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  • Alistair Tait

Old Man Par Still Good Enough

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

Bobby Jones often said his main opponent in golf wasn’t the rest of the field in stroke play or the man he shared the first tee with in match play, but the golf course itself. Jones once wrote that he…

“...played against the invisible opponent whose intangible form is the card and pencil; the toughest opponent of them all – Old Man Par.
“After all, it’s Old Man Par and you, match or medal.”

Beating or matching Old Man Par certainly paid off for Jones in his day. Five U.S. Amateurs, four U.S. Opens, three Open Championships, an Amateur Championship and the then grand slam of all four in 1930 – the Impregnable Quadrilateral to give its then title – certainly proves Jones was right to make the golf course his main rival.

However, that was nearly 100 years ago. Jones retired from competitive golf in 1930. The game has moved from the days when just matching par brought success.

Or has it?

Turns out, matching Old Man Par in Europe this past season would have provided nice incomes on the European Tour, Ladies European Tour, and the Legends Tour. How nice? Well, anyone who had matched par in every tournament on the 2021 European Tour schedule would have taken home €649,766, and made 19 of 38 cuts.

The obvious caveat is that it would have meant competing in all 38 events. The other factor to note is the total includes large cheques from the U.S. Open (€182,907), U.S PGA (€137,319) and the Masters (€100,548.68).

The rewards for shooting par in every event on the Ladies European Tour this past season would have meant €145,452 in earnings. Any player achieving this feat would have missed just one cut out of the 23 played, the Scandinavian Mixed, which was co-sanctioned with the European Tour. Level par in the Investec South African Women’s Open would have won the tournament. Home player Lee Anne Pace took the title with a 2-over-290 total.

Level par in every round in the 12 events held on the 2021 Legends Tour have brought a return of approximately €250,148, depending on exchange rates. Once again, two American majors make up the bulk of this, with level par in the U.S. Senior Open netting €112,658, and the U.S. Senior PGA delivering €74,290. Take those two tournaments out of the equation, and level par in the other 10 works out to approximately €63,710. Chicken feed for superstars, but not a bad return for journeymen pros getting a second crack at the whip.

Of course, the biggest caveat is that level par in every round won’t always get you onto these main tours, especially the European Tour. Shooting level par on this year’s Challenge Tour got players nowhere. Anyone doing so would have made just nine of 26 cuts and earned €11,514. And level par doesn’t cut it at the European Tour Qualifying School. Even par missed the 72-hole cut by four shots at Final Stage of the 2019 Qualifying School, the last time Q School was held.

Level par was eight shots off a card at the 2020 Legends Tour Q School, but only five players and ties get cards. However, Norway’s Maiken Bin Paulsen took the sixth card at the LET Q School in January 2020 with a level par total.

Golf scores have obviously come down considerably since the days when Jones once shot what was then considered the perfect score around Sunningdale Golf Club in Open Championship Qualifying, a 66 composed of 33 shots and 33 putts. Rounds of 66 are now de rigeur even in amateur and junior tournaments.

However, as the numbers above show, Old Man Par is often still good enough for those playing this game for money, especially for the women who earn their livings on the LET.

#JustSaying: “Old Man Par never shoots a birdie and never incurs a buzzard. He’s a patient soul, Old Man Par. And if you would travel the long route with him, you must be patient too.” Bobby Jones

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