Corey Pavin and his wife, Lisa, are looking forward to a challenging and busy 2010. (Courtesy Ben Liebenberg)
Pavin turns 50 with eyes set on an exciting year
Turning 50 usually means slowing down, grabbing the rod and reel and spending more time with the family. Not Corey Pavin. The gritty captain of the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team has turned 50 with no intentions of slowing down, be it transitioning to the Champions Tour, chasing his toddler daughter around the house or preparing his squad for their biennial showdown with the Europeans next October at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales.
By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer
Throughout his storied career, he has often been referred to as "The Bulldog" and "The Gritty Little Bruin." But as Corey Allen Pavin prepared to celebrate his 50th birthday, there are a few other monikers that he is answering to nowadays: "father," "husband," "rookie" and "captain."
Over the past five decades, Pavin has enjoyed a myriad of awards and successes, any one of which would be highlighted by others as a career highpoint. But Pavin's history is noteworthy for both its brilliance and endurance. From a remarkable collegiate career at UCLA to a tremendous 26-year, 15-win ride on the PGA Tour to his memorable and iconic victory at the 1995 U.S. Open to his inclusion on three Ryder Cup teams as a player and one more as an assistant captain; Pavin has been a champion of the game, both in competition and as an ambassador. If he now chose to take the time to kick back, relax and let the world offer appreciations and accolades, who could blame him?
But anyone who knows Corey Pavin knows that's not going to happen. In 2010, at an age when many of similar resumes are starting to wind down and ride off into a warm sunset, the hard-charging Pavin is kicking off a new chapter in his life with the same tenacity and enthusiasm that has endeared him to a legion of fans.
Corey and Lisa Pavin show off his birthday cake. (Photo: Ben Liebenberg)
"No, no time for rest," he laughs. "It's going to be an exciting year."
Pavin celebrates his 50th birthday on Monday, November 16. There are a few celebrations planned, not as a call for attention, but as venues for the many friends that he and his family have around the country to come and celebrate, appreciate and encourage him as this next chapter in his life unfolds.
"It's just a number, no particular significance" he says about hitting the big 5-oh. "I think my brothers are more freaked out than I am that 'their little brother' is turning 50. But I'm in a good place right now. I have family that loves me unconditionally. I still love this game 44 years later. (Pavin started playing at age 6.) It means I can play on the Champions Tour, of course, but as far as how it affects my mindset and my perspective on life, no not really."
Pavin smiles and adds, "Although I do have to admit, turning 50 might have something to do with me taking a little longer to get out of bed and bones are aching just a tad bit more in the mornings."
Pavin's nod to aging notwithstanding, he still wins his share of battles with Father Time. He tallied four top-20 finishes this year on the PGA Tour and his performance at Hazeltine at the PGA Championship, where he finished tied for 19th on a course that supposedly was too long for one of the Tour's famously short-knockers, shows that his trademark grit and determination are still key elements to success. And though he has proven he still has the game to compete on the PGA Tour, it is a bittersweet decision that he has made to leave it and test his skills on the Champions Tour in 2010.
"I will never forget my time on the PGA Tour," he says with a mix of pride and some resignation of leaving such an important venue for him. "I've met incredible friends, tournament directors, and tournament sponsors along the way. And without them, I would not be the professional golfer I am today. So, I owe a huge 'thank you' to all the people who have made my last 26 years so memorable.
"But as all good things must come to an end, it's time for me to take on a new challenge. Thus, I am very much looking forward to the Champions Tour. I look forward to being with guys I started out with as a rookie and played with well into my 30s and 40s. I am embracing this change with a lot of positive energy and am looking forward to competing on a regular basis -- at least I hope so."
Those who follow Pavin are showing no such concerns. It may be a new Tour, but it's against many of the same people he's competed against for many years -- and it's still golf, something he has done so well for so long. And this second phase in his professional life is coming at an apt time, as he is commencing a second phase in his personal life as well: He and wife Lisa have a baby girl (Alexis) that will turn 2 next month.
"I feel like I've been given a second chance at being a father again," said Pavin, who has two grown sons from his first marriage. "I'm much more relaxed than I was when I had my first child. I appreciate and embrace every part of her growth. It's a lot easier to enjoy it the second time around. And of course, this is my first daughter -- and yes, she had me at the first cry. I've been lucky because I have been able to travel with my daughter the last two years. My wife has made it a priority that we stay together as family -- our two children, Alexis and Juicy (our dog) on Tour. Logistics aren't always the easiest, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
So starting on a new tour and raising a young child are daunting yet fulfilling challenges by themselves. Pavin is doing both as he turns 50 and prepares for one other task that is going to take up quite a bit of his time, energy and resources.
Pavin will lead the United States team as Captain at the 2010 Ryder Cup -- the preeminent international team competition in golf -- at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales, next October. It is the culmination of a lifelong love of the event and his passionate memories of the competition as a three-time player and one-time assistant captain.
"It's been unbelievable so far," he says with a wide smile, "more than I ever imagined. The officers and managers at the PGA have been phenomenal to work for. I couldn't ask for a better Ryder Cup support team. My wife and I consider 'our team' as personal friends -- and it's overwhelming how incredible they all are in their talent, passion and their support. I continually wake up and cannot believe this gift has been bestowed upon me."
From the minutiae of team meals and uniform designs (wife Lisa has taken the lead on fashion decisions, a nod to her keen sense of style and letting Corey focus on golf) to scouting the Celtic Manor course to watching more golf on television to help identify the up-and-coming talent in 2010, being captain is a role Pavin has been anxious about and ready to tackle as much as any other role he's had in his life.
"It's only going to get more hectic," he acknowledges, "but we're looking forward to the challenge. It's a thrill of a lifetime and we are going to put forth a great effort and enjoy this moment every step of the way."
And next year, as he celebrates birthday 51, what is he hoping to reflect back on in 2010 in order to remember it as a great entry into his next half-century?
"A good year for me means that I've kept my priorities straight and I've striven to do the best I can," Pavin said. "I hope I can look back and say: I've kept a great balance within my personal life -- strengthening my relationship with God and my family, help the 2010 team to retain the Ryder Cup, and hopefully win a tournament or two on the Champions Tour."
And if all of those come to pass as planned, will the hard-charging Corey Pavin ride off into that sunset? Not likely, because there's a good chance that age 51 will mean a slew of new challenges.