By his own admission, Vinny Giles has never had much time for senior golf. “I was very fortunate to do pretty well as a younger player,” says the self-effacing, 67-year-old who won both the U.S. and British Amateurs a generation ago. “So, playing the game as a senior was something of an afterlife for me. I did it because I enjoyed competing on occasion and seeing my friends at tournaments.”
But he rarely entered more than a half-dozen senior events each year. And there was only one tournament that really excited him – the U.S. Senior Amateur.
“Honestly, that is the only one senior amateurs really care about winning,” Giles says. “None of us has a chance at the Senior Open, so the Senior Amateur is it. And winning that tournament was the only real goal I set for myself when I turned 55 a dozen years ago.”
The Senior Am would be a big win for Giles, who also was the low amateur in both the Masters and the U.S. Open during his competitive heyday and a member of four Walker Cup teams. The Senior Am would also be the perfect topper for one of the most storied careers in amateur golf. So, Giles began playing in the annual championship, coming close to winning a couple of times but always falling short.
Giles began to feel his time to take that title had come and gone when he turned 60, and then began making his way to his 70s. But then came the 2009 championship, at Beverly Country Club just south of Chicago. He surprised himself, and most others in golf, by playing his way into the finals, and then holing a downhill putt on the 18th hole to beat John Grace of Fort Worth, Tex., 1-up. The fiery fist pump and Hale-Irwinesque scamper around the green after that ball dropped demonstrated how much the win excited Giles.
Six months later, he is still basking in the glow of that victory as he also ponders the question so many people have asked since he joined Bill Campbell as the only players ever to have won both the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur titles: What’s next?
The simple answer is: Not very much.
“At my age, I do not have any competitive aspirations,” Giles says. “I am thrilled to have done what I did last year. But I am not worrying too much about tournaments going forward.”
That is not to say, however, that Giles will not be teeing it up in some senior events in 2010. In fact, he’ll probably play a few more than usual given the exemptions that come with his Senior Am win. Maybe 10 in all. But he has no designs on reviving a competitive career.
“Of course, I’ll defend my Senior Amateur title at Lake Nona next year, and might go over to play the British Senior Amateur, to do that one more time,” he says. “I could enter the U.S. Senior Open, but I don’t know. I qualified for that in 2004, at age 61, and afterwards I wondered what the hell I was doing out there. Everyone else was in their 50s, and the course was playing 7,100 yards. Six years later, I know I do not have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the cut and will have nothing more than a ceremonial role. And there’s nothing about being ceremonial that I like.”
“Somebody also said I will be exempt for the British Senior Open as well,” Giles adds with a chuckle. “But that is being played at Carnoustie, and that course was too hard for me when I was 25.”
What Giles will devote most of his time and energy to instead is playing casual rounds with friends several times a week, whether at his beloved Seminole in Florida, or on the course he helped design at the Kinloch Golf Club in Richmond, Va., where he lives with his wife, Key.
Plus, he’ll compete in invitationals like the Coleman and the Crump – and tee it up in Society of Seniors events, and tournaments like the National Senior-Junior and the International Four-Ball. Giles says he will simply enjoy his games, knowing he has wrung about as many good competitive rounds out of his 67-year-old body as is possible.
“I am well past my prime, but that’s all right,” he says. “I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in golf.”