I must be the oldest 50-year-old in the game. I started playing on Tour in 1981, and I've been playing 25 weeks or more per year pretty much since. I've played with all the guys I grew up watching: Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Lee Trevino. J.C. Snead. You learned how to play Tour golf playing with J.C. We got paired together early in my career. On one green he starts screaming at me, "What are you doing?"
"You're in my line," he said.
I didn't think I was anywhere near his line.
"If I miss this putt, you're in my line for the next one, stomping around with your big-assed feet," Snead said. Nobody called it the through line then, but that's what Snead was talking about.
You can't play the Tour perfectly. You're going to make mistakes. If you learn from them you have a chance at sticking around. There are no J.C. Sneads today. Davis Love III will teach a kid the correct way to handle an unplayable, but he'll be nice about it.
Golf is hard if you have a temper, and I do. One year at Disney, I get up on this elevated tee. I'm already peeved at something. A double bogey, more than likely. I go to get a paper cup from the dispenser. You know, you can never get just one. I get like 10 of them. Now I've really got the red-ass. The watercooler is sitting on a bench. I give it a solid karate kick right in its belly. Next thing I know the cooler is barreling down the tee, going down the cart path, and it looks as if it's going to steamroll my . . . mother. I yell, "Fore!" She jumps out of the way, and when I pass her later, she says, "Watch it, buster." Actually, I'm sure it was stronger than that. Like mother, like son.
Tour players, like everybody else I know, do some crazy things, financially and otherwise. My wife, Brenda, and I just built our dream house in South Florida, not too far from Tiger's new place. It has a two-lane bowling alley and one fridge just for my beer. We love it. It cost—I don't want to say exactly—millions. I'm going to have to play my butt off on the senior tour to pay for it, and play well in some regular Tour events, too, while I still can. But you know what? It's good for a Tour player to feel hungry, maybe even a little desperate. I stopped practicing for a while when I was 40. I wasn't hungry. Now I'm starving. I know it doesn't show. But I am.
I'm a bundle of nerves when I play. I think a lot of guys are. At some of these senior events there's nobody out there. No spectators, no TV cameras, no anything. And I'm more nervous than I am on the regular Tour. On the Champions tour, I know if I play well, I'm going to be in contention, and getting in contention makes me really nervous. I haven't won on the old men's tour yet. If I don't win this year, you'll see a for sale sign in the front yard. (Just kidding, Brenda.)
I won my first Tour event in 1986, the Southwest Golf Classic in Abilene, Texas. That night I was walking around the airport with this giant cardboard check for $72,000. Next week I'm playing in the Southern Open in Columbus, Georgia. The caddie I had won with in Abilene didn't want to work it. I get to the tournament, and this tall, skinny kid named Jim comes up to me in the parking lot and says, "Mr. Calcavecchia, if you don't have anybody working for you, I'd love to caddie for you. I know the course like the back of my hand." I liked his manner and I needed a guy, so I said sure. Years later Fred Couples gave Jim a nickname: Bones.