Mark Calcavecchia | Player Profile | Nedbank Senior Challengeon October 6, 2011
Soon after Mark Calcavecchia moved with his family from the cold plains of Nebraska to Florida, the then teenager made his mark by winning the State High School Golf Championship and was an obvious candidate for an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida. He had become a fanatical golfer, at times during the summer months playing as many as 72 holes a day. It was while attending high school that ‘Calk’ became friendly with Jack Nicklaus’ son Jackie, and since then he and the 18-time major champion have been close friends.
Calcavecchia turned professional in 1981, and joined the PGA Tour a year later, but he failed to register any victories until 1985. This victory kick-started a purple patch which extended into the late 1980s and included the most important win of his career – a victory in the 1989 British Open after a playoff with Greg Norman and Wayne Grady. This was not totally unexpected, as the year before he had finished as runner-up in the US Masters to Sandy Lyle. Between the years 1988 and 1991 he spent 109 weeks in the top-10 of the Official World rankings, and is one of many players who remained competitive on the PGA Tour until joining the Champions Tour, and as recently as 2009 he set a new record on the PGA Tour. During the second round of the Canadian Open, he birdied nine consecutive holes, again not surprising, because this player has a long history of shooting very low scores.
With a total of 26 professional wins (half of these on the PGA Tour, his last coming in the 2007 PODS Championship), he continued to play on the regular Tour – clearly keeping himself competitive until he qualified for the Champions Tour. When ‘Calk’ joined the over-50 Tour last season, he was expected to win but could only manage one second and a single third place. These performances, together with other high finishes, earned him almost $900 000, and while victory has again eluded him this season, he has again won almost a million Dollars thus far. In the British Senior Open he led or tied for the lead after the first, second and third rounds, and only a diabolical four-putt saw his challenge fade on the last day. Only a week after his disappointment at Walton Heath he posted four sub-70 rounds to finish in third place in the US Senior Open. In the first of the season’s senior majors he again led at the halfway stage and after the third round, but fell out of contention with a final round of 3-over par finishing tied for fifth.
In The Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, Calcavecchia opened with a 69, and it looked as though he may turn back the clock and challenge for his second major, but after a disastrous second round 79 he missed the cut.
Calcavecchia’s father was a bowling centre proprietor, and both he and his wife Brenda love the game. He actually has two bowling lanes in his home, and has an impressive average of 205. This four-time Ryder Cup player, who has also represented his country in two Dunhill Cups and the President’s Cup, is the only player without a victory on the over-50s Tour but he could well rectify that at the Gary Player Country Club in December.