Hannah’s Thursday Blog

Thursday, August 19 – First Championship Round

Most people associate professional sporting events with ecstatic fans in face paint, lots of noise, and at least one player who finds it appropriate to attack another player, a referee, or even a fan. So when the TV turns to ESPN and the announcer is describing how quiet and civilized the audience is, shouldn’t one wonder what the heck kind of game he’s talking about?

Those who haven’t been kept under a rock for their entire lives would recognize the announcer’s description as golf, the lone civilized pastime in all of professional sports. There’s an unspoken dress code that leaves all the spectators in conservative polos and khakis, polite clapping following a good shot, and no referee to attack even if the competitors were aggressive enough to do so. The most scandalous thing that can happen at a golf tournament is a player breaking a club out of frustration. Yes, that does actually happen outside the movie Happy Gilmore.

But is the silence surrounding the golfers just applying more pressure? Money is on the line every time one of them swings a golf club, and they are extremely aware of it.

The pros on the Champions Tour have been playing with this audience for most of their lives, and while some have gotten used to it others try to fill the silence themselves to get rid of the anxiety in the air.

Pressure on the players is not something that sets golf apart from other sports, but the stillness on the course is. Is this just the break that professional sporting needs from the craziness surrounding all other events? Or is it lacking what the pros need to really play the game?

“I like it loud, football stadium loud,” jokes Nic Higlin, a high school sophomore who both plays and watches the game of golf. “I’m just kidding, not that loud- but watching a silent sport gets kind of boring, and I like to get cheered on when I play sports.”

His younger brother, Max Higlin, agrees.

“As long as the spectators were being loud out of support and not booing me, I feel like it would definitely affect my golf game in a positive way,” explains Higlin.

This tension-filled silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one can tell that it does affect the players. For instance, in the pro-am and practice rounds leading up to the JELD-WEN Tradition, the professionals were approachable and easy-going. Today at the first round of the tournament, many were hurrying from one place to another, huddled with their caddies, anxiously shaking hands with the people important to this event.

“When am I most nervous about a golf tournament? Definitely not beforehand, that’s for sure. It has to sink in for me to get nervous about it,” states Bernhard Langer, a professional golfer at the JELD-WEN Tradition.

Regardless of one’s opinion on the audience of golf, it’s the individuality of the sport that makes it so interesting to report on.

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Robbie’s Wednesday Blog

Wednesday, August 18 – Nike Golf Junior Day

Having the opportunity to play at Crosswater is pretty special, but to be able to play the course with two Champions Tour professionals is an experience like non other.

On Wednesday, I had the distinct honor to walk with one of the pairings in the Nike Golf Junior Shootout.

The shootout consisted of 12 high school and/or collegiate golfers. One boy and one girl were paired up with a pro and they played a total of four holes. It was set up as a scramble format, and the top three of six teams were to advance to the fifth, and last, hole.

Standing in the concessions tent on the first tee, I could tell some of these younger golfers in my group were feeling the pressure, being that they were playing with the likes of Jeff Sluman and Jay Haas.

At the same time, these teenagers were very engaged and listened very closely to what Haas and Sluman had to advise. I was even able to get some helpful pointers just by paying attention to what they were saying.

Walking inside the ropes and being close to the players, I was able to observe how the Tour pros interacted with the younger stars and vice-versa. Haas was usually cracking a few jokes to relax his playing partners, while Sluman was helping his group by determining how much brake there would be on a fifteen-foot putt for birdie. Either way, the pros showed these rising stars a fantastic time.

Unfortunately, neither Haas’ nor Sluman’s group advanced to the playoff hole, as they both finished tied for fourth place at two-under-par.

But no matter the outcome, these young, talented players seemed very proud to have had the chance to tee it up with some of the biggest names in golf.

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Hannah’s Wednesday Blog

Wednesday, August 18 – Nike Golf Junior Day

The word “golf” originated from the acronym “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden,” if one is to believe common folklore. Now, however, ladies are in no way excluded from the game, as proven at today’s Nike Golf Junior Day at the JELD-WEN Tradition.

