After a Series of Detours, Allen Seeks 1st PGA Title

Michael Allen who shot a 5-under-par 65 yesterday, sits one stroke behind the leaders.
Michael Allen who shot a 5-under-par 65 yesterday, sits one stroke behind the leaders. (By Joel Richardson -- For The Washington Post)
By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 5, 2009

Michael Allen has played 336 previous PGA Tour events without a victory. He has quit the tour and returned, tried to support his family with a 9-to-5 job, endured nine stints of qualifying school and won a major on the Champions Tour earlier this year. He continued because he realized playing golf was a nice way to earn a paycheck, even if he never won a PGA event.

"I guess I'm overcoming the fear of losing now," Allen joked.

But Allen enters today's final round of the AT&T National with an opportunity to defy age, his own history and Tiger Woods by securing his first PGA Tour championship at age 50.

"Who said that?" Allen said when asked if he knew he is not supposed to be playing this well at his age. "I worked hard on my game for 20 years, 25 years now, and it's time it starts to pay off."

It paid off yesterday with a 5-under-par 65 that was the best performance of the day and gave Allen a 9-under 201 on the tournament. That puts him one stroke behind leaders Tiger Woods and Anthony Kim.

Allen chipped in for birdie on No. 6, his first hole all year without the putter. He birdied the next three holes and finished the day with seven overall.

"Pretty amazing, isn't it?" Woods said of Allen. "It goes to show you, a lot of these guys are turning around their careers by training and doing things that they normally wouldn't have done."

Woods said players in their mid-40s usually just bought time until the Champions Tour, but now many of those eligible for the Champions Tour continue on the PGA Tour. He said the older players on the tour simply "understand how to play."

Allen continues to see a place for himself on the PGA Tour.

"I just happen to be playing a whole lot better as I've gotten older," Allen said. "I'm aging well. For me, that's always been my goal. Until I feel like I can't play out here, I want to be against the best players in the world. This is where they're at, and this is where I like playing."

Allen turned professional in 1984 and gained his first tour card in 1992. But he finished in the top 10 only four times and played in four PGA Tour events between 1996 and 2001.

"My career was a struggle. Luckily, I was good at Q-school, or I wouldn't have had a job," Allen said. "I just got tired of frustration. I realize I wasn't doing anything better, and I always thought I could do something else and use my mind to make a living."

Allen became an assistant professional at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., in the mid-1990s and dabbled in home construction, among other jobs. He even interviewed to become the club professional at Donald Trump's course in Bedminster, N.J. He thought he would receive the job, but while other people were being interviewed, Allen finished with a career-best second-place finish at the 2004 Chrysler Classic in Greensboro, N.C.

"Really, I realized, to go out in the real world and try to make $100,000 a year to support your family is a hard thing to do," Allen said. Golf "is something I was better at."

He won the 2009 Senior PGA Tournament in late May. But Allen has never beaten Woods, a thought that only made him smile yesterday afternoon. If he were to win, Allen would become the first player to win a Champions event before a PGA event.

"I always believed I had a shot to win a PGA title, or else I wouldn't really be here," Allen said. "It's a nice way to make a living."

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