Skip Kendall can’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened. It was more a dawning realization than a sudden moment of clarity. But by the time the 2019 PGA Tour Champions season came to an end, there was no doubt about the way he felt.
After 718 starts in PGA Tour-sanctioned events spread over 29 years, Kendall had had enough.
The Fox Point native has touched his clubs exactly twice since his last PGA Tour Champions start in the SAS Championship more than two months ago, and then only to honor pro-am commitments he made to friends Robert Gamez and Rich Lerner.
Kendall turned down a couple opportunities, including the TaylorMade Pebble Beach Invitational in November. He didn’t even bother to enter Champions tour qualifying, which means he’ll have no status in 2020. And that’s fine with him.
“I just had no desire to go to Q School,” he said. “I played a full year this year and not very successfully. That was really frustrating more than anything because physically I’m in pretty good shape. There’s nothing wrong. I’m doing great.”
Kendall, 55, had just one top-25 finish in 2019, coincidentally a T-25 in the SAS Championship, and finished 82nd on the money list with $83,866.
“I just really didn’t perform up to what I wanted to do and, honestly, I think as the year went on, I mean, I’ve got some young kids and just kind of wanted to be home, you know?” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. I still love golf. I love everything about it. It’s almost like I reached a point this year where I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just don’t feel like going.’
“It might have been different if I was playing better. I’m sure it would have been. It just kind of got towards that edge and probably toppled over. I really just don’t have the desire right now to compete. I’m still young enough to where I could do something in the future but for now, I just don’t have the desire to go out and practice.”
Shed no tears for Kendall, who squeezed every ounce of talent out of his 5-foot-8, 150-pound frame, earned $9.8 million in his career and will get to spend more time at home in Windermere, Fla., with his three children and his wife, Traci.
Besides, it’s not as if Kendall is walking away from the game. He has transitioned seamlessly into coaching and is teaming with a partner, Brian O’Neill, to launch a golf academy Jan. 1 at Hawk’s Landing Golf Club at the Orlando World Center Marriott.
“The facility itself is great, so it’s all there right in front of us,” he said. “We just need to work on building it up. It’s the Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf right now but that name goes away December 31st and then it’s our academy. We’re going to come up with a name obviously pretty quickly here.
“We want to put together something pretty special. We want to build a really good junior program. We want professionals practicing out there and obviously we’re going to be working with them. College kids, obviously. I think we’re going to create something really nice.”
O’Neill has worked at the Nicklaus Academy and spent time under prominent teachers Jim McLean and the late Jim Flick.
“He worked for a whole bunch of years for Jim McLean down at Doral,” Kendall said. “He basically learned everything from Jim Flick. He shadowed Jim for like 10 years, so he’s had a lot of really good training.”
Kendall has discovered in recent years that he has a passion for teaching golf, and he has a wealth of experience and knowledge from which to draw. By word of mouth alone, he has attracted a number of elite juniors, college players and young professionals.
Among the players he is working with are Baylor University junior Mark Reppe, Symetra Tour player Demi Runas and Andy Pope, who will have status on the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour based on his T-15 finish in the qualifying finals.
“It’s pretty cool being on the other side of it,” he said. “I mean, I don’t have to hit a shot, so it’s awesome. You really kind of live vicariously through them now. Obviously, you feel it when they don’t play well and when they do play well it’s pretty cool, knowing that you had a little part in it, anyway.
“It’s more than just teaching the physical side of it. It’s a lot more. That’s kind of my niche because it’s one of those been-there, done-that things. What are the things that you need to go through to be successful and how to get there?
“I’m trying to straighten their path, so to speak, and I know I can do that. Mine was a total zigzag. The one thing I know I can do is develop players and that is something I look forward to.”
Kendall is quick to add that he’s not stepping away from competitive golf altogether and in an “ideal world” would play in a few Champions tour events in 2020. He hasn’t missed the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison and would love to play in it again in June, but would need a sponsor’s exemption or would have to qualify.
“Listen, I’m only eligible for two of the spots for sponsor’s exemptions and I know how difficult it is,” he said. “I would love to play. It’s up to (tournament host) Steve (Stricker), whatever he wants to do. I know Mike Small is his buddy from college and there’s other guys who are very worthy of those spots as well. I would always love to play there, though. It’s home. I would never not want to play there.”
In 57 starts on the PGA Tour Champions since he turned 50, Kendall has just three top-10 finishes. He can’t pinpoint why he hasn’t played better, particularly this past season.
“I didn’t do much of anything very well,” he said. “I don’t think I could go back to, ‘I hit it great but I didn’t putt well.’ It was just kind of all facets. I just didn’t do anything very well and it all added up to a very mediocre year. No excuses at all. It is what it is. I know I’m capable of doing a lot more than I did, that’s for sure. It just did not happen.
“At least right now, I need a really long break. You never know. Maybe I’ll get that inspiration back from something and head back out and see what I can do. For right now, though, it’s not quite there. I’m having a lot of fun being home with the family, doing normal stuff and getting back to real life.”
Those interested in learning more about Kendall’s golf academy are welcome to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.