Retro Skills Challenge

Thanks to reader Marty for this Michael Vega story from the Boston Globe on a retro skills challenge at the Concord Champions event, where a few guys played 1950s and 60s clubs.

Certainly, in the field of 79 who will tee it up Friday for the 54-hole Bank of America Championship, there are some whose careers were rejuvenated by those advancements.

``Oh, absolutely," said Baiocchi, 59, of South Africa, who will be paired with David Edwards and Mike Sullivan in the first round. ``I played a lot of European Tour golf, so I didn't play a lot of regular [PGA] Tour golf with a lot of the guys out here. But talking to the guys, they all seem to be driving the ball further now than they did in their heyday, in their prime. Again, that's because of the equipment.

``It's basically made the game a lot easier and more enjoyable to play. Now, instead of driving the thing 220 with Hoganesque-type clubs, now we can drive the thing 270 and 280, which makes a big difference even for us."

And this from Andy Bean...

After hitting a 50-yard shot into the 18th with a throwback wedge, Bean said, ``I looked at that wedge and went, `Did we really play these?' But we did play clubs like that."

No matter the size and shape of your swing, the sweet spot is now much easier to hit with perimeter-weighted irons, fairway woods, and drivers of all makes and launch angles. And that's without even addressing the matter of the golf ball, and its myriad technological advancements.

``For the average player, the give is good," said Bean, 53. ``I think it takes away from the scoring on the professional side, because it puts more technology in the game and we can take a little more advantage of technology than the average player."

Bean figured the advancements have ``let 50 percent more players compete to win.

``A lot of the guys who normally wouldn't be hitting the fairways, now they're hitting the fairways with more regularity, and they're hitting it longer, which means they're going to have shorter clubs into the greens and it's just easier for them to compete. The long players, the strong players in any sport, they're still going to be strong and the fast ones are still going to be fast.

``But you still have to have the feel, and you still have to have the touch, and you still have to have the dedication -- no matter what sport you're in -- to go out and win.

``With golf, though, the good part about it -- the big-headed drivers, fairway woods, and technology with the perimeter-weighted irons -- it allows the amateurs to score better and that's what it's all about."