Five years ago, David Shacklady was finished with golf. Failure to qualify for the Staysure Seniors Tour in 2017 saw the Lancastrian put his clubs away and begin working as a delivery driver for UPS. After more than three decades as a professional golfer, the losses were clearly outweighing the gains and his life was taking him in a different direction.
It is safe to say the 55-year-old’s journey to the Legends Tour – rebranded as Europe’s over-50s circuit - has been unlike many of his fellow competitors. After turning professional in the late 1980s, Shacklady grinded and worked tirelessly as he competed in regional events but would never earn his card to play on the main tour. He did play in the Open Championship in both 1998 and 2007 as a qualifier but would fail to make the cut at either event. Golf seemed an endless struggle.
But today, Shacklady has become one of the most successful senior golfers in the UK, discovering a new lease of life among his peers and rubbing shoulders with, and regularly beating, some of the biggest names in golf like Ian Woosnam, Mark James and Michael Campbell. It is perhaps this journey - a mix of highs and lows - that ensures he will never take the opportunities the Legends Tour offers him for granted and is now the main reason why he is loving every minute of playing the game.
“Every event is never lost on me,” Shacklady says. “If anything starts going wrong on the course I always think ‘is there anywhere better?’ I am playing with legends of the game. It is just the best. The hunger is always there and I always appreciate where I am now with my golf career.”
“My path is different from so many of the other guys who have come from the regular tour, and I am different from the norm. But it is so nice to be playing here and competing. You have to dream. I am not thinking about the money; I try to just get on with the golf and try to win. The guys you see on TV, they want victories because money is not a factor. I just love winning; I feel satisfied with top 10s, but I just want to win.”
After qualifying for the 2018 European Senior Tour - one year on from packing the game in - Shacklady’s first victory came in only his eighth appearance. In August of that year, he won the Senior Russian Open, finishing two strokes ahead of Welsh pair Phillip Price and Stephen Dodd. His good start to life on tour continued with two more third-placed finishes that season. He would go on to finish 11th in the Order of Merit.
Since his breakthrough victory, Shacklady has won two further times on the seniors, the Sinclair Invitational and the Paris Legends Championship, which came within three weeks of each other in September of 2019.
“Getting out on tour was always my objective. It is very tough, getting out there on tour was a dream ticket. I sort of quit [after failing to win his card in 2017] but my wife urged me to have another go. I was working at UPS moving parcels, maybe the low expectation and maybe not having the same feeling that I had when I was younger played its part.”
Shacklady still has to pinch himself when he lines up on the range among a feast of names, he grew up idolising on TV – and which he is now challenging on the course and socialising with off it.
Shacklady said: “Seventy to 80 per cent of the fields I am playing with, I have watched all their careers as I grew up – that is not lost on me.
“Now they are all mates of mine. If someone had told me that Ian Woosnam would be a friend of mine, I would just laugh. All the time, Woosie has been so good to me, giving me chipping lessons, Barry Lane, James Kingston, Michael Campbell, they are all great guys.
“Anyone who has won a major, like Woosie, they are at the very top of the game. They are always looking for something and trying to improve. It is remarkable. It is the nature of being a winner. They are not just on a jolly and the Legends Tour is not about that; it is a serious tour and serious business.”
David Shacklady will be playing in the 2022 Staysure PGA Championship at Formby Golf Club, for more information and how to buy tickets, click here
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Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!
Elliott is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TSR4
3 wood: Titleist TSi2 HL
Irons: Mizuno MP-H4 3-iron, Mizuno MP5 4-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5
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