You turned pro in ’91 and your first season on web was ’97, what did you play in between?
I played a lot of mini tour events and played a lot of state opens along with some long-term events around the country, Long Beach Open, Oklahoma Open, played the Dakotas Tour a couple years. Wherever they had a half decent purse I showed up.
Were there times in this stretch that you wanted to give up? Either because of financial reasons or just tired of grinding?
Definitely both. I remember a US Open Qualifier, I wasn’t really playing well coming into it and I started on 10 and bogeyed it. We had a 3 group wait on the next hole and I thought I don’t really want to be out here you know. And I thought this is my last tournament. And believe it our not those 15 or 20 minutes I sat on that tee box, I had a little talk with myself. I told myself I don’t want my mind to be the reason I can’t make it. At that point in time I started to try to visualize every shot, anyway I shot 3 or 4 under and I got in. I really feel like that was a turning point in my career.
You get on the web in ’97 and have a great start to the season, does that validate the struggle of the previous years to get this to your point?
I remember that like it was yesterday. I only beat 4 people at Q school ironically the 1st event was in Lakeland which wasn’t far from my house, and the qualifier happened to be the course we just played 1st round of Champions Q school at. Anyway, I remember I eagled the 17th hole and parred the 18th which was a really hard par 4 to get into the playoff and I got thru. I go onto finish 3rd in the tournament, and I top 25 the first 4 tournaments and I moved my number up and the rest is kind of history. The son of a truck driver and a school teacher ended up making it to the PGA Tour.
At the end of ’97 you dealt with some health issues?
I had hyperthyroidism, I saw my doctor and they said it was anxiety, I said no its not there is something going on. I would be just sitting in my car and my heart would be beating like crazy. I was losing weight, I have been about 195 my whole career and I was down to 165, so they finally found it was thyroid issue. Had to take this radioactive iodine pill that everyone had to leave the room for. It was crazy, but it worked. I’ve been taking pills for it ever since.
You get onto PGA in ’01 and towards the end of the year you struggle then in start of ’02 on the web you have a great start, what changed?
I remember that like it was yesterday too. Had a tough end to ’01 and the web started in Australia or New Zealand and the trip was going to cost me like 6 or 7 thousand. And I thought do I really want to make this trip? And I decided I would probably never get a chance to see that part of the world again. So, I go to first event and I shoot like two 78’s or something, I was just terrible. So now I am playing a practice round in New Zealand and its blowing like crazy, raining, like 40 degrees, don’t have a caddy, have a pull cart and I thought…what the hell am I doing out here? I finally had this swing thought, low left thru the ball. And instantly I started hitting these shots, straight as an arrow and drop to the right, next one straight as an arrow and drop to the right. I used that swing thought and played ok that event and came home with it and I almost win the next tournament I play in. And the next web event I am in the lead with 9 holes to play. I have been using that swing thought ever since.
In ’14 you lost your status but besides that why did you stop playing?
The bottom line was my full swing has always been there, but I lost my putting. I lost confidence and I didn’t want to play golf anymore. I thought I was better ball striker at that time then I ever was, and I just couldn’t score. It was so frustrating, I was thinking why the hell am I playing golf. I should be shooting 65 and I am shooting 72 and beating no one. But recently I have tried different things to battle the yips. I’m not making a ton, but I am making enough to get by. My ball striking gives me a chance every week, if I can just make a few putts I have a chance.
Let’s move onto Champion Q School, you around the number most of the week, coming down the final 9 holes are you a guy that wants to know where you stand?
No doubt, I want to know. I know I am beating the two guys I am playing with, so I am in pretty good shape. But I know there was a lot of guys bunched up and someone could shoot a good one and pass us like Gibby did. The pins were in positions that I knew if I took on the pin and missed you were going to have a difficult par, so I want to know if I need a birdie. On 12 I asked my caddie, and my wife was watching scores also, there was 3 guys at 4 and 2 guys at 3 and I am one of the guys at 3. My caddie says we have to press on. Next hole is par 5 and I don’t birdie, next holed I thought I hit a great shot and it ends up over the green. I leave the chip about 20 feet short and end up making the putt. I gave it the biggest fist pump of the week right there.
On the next par 5 you said you had a decision on 2nd shot, walk us through your thought process there?
You know, I said, these last 4 holes are tough, I would like some cushion. This is my last birdie chance. My drive was good, but it rolled thru fairway and was barely in the rough. So, we talked about it and decided to go after it. So, I hit 3 wood to about 20ft for eagle. I think alright let’s knock this in, and of course I knock it 6 feet by and miss the one coming back.
You made a couple of big putts on the way in, are those the biggest putts of your career or where do you rank them?
You know I told my wife that putt on 17 is going to go a long way for me, I think. I hadn’t been under that kind of pressure in years. You know, here I am testing the weakest part of my game, under pressure and I’ll be damned if I didn’t step up and make them. People don’t understand that some of the hardest things to do is make a putt to make the cut when you’re not playing well. I knew my putting wasn’t were I wanted it to be and that’s where the anxiety creeps in. When you’re playing at the top of your game it all comes easier. But I wasn’t really playing my best so anxiety creeps in
Can you compare the pressure of Q school to being in contention on Tour? Was this the most pressure you felt on the course?
Its pretty close, I’ve had some pretty good ones. Bay Hill in ’08 I’m trying to catch Tiger in front of my whole family. You know that was my biggest accomplishment on Tour in my mind. Led the field in greens in regulation, playing with Lee Westwood and I kept hitting good shots. I was nervous but I kept hitting good shots…but yeah this was right up there, I am really proud of myself because it’s a situation I hadn’t been in for years.