Although the first part of the day was solely dedicated to a children’s clinic, with both families and an entire section of the Boys and Girls Club attending, starting at three-o-clock ladies were given their chance to shine. Paired with a male high school golf champion from any Oregon school and a Champions Tour professional, six girls raging from juniors in high school to freshmen in college participated in a five-hole competition.

The Nike Golf Junior Shootout, an annual event at the JELD-WEN Tournament, gives students who excel both on the course and off it a chance to play and mingle with the pros.

Fred Funk’s team took the win this year, with Mike Reid’s team in a close second (originally tied for first, the tie was broken with a chip-off) and John Cook’s in third. Prizes were awarded to those who placed, but for the participants the real reward was being able to play with such successful and experienced golfers.

Making said golfers so available to the public is one of the greatest parts about the program, according to yearly JELD-WEN Tradition attendee Jay Black.

“Last year I was able to talk to Fuzzy Zoeller, something that would be unheard of in just about any other sport,” says Black. “He was so funny and down-to-earth; it made the tournament such a unique experience.”

With professionals wandering the course in between rounds, one is almost guaranteed to meet someone whose name is on the scoreboard. The most accessible place to find them is on the driving range or after a round.

Golf has come a long way since, if we are to believe the old wives tale, the prohibiting of women in the sport. Not only does it now include women, it also makes a point to extend even the hand of a professional out to the children. Nike Golf Junior Day was a success of epic proportions this year and one can only hope that junior golfers, and participants in any sport, for that matter, will be included in such events in the future.

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Hannah’s Bob Tway Interview

Golf: for some it’s a passion, for other it’s an individual sport, and for several it’s a family affair. For Bob Tway, golf is all three of these things.

As soon as he could hold a golf club, Tway was coached in the game by both his grandfather and father. He played a variety of other sports growing up, but found himself enthralled with golf alone.

“I loved the aspect of team sports, but being alone on the golf course was just more natural to me,” he confesses. “You know you’ve caught the bug when your parents have to go out to the golf course nine hours after you went there to get you for dinner.”

Although he was once the one wandering around the course instead of eating a family meal, after he introduced golf to his son, Kevin, he soon became the one searching as opposed to being searched for. Not that he protests, of course.

“He had fallen in love, I knew it the first time he wasn’t home from the course by the time we told him he had to be,” explains Tway. “Now he’s playing as an amateur golfer and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

With all the men for four generations playing golf on Tway’s side of the family, life can get pretty hectic sometimes. Between Tway’s golf schedule and his son’s golf schedule, finding a couple hours for a little family time is hard work. But even when he’s on vacation, he never finds himself far from the game.

“My son and I always end up playing golf wherever we go- be it a major family trip or a weekend outing,” laughs Tway. “We take time off from golf to go play golf!”

With all this golf playing, one might think that Tway has mastered the competition. He, however, thinks differently.

“I’ve been playing for fifty years of my life, and I still have bad golf days,” says Tway. “That’s one of the things that’s so great about it- there’s always something for you to learn.”

He’s stated he’s no master on the golf course, but he’s sure a professional. And no one can deny that he’s a master at combining his work, his love, and his family.

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Robbie’s Bob Tway Interview

For Champions Tour professional Bob Tway, golf isn’t just a job; it’s a passion. Tway got hooked on the game at the age of five and forty-six years later he’s still hard at work.

On a day when he’s not competing in tournament play, Tway wakes up early to lift weights and then heads to the course to hit balls and work on his short game.  It’s a typical 9-5 day but Tway enjoys every minute of it. He says, “I love getting up in the morning, excited to go to work. I’m never not wanting to go out because, for me, golfing is the best job in the world.”

Tway not only exhibits a strong passion for golf, but also acts as a solid role model for the youth, helping younger players improve their game.

While on the Crosswater driving range, in front of the hundreds of kids who showed up for NIKE Golf Junior Day, Tway explained the importance of not taking golf too seriously, “We’ve got to remember that golf is just a game. Sometimes even us Tour professionals get too serious about it. You’ve got to make sure to have a good time.”

Tway gave some key pointers to the junior golfers on how to establish a fundamentally sound golf swing. He later showcased his talent by bombing three 285-yard drives right down the middle of the practice range.

