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Champions Tour rookie Joey Sindelar says it's good "to have gone from the guy with the most aches to the guy with the least aches."(Photo: Getty Images)

Sindelar Blog: Being so close to home so gratifying

By Joey Sindelar, Special to

Editor's note: Joey Sindelar enters the 69th Senior PGA Championship with five Champions Tour events under his belt. His best finish was a tie for fourth at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, a team event where he partnered with fellow Ohio State University alum John Cook. As he tees it up in his first major on the Champions Tour, it will be an extra special one since Oak Hill Country Club is less than two hours away from his hometown.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Living just down the road in Horseheads, N.Y., the best thing about this week is that I was able to sneak home for 48 hours and be dad to my sons. I caddied for my eldest son this Monday at the Country Club of Rochester, a wonderful golf course just a mile from Oak Hill Country Club. He played in the U.S. Open qualifier so I was working, but in a different way. You get a totally new look at things from the caddie side of the golf bag.

In case you're wondering, he shot 74 and was 4-over. I think he was fifth or sixth and they took three. This is fun for me to relive this stuff, where sometimes you are entering these qualifiers for the big events just to touch it and feel it and be nervous.

The early part of this week was more about spending two days with the family. Once the tournament starts, of course I'll see a lot of faces, greet a lot of people and say hello to people I don't see that often. But this is pretty serious stuff and I'm going to want to have my attention focused on the job at hand.

The Senior PGA Championships is my first major on the Champions Tour. This is Oak Hill. This is a major. A senior major. You step on the tee and you're nervous. I think the biggest lesson I've learned in my career is that it's the same for everybody else.

That hit me fairly squarely but not until a handful of years ago when I heard Vijay Singh talk about being nervous. There's a guy that wins a lot of golf tournaments and he's talking about being nervous coming down the stretch. And I thought -- and I'm not a nervous and jerky kind of guy out there -- I get butterflies going in a tournament like this where the screws are really tight, the rough is up, the fairways are narrow and the greens are fast.

At least we are back on my kind of grass now. My year, which has been partly on the PGA TOUR and partly out on the Champions Tour, we've been mostly in the Southern climate. This means that, on the ocean courses, we played on the new paspalum grass for three of my tournaments (at the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun, Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular and The Cap Cana Championship). That was a new experience for most of the players. Apart from that we've generally been on Bermuda grasses or hybrids -- southern grass. This is our first step now back into northern grass, which is where a handful of us are intuitive. We can get it done other places and the southern guys can certainly get it done here but this is what we grew up on so it feels like home to us.

Speaking of feeling like home, there are a few guys other than myself who grew up in Western New York. Michael Hulbert, Jeff Sluman, Wayne Levi -- it seems like just yesterday when we were young guys coming up here, just driving past the fronts of these great golf courses (like Oak Hill) and being nervous just driving by, let alone coming in.

Slu, Michael and I have been the Three Stooges at dinner for the past week or two. Enjoying this whole thing we get to feel on the Champions Tour, which is really interesting. The Champions Tour is still is very competitive and we all want to do our best financially but it also a time and place for us to step out and go to dinner and just laugh at each other and with each other.

I don't know if there was something in the water but we all made it onto the PGA TOUR and now the Champions Tour. Somehow we all got it done. I would not want to be starting over. I would not want to be my son who wants to chase this dream. I couldn't want to be that right now. There are just too many good players out there.

As for my own game, I'm now settled down and ready to go and very happy. I think the only way to explain my results so far to my sons -- who are 18 and 15 -- is that my scoring software has a virus.

I tied for 11th at the Regions Charity Classic last week and was actually 9-under par going into 16 holes there where the winning score was 13-under. But I got a 5-iron into a par-5 downwind and I buried it in the lip of the bunker with a pretty good shot. And one swing goes deeper, next swing goes deeper, third one is unplayable, luckily I got it up-and-down for a double-bogey and then I three-putted the next hole.

However, what used to be my biggest advantage on the PGA TOUR is now my biggest deficiency: experience. I've been here, this is the unusual place for me this year and the Dick's Sporting Goods Open back in Binghamton, site of the former B.C. Open, but apart from that is all new to me. And it's not just the golf courses. It's how far do you dare drive at rush hour in bigger cities. There's a bulk of us wandering around here wondering where's the first tee, where is the restaurant, where do you hit balls. So it's been a very interesting thing for people who have been doing this a long time to kind of seem lost.

It's the whole rookie thing again. So there's good and bad. But it's good news to have gone from the guy with the most aches to the guy with the least aches in just one change of a birthday. So it's been fun.

This has been a very electric several months for me. Because you're retiring but you're not retiring. You're leaving a whole set of people behind and yet you're rejoining people that you knew before them. And you're never going to be paired with Vijay Singh or Tiger Woods again but I'm very content here. I don't miss it. That's how good this is. The Champions Tour is very competitive but yet it's a perfect mix for where we all are in our lives.

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