BOCA RATON, Fla. — Aspen, Colorado, is paradise if your perfect spot mostly requires a layer of fluffy white snow covering the ground and providing a picturesque backdrop. Then you can snowboard or ski or take part in any other activities that require temperatures dipping into the 30s.
And although Justin Leonard tossed in some biking and hiking while living in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this was not his nirvana as he approached 50 years on this earth and decided to return to a more intense golf schedule.
Leonard needed a new home base, one in which the grass is green year-round. Golf’s epicenter beckoned.
Now, Leonard, 51, is 21 events into his PGA Tour Champions career after recently moving to Tequesta, Florida. He has advanced to this week’s TimberTech Championship, the second round of the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs, at the Old Course at Broken Sound after finishing tied for 13th at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Henrico, Virginia, two weekends ago.
And following seven years in the broadcast booth, he’s back to working on his game in year-round sunshine.
“There’s so much great golf here,” Leonard said of Florida on Wednesday before his pro-am round. “I don’t play a lot, I more practice or I’ll play by myself or with my son. But it’s just a great place weatherwise.”
Leonard watched the 50-and-over crowd mostly from afar as he worked on his second career as an analyst. And he was curious as to exactly what was the draw for so many on the back nine of their golf careers, some even surpassing typical retirement age.
His first impression was that the tour offered a group of men who, at one time, were at the top of the mountain in their sport to continue having fun on the course without the pressure and intense competition. A scaled-down version of the PGA Tour in many ways.
It has been all those things. But Leonard — who won 12 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1997 British Open, and was a member of the U.S. winning 1999 Ryder Cup team where he holed a 45-foot birdie putt on No. 17 to cap the Americans’ rally — found it was so much more.
Leonard was working as a broadcaster at the Senior Championship outside of Washington, D.C., when he went to the range on Tuesday. He saw about 40 guys out there at 3 p.m., and groups two or three deep waiting to tee off.
“It’s completely stacked up and I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” he said. “These guys are working as hard as they ever have. So, yes,…