Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Q&A with @clubproguy

When I started thinking about doing a blog that would include Q&A's with individuals within the golf industry my hope was to cover a vast array of individuals.  I have been fortunate so far to have great people who have been willing to take time out of their schedule to answer my questions.  Below is an individual who has played at the highest level professionally.  He has taken the mental beating this cruel game can give and hasn't been knocked down(only when he passes out).  He walked away from playing the game one night in a Mexican jail when he realized his true purpose in life was to give back to the game by being a club professional.  After serving his time in jail he headed back to the States and began the rewarding journey of a club pro.  Some of the tasks he does daily is giving individual and group lessons, conducting multiple summer junior camps, running club tournaments and corporate outings, selling merchandise, cleaning the pool in the winter for extra income, and picking the range at night after the shop closes.  CPG is very tuned into the golf business through years of experience, sweat, and dedication.  Throughout this Q&A you will come to understand that CPG wakes up everyday with one thing in mind, and that is to grow the game of golf. Club Pro Guy is not only a role model but he has become a mentor as well.  Please enjoy the first part of a two part Q&A series with @clubproguy 

1.  Have you ever had a student improve? 

If by “improve” you mean objectively lowering a student's handicap the answer is no. That being said, I don’t think this reflects poorly on me as an instructor because there is only so much I can control.  Golf lessons are a two way street.  I can’t control talent and I can’t control commitment.  I'll give you an example.  I teach all my students the 7-4-7 system.   This is a method I developed that requires the student to memorize and recite 7 swing thoughts from takeaway to transition, 4 swing thoughts during the transition, and 7 final swing thoughts from transition to impact. Hence 7-4-7.  (NOTE: In high pressure situations the 7-4-7 system becomes the 11-7-12 system but I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds here).  Anyway, many of my students struggle to mentally recite the swing thoughts in the precise sequence, which is an absolute swing killer.  Almost all of my students give up in frustration.  Their lack of commitment doesn’t make me a bad teacher.

2.  Did you ever in your life think this beautiful game would allow you to make $47,000 a year.

Listen, I’m very blessed.  The game of golf has given me so much.  I’ve traveled to amazing places (Juarez, Tijuana, Oaxaca, Mexicali, Wichita) and had a chance to meet some of the biggest names in the game (Len Mattiace, Craig Perks, Jeff Maggert’s brother).  Do I make a nice living?  Yes.  But I don’t feel guilty about it because I think my reputation as a former tour player gives this club a certain level of credibility that you can’t attach a dollar amount to.  Believe it or not there are guys out there making even more than me.  I heard once that Michael Breed makes over $90,000/year.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Listen, I don’t begrudge Michael for making that kind of money because I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, but that’s a lot of coin.

3.  In competition, what’s your record for most pars in a row?

The answer is eight and its a pretty good story.  During the 2nd round of the ’98 Yucatan Masters I went out in 44 after making a really bad double on #9 that included a penalty for playing a range ball.  I get to the 10th tee and I’m just fuming.  I turn to my caddy Ernesto and tell him to get the scuba gear out because I’m taking it deep on the back side.  After tough luck bogeys on 10, 11 and 13, I par the last five including a nifty bump-and-run chip in on 18 to shoot 83 and miss the cut by 12.  I then par the opening three holes the next Thursday at the Matamoros 4-Ball to run the par streak to 8.  I’ve done a lot of special things on the golf course but that streak ranks right up there.

4.  Will Tawny become wife #3?

Who knows.  I will say that our schedules make it difficult to see a lot of each other.  I typically work 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM and she dances from 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM.  That doesn’t leave us with a lot of quality time together.  I had a similar issue with my first wife (Tammie) and my 2nd wife (Brandi).  Anyone in my line of work who is great at their craft has to be selfish with their time in order to achieve their goals. It’s what makes them great.  It’s one of the traits I think I share with Tiger.  Chipping yips being the other.

5.  You had more DUI’s than cuts made on the Mexican Mini Tour, how did that adversity help you to become a better club pro?

Well, I made 7 cuts in my pro career which tells you how much trouble I got in with the bottle. It’s not something I’m proud of.  Unfortunately, so many missed cuts left me with a lot of downtime and unwanted distractions on weekends. Now that I’m retired from playing professionally, it’s something I’ve gotten much more under control (I’ve only gotten 2 DUI’s stateside).  I stress to the kids in my junior camp all the time that drinking is fine, but drinking and driving is not fine.  It’s a little way I try to give back and help the next generation not make the same mistakes I made.

