Use it or lose it: It’s especially true for Champions Tour pros

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Kent Biggerstaff is the Champions Tour’s physical fitness guru.
Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

Experts says we lose 1.5 percent of muscle strength every year after we reach the age of 50. The PGA Champions Tour, which visits the Gulf Coast this week, is for golfers 50 and over.

That means Kent Biggerstaff has his PGA “gym on wheels” parked at Fallen Oak for the Mississippi Gulf Resorts Classic Presented by C Spire.

Biggerstaff’s job, where the Champions Tour is concerned, is to help fight Father Time. Eventually, he knows, he loses. After all, he is 69 years old himself. Father Time is undefeated.

“But if I can get these guys to give me 20 to 25 minutes a day, I can keep them on the course and help them play better for longer,” Biggerstaff says.

Brian Henninger, 53, who won his first PGA Tour title at Annandale in 1994, almost won The Masters the next year, and then won in Madison again in 1999, gives Biggerstaff more than 30 minutes a day when he’s on tour.

“I wouldn’t be still able to play if not for my workouts,” Henninger said Thursday morning during his pre-round workout. “Kent has been great for me and for anybody who works with him. He’s like family. I call him the tour’s big brother

Biggerstaff doesn’t just train the golfers for strength.

“Flexibility and balance are vital for golfers, too,” he says. “We work on all that.”

I watched Wednesday as Biggerstaff put veteran golfer Tom Pernice through a rigorous 30-minute workout that included no heavy weights but had Pernice huffing, puffing and sweating. Pernice went through a series of exercises that used cable machines, balance boards, 15-pound dumbbells, a medicine ball, workout balls and more.

Henninger
Brian Henninger says working out in the gym helps him remain competitive on the golf course.

There was a lot of stretching, a lot of core exercises to strengthen stomach muscles, the buttocks, upper legs and lower back. In all exercises, Pernice used more than one muscle group. If he worked his abs, he was also working his legs, his shoulders or his arms — or all.

“Nothing you do in golf is one-muscle specific,” Biggerstaff says. “You use multiple muscle groups every time you swing a golf club. So that’s the way you ought to work out.”

Biggerstaff knows his stuff. He has been training athletes for 51 years, since he was a 18-year-old freshman at Southern Illinois. He spent 39 years in professional baseball with the Mets, Brewers and Pirates and also working with umpires. He now has worked 12 years for the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.

The worst mistake golfers make where fitness is concerned?

“Not working out at all is definitely the worst,” Biggerstaff says, chuckling.

“After that, I’d say the worst mistake is trying to do too much, too fast,” Biggerstaff added. “Then, they get really sore and they get frustrated and don’t come back to the gym.”

Biggerstaff’s traveling gym is an 18-wheel trailer that many of the top players visit both before and after their rounds. Bernhard Langer is one.

Langer, the PGA Champions Tour leading money winner, is a virtual workout warrior.

“You can look at Bernhard and see that he is trim and fit,” Biggerstaff says. “What most fans don’t realize is how strong he is. I mean, he really works at it. His golf muscles are really, really strong.”

And here’s the deal: Langer is 58 years young. That’s a time when most Champions Tour golfers are fading fast. Langer is the tour’s best player presently.

“Used to, most of the winners on this tour had just turned 50 or were in their early 50s,” Biggerstaff says. “Now we’re seeing guys winning much older than that. But the guys who remain competitive later on are the guys who are spending time in the gym. That’s just a fact.”
Would the same workouts help us older guys who play golf as a hobby?

Answers Biggerstaff, chuckling again, “I think we all know the answer to that.”

In other words, use it or lose it.

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