During a two-decade stretch on the PGA Tour during which he notched 13 wins, perhaps the only thing more pronounced than Mark Calcavecchia’s aggressive style of golf was the aggression he occasionally took out on his clubs—and other inanimate objects.
“I’ve been fined more than the average player, for sure,” says the resident of Tequesta in north Palm Beach County. “I’ve thrown clubs in oceans and lakes, against trees, into rain gutters, you name it.
“Once, at a Disney tournament, I had just three-putted the prior hole, and I was steaming. So I gave the water cooler a swift karate kick. It rolled down the side of the tee box—and right at my mom. She had to do this little two-step to avoid a rolling cooler. Mom gave me a scowl and called me a few names.”
Fans of one of golf’s most candid and popular players can expect a kinder, gentler Calcavecchia when it comes to club launching at this month’s Allianz Championship, the Champions Tour event that, for the sixth consecutive year, will be played at the Old Course at Broken Sound. But don’t expect the man ranked 23rd in career earnings on the PGA Tour to hold anything back when it comes to competing on the senior circuit.
Last year, in 22 events on the Champions Tour, Calcavecchia carded one victory and 15 top-10 finishes, finishing No. 2 the senior money list with more than $1.8 million in earnings.
The consistency is hardly a surprise. A first-team, All-Southeastern Conference standout as an amateur at the University of Florida, Calcavecchia cracked the top 60 on the PGA money list for 17 consecutive years between 1986 and 2002, a streak longer than any compiled by golf luminaries Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Lee Trevino and Greg Norman. Despite a career marred by nagging injuries, Calcavecchia never experienced the kind of prolonged slump that drove other players off the circuit; he won his last PGA Tour title at age 46—a year, 2007, that saw him collect nearly $3 million in prize money.
However, the way that the 1989 British Open champion (his lone major) approaches the game—and manages his outbursts—has changed. Some of that credit, he admits, goes to his caddy, who happens to be his wife, Brenda.
“She had caddied for me a few times before the Champions Tour, including at the British Open,” says Calcavecchia, whose PGA career includes 27 second-place finishes. “We travel with our three dogs in a motor home; if Brenda is going to be out here with me anyway, she might as well caddy, right?
“On the Champions Tour, I find that she helps to level out my patience. She reminds me all the time that if I don’t go crazy and lose my mind I’ll get it going at some point in the round and finish higher in the money.”
Calcavecchia says that the less stressful pace of the Champions Tour came at just the right time.
“By the time I hit 48, my enthusiasm for the PGA Tour was starting to wane,” he says. “The struggle, especially when you’ve been on the tour for more than two decades, starts to wear on you. It’s much more enjoyable on the Champions Tour. I know all the guys, and it’s fun competing against them.
“So yes, I’ve settled down the past few years. I might drop a few f-bombs a little louder than I should, but I haven’t thrown many clubs. Lately.”
2012 Allianz Championship
Where: The Old Course at Broken Sound, Boca Raton
When: Tournament from Feb. 10–12; events/festivities starting Feb. 6
Defending champion: Tom Lehman
Purse: $1.7 million
Players: The field is expected to include Ben Crenshaw, Nick Price, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler and 2010 champion (and Boca resident) Bernhard Langer
Schedule: Feb. 6—Broken Sound Pro-Am; Feb. 7—Women’s Pro-Am, presented by Lilly Pulitzer; Feb. 8—Konica Minolta Pro-Am; Feb. 9—Championship Pro-Am; Feb. 10—First round; Feb.11—Second round, plus Golf & Wine Experience; Feb. 12—Final round