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Jimmy Powell: Twice was Nice at '95 FOAC

By Tom Cleary

Maybe you take yours with one scoop of vanilla and one of chocolate. Perhaps you're retired from the military and now have a civilian gig on the side. But regardless of how you double-dip, chances are you won't enjoy it as much as Jimmy Powell did last summer at the First of America Classic.

Last year the 61-year-old Californian got both his mitts into the treasure chest at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada near Grand Rapids when he won not only the Super Seniors portion of the FOAC, but the tournament proper as well. The result was a six-figure payday ($90,000 for winning the main event, and $15,000 more for the Super Seniors) on a course considered so tough many figured only a handful of players ever had a chance of winning. But Powell's romp proved otherwise. Not only did he do away with the likes of Mike Hill, Stockton, Colbert, Jacklin and others, he also capped off a seven-day stretch that saw him win three times.

"Not many people realize that," Powell said during a June phone conversation. "I actually won three tournaments that week." In addition to taking both halves of the twinbill in Grand Rapids, earlier that week Jimmy had captured a two-day unofficial event for seniors in Canada. Few realized Powell was working on a winning streak when he arrived in Grand Rapids last summer, but he realized he was about to happen on to something big. His friend Orville Moody kept telling him he was going to win a tournament and by the time he made it to Egypt Valley, Powell himself was starting to believe. "I felt really good going there," Powell says with a laugh. "In fact, I feel just about the same way right now about my game." After an opening round of 68, Powell moved into the 36-hole led with a 66 on Saturday. Playing in the final group Sunday he never wavered, shooting a final round 67 for a three-day total of 201 and a five-shot cushion over Babe Hiskey. Forget about just winning the cash from the over-60 set; Jimmy Powell went for and got the whole enchilada.

He credited his win to a customized putter and good driving. "The course we play now in Grand Rapids really puts a premium on driving. Which I like," Powell explains. "In fact, I'd like to see more rough on our tour. If we don't start growing the rough, we're going to make it impossible for anyone to win who's not a long hitter." Though by no means the longest hitter last year in the FOAC, Powell was plenty accurate. During his final round he never left the door open even a crack, and pulled away in a fashion his instructor Mac O'Grady would've been proud of.

"Mac once told me, 'If you get a chance to win, win any way you can,' " Powell says. "I used to think you had to be just perfect to win, and now I'm not concerned with that." Like former O'Grady devotee Seve Ballesteros, Powell says Mac's ability as a player is what sets him apart from other instructors. Says Jimmy of some modern golf gurus, "To me, it's like a guy telling you what it's like to be shot with a gun, when he's never been shot at." When asked if he believes a good teacher has to be someone who's walked on hot coals himself in competition, Powell simply says, "I've always felt that way."

As for the future, the only numbers relevant to Jimmy Powell are on his scorecard, not his driver's license. "I've been competing against these guys so long now, I don't feel any age difference. It just doesn't enter my mind," he says. With almost a million dollars in Senior Tour earnings the last two years, Jimmy Powell doesn't expect to cut back on his schedule any time soon. "I'm going to try to play four or five more years," he says slyly. "Then after that, I'm goin' fishin' for the next twenty."

Though a catch-and-release program might be in the future of Jimmy Powell, he's not ready for that big bass boat just yet. Before he starts smelt dipping for good, he'd like a few more double dips on the Senior Tour.

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