A phenomenal golfer, Tway also has a solid reputation on Tour and is often found in attendance at his son’s matches.

After the conclusion of the JELD-WEN Tradition, Tway says that he’s planning on flying back home to Edmond, Oklahoma, where he will be caddying for his son, Kevin, in a collegiate tournament.

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Robbie’s Tuesday Blog

Tuesday, August 17 – Pro-Am Championship presented by TOTEM Steel

Although it was the third time for me walking the Crosswater Golf Course at the Pro-Am Championship, it was definitely a day I will never forget. Having the opportunity to meet John Cook, one of the biggest names on the Champions Tour was a pleasure, and for him to take a few minutes to talk with me as we strolled down 11 fairway was a true honor.

The two of us discussed the latest news of the JELD-WEN Tradition possibly ending its partnership with the PGA TOUR and moving the tournament to a course elsewhere.  Cook expressed his appreciation for Crosswater, saying that the “beauty and the surroundings of the course makes you feel comfortable” and that the professionals “all like coming (here),” but that he is disappointed that this is probably the last year at this course.

It’s neat to hear that even though these Champions Tour players play in dozens of tournaments annually, they still can’t wait to come out to the great northwest and compete over at Crosswater Golf Course.

Cook also emphasizes the importance of the sponsors who contribute millions of dollars toward making this tournament possible; “What we do is because of them. Without them, non of this would be possible.” Cook also went on to say that he and several other Tour players show their appreciation for these corporate sponsors by showing those who participate in the pro-am a good time.

Cook says that the Pro-Am Championship during the week of the Tradition is one of the more rewarding things he gets to do because he’s able to express his knowledge of the game to amateurs and watch them excel.  He also notes that he still keeps in contact with some of the amateurs that he’s met over the years and has established many friendships because of this.

The JELD-WEN Tradition may never return to Oregon, but I’m sure we can all reminisce over the wonderful times we’ve had at Crosswater.

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Hannah’s Tuesday Blog

Tuesday, August 17 – Pro-Am Championship presented by TOTEM Steel

“You can pick my brain in the next five minutes, there’s really not much there,” Bob Gilder jokes upon introduction. He’s standing on the tee box of the 10th hole, waiting for his group of amateurs (Rick Parker, Jim Lovisco, Tracy Skidmore and Jim Bounds) to get there so they can play. Several minutes later they arrive, laughing and chatting, and after a quick group picture they’re ready to go.

Gilder tees-off first, the ball flying into the blue if a bit cloudy sky. Although some professionals rely on the type of ball they use to make the shot, Gilder believes that it’s the clubs that change the game of golf.

“Clubs are so individual,” he explains, “the same putter can feel completely different to different people. It all depends on what you feel comfortable with, that’s the kind of club that will work best for you. Years of experimentation are the only thing that can get you to that point, though.”

Gilder has had plenty of years to experiment with the kind of clubs he prefers to use, as he began playing at the age of nine at the golf course his parents belonged too.

“Being ten or eleven, what’s more fun than to go outside on a summer day with your buddies and hit balls as hard as you can? We just messed around a lot.”

Eventually, that messing around led to something more serious. But before it could get to that point, he had to mess around with a few other sports as well. In high school, he played sports all three seasons- football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and golf in the spring. So why did he choose golf?

“I chose to focus in on golf when I was in college. I loved everything about football, but I was too small to continue playing,” he confesses.

Looking at him now, however, one wouldn’t be able to tell that he was ever unfit to be involved in an athletic event. He certainly shows his strength in his drive, which he says averages about twenty yards short of the best drivers in the Champions Tour.

“When I watch TV and see golfers like Tiger Woods drive 300, 320 yards I think, ‘I swing the club that hard too, why don’t my balls go that far?’” Gilder laughs. “I still think of myself as a hard-hitter. I think I’m a little bit in denial.”

The rest of the group chuckles with him. They’ve been doing this since the first hole, and it’s not surprising either. With Gilder’s warm personality and slightly sarcastic sense of humor, he brings a certain spark to the golf course.

That spark is what has brought him this far, and is what will continue to take him places. If he’s lucky, it’ll take him all the way to the winner’s circle at the JELD-WEN Tradition this week.

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