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Home Course: Sea Pines’ Jeff Maggert

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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Tee off Heritage Jeff Maggert
Jeff Maggert tees off at the 2015 RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

As have other successful PGA Tour veterans approaching age 50, Jeff Maggert wasn't so sure he was ready in 2014 to move to the PGA Tour Champions (previously the Champions Tour), aka the senior or "mulligan" tour.

Given his "junior" career, that was understandable. In his 25 years as a professional, the Missouri native and longtime Houston resident had won three times (including a World Golf Championship title) and played on three US Ryder Cup squads. In 2013, at age 49, he finished runner-up at The Players to Tiger Woods, who's now a 40-something himself.

Still, "I was having kind of a midlife crisis," Maggert says. "I was playing pretty well and didn't want to give up playing the regular tour, but you can't fight Father Time. You can't compete with the kids now."

Now, like others before him, he's discovered that life after 50 can be pretty sweet.

After playing a split schedule in 2014, "I made it a point to dedicate the whole year (2015)" to the PGA Tour Champions, Maggert says. That paid off with five Champions victories including two major championships, most notably the US Senior Open. Maggert hasn't looked back.

"The Champions Tour has been great," he says. "When it first began, I didn't know if it would make it, but it's been an easy sell for sponsors. They love it, and the Tour guys like to participate in pro-ams, and the combination has made it a success."

Maggert's own success has helped him find his place. "Winning a (Champions) major was a goal I set when I started," he says. "To win five times with two majors, that breeds confidence, which snowballs when you're playing well."

He has no explanation for his instantaneous winning - "it's the same old me," he says - but suggests that with age has come a relaxation on the golf course. "We (Champions players) don't have a lot left to prove," he says. "We're all still competitive, but there's not that pressure to make your mark; we've already done that. That aspect is kind of nice."

Besides, Maggert's life in and out of golf keeps him busy and engaged. In 2011, he and his wife, Michelle, bought a summer home at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island. Soon after, Maggert agreed to represent Sea Pines on the Champions Tour.

"My wife is from North Carolina, so we did a lot of vacations in the Carolinas," including stays at Kiawah Island and Hilton Head. "I knew a lot of people from playing in the Heritage so many years (17 through 2015 with a sponsor's exemption for 2016), so we decided to look around and found a place we liked.

"One New Year's Eve, I was giving the guys at the resort a hard time about having no one on any tour, and someone said, ‘Why don't you do it?' We did a handshake agreement; I have the (Sea Pines "lighthouse") logo on my shirts and bag, and I have free range to play there."

That's a good thing, especially for his son Jake, who turns 12 in 2016. "In the summer, he'd play 24/7 if I let him, so this is a great resort for him," Maggert says. "Plus there are a lot of kids here in summer and he's made some good friends with our neighbors." Jake's twin sister, Madeline, and the Maggerts' three grown children by previous marriages are also fans of Hilton Head's attractions.

While Maggert plans to play a full Champions schedule in the immediate future (25-26 events each year), in the summers it's nice to come home to Sea Pines. "We pack the Suburban for three months," he says. "The kids get excited about going there. It doesn't get old to them."

Indeed, "getting old" still isn't an issue for Maggert. In 2016, he will make his two "regular tour" appearances: the US Open (he's exempt as senior champion) and the RBC Heritage, where his career best is a tie for eighth; he made the cut in three of four visits from 2012-15.

"I'd like a crack at that again," he says. "Hilton Head is my second home now. I look forward to that."

Hometown: Columbia, Mo.; lives in Houston, has summer home in Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island

Bio: Attended Texas A&M; turned professional, 1986; Ben Hogan (now Tour player of the year, 1990; won three times with 16 runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour; played on three Ryder Cup teams and one Presidents Cup team; five wins on the PGA Tour Champions (formerly Champions Tour) including two majors; three PGA Tour wins; represents Sea Pines Resort on the PGA Tour Champions.

Highlights: Won the 1999 WGC-Anderson Consulting Match-Play Championship for his biggest PGA Tour victory; in second season on the PGA Tour Champions, won 2015 Regions Tradition, beating Kevin Sutherland in a playoff, and 2015 US Senior Open by two shots over Colin Montgomerie, plus two other events, finishing second in season-long Schwab Cup; one of seven players with wins on all three PGA Tour-sponsored tours.

Where I Play: "I've played a few courses in the Hilton Head area and the state and would like to play more, obviously. My son (Jake, who turns 12 in 2016) plays the US Kids Tour out of Charleston, so we've played up there, too."

"On Hilton Head, I haven't played that much outside Sea Pines (Harbour Town Golf Links and Heron Point by Pete Dye). I played Long Cove one time, and years ago I played at Haig Point with a friend. And I played either Belfair or Berkeley Hall, I can't recall which."

"(In Charleston) we've played Wild Dunes and Daniel Island, and that's been fun. We've played at Kiawah Island and Stono Ferry, and Charleston National in Mount Pleasant. My son played Rivertowne but I wasn't there that time. Oh, and back around 1983, I played in the Rice Planters Amateur, which is usually played at Snee Farm. When I was an amateur, that tournament was one of the top amateurs in the US."

Where I Eat: "My son is a chicken wing fan, so he loves Wild Wing Café and One Hot Mama's on Hilton Head, those are his favorites. My wife and I both like Truffles in Sea Pines. And I'll tell you what, the three new Sea Pines restaurants at the Beach Club, the Plantation Club (Live Oak) and Harbour Town (Links, An American Grill) are fantastic for fine dining. When we're in Charleston, it's usually a day trip, so it's fast food after golf, but we've talked about taking a long weekend in Charleston, find a nice B&B and spend a couple of days trying out restaurants."

What I Do For Fun: "At Hilton Head, we spend a lot of time outdoors. We love going to the beach, and our place is about 400 yards, a par-4 hole, from the beach. I'm trying to talk my wife into getting a fishing boat, because my son and I love that. So far, we'll do a quick charter out of the marina; we did some shark fishing in 2015, and there's great fishing in some of the back bays. We also have a pool at the house, and we'll be on bikes there, and my daughter likes the horses at Lawton Stables."

"We also like the mountains and have talked about going up to Greenville for some weekends. Before we bought at Hilton Head, we were at The Cliffs in 2006 or 2007, looking at summer places. When the kids get out of high school, we might look to relocated in the Upstate permanently."

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.