Call it the innocence of youth or the misplaced bravado of the naïve but a younger Stuart Appleby had no intention of ever joining the Champions Tour.
Back then when the kid from Cohuna was accruing nine wins on the PGA Tour between 1997 and 2010, the senior tour was viewed as a place where professional golfers go out to pasture. Where former glories were recalled and the last remnants of competitive energy were expelled.
So, almost five months after turning 50 and two-and-a-half years since his last round of competitive golf at the 2019 Puerto Rico Open, how does Stuart Appleby find himself in the field for this week’s Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links?
Let’s just put it down to the vagaries of time.
“My answer was that I would never play the Champions Tour. I said that maybe in my late 20s, early 30s. ‘What would you do that for?’ I was young and dumb obviously because here I am,” said Appleby.
“If you’re in that 50-years-and-older category, you probably have got a fair call in saying that time sped up, especially if you’ve got a family.
“Time has flown by for me from my first year wondering whether I could play on the PGA Tour to now wondering whether I can play on the Champions Tour.”
The harsh reality for Appleby is that a back injury has made it impossible for him to play 18 holes of golf pain-free.
A passionate car enthusiast, Appleby has spoken about the need to “rebuild the engine” merely to get his body to the starting line.
And even though he is in the field this week, there are no guarantees yet that his body can sustain week after week on tour.
“I’m just doing a bit of a dry run this week, see how it all feels,” said Appleby, the 2001 Australian Open champion.
“Body’s feeling better, but it’s not like riding a bike. This week’s going to be a bit of a test run but you couldn’t pick a better place for that.
“As a top athlete, there’s not much left for you once you fall out of the top leagues but hopefully we can bring something to the tour.
“It’s a long-distance reunion for me, being first week out. This is only week one, hopefully there are many more.”
Following hot on the heels of Rod Pampling and Stephen Leaney, Appleby joins Robert Allenby, John Senden and Mark Hensby as Champions Tour rookies in 2021, Allenby thrilled to see his former Victorian Institute of Sport teammate back out on tour.
“It’s great to have Stuey out here again. It’s like picking the old team back up again and having a bit of fun, bit of bantering, as you can see, it never ends,” said Allenby.
“I know everyone out here on this tour is very excited and super happy to have ‘Apples’ out.
“We’ve had our careers, our careers have been great. In any career you can say I could have done better here, I could have done better there but it’s done. It is what it is and we are where we are.
“For Apples and myself, we’re fortunate that we’ve had a great career on the PGA Tour and we’re very fortunate that we can come out here and still compete and play a profession that we’ve loved for 30-something years.”
Round 1 tee times AEST
Japan Golf Tour
Joyo Country Club, Kyoto
8.15am Scott Strange, Ryouya Matsui (a), Toru Nakajima
8.55am Dylan Perry, Koumei Oda, Taichi Teshima
9.05am* Anthony Quayle, Yosuke Tsukada, Tomoharu Otsuki
9.15am* Todd Sinnott, Shinji Tomimura, Hirotaro Naito
1.10pm David Bransdon, Shinichi Yokota, Daijiro Izumida
Defending champion: Toshinori Muto (2019)
Past Aussie winners: Nil
Top Aussie prediction: Anthony Quayle
Open de Portugal
Royal Óbidos Spa & Golf Resort, Óbidos, Portugal
5pm Blake Windred, Euan Walker, Joe Long
9.25pm Daniel Hillier, Clément Berardo, Niklas Regner
9.45pm* Dimitrios Papadatos, Pedro Almeida, Todd Clements
10.25pm Deyen Lawson, Christofer Blomstrand, Ugo Coussaud
10.45pm* Josh Geary, Manuel Elvira, Edoardo Raffaele Lipparelli
Defending champion: Garrick Higgo
Past Aussie winners: Dimitrios Papadatos (2018)
Top Aussie prediction: Dimitrios Papadatos
Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
Pinnacle Country Club, Rogers, Arkansas
11.32pm Lydia Ko, Danielle Kang, Austin Ernst
11.43pm* Katherine Kirk, Kristy McPherson, Pernilla Lindberg
11.54pm Su Oh, Chella Choi, Lindsey Weaver
12.05am* Sarah Jane Smith, Lee Lopez, Sandra Gal
3.26am Sarah Kemp, Azahara Munoz, Esther Lee
4.21am* Minjee Lee, Yuka Saso, Patty Tavatanakit
Defending champion: Austin Ernst
Past Aussie winners: Nil
Top Aussie prediction: Minjee Lee
TV schedule: Live 2.30am-4.30am Saturday; Live 3am-6am Sunday; Live 2am-5am Monday on Fox Sports 505
Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout
El Dorado, Arkansas
10.41pm* Gabriela Ruffels, Delfina Acosta, Karolina Vlckova
11.25pm* Robyn Choi, Linnea Johansson, Kum-Kang Park
11.47pm Soo Jin Lee, Gloria Nip, Lakareber Abe
3am* Stephanie Na, Leslie Cloots, Kristin Coleman
4.17am Julienne Soo, Louise Stahle, Janet Mao
4.28am Julianne Alvarez, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Selena Costabile
Defending champion: Cydney Clanton (2019)
Past Aussie winners: Hannah Green (2017)
Top Aussie prediction: Gabriela Ruffels
Pure Insurance Championship
Pebble Beach Golf Links & Spyglass Hill
12.32am Rod Pampling
1.05am* Robert Allenby
6.34am John Senden
1.05am Stephen Leaney
1.38am Steven Alker
5.39am David McKenzie
6.12am* Stuart Appleby
Defending champion: Jim Furyk
Past Aussie winners: Nil
Top Aussie prediction: John Senden
TV schedule: 11am-12.30pm Saturday; Live 6am-9am Sunday; Live 5am-8am Monday on Fox Sports 505