Back in September 1996, Charles Howell III made his PGA Tour debut as a 17-year-old amateur at the Buick Challenge. Now, at the age of 42, he will become the third youngest player in PGA Tour history to make his 600th Tour appearance.
During those appearances, the American has been dubbed one of the most consistent performers of all time, with 461 made cuts, 227 top-25 finishes, 97 top-10s, three wins and over $40 million made in prize money.
Speaking at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where Howell III was presented with a silver tray commemorating the incredible feat, the 42-year-old said: "First off, the PGA Tour has been an absolute dream. I was seven years old when I started playing golf in Augusta, Georgia, and what an easy place to play golf.
"You know, golf was cool in Augusta because of this little event called The Masters, and my dream was to play the PGA Tour. I never dreamt about I want to be the best player in the world. I just wanted to play golf on the PGA Tour."
“It's been my life for 22 years … It really is a family. The future of this TOUR is bright.” Charles Howell III makes his 600th start this week @WMPhoenixOpen. He’s the third-youngest player to reach this milestone.February 9, 2022
Becoming just the 69th player to achieve the milestone, Howell III's journey began back in 1996 at the Buick Challenge. That event, he was paired with Hugh Royer and Jumbo Elliott and shot an 80 in his opening round. However, three years later, a call with his swing coach, David Leadbetter, changed everything.
Speaking to PGATOUR.com, Howell III said: "I was in my apartment in Stillwater, Oklahoma, toward the end of my junior year in college, and David Leadbetter, who I was working with at the time, asked: ‘Are you ready to turn pro?’
"My heart stopped because I hadn’t even considered it. And David said, ‘Well, you’re a golfer, and golf has never been hotter and booming, and this is what you’re going to do. I think it’s time you turn pro and move on.’ I still remember that phone call like it was yesterday.
"Looking back now, having played golf in the Tiger Woods, and I’m going to call it the Phil Mickelson era, too, was incredible. I’m quite sure that the Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Gary Player era was also special, but to play in the Tiger era with what he did for television and the exposure of it, I mean, he gave me a job. I couldn’t have picked a better time."
After turning professional, Howell III has gone on to claim three PGA Tour titles, the most notable being a play-off victory against Phil Mickelson at the 2007 Nissan Open. One thing that has remained constant throughout the 42-year-olds career is his consistency. Although, like many players, Howell III does have some regrets over his 22 years as a professional...
"I wish I would have won more," he told PGATOUR.com. "I have a whole lot of second and third place finishes (26 to be exact). Obviously I still have some years left in me, hopefully I can find a way to win some more. That’d be the one little regret I have for sure."
The lack of wins is just a small smidge on Howell III's record and career though, with the Americans longevity meaning he has seen the PGA Tour go from strength to strength over his time as a professional.
"I have watched the organisation grow from obviously, you know, Former Commissioner Tim Finchem, now to Jay Monahan, that have just done an unbelievable job. I watched Jay come in, being commissioner, and then the Covid pandemic hit and what he had to weather from the very start of this deal, and my gosh, I can't say enough about The Tour.
"The other players have become really my life and family. You know, we are always out here, I want to beat this guy and beat that guy, but at the end of the day, I look back and it's been my life for 22 years. You know, they have become friends. I've got their cellphone numbers in my cellphone, and you text them congratulations when they win golf tournaments and do things well, and it really is a family.
"The young players now they come straight out and win. Viktor Hovland, he feels like a little brother to me. He played at Oklahoma State, as well. We may have a degree between both of us, but I have just watched him come out and win right away and go to 3 in the world.
"That new generation, I mean, I think part of it has to do with the PGA Tour. We are on so many platforms right now, there is so much access to golf. They have done such a great job growing the media side of it where players kind of know what they are getting into before they get here.
"When I turned pro, there is kind of a lot of unknowns, a bit like going into the Chocolate Factory, we didn't really know what's it like out there, what is it? Now there are so many platforms of exposure, they expose so many players so they kind of know how it is. You have Collin Morikawa, Rory Mcllroy, Viktor Hovland. Just look at the use of this. Golf is in such great hands.
"I was the generation, I could never imagine golf past Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. I thought that was just the end of time when those guys get older and move on. But now we have this awesome young talent. It's bigger and better than ever."
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Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.
Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.
Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?
Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°
Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°
Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW
Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°
Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
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