When did you develop your passion for golf?
After I watched the Masters in 1971, when I was almost 14, I
said, “Right, I want to try golf.” I started with a half dozen
lessons, my parents bought me a half set of clubs on my 14th birthday, and I
played my first round that same day. By the time I was 15 I had decided I
wanted to be a pro golfer.
Which player had the greatest influence on you?
Back then it was the Big Three — Jack Nicklaus,
Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino — and Gary Player. I went to the British
Open with my father in 1973 and 1974. I spent all my time there watching those
guys practice and play. I had an ability to memorize their little
idiosyncrasies. Back home, I would play matches in my head — me
versus Jack or Arnie. When I would go out and hit balls, it was like they
really were there. They were my imaginary friends.
What would you tell someone who isn’t much of a golfer but has
been invited for a round of business golf?
Stay away! Don’t do it! [Laughs] Seriously,
though, you just want to enjoy the round. The most popular words with amateurs
are not or don’t. When they say: “I’m
not going to hit it in the trees” or “I’m not going to hit it in that pond,” it’s actually like
self-hypnosis. They are visualizing failure.
What’s the best tip you can give a mediocre golfer?
At one corporate event, a flustered young lady said to me, “I
can’t possibly play this hole with you watching!” I told
her to imagine how Tiger Woods would play the hole, to relax, step up, and play
her shot. She was on in two and down in four. Her husband shot a seven on the
hole. One thing that will really help amateurs is
concentrating on tempo — timing, rhythm. When you get nervous, you do
everything really fast. Most amateurs are transfixed on the goal of hitting the
ball. Their real goal should be to make a full and decent swing.
What can you find out about a person’s character by playing 18
holes with him or her?
A lot. Some guys will cheat — they will move the
ball. They can’t accept that they’ve got a bad line. There’s
something about golf that makes it a real leveler. You can’t say, “Oh,
I nearly got a three,” if your ball stopped on the edge of the cup.
You didn’t. You got a four. That’s all part of the game —
getting a bad line or getting stuck in the bushes. What matters is how you get
out of those places.
What’s your favorite recession-friendly (i.e., cheap) course?
Winter Park Country Club [a public course in Orlando, Fla].
They have a little nine-hole course you can play for $11. You start down the
main avenue and turn left, then play your way around a graveyard. It’s
real fun, a decent course, and for $11, that’s pretty good value for
How has the economy hurt professional golf?
Sure, it’s a difficult time, but golf is still
pretty popular. People want that escape to watch their heroes perform.
Hopefully a lot of people can forget about their troubles for a while. And
maybe that will help turn things around for them.
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