6.  What’s the longest nap you have ever taken in the bag room?

When I tell my assistant that I’m heading out for a “playing lesson” he knows I’m going to the bag room for a little R&R.  Listen, I work long hours.  I don’t have the patience or endurance to stand in the shop all day and listen to members tell me about their epic up and down on 16 or how many edges they burned.   If I take the GHIN computer back to the bag room to watch a update and take a snooze I don’t think it’s the end of the world.

7.  Do you have any selfies with Pablo Escobar?

No, but I once gave El Chapo a quick lesson.  True story.  I was Monday qualifying at the ’02 Culiac├ín Skins Game and I pull up to the drivable par four 12th and it’s stacked up with three groups on the tee.  This short stocky guy (who turns out to be El Chapo) notices my Cougar Staff Bag and asks me if I’m a pro.  I tell him who I am and he immediately starts hitting me up for swing tips.  After showing me his move I notice he’s coming way over the top.  I told him the 9mm Glock under his right armpit is causing his right elbow to fly out producing a big left to right ball fight and a loss of distance.  I had him move the holster to his left side he immediately starts hitting these penetrating baby draws.  Chapo can move it out there for a smaller guy but I later heard his short game is atrocious.  Long story short he took down my name and told me as long as I’m in Mexico I would receive safe passage.  Never had one problem after that. 

8.  You stated that you don’t believe in ‘turns’ regarding merchandise (please note that most golf shops like to turn their inventory 4-5 times per year).  Knowing that you have never made money in your shop do you feel like the 'no turn’ mentality is working? 

First let me say that I own the shop and take merchandising very seriously.  Unlike many of my fellow club pros, I don’t believe in fancy corporate buzzwords like “turns” or “profit” .  I believe in players looking their best so they can play their best.  It hasn’t always gone smooth.  Back in 2012 I decided to go 'all in' to transform our retail space in to a Tabasco/Chiliwear concept shop.  Turns out no one was willing to pay $119.99 for a full coverage graphic polo of an American flag mixed with a Hawaiian sunset being drenched in hot sauce.  After two seasons I discounted them to $109.99 and still couldn’t move them.  I eventually donated them all to the local First Tee Foundation and used the Woody Austin cardboard cutout displays as member/guest tournament grand prizes.  

I don’t carry most of the ‘major’ brands because I consider myself more of a boutique shop and I have massive credit issues.  PING, Taylormade and Callaway won’t call on me because they say I “don’t pay them”, whatever that means.  It’s all corporate double speak and the good ol’ boy network.  The golf merchandise world is so political.  It’s like the time I got accused of inappropriate behavior with the Cutter & Buck rep in her show van and the company totally cuts me off.  Makes no sense.  Anyway, merchandising is about staying just ahead of the trends.  I’m making a big bet on white belts this season because they are starting to show some popularity on the European and far east tours.  These are things I notice and have an eye for.  Here’s another trend you heard here first….ball markers that look like poker chips.  You’re welcome.

9.  With the pending lawsuits surrounding your junior camps, will you be conducting one this year?

I absolutely plan to.  My attorney won’t let me talk about the specifics of the case but let me just say this.  I love these kids and want them to get better as golfers and as people.  As a parent, if you don’t think it’s important that your child learn how to calculate a Nassau or how much to tip a stripper, then maybe this camp isn’t for you.  In any event, I expect the cases to be dismissed once it comes out that the girls in question told me they were close to 18.

10.  Do your parents feel like they really dropped the ball with you?

My father left when I was very young but supposedly was a hell of a player.  He actually played a year and a half on the Yukon Tour in extreme Northern Canada in the early 70’s but couldn’t keep his card.  He died before he ever really got to see me make it on tour and I regret that.  My mom is my rock and my biggest fan.  She keeps a book with my newspaper clipping in it.  It’s great living with her because I get to see her so often and her disability check helps to cover the lease on my ’07 Miata.

11.  You were a Yonex Advisory Staff Member and had input on several of their products that you couldn’t give away in pro shops.  Walk us through how you helped make these products so bad?

Back in the mid 90’s most of my income came from endorsements.  I had a deal with Nitro Golf Balls, a ball retriever company called “GotchaGolf” and of course Yonex.  The deal with Yonex was a nice collaboration but it ended badly.  Long story short I convinced them to make a line of “players” woods without a sweet spot.  The idea behind it was that the more difficult it was to hit, the more intriguing it would be for the better player (similar to forged irons.)  I even came up with the marketing slogan…..”You think you’re a ball striker?  Let’s see if you can hit this”.  Needless to say it didn’t work out.  Even though we parted ways I continued to play that driver for the next 6 years.

