PHOENIX Steve AlkerThis is the first time he has ever lived this life.
Hes 51 years old and a golf superstar. These words are new to him after decades of anonymity on the golf fringes.
Hes now in front a camera, with a microphone hanging above him, and Phoenix Country Club laid out below him. Hes answering questions about his journey from the golf shadows to the top of the Charles Schwab Cup championship.
Alker has been denied his PGA Tour card three consecutive times. His first loss was in 2003, when he was 32. He has played on the Korn Ferry Tours in Europe, Asia, Australia and he hopes his game will find its form.
It has now happened in the most unusual of ways. He has won in four of 22 starts this season, tying his record for the most Korn Ferry starts in 20 years of minor-league touring.
Alker has experienced a rollercoaster ride over the past 19 years while searching for his best golf game. Alker found it in the most unexpected places: His 50s. Alker has been speeding things up when the rest of the players slow down. This has led to this weekend. Alker sits at the top of the Charles Schwab Cup points standings, and the PGA Tour Champions money lists. He will be fighting Padraig HarringtonAlkers trophy-winning golfer, he is the only one of the 33-man field to be able to topple him this weekend.
As long as Harrington, in second place, does not win this weekend, Alker will be the overall winner. If Harrington finishes first then Alkers performance will determine who takes the trophy home.
Alker said, If someone plays great golf and kicks mine butt and beats us for the Schwab Cup, . I like to watch guys play great golf.
Im gonna do my damndest to win the thing and give em what I can and try to play my best. If someone is better, great for them. Thats awesome. Ill give it another try next year.
The past 15 months have been a surprise whirlwind.
Alker has found a consistency in his game which was missing during his prime. He has made all 22 cuts this year, has four wins and four second-place finishes. He has also finished in the top 10 only five times.
This consistent? Alker, who is from New Zealand, assessed his current play. … It surprised me a bit, I think, because consistency is something I have struggled with for a while. Thats the one thing that I love most, the consistency Ive had over this time.
Its been amazing.
He was one Monday qualifier away, and it never happened.
Alker was unable to play in the 2016-17 season due to the loss of his PGA Tour card. He returned to the Korn Ferry Tour. Alker had missed the first two rounds of the 2020 season and his best finish was tied for 23rd. Alker wasnt much better as the season resumed in June. Alker was convinced that he would lose his card in a normal years, but the Korn Ferry Tour extended the 2020 season into 2021. Alker was able to keep his status. It didnt matter. He struggled on.
Alker was playing at his best for two years when the season ended in August. He decided to play for the PGA Tour Champions at the urging his wife Tanya of 19 years.
Alker entered the Monday qualifier for the Boeing Classic, his first PGA Tour Champions event, three days after he missed the cut in his last Korn Ferry Tour event. Alker was seventh in the field. He finished third at Ally Challenge the following week, then tied for ninth at Ascension Charity Classic.
It didnt stop.
Alker participated in 10 tournaments over 13 weeks, finishing outside the top nine only once. Alker won the TimberTech Championship and finished second in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Alker said, Its insane. I played a full Korn Ferry schedule and then went on this 10-tournament tour at the end. I was exhausted by that point.
People have asked me what my secret sauce is. What did you do to turn everything around? Whats the deal? There is no secret sauce. I cant pinpoint one thing. … Its just a collection of things that have come together to get my ducks in order.
He started the 2022 year at the same fast pace. At his season debut in January, he finished second at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship Hualalai. The success stories havent stopped.
Alker stated, Its a variety of emotions. There have been a few weeks when I wasnt playing well, but Ive come back and played well the following week. So, its exciting.
All these emotions were brought together and made it a really great year to be having fun.
Alker made a change in his life when he decided to stop chasing cuts on the PGA/Korn Ferry tours.
His mindset. His focus. His goals. His approach. They were all new. They all had to be lifted from the pressures of professional golf.
Im going be brutally candid here: It was kinda refreshing, almost to a point where its like, Geez, maybe the importance of playing tours like PGA Tour and Korn Ferry vanished. But it was just a change of direction, change in environment. That was what I was most looking forward to.
He had spent two years trying the necessary tweaks to his game. Some of these were tangible, such as small equipment modifications, work to his swing, or a new focus for his health.
Alker felt ill 18 months before he joined the PGA Tour Champions. Alker saw Tyson Marostica, a trainer who found that Alker couldn’t externally rotate or rotate his left shoulder. Alker was given a workout program by Marostica to address these issues and strengthen Alkers scapular stability. Marostica stated that the result was a huge difference in Alkers functionality and stability.
Marostica stated, I see it mostly in consistency round-to-round.
He is just steady, hes consistent. We dont have fatigue, we don’t see swing changes, we don’t see fatigue later in the rounds. Its pretty impressive to see him. Hes steady and consistent.
Alkers most important changes were however intangible. Alker said good-bye to long days at the range and on putting green. He spends the weekend recharging after tournaments and is home in Fountain Hills, Arizona with his wife and two children.
Alker stated, You learn from these experience and I think thats the reason why Im playing so good now that I have learned that I don’t need to spend hours and hours at the range. I don’t have to practice every single day.
Thats not going to work for me now. I think its better to get some family time and rest time.
Golfers are well aware of the overwhelming urge to fix and tweak. It can take hours. It can paralyze a golfer’s game. It can be very debilitating.
Imagine doing this while being paid to play golf.
Alker stated that then you go down various paths to try an improve, make changes or make big changes and sometimes they can harm you.
Week in and week out, I quickly learned that I couldn’t. [compete]. The grind began again after I lost my card. I was trying to get back on tour. It was a lot of hard, tedious grinding.
Alker restructured his career in the middle of a decade-long absence on the PGA Tour. His family was young. They were both in school. He was a father.
Golf was no longer so important. His life was changing before his eyes, and that led him to make changes for his game as well as his family.
It was his first experience of being free from the responsibilities of his job.
Alker couldn’t help stargazing when he began playing late into the weekends on last year’s Champions tour. There was. Ernie Els. There was Freddie Couples. Theres Miguel Angel Jimenez. Then, he was right next to them on their range. He was playing in the final pair.
You can see that it means a lot for him, David Toms said. His family is grateful for his knowledge.
[Hes]Someone who has really done his part.
Alker said that he is the same guy he was when golf anonymity was his last. Despite the fact that he has earned $4.48million on the PGA Tour Champions, which is more than five times the amount he took home from all his PGA Tour events, and three times the amount he made on Korn Ferry Tour, he has not spent any large purchases.
Alker took some time, longer than most in his situation, to achieve this goal, but he is now here.
He said, It is a completely different atmosphere. Its a second wind for my soul. Its a second opportunity, maybe a third, maybe even a fourth chance. I dont know how many opportunities Ive had at the moment. But I do know that its one that is worth it. Its one that I really enjoy and it gives me the chance to do great.