By Fred Altvater
The PGA Tour Champions is the most difficult golf tour in the world, on which, to earn a spot. Every year thousands of 45-year-old Champions Tour wannabes dream of making a run for the senior tour, when they turn 50. It sounds good, but don’t be fooled, the system is stacked against anyone without serious credentials from the regular PGA Tour, ever making it.
Rod Spittle, a Canadian and Ohio State Alumni, did just that after spending most of his life selling insurance and raising a family.
Spittle was born in St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls. As a high school golfing sensation, he caught the eye of Buckeye Golf Coach, Jim Brown, who lured Spittle to venture south of the border to play collegiately at Ohio State.
During his time in Columbus, Spittle helped the Buckeyes win the BIG Ten Championship three consecutive years 1976-1978, with teammates, John Cook and Joey Sindelar, who would both go on to win PGA Tour events.
Also, while at OSU, Spittle won consecutive Canadian Amateur titles in 1977 and 1978. After graduation, with a degree in Business Administration, he took the more prudent path of selling insurance and playing amateur golf, rather than the risky road to fame and glory on the PGA Tour.
He was successful in the amateur ranks, winning the Ohio Mid-Am Championship three times, 2000, 2001 and 2003. He knew he had enough game to compete against the best and that competitive fire continued to burn. Finally, he decided to put his game to the ultimate test on the Champions Tour.
In 2008, his third year as a full-time professional golfer, Spittle played in nine Champions Tour events, made every cut, but only recorded one top-10.
He and his wife had made a 5-year plan, after leaving their regular jobs behind. Now four years into that plan, his goal of being a full-time professional tour professional, took a severe hit, when he had no status on the 2009 Champions Tour and did not play in a single tournament.
His dream was definitely on life support in 2010, the final year of the five-year plan. Forced to Monday qualify, and playing with limited status, Spittle only got into five events the entire 2010 season. Coming into the final event of the year, the AT&T Championship, he Monday qualified. In a storybook ending, he played well all week and beat Jeff Sluman, in a playoff, for his first-ever professional title.
Just like that, his dream of playing professional golf, nearly dead and gone, gained new life, with a full exemption for 2011, as a PGA Tour Champions winner.
Although Spittle was not a prolific winner on the Champions Tour, in 195 starts over his 13-year career, he only missed four cuts. He never missed more than one cut in any year, plus he played nine full seasons without missing a single cut. That proves the consistency of a golf game that endured the test of time.
At the beginning of September this year, Spittle played in his final event The Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He carded three rounds of 67-69-69, good for T-17, then left the Champions Tour on his own terms, quietly and with little fanfare, the same way he has gone through life and golf.
Congratulations to a Great Buckeye Champion! Enjoy your retirement.