12.  Faith and prayer are important to many of today’s tour players. Is prayer important to you?

I’m glad you brought that up.  It’s vital.  Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend church because I have to work on Sunday mornings but my faith guides me in everything I do.  Most of my prayers are associated with a given college football team covering a point spread.  Or maybe a special prayer requesting that a member event gets rained out.  Sometimes I pray for more substantial things….like for one of my junior player's mom to be divorced, or that my General Manager contracts Hepatitis C, or that the beverage cart girl will somehow lose her moral compass…..stuff like that. 

13.  Is it true you started a golf pool at your Gamblers Anonymous meeting?

Yes, what a great bunch of guys.  At our Wednesday night meeting, we each throw in $200 and do a snake draft (plus side action).  Earlier this season I drafted Justin Thomas in round 6 at the SBS in Maui and nabbed him again in round 5 at the Sony Open and just cleaned everyones clock.  That felt good. 

14.  How have you not been fired.

I get that question a lot.  I’ve always been resilient I guess.  You’re talking to a guy who missed his first 47 cuts as a professional.  Sure, I could have given up, but I stayed the course and kept grinding.  The persistence paid off when I finally caught lightning in a bottle with a T-44 finish at the rain shortened ’94 Dos Equis Light Shootout.  The rest is history.

15.  What’s your "go to" swing thought?

I repeat “don’t go right, you f*cking hack” three times just before I pull the trigger.

16.  What advice do you give aspiring young players trying to make it on tour?

Study for the mortgage license exam because you have no chance.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Karen Stupples

I am kicking off, what I hope to be a serious of Q&A’s with current and former LPGA players for my blog.  As I recently told a friend of mine, I wish women’s golf was more mainstream than it currently is.  I told him I wish the media would talk more about the LPGA players, do more features, etc.  Then I started thinking, shame on me for not making much of an effort to research them myself, especially considering we have FOUR daughters!!  
Below is the first Q&A with former LPGA player and current Golf Channel Analysis Karen Stupples.  Karen played on the LPGA tour from 1999 until just recently retiring and opting for a career in broadcasting.  Her playing career was very impressive, notching 2 wins on both the LPGA tour and the European Ladies tour.  The playing highlight of her career came in 2004 when she won a MAJOR, the Women’s British Open.  She started the final round eagle, double eagle (that’s 5 red thru 2 holes thank you very much) and rolled to a 5 shot victory.  She still holds the lowest aggregate and to par score along with Karrie Webb for that tournament.  Her other LPGA win came that same year, and in similar fashion she mowed down the field and sailed to a 5 shot victory.  Safe to say, when Karen sniffed blood it was pretty much game over.  She represented Europe twice in the Solheim Cup.  Karen didn’t have enough money to give professional golf a go right away so she went to work as a waitress.  Turns out a regular customer wanted to sponsor her for three years and this helped kick start her career.  Pretty cool story that a restaurant customer helped her become a major champion winner!  You can now see Karen all over the Golf Channel.  She does LPGA tournaments, Morning Drive appearances, School of Golf, Golf Central, and probably will be perched in the directors chair before long!  Thanks Karen for taking the time to answer my crazy questions.

1.Favorite movie?
I have some go to movies.  They are: Love Actually,  the Shawshank Redemption, and V for Vendetta.  That being said I like a lot of Marvel and Sci-fi.

2.I read that you were going to study polymer science, can you explain? 
I had been accepted to go to Loughborough university in the U.K. to study Polymer Science.  I was quite a nerd at school and enjoyed science, primarily chemistry and biology.  I don't do well with the sight of blood so opted for the plastic version, but my plans changed and I decided on going to University in America to help with my golf.  As it turned out it was the best decision I could have made.  I saw the LPGA when I was at FSU and realized I wanted to play against the best and that there was a living to be made out of pro golf.

3.Growing up playing golf in England as a female was it a challenge?
The courses that I played in England were great, but they were right next door to a men's only club.  I was often invited to play but always declined.  The biggest thing I faced as a junior girl playing golf was fitting in; the ladies were jealous that I had a tendency to win their competitions.  I actually joined another club because of this.  Most junior golfers were boys so I didn't fit in there either,  I tried and it's probably why I hit the ball a decent distance, but it's always awkward.  Luckily for me golf isn't a team sport so I spent hours on my own hitting balls or putting. I got very comfortable with being on my own.

