’re 47 and you’re playing professional golf, you know the clock is ticking. Unless you have some major wins on the board, you know by the time you reach the big 50, you may have to move on to the Senior Tour.
So when 47-year-old professional Australian professional golfer, Rod Pampling, won his first major tournament on the US PGA Tour in November and then came out to compete in the Australian Open in Sydney a few weeks ago, everyone was watching with bated breath.
Could he beat 23-year-old American, Jordan Spieth, currently ranked the World’s 5th best player? Pampling was a contender for the title, right up to the end of the tournament. He took out fourth position with Spieth securing first place.
We caught up with Pampling and asked him what are his plans for next year and how he keeps motivated.
WYZA: You played well at the Australian Open in Sydney a few weeks ago. Did you like the golf course?
ROD PAMPLING: It’s good. I certainly enjoy the golf course. Obviously the Australian fits my eye a little bit better, but the golf course is good. Although, the greens seem very small. They seem a lot smaller than I remember, but the course is playing great.
WYZA: It’s great to have you here, Australia’s most recent PGA Tour winner. I’m sure that was a very special day in your career. Can you talk us through it?
ROD PAMPLING: Obviously, it was huge. Besides the Bay Hill event, it was right up there with all the other wins. They’re all very special but just to re-ignite the career, I guess, and give myself the freedom to plan what I want to do for the next few years. It’s a huge burden off the shoulders and I’m looking forward to what comes the next few years.
In the final round of the 2016 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Rod Pampling edged out Lucas Glover by dropping in a 32-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to capture his third PGA Tour title
WYZA: You’re set now until you’re 50 – the magic 50. Was that always on your mind to either keep playing regular golf like Vijay Singh or go onto the Senior Tour at 50?
ROD PAMPLING: Before three weeks ago I was ready, just bring on the seniors. It’s just the
freedom now I have to pick and choose. It was always such a grind and now I just can play ’til 50. I still think there’s plenty of good golf left in me. I’m going to keep going out there and if I can be 51 or 52 and feel competitive, then I’ll keep going, but if not, it’s not a bad option to go out and play on the Seniors Tour.
WYZA: What’s the reception been like since you’ve been home in Queensland?
ROD PAMPLING: It’s been great. Obviously, it’s all been very positive. You sort of don’t want to hear it, but everyone’s saying to you, “wow, you’re 47 and you can still do it”. It is obviously a great achievement to have done that at that age. I used to always hear people saying they never feel as old as they are and I’m right there now. So as I say, the body feels good and I’m looking forward to some challenges in the next few years.
WYZA: Obviously that win frees you up a lot in terms of your options, but mentally, how much confidence does it give you coming off the back of that?
ROD PAMPLING: Tons, it’s the freedom again. It allows you to be a little bit more aggressive at a shot, second shot. You’re just not in protect mode anymore. Obviously, it will change a little bit coming down the stretch because you’ll never want to throw a tournament away with nine holes to go, but I think it will allow me to get into that position a lot more.
WYZA: How do you keep your initial desire to play the game, even when the wins are not coming as often as you’d like?
ROD PAMPLING: You never lose a desire to play the game. As soon as you lose that, it’s too hard. The competition’s too strong. But, I’ve never lost the desire. I know it’s always been in there. I’ve always felt good. So, you just keep working. Obviously there still needs to be a light somewhere there that you can see. I could still see it was there. It was just getting a chance for it to happen and thankfully, we had the chance and we took the opportunity.
WYZA: Rod, we just had Jordan Spieth (American golfer, currently ranked as the World’s 5th best player) in here at 23 years old. Can you remember back when you were 23? Has the game itself changed in those years?
ROD PAMPLING: I guess at 23 I was still in the shop at Bribie Island [Queensland], I think, at that stage. So things have changed a little bit since then. The biggest change is the carry of the driver, the carry they have. I still think I hit it pretty hard, but I just don’t carry it like these guys do, so my direction needs to be a bit better. You take the drive away and the rest of it’s pretty similar. It’s a tough game and you’re going to have these young guys who haven’t got a lot of scar tissue right now and they can just go at everything.
Eventually, they’ll have a little bit of that and there’ll be some kid five years younger than they are that doesn’t have that anymore. It’s just a progress throughout the whole career where you just deal with little things here and there and overcome it and then you just continue on.
As I said, the game is a lot deeper, there’s more depth in players now. Every person in the field can basically win. I think the carry is more, the guys can carry it. That 300 now seems to be a pretty simple number.
WYZA: Obviously you’re in fantastic form. You mentioned you’re not driving as far as the younger guys now, but looking at Vegas, the putter was on fire, how important will that be from now on?
ROD PAMPLING: Yeah, the putter has got to be hot, there’s no question. You can’t win it if you’re not putting good. Thankfully, mine woke up at the right time. Obviously, it still feels good in the hand.
WYZA: Rod, you’re one of the elder statesmen of Australian golf. What do you see with the younger players here in Australia and if there is anything you could tell them with their ambitions to the US, what would you be telling them?
ROD PAMPLING: Obviously, there’s a lot of good talent here right now. There’s a lot of very good swingers of the golf club. I think the best thing is they’ve just got to learn to play golf. It’s still golf. It doesn’t matter how hard and high and handsome, whatever you want to call it, they hit it, you’ve still got to play golf.
As I said, there’s a lot of good talent out here and obviously, some of them have picked up that pretty quickly, but yeah, with the US, there’s no need to be scared, it’s guys just playing golf. Still at the end of the day, that’s all it is, so, basically, you’ve got to perform at the time. It doesn’t matter where you are, you’ve just got to back yourself and go over there and give it a good shot.
(Featured image: Ⓒ PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)
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