Paul Broadhurst has landed at Harbor Shores, Site of his Magical – and Memorable – '18 Finish
It is a long way from Atherton, England, to Benton Harbor, Michigan, which is tucked in the southwest corner of the state along Lake Michigan. You'd think Englishman Paul Broadhurst might be an odd fit here in Middle America, but he feels quite at home. Maybe it’s the blue-collar vibe of the place, which fits well with a man who, years ago, jumped in to take odd jobs to finance his early amateur days, and turned professional in 1988 with $200 in his pocket.
A van driver, a fiberglass factory worker, a gardener ... Broadhurst never was one afraid to get his hands dirty. As a golfer, through sheer diligence, he has dug out plenty of the dirt. One of his top moments as a player arrived four years ago, here at the Golf Club of Harbor Shores, where he shot a blistering 63 on Sunday and pulled off a four-shot victory at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. It was his second senior major, to go alongside the Senior Open Championship he won at Carnoustie in Scotland two years earlier, shortly after turning 50.
The KitchenAid PGA Senior PGA Championship is back at Harbor Shores, and so is Broadhurst. When you’re a golfer, there are so many bad days to survive that it becomes impossible to forget those magical ones. Sure, sometimes you shoot 65 on a Sunday and finish before the leaders even tee off. Fine. Maybe it makes the drive to the airport a bit more pleasurable and adds a few British pounds to the bank account. But 8-under 63 on Sunday at a senior major, when you happen to be chasing with an outside chance? That's finding a wallet in the street.
Broadhurst had shot 64 the previous day that magical weekend at Harbor Shores, and anyone who ever has swung a golf club knows how hard it is to back up such a supreme effort on a tough golf course. Broadhurst did one shot better. That’s a day with a special shine to it.
“I’ve never had a day like that, to be honest,” Broadhurst, 56, said Tuesday, his feet planted back in Michigan. “I think I holed four 30- or 40-foot putts (including a 30-footer at the opening hole). You don’t do that. You may hole one a round – but not three or four. I played some good stuff as well. I made eight birdies, I think. No bogeys.
“I mean, you ask anyone, it’s always easy to shoot low scores when you’re chasing rather than being in front. It’s difficult to win from the front.”
Certainly that was the case at the 104th PGA Championship in Tulsa that wrapped up on Sunday. Justin Thomas started Sunday seven strokes back, shot 67, and eventually won in a playoff after those in front took a collective bruising from a demanding Southern Hills setup. A lot has to go right.
Harbor Shores is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design, and it can be a challenging test. The fairways are fairly generous. From there, things get pretty interesting. The green complexes are undulating, with many divided into quadrants. Control your golf ball, and you can score. Get on the wrong side of some of the undulations, and, as 2016 PGA Senior champion Rocco Mediate says, “if you’re a couple of feet offline, ‘best wishes.’
“I enjoy that in a championship,” Mediate said. “It should be hard.”
Broadhurst was in no-man’s land when he lost his European Tour card a decade ago. He was coming off shoulder surgery and fell just short of making enough money in his limited playing opportunities to keep his status. He was 46, with a big gap between where he stood and that potentially lucrative 50th birthday. (Golfers, as a species, are the only ones who look forward to 50.)
Broadhurst made sure to keep playing. Anytime, anywhere, and very often for very little in return outside of keeping the edge of the competitive knife sharpened. He would barely cover his petrol.
“I had three years where I genuinely played 65-70 pro-ams a year, all PGA pro-ams back in the UK, played mini-tours, I was determined to keep playing,” he said. He told his wife that things might get tight for a bit, as he often was competing in events that might have a $1,000 purse, sometimes less.
His game wasn’t in great shape, and he was doing some swing work with coach Tim Rouse. At the very least, playing allowed Broadhurst to test his new swing outside the confines of the practice tee, under the gun, with a scorecard in his pocket.
“I was playing two or three a week – a good week, I might make $1,500,” said Broadhurst, a man who won six times on the European Tour and played in the 1991 Ryder Cup. “It wasn’t about the money. Shooting good scores in pro-ams sort of held me in good stead when I turned 50.”
Six years a senior, and Broadhurst has been a genuine force. Five victories on the PGA Tour Champions (including two majors) to go with five victories on the European Legends Tour. Admittedly, he is at that mid-50s age where a player is constantly looking over his shoulder to see who is arriving next on the over-50 set. A Furyk. A Harrington. An Els. A Stricker. A Goosen ... why, sometimes, even a Steven Alker, a lesser-known journeyman from New Zealand who has been this season’s hottest flavor.
Still, all has worked out quite nicely for England's Broadhurst. Everywhere he looks this week at Harbor Shores he will be reminded of that. He and his caddie glanced around the course as they played in the chill of Monday and couldn’t reason how they ever managed to shoot 63 around the place. The record books will forever confirm that yes, he did.
In hindsight, Broadhurst could have gone into a complete career tailspin when he lost his European card at the end of 2011. A lesson here: He used his free time wisely, amped up, honed his swing, was ready for 50, and here we are. Soon he will surpass $11 million in PGA Tour Champions earnings. That would be a whole lot of overtime shifts at the old fiberglass plant.
“It was the first time in 23 years I had a period of time where I could actually work on my game and not go back to a coach and look for a quick fix, ready for the next week,” Broadhurst said of his brief tour intermission. “Looking back, it was the best thing that happened to me. ... A blessing in disguise, I think.”