Planet Golf — 23 August 2013 by Jim Street
Pooley hints of Champions departure

SNOQUALMIE, Wa. – When Don Pooley makes his final putt on Sunday afternoon at The Boeing
Classic, you might see him tip his cap as a farewell gesture to one of his favorite places – TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.

He was here when the popular tournament debuted eight years ago, finished as high as fifth place twice, and after missing the past two years because of prostate cancer, he returned this year for what probably will be his final competitive round on the course Jack Nicklaus built.

“This could be the last time I play here,” he said on Saturday after a 1-under par 70 left him at even-par for the three-day tournament. “This is one of my favorite events, it’s a beautiful golf course, and I have had some success here.”

For Pooley, who will be 62 years old on Tuesday, success is measured these days by tournaments played and golf swings taken – not whether he wins or loses. That’s what a three-hour operation to remove a cancerous prostate gland will do to you.

“It’s just fun to be able to swing a club again,” he said. “I went for two years without being able to play at all. I couldn’t chip, putt or anything. It was very tough.

“I had planned on retiring, but I planned on retiring slowly,” he said, smiling. “I didn’t plan on playing 25 weeks and immediately going to zero. I planned on a gradual decline. Going from bull-blast to zero was a shock.”

Pooley played in only one Champions Tour event last year, the Toshiba Classic, had surgery in April, and has worked his way back into playing shape.

Although he retired from the Champions Tour more than a year ago, Pooley is allowed to play 11 tournaments this year. The Boeing Classic is the eighth event on his calendar and he has one scheduled for Hawaii next month and two more in North Carolina (Oct. 11-20).”

North Carolina?

“I like the golf courses there,” the Tucson, Ariz., resident said. “And Morris Hatalsky, a good friend, is there. He promised me some good wine if I came over to his place. So I have ulterior motives.”

Pooley may decide to skip the Champions Tour event in Hawaii

Don Pooley may skip the Champions Tour event in Hawaii

That being said, he’s still not sure about Hawaii.

“It is a day-to-day thing,” he said. “I am committed to play over there (Sept. 20-22) but I honestly don’t know. I may not go. We’ll see how the game goes.”

Standing near the 10th tee at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge after Saturday’s round, the University of Arizona product reflected on his long and successful career.

“I probably won’t win another tournament, but I am very grateful and thankful for the career I have had, absolutely,” he said. “I have been very blessed. There are times I get frustrated, but when you look at the big picture, it’s not a big deal”

Pooley has more than $10 million in career earnings

The biggest win in his career was his first on the Champions Tour – the U.S.  Senior Open in 2002. He has a lifetime exemption and plans to utilize it. Same goes  with the Legends Tournament.

Pooley also won the B.C. Open in 1980 and the 1987 Memorial, but is probably best remembered in his PGA Tour career for his dramatic million-dollar hole-in-one at the ’87 Bay Hill Classic. He received $500,000 as did Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women in Orlando.

So what happens when he calls it a career?

“I will play some fun golf around Tucson with friends,” he said. “I’ll do some corporate and charity
stuff with golf. Keep me hand in that way. I just won’t be playing many tournaments.”

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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