4.Looking at your career finishes its fairly apparent that when you sniffed the lead you put the hammer down.  Is this some thing that is built in or learned?
This is a tough question,  I think the answer for me is both.  I have an aggressive nature and won't ever let up--I'm very determined--but I came close to winning before I finally won in Tucson.  The thing that changed for me was realizing that what I had was enough to win.  My game was good enough, I just needed to play my game--not force it--and don't think about the other competitors; realizing I had no control over anyone else just my own mental game.

5.Not sure many know your journey into professional golf.  Can you tell me a little about the beginning, specifically how a customer at a restaurant ended up sponsoring you?
My family are hard working but have never had any extra money to spend, so I worked.  I had a job from the age of 13 just so I could have a little money in my pocket to take to the course.  This didn't change as I got older.  When I left college after 3 years I went back to the U.K. and started working at a golf course behind the bar and waitressing in its restaurant.  I was trying to save up enough money to go to q school.  I had asked some wealthy friends if they would help me but they decided they wouldn't so I went about the task of saving.  Then one day I was waitressing and a group of 4 came in and sat at my table.  They were regulars and I always waited on them.  This day one of them, Keith Rawlings, asked why I hadn't turned pro.  He said he had seen my results in the local paper and thought that I should be giving it a go.  I said I was saving up the money to do just that..  When I was clearing their table, Keith said to me that he would like to give me the money to try and that if I wrote out a budget for everything I needed he would help.  I was floored so much so his wife had to back him up and say, "We mean it.  Please come to our office tomorrow and we will get the ball rolling."  Needless to say I wrote my budget and took it to Keith.  He said it looked good and he promised to help for 3 years just in case I didn't get my card the first time. He didn't want to put any pressure on me.  I got my card first time and Keith and Sue Rawlings were able to watch me win the Women's British Open.  To this day, and combined with my parents there, it was the highlight of my career and my proudest moment.

6.You get only one car to drive the rest of your life what brand and model are you picking?
I'm not fussy with cars I would like new with leather seats and quick off the mark…

7.Your house is burning down and you can only grab one thing to save (pets and kids are safe) what are you dragging out?
My purse, as it would have my driving license, credit card, and phone in. 

8.Biggest challenge of doing TV for a living?
Biggest challenge for me is doing Interviews.  As a former player your so used to answering them and not thinking about what to ask. Sometimes hard questions have to be asked and that's tough as I know what the player is thinking as Im asking them.  No player wants to be reminded of their mistakes.

9.Favorite course in the world? 
Sunningdale.  Winning the British Open there is a big part of it, but I love the design and beauty of the course.  It's always in great shape which I think most pros value more than the design.

10.Best player you have ever played with, male or female?
I have been lucky to play with the best in the women's game. Annika, Lorena, Yani, Beth Daniel, InBee, Lydia, Nancy Lopez, and Meg Mallon.  I've also played with Lake Nona pros.  It's hard to pin it down to one best player as they all played/play the game differently. My favorites to play with were Lorena and Meg.

11.Give me your thoughts on how the LPGA does the HOF compared to the PGA Tour?
There really is only one HOF now but the LPGA continues to keep its 27 point HOF club.  It's a tough one to get into because of the amount of points and the requirement to play 10 seasons on the tour.  1 point for a win, 1 for POY, 1 for Vare trophy, and 2 for a major.  Lorena Ochoa made the point requirement but not the 10 years. She retired early to start a family.  This would be the one bit I would change.  If your good enough to get the points then the speed you do it shouldn't matter.

12.What do you think would be the hardest thing to give up on right now in your life? (meaning something like coffee, smoking(not that you smoke), drinking, etc)
As much as I love coffee I still feel I could give it up.. I do have a soft spot for sweets but again i could give them up too.  

13.Give me a few songs that you have on your play list?
 I have quite the variety on my play list.  I have Deirks Bentley--Black (country), Sia--The Greatest (pop).  I also like dance music for work outs. me a few songs you have on your music list?  I have little clue about music so you may need to explain the type of music it is.

14.Whom did you admire the most when you were playing?
When I played I admired Annika because she didn't make any mistake but I really liked the way Meg Mallon went about her business.  She was always great to play with and gracious to the volunteers and spectators.  Today I admire the young players, Lexi, Lydia, and Brooke as they take the same principles I liked in Meg and are doing it at such a young age.

