Rocco Mediate shoots during a practice round for the Memorial golf tournament in Dublin, Ohio in 2009.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Rocco Mediate was sitting outside the other day, soaking up some Florida sun and wondering where the time has gone.
"It's amazing, this is my 28th year on a Professional Golfers Association Tour -- you believe that?" he said on his cell phone. "And I've lasted 28 years, longer than I thought I would."
Mediate won six times in those 28 years on the PGA Tour, the most recent coming at the 2010 Frys.com Open. But, after turning 50 Dec. 17 and with no exempt status on the PGA Tour, Mediate is about to begin the second phase of his career when he makes his debut Friday as a rookie on the Champions Tour.
Mediate will play in the Allianz Championship at Broken Sound Golf Club in Boca Raton, Fla., the first full-field event of the season on the Champions Tour. And this is not just a one-stop diversion for Mediate in an attempt to somehow get back on the PGA Tour.
This Greensburg native plans on playing a full schedule on the Champions Tour in 2013, including the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel at the end of June.
"I still think I can play on the PGA Tour, but I don't belong there right now because I didn't earn my way back," said Mediate, whose two-year exemption for winning the Frys.com Open expired at the end of the 2012 season. "Is that over for me? I'm not going to say it is. But I'm playing a full Champions Tour schedule and we'll see what happens."
Then he added: "I'm looking forward to it. It's definitely going to be a change."
Mediate is one of three prominent PGA Tour players who have turned 50 and are eligible to play on the Champions Tour this season, joining former PGA champions Steve Elkington and Vijay Singh. But, while Mediate and Elkington plan to play on the Champions Tour, Singh has indicated he will continue to play on the PGA Tour, where he is still competitive.
This is not the only change for Mediate. He became engaged a couple of months ago to Jessica Somers and plans to marry for a second time.
"I'm going to play this tour and see if I can do something," Mediate said. "I know it's going to be hard. I know it's not easy; it's way harder than people think it is.
"The quality of play is very high. I'm not coming out there thinking it's going to be a walk in the park. I'm definitely nervous about Friday, but I'm looking forward to playing. I put the work in."
There are some advantages to playing on the Champions Tour, Mediate said, chief among them being able to take a riding cart in the two pro-ams they play on the Champions Tour each week.
"Those 51/2 --hour pro-ams are tough because you got to stand the whole time," Mediate said, referring to the ones on the PGA Tour. "Now I can sit in a cart."
But, like he did for 28 years on the PGA Tour, Mediate will walk in tournaments on the Champions Tour, which allows players to use riding carts.
"As of right now, I'm a Champions Tour player," Mediate said. "I got 26 events to play in and I plan to play them all."