Brian Gay not ready for 50-and-over golf yet

Brian Gay hits a shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point golf course in Wilmington, N.C., in May of 2017. [Ken Blevins/StarNews]

By Garry Smits
GateHouse Florida

St. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Brian Gay has a request.

Please don’t ask him if he’s ready for the PGA Tour Champions. He’s still got more than enough fire in the furnace to compete on the PGA Tour one month short of his 47th birthday.

“People ask me all the time about the Champions Tour,” said Gay, who played on four consecutive SEC championship teams with the Florida Gators from 1991-94, with the 1993 winning the NCAA championship. “I’m going to keep playing out here, same as always, as long as I can stay out here. I don’t think about the next step, even though I’m playing against guys half my age who can hit it super far. There are still places where I can compete.”

Such as the Sea Island Golf Club, the site of this week’s RSM Classic, the final event on the Tour’s fall season where Gay finished third last year, his second top-10 finish in the event.

Gay loves tight fairways on Bermuda greens, which is the set-up on the two Sea Island Courses used for the tournament, the Seaside and Plantation.

“This course fits my game pretty well,” said Gay, who is in his 25th professional season and has earned more than $21.2 million. “You’ve got to keep the ball in play, the approaches aren’t too long. I like it. You have to hit fairways and that’s always been my game. I’ve never hit it far, so I have to hit it straight and putt good.”

Gay is 177th on the Tour in driving distance so far this season, averaging 281.3 yards per measured attempt. That’s about what players such as Cameron Champ, the Tour’s distance leader at 335.2 yards, carry their 3-woods.

However, Gay is sixth in fairway accuracy (.772), which is about the norm for him. Gay was seventh in hitting fairways last season, the fifth time in his career he’s been among the top-10 in the category.

Gay’s performance at the RSM Classic last year was the first of his six top-10 finishes, matching his career high. He made 22 of 30 cuts, earned more than $2.1 million and finished 59th on the FedEx Cup standings, making it to the third leg of the playoffs before falling short of getting to the Tour Championship.

Gay is on a streak of 10 consecutive cuts made, including all four of his starts in the fall season.

He also looks like he’s in the same shape as when he was a two-time All-American with the Gators. But Gay admitted he’s not a workout warrior.

“I’ve stayed the same weight pretty much my full career,” he said. “I’ll get in the gym at home after the (fall) season is over.”

He attributes regular stretching and massage therapy for giving him his longevity. He missed the 2014 season with injuries, but made a long climb back to full exempt status by finishing 112th on the FedEx Cup in 2017.

Gay wants what every Tour player wants: a trip down the 18th green on Sunday with a tournament title in hand. He’s got four, the last one coming at the 2013 CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I’m going to stick to the therapy and keep my body feeling good,” he said. “I can still compete out here.”