Last year, Alex Cejka surprisingly won two major PGA Tour Champions tournaments. As a Monday qualifier, he won the Region Traditions first and a few weeks later the Senior PGA Championship. In about two months he will be the defending champion at Harbor Shores Resort in Michigan and at a press conference he reviewed his victories, looked forward to next season and remembered his childhood.
Alex Cejka: Escape like the Czech Republic
At the age of nine, Alex Cejka fled with her father from the then Communist Czechoslovakia and found a new home in Germany. “My parents have decided that this is not what they want for themselves and their children,” the 51-year-old said, explaining the reasons for fleeing communism. “I was nine. When you are that young, you don’t know how great the danger is.” For young Alex, at first it was “like a vacation”. “I was a small, small child. I did not know at the time how difficult and deadly it could be. It is a great credit to my father that he was able to leave his home, his country, with a boy of eight or nine and emigrate to a another country with another language. No education, no work, no home, no nothing. It was very difficult. “
He no longer has clear memories of the trip, which lasted several weeks, “but the most important thing is that my father just started to cry, he hugged me and said: ‘You did it, we did it! ‘”, remember the two-major winner for timed seniors. At the time, he had no idea what that meant. “You don’t know what communism is. And you really don’t know what a life of shit communism can be.” Looking back, Cejka is “so grateful that my father had the courage to do it”.
Two-time winner of the PGA Tour Champions
40 years later, Alex Cejka can look back on a busy life with many ups and downs. Last year Mariánské Lázně’s man won Regions Traditions, the first major of the PGA Tour Champions, in the playoffs against Steve Stricker. But since his goal was just to be there, he wasn’t nervous, the eventual winner remembers the duel. “It didn’t matter if I won the playoffs or lost. I knew it was going to be another great week and it was building my confidence.” With the win, however, the golfer suddenly secured his tour card. “A lot of things change there. Not in yourself, but in the result that you can play in the following week, or in three weeks, or maybe in two years.”
Cejka brought this “great mental relief” to the PGA Senior Championship; the pressure to exist was gone, Cejka was able to play freely: “My game was on fire”. When Cejka was clearly leading the last lap and also benefited from the mistakes of the competition – Steve Stricker was the leader and played a final round seven out of 77 – suddenly there was pressure. “Suddenly you are in the lead and you think you don’t want to lose the advantage, you can’t fail. (…) But on the golf course, under pressure, you never know if you are a superstar or a normal player. This game. You can lose a tournament on a single hole with two or three bad shots. ” But Cejka remained calm and in his second big start with over 50 golfers he won his second title with four strokes.
I skipped school to see Bernhard Langer
Since then, the German has come on senior tours, playing alongside his idols. As a child he cheered on Bernhard Langer, José María Olazabal, Vijay Singh and Colin Montgomerie at the German Open on the European Tour (now DP World Tour). “These guys were big stars at the time, so obviously I followed everyone’s careers.”
But Cejka has a special relationship with Langer. “He was the only German player to be a professional. A star who played against other greats in America, in Europe. And it was just fascinating to watch,” enthused the golfer about his “idol” reason. whereby he became a wanted a professional golfer. “When he came to my home course for our national championship, I skipped school and went to the golf course and saw this man play. He was an inspiration,” admires his countryman.
“He’s not just a great player, he’s also a great guy,” Cejka said later in his career. “Then you go out and play tournaments with him and you know him. And that’s exactly what you’d expect from a superstar: kind to everyone and a true gentleman.”
“I don’t know anyone who has more trophies”
And “Mr. Consistency” is still more than competitive at nearly 65. “It’s unbelievable,” he marvels at his colleague. “It must be said that he is still a real worker. He still works as if he was 25. I don’t know where he gets the courage, the passion or whatever he is after so many years.” I know he has to hurt how he does it. He is the first on the driving range in any tournament and the last to leave. It’s not easy at 65. He has always been a great player. “
Even when she visited the Langer home, Cejka was not surprised. “I don’t know anyone who has multiple trophies. I was at his house a few months ago and it was amazing that there were three, four in each corner. Usually players have three, five, ten trophies in the house. But if you see someone who he has one hundred trophies, it’s just amazing that he got to the age of 65. It’s just fantastic. “
Changed the objectives from the defending champion
Meanwhile at Cejka’s home some trophies should have been collected, two of which are important trophies that need to be defended in a few weeks. He is happy, “but the pressure increases”, admits the defending champion. “Things change. Your golf game changes, your goals change. (…) I’m also a little nervous because it’s not easy to defend a title. So it’s going to be a big challenge and I’m looking forward to it very much. “.
Cejka not only wants to attack in the Champions Tour this year, but also has other tournaments in mind. “I’m ready for a lot of tournaments this season. There are still a lot of tournaments I can play, not just in the Champions Tour, but I think I’ll do one or two on the European Tour and some on the PGA Tour.” His time of the year is yet to come, says Cejka, who is not entirely happy with his start to the season due to a minor injury at the end of the year. “I’m more of a summer player and can’t wait to play well in the summer.”
– PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) March 29, 2022