THERE aren't many people in the world who can say Seve Ballesteros has asked them for short game advice but Australia's Peter Fowler is one of them.
Fowler, now 56 and playing the European Senior Tour, played the European Tour full time from 1983 to 1996 and again from 2000 to 2008 but it is the early years he looks back on most fondly.
“I played the European Tour in the real golden years, with these megastars” he says looking back.
Among them was Ballesteros, owner of probably the greatest and most imaginative short game in history, and the Spaniard and Fowler formed quite a bond.
Known among his peers as being among the top handful of players around the greens himself, 'Chook” (as he is known) and the Spaniard had plenty in common.
“I used to watch him practise a lot,” says Fowler, “but I also played with him a lot.
“Because of that, after the rounds, quite often he would say to me 'I loved that shot you played on such and such a hole … what were you thinking when you played it?'
“Even though he was the best in the world it didn't stop him from observing other players and learning.”
For his part Fowler says his brilliance around the greens was born of necessity, his ball striking not a strength of his game for much of his career.
“I had some pretty good rounds around the green back then because I didn't hit the ball as well as I do now,” he says with a laugh.
“Over the years I've found a lot of ways to play that didn't work but now I'm finding a few more that do.
“I'm a much better player now than I was my whole career.”
Testament to that is his five European Senior wins since joining the over 50 ranks in 2011, making him one of the top players on that Tour.
Fowler says, despite advancing years, he enjoys the game as much as ever and it is that love that keeps him chasing the dream.
But he has some sobering advice for young players considering a playing career, laying out the harsh realities of what it takes to make a living playing the game.
“The reality is that in Australia there are only 60 jobs where you can make some money, in Europe there are about 100.
“In Japan there might be another 100 and in America maybe a couple of hundred because they have two Tours.
“But if you add all those up there is only about 1000 jobs in the world in professional golf where you can make a living. It's harsh but the truth is you need to be in the top 1000 in the world if you're going to make a living playing.”
And he has some advice for the weekend warrior, too. Often asked about how to play the fancy shots around the greens Fowler says you need to walk before you run.
“You need to master the basic shot first,” he says. “The 40 foot chip to a pin on a flat green.
“If you can't hit that shot, there's no point trying to do anything more extravagant.”
Now coming up on 40 years as a touring professional, Fowler says he plans to keep going as long as he feels competitive.
He points to Peter Senior's win at last year's Australian Masters as proof that age is just a number.
“Life's not over at 56, you've still got another 30 or 40 years left!” he says.
THE WEEK IN GOLF CHATS TO PETER FOWLER:
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