Local pro Bobby Gage continues his quest on the Champions Tour.By John Torsiello
Bobby Gage is one of those golf professionals who seemingly has been hanging around forever waiting for his big break. Golf is the only sport where that can come after age 50, but it finally has for the Connecticut native, who this season earned a spot on the Champions Tour.
At 51, Gage gained fully exempt status by finishing third at last fall’s Qualifying School tournament held at Walt Disney World’s Magnolia Course in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
“If I had listened to some of the people along the way, I would have quit golf a long time ago,” said Gage, who shot rounds of 71, 70, 69 and 67 to finish the tournament 11-under-par, two back of medalist honors.
Only the top five finishers earned fully exempt status on the 2017 Champions Tour. “I’ve told myself to just stick with it and never quit. I love the game so much and have a passion for it. That has kept me going,” he said.
Gage has been a familiar figure in Connecticut golf circles for years. He dabbled at several jobs in the area, including at Green Woods Country Club in Winsted, as he kept pursuing his dream of playing the game for a living. He taught at Blue Hill Country Club in Canton, Massachusetts and also at Candlewood Valley Country Club in New Milford, Connecticut, a job he has settled into the past several years.
He played one year on the PGA Tour, recording one Top 25 finish in 28 events, and he has competed on several other professional tours through the years. He also played 143 events on the Web.com Tour, bagging one runner-up finish.
“One of the things I have to work on is trying to be more relaxed on the Champions Tour,” he said. “But when you have cameras and lots of fans following, sometimes that is a difficult thing to do.”
He appeared relaxed in early July when he was back at Green Woods, hosting a charity tournament for Special Olympics Connecticut. It was a place where Gage, who now calls New Smyrna Beach, Florida home, probably feels the most comfortable. He is among old friends and playing golf at a course where he learned the game from PGA teaching professional and local legend Stan Staszowski, who is now in his 90s.
Gage said giving back to his hometown is a great feeling.
“This is what it is all about,” he said, as he swapped jokes and played a few holes with the foursomes taking part in the charity tournament at the nine-hole course. “We had about a dozen Special Olympic kids to the clinic and they really enjoyed being out with us. Anything I can do to give back to the game and the kids I will do. We are hoping to make this an annual event.”
But Gage was chomping at the bit, waiting to get back out on tour where he enjoyed modest success during the first half of 2017, earning $31,074. He finished tied for 37th at the Allianz Championship, tied for 39th at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic, and tied for 45th at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.
He was hoping to get his game back in shape after hitting a bit of a slump as summer rolled around. “It started with putting and then it crept into other aspects of my game,” he said. “I have always been a good ball striker and I started to have issues with that aspect of the game. But I have taken the time off to work on things and I believe I’m close to finding my rhythm.”
Finding rhythm on the Champions Tour is complicated by the fact that Gage, although fully exempt, hasn’t been able to play many tournaments due to the Champions Tour’s limited schedule. He failed to qualify for the Senior Open and was mulling a trip to Great Britain to try and qualify for the Senior Open Championship, which was played in late July.
“My swing wound up getting a little out of whack, but I’m working hard to get it back. I finished 10th at the Massachusetts Open in early June and that was a good sign,” he said. “One of the things that is tough on tour is that I haven’t gotten to play as much as I would like. I’ve only been in six events this year and I was off for a five-week stretch. I should get more opportunities after July, and I’m looking forward to playing several weeks in a row.”
The good news is that he’s still competing at age 51. For Gage, the dream isn’t over yet.