John Paul Cain: From Stockbroker to Champions Tour Winner

John Paul Cain didn't turn pro as a golfer until he was 52. Then he embarked on an improbable Champions Tour career in which he won tournaments both as a Monday qualifier and as a sponsor exemption.

Date of birth: January 14, 1936

Place of birth: Sweetwater, Texas

Date and place of death: March 20, 2017 in Abilene, Texas

Nickname: JP

His Biggest Wins

As an amateur:
  • 1959 Texas Amateur
On the Champions Tour:
  • 1989 Greater Grand Rapids Open
  • 1994 Ameritech Senior Open
Cain also won the 1989 Red Stripe Invitational, a non-tour senior event played in Jamaica.

More About John Paul Cain

Golfers who win a tournament on a pro tour after playing their way in through Monday qualifying are a rarity. It is also not common for a golfer who gets into a tournament as a sponsor exemption to then win that event.

Yet John Paul Cain did both.

Cain spent most of his life working as a stockbroker in Houston while playing amateur tournaments on the side. He didn't turn pro until he was 52, planning to give the Champions Tour shot. Most golfers who travel that same path fail as tour players.

But Cain made it through Champions Tour Q-School on his first try, receiving partial status. Then he won the 1989 Greater Grand Rapids Open on the Champions Tour after getting into the tournament through the Monday qualifier. He won with a score of 203, one stroke ahead of runners-up Dave Hill and Charlie Sifford. At the time, he was just the second Monday qualifier to win on the Champions Tour.

Five years later, Cain received a sponsor exemption to play in the 1994 Ameritech Senior Open. He won it with a score of 202, one stroke better than runners-up Jim Colbert and Simon Hobday. At age 58, he was the oldest winner on the Champions Tour in 1994.

Fellow Texas golfer Charles Coody, quoted in an obituary after Cain's death, said, "For somebody that had not played professionally and had no status, I thought he did quite well. ... (W)hen you haven’t played the regular tour (PGA Tour) and you came out and had no status from anything you could have accumulated, like total money or wins or anything like that, to be able to play the Seniors Tour for 12 years, that's fantastic."

Cain never played on the PGA Tour, focusing on his career as a stockbroker. Yet, by the time he joined the Champions Tour, he had already been inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.

He played college golf at Texas Tech, where helped his team win the final two championships of the Border Conference in 1955 and 1956. Texas Tech then joined the Southwest Conference, and Cain helped them win that conference title in 1959. It was Tech's first championship of any kind in the SWC.

Two years after leaving school, Cain won the 1961 Texas State Amateur (often erroneously reported as having happened in 1959). Although he played in multiple U.S. Amateurs, he was never a nationally prominent player. But in Texas, he won numerous local and regional tournaments, including at least 16 club championships. He reached the finals of the 1972 Trans-Mississippi Amateur, but lost to Ben Crenshaw, his closest shot at winning a nationally prominent amateur title.

It is variously reported (such as in old Champions Tour media guides and on the Texas Golf Hall of Fame website) that Cain reached either the quarterfinals or the semifinals in the 1975 British Amateur Championship. Neither is correct. In fact, it was the 1976 British Amateur at St. Andrews, and he went out in the Round of 16.

It is also reported in various sources that Cain played in four U.S. Opens as an amateur; this is also incorrect. The correct number is two: Cain played his way into the the U.S. Opens of 1957 and 1959, but missed the cut in both.

When considering Cain's achievements in amateur golf, it is important to keep in mind that he was only a part-time golfer. His full-time job was as a successful stockbroker in Houston, so he fit in practicing and playing golf when he could. But his achievements in Texas got him into that state's golf Hall of Fame in 1984, when he was inducted as part of the same class as Crenshaw, Lloyd Mangrum and Sandra Haynie.

But the start of the second phase of Cain's golf career wasn't far off. He made his first U.S. Senior Open start in 1986 as an amateur, then turned pro in 1988 (but didn't give up his stockbroker job, continuing to serve a roster of clients) at age 52.

When he got good playing status on the Champions Tour, after his 1989 win, Cain made the most it, playing almost every tournament on the schedule. In 1990, he played 38 Champions Tour events, which, at the time, shared the tour record. He played 115 rounds that year, which also was tied for the Champions Tour record at the time.

He lost his exempt status a couple times, but still managed to post those two victories while coming close a number of other times. Cain tied for second at the 1990 Newport Cup; at the 1995 Senior PGA Championship; and at the 1995 Franklin Quest Championship. He was second, as well, in the 1996 Bruno's Memorial Classic, where he lost in a playoff.

Cain continued his ironman playing schedule when his tour status allowed, such as making 37 starts in 1995 and 36 in 1996, but dropped to 20 starts in 1997, 12 in 1998 and ended with four starts in 1999 when he was 63 years old.

Over his career, his best finish on the Champions Tour money list was 29th in 1990. Cain finished 30th in 1989 and 31st in 1994.

In senior majors, Cain's best showing was that runner-up at the 1995 Senior PGA. His lone other Top 10 in a major was a tie for fifth in the 1991 Senior Players Championship; he also had a tie for 11th in the 1992 U.S. Senior Open.

Over Cain's Champions Tour career he made 289 starts. He had the two wins and the four second-place finishes, plus 30 total Top 10 showings.

Cain was 81 years old when he died of cancer in 2017. In addition to being a member of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, Cain is also enshrined in the Texas Tech Hall of Fame and the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame.

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