John Senden could be forgiven for letting 50 sneak up on him.
The bathroom mirror at his Dallas home reveals few changes to the young man who completed a traineeship under Ian Triggs at Keppera Country Golf Club in Brisbane almost 30 years ago before taking his game into Asia, Europe and ultimately the US.
Then there was the devastating revelation in 2017 that he and Jackie’s only son Jacob had a brain tumour.
Time stands still when such a distressing diagnosis is revealed and Jacob’s journey towards a healthy future has understandably consumed Senden’s focus the past few years.
Knocking a little white ball into a hole 400 yards off in the distance becomes instantly irrelevant.
But Senden, who turned 50 on April 20, will join the Champions Tour at this week’s Insperity Invitational in Texas knowing that Jacob is in a good place physically and with a renewed focus on his own health and performance on the golf course.
“Even though a few things have happened in my life that have sort of stopped me from playing, I’m glad I’m where I’m at now,” revealed Senden ahead of his Champions Tour debut.
“Back in 2017, it was pretty rough. He was on the edge then. It was challenging because for one, I didn’t even know whether I was going to continue to play the game, with trying to take care of Jacob, in hospitals, getting him healthy again.
“But he’s way better now. If you saw him today, you wouldn’t know he was really, really sick at all.
“He’s got to keep checking in with the doctors, just to boost his testosterone with a few shots here and there, but without going into major detail, he’s looking a lot better and he’s busy. It’s good.”
Happy 50th Sendo, welcome to the Champions Tour. 🎂🎂🎂🎂🎉🎉🎉🍷🍷🍷🍷 pic.twitter.com/49ALeSnKj7— Rod Pampling (@RodPampling) April 21, 2021
Since Jacob’s diagnosis Senden has played only 65 tournaments over the past four years, making 22 cuts and with a best result of a tie for fifth at the 2018 Australian Open, his best PGA TOUR result in that time a tie for 34th that same year at the John Deere Classic.
Revered as one of the game’s premier ball-strikers for the past 20 years, Senden believes returning to tournament golf on a regular basis will help him to rediscover the consistency that has been a hallmark of his career.
A two-time PGA TOUR winner, Senden dusted off some of the rust in missing the cut at last week’s Veritex Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour in his home state of Texas and insists a clear mind and a deeper schedule across two tours will elevate his game to a level where he can contend for trophies again.
“These last five years, the priorities have been a little bit different. It’s been more difficult to put the time in to stay really highly competitive, as well as the change in the body and your age,” said Senden, the 2006 Australian Open champion.
“When you don’t play and you’re trying to keep up with these young guys, it’s more difficult. That’s where it’s been these last couple of years but I’m lucky that I’m at the age of 50 right now where I’ve gotten through that.
“It’s just the way things have rolled, really. I feel really good about turning 50 because it’s going to give me another chance to play a consistent schedule and stay healthy.
“That gives me a good chance to hopefully get more consistent with my game, because I’ll be playing most weeks come April right through to November.
“Last year, with COVID, I only played about eight events. This year, I’m going to play probably 20-25. “Good to get the rhythm back again and play a bit more.
“That’s something that I’m looking forward to.”
With $US21,630,513 in earnings Senden’s place on the Champions Tour is secure for the immediate future via the Career Moneylist category.
After this week’s Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands Country Club in Texas the Queenslander intends to tee it up in the Regions Tradition next week in Alabama before taking up an invitation to play in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club from May 27.
Good mate Rod Pampling is the only other Aussie currently in the field for the Insperity Invitational with David McKenzie hoping for the opportunity to join them from his current position as first alternate.