It’s the nature of the beast when you’ve been around as long as Ontario’s Ken Tarling and win a national championship, yet still get a good-natured ribbing from your peers about one bad shot.
In Tarling’s case, his approach shot on the 17th at King’s Riding near King City, Ont., on Friday rolled into an environmentally-sensitive area and he took a triple bogey that quickly shrunk a five-shot lead into a two-shot margin.
“I played very well tee to green. The only time I messed up until 17 was eight. I mis-clubbed on eight and I hit it fat on 17 when I had lots of green to work with,” said Tarling.
“Those were the mistakes that I made, but on the positive side, I hit the ball very well, like really close – inside of 12 feet. I controlled my distance and I controlled my trajectory, which are always my goals as far as ball-striking,” he added.
“I wasn’t great on the greens. I was a bit shaky. I was a bit nervous,” said Tarling, who won the Mr. Lube Canadian PGA Seniors’ Championship by two shots over Calgary’s Scott Allred.
It was his first national Senior title, but his 100th professional win, so you would wonder after all those triumphs, many coming around the world, Tarling would be nervous. He says it’s part of trying to follow the legacy established by the likes of Moe Norman, Al Balding and Bob Panasik, to name a few.
“I used to come to watch Moe play these tournaments, so for me to have a chance to chase him down … I’m never going to win as many as he won, but I’m trying. I’m a bit tight about it because I want to join them,” said Tarling.
“Just to be able to do something similar to what they’ve done means a lot to me, so I was quite shaky with the putter,” said Tarling, who says his wife Tina helped keep him calm in Friday’s final round.
He says he went into damage control on the par four 18th and was only too happy to come away with the par that sealed his victory.
“I play little games where I say, `Okay, you’ve got a one-shot lead, or a two-shot lead or a three-shot lead. You need to do this to get in the house,’ and I’ll play different holes with these different games to teach myself how to win,” said Tarling.
“I’ve done this since I was younger and it’s worked out quite well. I used to do that with Moe a lot. We used to play scenarios is the term I use,” he said.
Tarling first met Norman as a 14-year-old working at Twenty Valley golf course in Southern Ontario. He remembers being beckoned to the par three 13th to watch Norman hit three balls over a valley to the elevated green more than 200 yards away.
“Moe stands up and hits four wood, three of them, and we get in the cart, we drive around, we get up on the green,” said Tarling, adding that the closest ball to the hole was two feet, with the longest being a mere six feet.
“Moe says, `What’s so tough about this hole,’ gets in the cart, went back to the parking lot and got in his car and went back to Kitchener,” said Tarling.
Like many who knew him, Tarling says he has a million Moe stories, but likely more than most because he would travel with Norman, not only to play, but also emcee clinics and demonstrations for Norman, who was renowned for his shyness around people he didn’t know.
At one, Tarling asked Norman how he controlled his trajectory. Norman told him he visualized an apartment building and aimed for the 10th floor or the 11th floor. The story was somewhat different when it came up the next day during a clinic at Twenty Valley.
“I’m feeling pretty sure of myself and I’ve started the clinic,” recalled Tarling.
“I say, `So Moe, when you’re changing the elevation of the shots, what do you do, think about an apartment building?” he said, waiting for Norman’s reply.
“`Oh no, never, never. I think of clouds’ and he changed it up. I learned right there, don’t ever put a word in Moe’s mouth and you’ll be okay,” said Tarling, who is making a case for himself in the footsteps of Norman, Balding and Panasik.
In August, he’ll try for his fourth consecutive Ontario PGA Senior title. In October, he’ll head back to Australia where he’s won five times in 16 events on the Legends Tour and leads the Order of Merit. If he stays on top, he’ll earn a direct ticket into the final stage of European Senior Tour Q-school.
“My game has been pretty solid,” he said.
“I identified a couple of areas that need some work. I changed my putting technique. I worked with a fellow named Paul Dewland, who helped me with my mental state. We’re working on a program to be more rested for events,” he said.
Every little bit helps when you set the bar as high as he does.