Rookie on the Champions Tour

by Graham Banister

After years of barely playing golf, Graham Banister rediscovered his game and earned a chance to play as a professional on the PGA Champions Tour.


April 2007 — It feels somewhat unreal to be out playing with some great players, especially since just four years ago I was just banging around a public course with a few of my mates. The highlights include teeing it up in my first event as a pro at Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii. I shot two under and even though it wasn’t quite good enough to qualify it was quite satisfying. I also got to meet Gary Player. My next highlight was shooting 67 in California and losing in a playoff. That was also one of the lowlights!

I played very little golf between the age of 25 and 45. I was busy with work and family and really just didn’t have the time to play at the level I enjoyed—especially at the competitive level. I probably played six to eight times a year apart from a couple years towards the end when I started playing once a week. However, I hadn’t played a Tournament round until some of my mates talked me into qualifying for the North Carolina Mid Amateur Championship. I entered this tournament having no idea what a “Mid Am” event was. I made it through the qualifier and then made the cut in the tournament. I very much surprised myself by finishing second. So, I began playing more state golf association events and continued to improve. The next year I was lucky to qualify for some USGA events and while this was a huge step up in competition it was still a lot of fun.

Once I made the decision to go to Q School, which wasn’t until a few months beforehand, I put together a pretty intensive practice schedule. Earlier in the year I had teamed up with my coach, Josh Points at Raleigh Country Club, to see what we could do to improve my game. Josh and I made some significant changes and I was able to work on those during the year—not thinking I would be using them during Q School.

I’ve met some interesting people during these months. In California, I got to play with Jason Gore and Steve Pate—two great players on the PGA Tour. Even at Q School I got to meet and play with some great players, like Gordon Brand, a two-time Ryder Cup player for Europe. I’ve also made some great new friends while out here. I really didn’t know another person apart from my friend Mike Goodes prior to joining the Tour.

This month I played a few mini-tour events and won some cash. These are regional tours for guys not on the big tours. They are all over the country for regular and senior players. The prize money is not that much. I finished seventh last week and won $900. It is a good chance to keep playing tournament golf, however, which is the main reason I’m playing.


by Graham Banister | Sunday, April 26, 2009 | Career Change, Dream Careers, Turning Pro at 50

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