The PGA Tour's Oldest Rookies

Allen Doyle tees off during the second round of the U.S. Senior Open at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas on July 7, 2006. (Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images)
Allen Doyle became the oldest rookie in PGA Tour history in 1996. G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

Most rookies on the PGA Tour — golfers in their first seasons with tour memberships — are relatively young. Golfers in their 20s, golfers who've recently finished college or spent a year or several years honing their skills on the Tour before advancing to the big tour.

But not all rookies. Some golfers have toiled in the (relatively speaking) minor leagues of golf for years and and years before breaking onto the PGA Tour. In fact, the oldest rookies in PGA Tour history are two golfers who didn't earn the tour cards and begin their first seasons as PGA Tour members until they were nearly 50 years old!

The Oldest Rookies Ever on the PGA Tour: Two 47-Year-Olds

Two golfers, one just a month older than the other, were PGA Tour rookies at the age of 47. These the oldest and next-oldest first-year players in tour history:

  1. Allen Doyle: Was 47 years, 5 months, 6 days old when he started his rookie year in 1996
  2. Jim Rutledge: Was 47 years, 4 months, 6 days old when he started his rookie season in 2007

How They Fared in Their Rookie Seasons

In 1996, Doyle played in 28 PGA Tour events and made the cut in 16 of them. His best finish was a tied for 10th at the GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic. He earned $136,789 for the year, which fell outside the Top 125 on the money list. That meant Doyle lost his tour card for the following year (but he got it back by winning Q-School in December of 1996).

In 2007, Rutledge played in 23 PGA Tour events, making the cut in just five. His best finish was a tie for 31st. He earned $62,242, 226th on the money list.

Their Paths to the PGA Tour

Doyle and Rutledge took very different paths to the PGA Tour. Rutledge was a career pro who played the Asian Tour, Canadian Tour and in Europe for years, and made, by his count, 13 attempts at PGA Tour Q-School before breaking through for his 2007 tour card.

Doyle was a driving range owner and career amateur who didn't turn pro until his mid-40s, in 1995. That was a year after winning four significant amateur championships in 1994, and he also was part of three American Walker Cup teams. Doyle was arguably the best amateur golfer in the world the year before he turned pro.

After turning pro, Doyle played the Tour (then called the Nike Tour) in 1995. He won three times, including the Nike Tour Championship, which garnered his PGA Tour membership for 1996.

Acting Their Age: On to the Champions Tour

When Doyle and Rutledge turned 50 years old, respectively, they began playing on the Champions Tour, the top professional golf tour for golfers ages 50 and over.

Rutledge first played on the senior circuit in 2009. He has never won on that tour, but was a steady performer and posted multiple Top 10 finishes.

Doyle, on the other hand, had several years in which he was one of the best senior golfers on the planet. He joined the senior tour in 1998, which was the same year he became the first golfer to post Top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Tour in the same year.

Doyle eventually won 11 times on the Champions Tour, including back-to-back U.S. Senior Open victories in 2005-06, plus two other senior majors wins. He was named Champions Tour Player of the Year in 2001.