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).”
“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.”
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.”