Hitting stretch run of careers, PGA Tour Champions golfers spend a lot of time ... well, stretching

The foundation to Bernhard Langer's remarkable career on the PGA Tour Champions can be traced to a pair of mobile trailers that follow the 59-year-old German and his fellow golfers across the country. It is there where Langer spends time before and after each round he plays, including practice.

The trailers — one staffed by two licensed physical therapists and a rotation of visiting chiropractors, the other by a strength-and-conditioning coach — have become as big a part of the players' daily preparation as the practice range and the putting green.


"It's just to prevent injuries, little things that are pinching, to get on top of them before they get worse," Langer said Tuesday on his way to his afternoon session with therapist Paul Schueren. "What is really important is stretching. That's what I do."

Langer, who comes into the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills looking to win his fourth straight Constellation Senior Players Championship, spends as much time getting treatment for his aches and injuries, as well exercising in order to avoid them, as anyone.


It has certainly helped Langer avoid injuries throughout most of his career. Except for missing several months after he broke his thumb in a biking accident six years ago, Langer has played virtually nonstop since turning pro in 1986.

The treatment and training trailers are typically his first and last stops every day.

"He's usually the first one in there and the last one out," Jesper Parnevik said Tuesday after leaving the practice tee. "His workout regimen is very impressive. … I don't think I've ever been in there without him being there."

Langer said fitness could play a role in the outcome of this week's tournament.

"It has some importance," he said. "Whether it's the most important, I doubt that, because there's a number of guys out here that are probably in better shape than I am, so I'm not way ahead of the game. But if somebody is maybe 50 pounds, 80 pounds overweight and they have to walk the hills and play in 100 degrees in the sun, humidity as well, that could be quite taxing."

Schueren, 58, joined what was then the Champions Tour as a licensed physical therapist in 1988 and went to the PGA Tour in 1992 for "about 15 years" before returning to work with the tour for players 50 and older.

"In 1988, we had just one trailer. It had no gym. It had basically some equipment and tables [for treatment or massage]," Schueren recalled. "All of a sudden, strength and conditioning started to get more important, more popular, that we had to get a secondary trailer around 2000."

Schueren said the generation of players who basically started the Champions Tour were often skeptical, having grown up with the thought that golf and weightlifting did not mix. South African golf legend Gary Player, who often traveled with a set of weights, helped change that thinking.


Yet it wasn't until renowned orthopedic surgeon Frank Jobe — most famous for reconstructing the ulnar collateral ligament in the damaged elbow of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John — persuaded PGA Tour officials to bring portable treatment centers on the road.

"He headed up a lot of studies back then, he wrote a book on exercise for golf, and it started growing," said Schueren, who worked as an intern in the Los Angeles orthopedic clinic run by Jobe and Robert Kerlan. "When it started, it was a novelty. Guys weren't sure. No one had exposure to it.

"It's not different than a baseball, basketball or football team. They have the same training and medical staff. We play that same role, basically. It's good to have that continuity. If it's a different guy, they'd have to go through what's going on, their history and things like that."

Along with Player, former No. 1s Greg Norman and Tiger Woods influenced their respective generations with their dedication to training.

"As the tour grows, and the guys we see [on the PGA Tour Champions] now 15 to 20 years ago started using it, then you have Greg Norman really fit, Tiger Woods obviously really fit, and then it grew into that era of guys working out," Schueren said. "Now you have guys who've had it for 20 years and they come right to this. There's no more mystery to it."

Yet given how the injuries pile up and sometimes multiply, there is often misery.


Parnevik, who joined the PGA Tour Champions in 2015 after playing on the European and PGA tours, reels off the array of injuries he has suffered over the years, including surgery on both hips, a fractured vertebra in his lower back and bulging disks in his neck.

"With all my injuries, it takes me a few hours to get ready," Parnevik said. "Guys who use it are in there every day."

Sometimes, players can get a little carried away.

Former Maryland coach-turned-PGA Tour standout Fred Funk talked Tuesday about his most recent injury — strained muscles in his rib cage — that was the result of overusing an ab roller designed to help get a six-pack.

In Funk's case, after the pain caused by his workout, he might have needed another type of six-pack.

"It's just ridiculous," he said. "I couldn't even breathe."


Funk said that his workout regimen has changed since his years on the PGA Tour — "more band work [for stretching], more pulley work instead of weights," he said — but that the players who were workout fiends on the regular tour are still among the most dedicated off the course on the PGA Tour Champions.

"When I'm feeling good, I could just work out. I stay out of the therapy trailer. And when I'm hurt, I'm in both," Funk said. "Usually I don't like it when I'm in both, but right now, I'm in both."

Admittedly, there are times when Funk wonders whether it is hurting his game.

"I spend two hours before my tee time to even get ready," he said. "I spend an hour in the trucks, an hour on the range and then go to the first tee and I still can't move when I get to the first tee. It's like, what the hell's wrong with me? … It's a lot of work. It's not retirement — not if you're trying to be competitive out here."

Just as the regular tour players started working out to keep up with Norman, and later with Woods, the PGA Tour Champions players are hoping to keep pace with Langer. A two-time Masters champion on the PGA Tour, Langer has been the most dominant player on the PGA Tour Champions since Hale Irwin 20 years ago.

"I would say he practices more now than he did than when he was at the peak of career," Parnevik said. "He can spend 10-12 hours on the course. Even though he doesn't play pro-ams, on [the day before the tournament starts], he still can be here Monday for a practice round. It's pretty impressive for the career he already had."


Langer, who will turn 60 next month, disagrees.

"I probably don't spend as many hours as I did when I was in my 20s and 30s, but that's normal," Langer said. "The body can't take hitting 500, 600 balls anymore. And there shouldn't be that need anymore. The swing should have settled to the point where you don't need to many any changes."