Dick Mast, 70, still has the jump of a rabbit in his long career
Call him a bunny or a companion, whatever golf vernacular you think is appropriate, but Dick Mast’s career in golf can certainly be called enduring and admirable.
This week, when the PGA Tour champions stop in upstate New York for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, Mast will be the oldest participant at 70 when the course begins its 54-hole event on Friday at En-Joie golf club. His qualifying feat earlier this week, shooting 5 shots below his age (65) in a Tuesday qualifier, caught the attention of the golf world, which could simply be the preamble of a weekend. end even more remarkable.
“A few years ago I would have said if I hit my age every day I would win the tournament,” Mast said Wednesday night, noting that he hadn’t kept up with his age marks. “I guess that no longer applies. I guess I have to go lower.
Mast compared his position in life to that of Phil Mickelson after Lefty, 50, won the PGA Championship in May.
“Phil inspired the 40-year-old with this victory,” said Mast. “I guess I want to inspire the 60 year old.”
Mast’s golf career began before almost all of the current PGA Tour roster and most of the newbies maturing in the 50+ tour were born. After playing collegially at Junior College in St. Petersburg, Fla., Several national champions (the program is now gone), and graduating with a business degree in 1971, Mast turned professional in 1972 at the age of 21.
Two years later he made his first start on the PGA Tour – “I had never seen a PGA event or course before,” he said – at the Andy Williams-San Open Invitational Diego from 1974 under the name of “Richard Mast”. He shot an opening of 66 and finished tied for 16th. This earned a check for $ 2,465. 47 years ago, no one in this field is playing yet, including winner Bobby Nichols, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd and Gary McCord – at least full time.
Since its inception, Mast has found a place to play, be it the PGA or the Champions Tour. On the Korn Ferry Tour, he claimed his only four PGA Tour-sponsored victories, including three in the inaugural 1990 season, when his name was Ben Hogan Tour and Hogan was still alive. He’s also a mini-tour of Florida legend, having won dozens of events over the decades. In total, on PGA Tour affiliate tours, Mast racked up 653 starts and just over $ 4 million in earnings. He’s been associated with both ends of the spectrum – Billy Casper right through to Patrick Reed. He was in the same bands when Davis Love III, Justin Leonard, Stewart Cink, and Isao Aoki made their first career debuts.
Even though the PGA Tour doesn’t keep up with the qualifying week records, Mast has been a blur there. Before the tour without exception, he was running among the so-called rabbits going from week to week to participate in events. In 2005, he qualified for the Hawaii Open on Monday, shot a 64 in the second round, made the cut and finished tied for 47th. That Sunday night, he jumped red-eyed, flew to San Diego and qualified for what was then called the Buick Invitational on Monday – at 54. He scored the same double at 59 in 2010, with success on Monday for events at the Greenbrier. and Turning Stone in August.
So what’s the secret to this durability? Mast has always been a believer in a healthy, religious lifestyle, to begin with. Today, he’s disciplined with a daily routine of morning and evening stretching and powdered drinks to support his tours. Mast even recommends a comeback name with the use of the Chuck Norris Total Gym – without the bad guys dust, of course.
A revolutionary procedure has perhaps been the key in recent years. Suffering from back problems in the mid-2010s, he considered hanging up his soft toes. But then he tried Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) for 5 months and, in combination with his usual fitness routine, was invigorated. The injections of a concentration of Mast’s own platelets accelerated the healing process.
“It was an incredible transformation,” Mast said. “I always like to hit the golf ball hard and it worked.”
A few weeks ago, Mast’s second youngest son Jacob, now his instructor and boss at Poplar Grove Golf Club in Amherst, Va., Was testing his father’s swing on a measuring device. The Poplar Grove head pro told the facility’s senior golf instructor that Mast stole his discs over 280 yards and his 5 irons over 200 yards, startling numbers for a 70-year-old man who dreamed of that length 50 years ago. The work the two did to keep Mast’s swing flexible extended his career, in a West Virginia environment that includes five of Mast’s six sons and 14 grandchildren, all nearby. The sixth son, Joshua, is Daddy’s former caddy, who is now a senior lawyer and prosecutor in the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“Jacob is looking for all kinds of things that help my swing, create more leverage and the mental aspects of the game,” Mast said. “It was a great team.
Perhaps the biggest attribute is Mast’s competitive fire. He plays his best when paired with big name players and says he would “put a ping pong ball in my mom’s belly to get the winning point.” He got this motivation from his father, Ken, a professional left-handed player who was nicknamed the “Sugar Creek Flash” in Mast’s Ohio hometown.
“I still think he wants to prove something to himself,” Jacob said. “He wants to get this big win. He still has the length to do it.
All the signs are there for a successful week. He will play Friday morning with Cliff Kresge and David Morland IV; at 52, both are 18 years younger than Mast. The last winner at En-Joie, in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, was qualifier Doug Barron. Mast competed in 2012 and 2014 after qualifying for the event and recorded three top 10s in the tournament when called BC Open on the PGA Tour. Mast’s youngest will be Victor Cias, who was on his bag in 2014 when Mast nearly won the tournament.
“I’m playing really well right now,” Mast said. “The biggest factor and perhaps the biggest question is whether I can do it for a day or two, but can I be at my best every third day? Just get in the running and see how I do. I’ve been doing this for a long time.