A year ago, Allen Doyle was bouncing from tournament to tournament as the oldest rookie on the PGA Tour. Now the 48-year-old driving-range pro is back, this time with some financial security.
What started in 1995 as a venture on the Nike Tour by Doyle to get ready for the Senior Tour next year, turned into a lucrative equipment deal with Titleist.
“They’ve been very, very kind to me,” said Doyle, who first signed with Titleist in 1995. “They thought I had a unique story and apparently think I can sell some clubs for them.”
Doyle is a unique story. He was a very successful amateur with no PGA Tour experience who ran the Doyle Golf Center in LaGrange, Ga., about 80 miles west of Atlanta. When he saw the big money being made on the Senior Tour he decided to turn pro.
“If you decide to turn pro at 47 years old, you’re either dumb enough or cocky enough to play the PGA Tour,” Doyle said. “Trying to play the tour at that age was unheard of.”
But the Senior Tour changed all that. Many guys who never tried to make it on the PGA Tour are popping up to try to make money on the over-50 circuit.
Doyle qualified as the PGA Tour’s oldest rookie a year ago after he won three tournaments and earned more than $176,000 in only 20 events on the Nike Tour in 1995.
Last year, he placed 140th on the money list, earning $136,789 in 27 events. A tie for 10th at the Byron Nelson Classic was his best finish.
Failing to make the Top 125 earnings list and the automatic exception that goes with it, Doyle had to go to qualifying school where he tied for first and again qualified for the tour.
Doyle, back on the tour this weekend at the Honda Classic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., earned just $13,886 in his first six events of the year. But this time he has a renegotiated contract with Titleist that makes those missed cuts a little less painful.
Doyle wouldn’t divulge the exact figures of the deal he recently signed with an extension through 2002, but said it was for “six figures a year,” and was loaded with incentives, especially for the Senior Tour.
“I think I’m worth what they’re paying me,” Doyle said. “I appreciate them being good to me, and I’ll try to be good to them.”
Clearly, the gamble by Titleist is that Doyle will be a big winner on the Senior Tour. That seems a good bet.
Doyle didn’t play golf competitively until his mid-30s but became one of the dominant amateurs, winning the Georgia State Amateur six times and being a member of the Walker Cup team three times.
While Doyle was playing the Honda this weekend, last week it was back to his old job.
“Things had to be done,” Doyle said about his range. “They don’t get done by themselves.”
When Doyle is away from the range, his 16-year-old daughter Michelle, another teenager and a retired man keep up with the day-to-day business.
Doyle’s first year on tour was a learning experience. One drawback was his lack of knowledge of the courses.
“I was getting hurt by hitting some wrong clubs and not knowing the subtle breaks on the greens,” Doyle said.
“But it was kind of neat that at most places I went, the media and fans wanted to talk to me because of the uniqueness of my story,” he said. “It was kind of fun after playing so many years in oblivion.”
xxxx THE ALLEN DOYLE FILE 6-3, 210 pounds Born June 26, 1948, in Woonsocket, R.I. Lives in LaGrange, Ga., with wife, Kate, and daughters, Erin, 17, and Michelle, 16. Amateur record: Six-time winner of Georgia State Open; three-time member of Walker Cup team; three-time member of World Amateur Cup team. Pro record: 1995 Nike tour - $176,652 earnings, three victories; 1996 PGA tour $136,789 earnings; top finish, 10th place at Byron Nelson; 1997 PGA tour $13,953.
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