Bernhard Langer was at the Sanford Fieldhouse on Sept. 13 explaining the “secret” to his longevity as one of the best golfers in the world.
His audience included Sam Vosler, Sanford Sports Academy golf manager; Brad Rilling, Sanford Sports Performance strength and conditioning coach; and Paul Lundgren, Sanford Sports Performance strength and conditioning coach.
The two-time Masters champion has won 13 times since turning 60 and five times since turning 64. Most recently, he won the U.S. Senior Open in June for what was his 46th PGA Tour Champions title overall, breaking the all-time record he previously shared with Hale Irwin.
He was 65 years, 10 months and five days old when he won the Open. On a list of the 10 oldest golfers to win PGA Tour Champions tournaments, he holds the top five spots.
As the now 66-year-old Langer worked his way through his regimen of stretching, lifting and cardio at the fieldhouse, he provided context for what he does and why he does it.
More than one thing
There is no secret, he said. No magic. Just a guy who pays very close attention to his health and his golf swing and occasionally – he doesn’t make it a habit, of course – makes common-sense accommodations for no longer being 25.
“People will ask: What’s your secret to success and longevity? They want to hear one thing and they hope they can do it,” Langer said. “But it’s far more than that. I always say it’s a puzzle. It’s a puzzle of maybe 25, 30 things and they’re all important. And if one piece is missing, the whole picture is not right. So the whole machinery wouldn’t work if one or two pieces are missing.”
Langer didn’t need directions this week to the fieldhouse for his workout. As a Sanford Health ambassador to the world of professional golf and a member of the Sanford International board, he makes yearly visits that coincide with the golf tournament.
“I’m always ready to learn more,” he said. “Just because I am fairly good at what I’m doing doesn’t mean I am the best in working out or the best in stretching. There may always be better ways of doing things. And so I enjoy picking other people’s brains, especially when they’re good at what they’re doing. I might get a tip or two and over many years, you can glean a lot of good stuff from other people. It’s great to have that exchange of wisdom, knowledge and ideas.”
A year ago, he was the featured speaker during the World Scientific Congress of Golf held at the Sanford Sports Complex. In the past he has taken a sweat test at the fieldhouse and had 3D evaluations of his swing at the Sanford Sports Science Institute. On all visits he has been the same friendly, willing and curious legend.
“He’s well-rounded, a nice guy, he’s into fitness and the medical side and he’s a great athlete and great person,” Rilling said. “He’s a great ambassador for Sanford and for the tour.”
Langer’s strength and conditioning workout
His Sept. 13 visit started with cardio on a treadmill, then settled into core strengthening and stretching. A back injury he suffered as a 19-year-old in the military has never really left him, he said. Emphasis on keeping that under control is part of every workout, as are golf-specific exercises that help him maintain flexibility and explosiveness.
“I have a tendency to want to stand up in my golf swing,” Langer said, demonstrating with a 25-handicapper’s follow-through. “My back doesn’t want to stay down there and rotate.”
So he does exercises to combat that tendency. Eliminating bad habits in a golf swing is part of everyone’s attempt to improve at golf, but far more refined for a 66-year-old keeping pace with great players who are younger by a decade or more.
“It’s a crazy game as we all know,” he said. “It helps to know your tendencies, whatever they are. I can feel when it is not right, and I can feel when it is right, but I don’t always know why. I’m a guy who wants to know why. What’s the cause? Something is causing this. What is it?”
Langer admits to not being able to hit the ball as far as he once could, though he does everything he can to slow the decline. Meanwhile, he maintains he’s capable of getting better at everything else involved in competing at a high level.
“Because he’s really into fitness and is sort of a gym rat, he understands his body,” Vosler said. “In that way he has been able to help himself on the golf course. That’s always challenging. When you’re in the moment and competing, you don’t want to think too much. The fact that he knows his body and knows his tendencies is something every golfer can learn from.”
Why he backs Sanford Health
As one of the most respected competitors in the sport – in addition to being one of its most successful – Langer has plenty of options in choosing what he puts his name on. His affiliation with Sanford goes beyond the Sanford International, something that makes this partnership unique in the world of sports.
“Everything they do, they do in a wonderful way,” Langer said. “They really dig into it. They do it very professionally and at 100%. They don’t leave stones unturned. Whether it’s a lab or the children’s hospital – and everything else they’re involved in – they have phenomenal people. They’re helping people all over the world to have a better way of living life.”
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