ST. LOUIS — At long last, the world's top senior golfers are ready take on Bellerive Country Club for a chance at one of the sport's biggest prizes -- the 74th Senior PGA Championship.
Defending champion Roger Chapman headlines a 156-member field which includes many of the biggest names in golf as they battle for -- among others things -- the right to have their name inscribed on the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy.
A relative unknown a year ago, Chapman won the 2012 Senior PGA championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich., then less than two months later became just the fourth man in Champions Tour history to win the Senior PGA and Senior U.S. Open in the same year.
"Magical,'' Chapman said when asked to describe that seven-week period last spring and summer. "To win the same tournament that the legends of golf -- Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson --have won is just amazing.
"It changed my life.''
Beginning Thursday at the famed par-71, 6,959 yard Bellerive Country Club, 155 other players will try to have the life-changing experience of winning the Senior PGA title.
Tournament week kicks off Tuesday with the professional practice round and pro-am. A second practice round will be held Wednesday, with the 72-hole Champions Tour major getting under way Thursday.
For 2013 Senior PGA Tournament Director Jason Mengel and his staff, this week is the culmination of two years of preparation and hard work.
But finally, tournament time has arrived.
"We're excited about bringing the greatest senior players in the world to Bellerive and we feel it will be an excellent week of golf,'' Mengel said recently. "St. Louis and the surrounding area is a great area for golf and has a rich tradition of turning out some of the top players such as Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Jay Haas and Tom Wargo.
"Bellerive is a tremendous championship golf course and will provide a real challenge for these world-class players. Like, I've said. We're looking forward to having an outstanding week and we know the fans will support these players.''
Haas, a Belleville native, is a two-time Senior PGA Champion as is Watson.
Other top players in the field include Chapman, Bernhard Langer, Rocco Mediate and Fred Couples.
Peter Jacobsen, who won the 2004 Senior U.S. Open when it was played at Bellerive, also is in the field as well as John Cook, Gene Sauers and Jim Gallagher Jr. That trio tied for second behind Nick Price at the 1992 PGA Championship at Bellerive.
Price withdrew from the championship last week with a recurring arm injury, which has kept him sidelined for much of the 2013 season.
The Senior PGA Championship also will be a history-making one for Bellerive Country Club. as it becomes the third course to host all four of the country's rotating major championships - PGA Championship, U.S. Open, Senior PGA Championship and U.S. Senior Open. Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., also the site of the 2013 PGA Championship; and Canterbury Golf Club, outside of Cleveland are the other two.
Tickets for the Senior PGA Championship remain available at spga2013.com or by calling 800-PGA-GOLF (742-4653).
The tournament is sponsored by Kitchenaid.
A schedule of events and parking information can be found on page D4 of Monday's News-Democrat.