15.You win the 2004 British Open, was that out of the blue or at the time were you playing well and on the verge of something spectacular?  
When I won the British Open I was playing really well. I had already won in Tucson and had been fairly close in a few other event; in particular the week before in Evian. I finished 4th but I played in the last group on Sunday.  My confidence was high and I had a great game plan in place for Sunningdale. 

16.It is one of my goals to see if the ‘coaching/instruction’ part of golf can start to use LPGA players as examples for average golfers, as they have similar swing speeds and distances the ball travels.  I never have understood why a coach would tell a 12 handicapper ‘these are the numbers for Rory and these are your numbers.’  Not that LPGA players are less talented more their swing speeds, ball speeds, etc are similar.  I’m a scratch, and my trackman numbers line up closer to the top LPGA players.  How can I get this movement going?
In my opinion that's a hard one.  Most guys want to see how they stack up to the men. They don't want to be compared to women, it's almost like an insult to them. Most would equate being stronger to hitting it farther.  This isn't true--as you know.  I watched Brian Urlacher and Mark Mulder play in the Diamond Resorts Invitational.  I would bet Brian could bench more than Mark but Mark hit it miles further then Brian.  If you can relate it in these terms then you might have a chance.  I think the bigger the golf fan the more chance you have of showing them the stats and them understanding that the LPGA pros are not your average lady member.  They are athletic and get the most out of their games. 

17.Tell me something from behind the scenes at Golf Channel that us fans don’t see during a tournament broadcast that is a hard part of the job?  Because all we see is you getting to sit in the booth and talk golf which looks glamorous but I know it’s extremely hard and taxing work.
I wouldn't call it hard and taxing as I love my job and anytime you do something you love, it never seems like work.  I think the hardest part for me is being efficient with my words. You only get a short amount of time to say what you need to explain before the producer wants to move to another shot.  There is a bit of pressure when they are telling you to wrap in your ear while your trying to finish your thought.  when I'm on the ground as a walker calling tape shots, it's hard. I might be on the green looking at the players putts and the producer is just showing the shot to the green. You have to take your cues from the tower announcer and producer that will give you contact for the shot.  You have to keep in mind how the tower announcer sets the taped shot up, i.e. "A moment ago," means I can't pretend it's live. So have to call it like I know the outcome.  Other things to keep in mind when calling taped shots is I can't open my mic to call the taped shot if I am around gallery noise as it would be bad watching a shot for a player which is supposed to be quiet and then as I open my mic to talk the gallery claps.. it's basically being aware.

18.Summer or winter person?
I hate being cold so love the summer. At the same time I love snow.  I don't see it much so maybe that's why I'm fascinated by it

19.You can pick ONLY ONE place in the world to eat your last meal, where is it located and what are you ordering?
Sushi at our home on our boat dock over looking the lake.

20.Do you think now that you are ‘retired’ the rust will be so heavy that when we play the day after the Portland Classic this year that it will be a lay up for me to beat you?
The rust kicks in on day 2 for me... so as long as I don't play before our match I will be just fine... I'm in training for it now... absolutely no practice at all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Frank Nobilo

Below you will find a fantastic Q&A with Frank Nobilo.  Frank comes out of New Zealand.  I didn't have the guts to ask him any sheep questions, I did throw many questions at him.  Depending on your age you either know Frank as a golf channel announcer or a former world class player who was derailed by injury and now is a world class commentator.  Frank goes into great detail on some of his answers, which in my opinion is fantastic.  I love asking questions and enjoy even more detailed responses.  The Pirate, his given nickname on Tour, could golf his ball during his playing days.  He was truly a world class player as he played all over the world.  Frank won 15 times during his professional career, and won 2 major amateur tournaments.  Personally I enjoy listening to him on the Golf Channel. He is knowledgable, prepared, experienced, and not afraid to let Brandel know he's wrong.  Plus the watches he wears are pretty sweet.  The time and effort Frank spent answers the questions from a helmet like me tells me a lot about how sincere a person he is.  Ok, enough with the brown nosing, lets dive into the Q&A.

Who introduced you to the game of golf?

My parents had a beach house at Piha Beach in New Zealand and there were a few old golf clubs left in there when they bought it. I would occasionally take the clubs out and hit along the iron sand beach, but I didn't play my first round of golf until I was 13.  My two best friends at the time, Chris Treen and Mark Lewis were my partners in crime that day. The course was Chamberlain Park, a public venue that had supposedly hosted Nicklaus and Palmer in the 60's.  Chris's parents had got him into golf early on so he was well versed in the game I on the other hand was playing every other sport except Golf. Mark, younger brother of Chris Lewis was on his way to following his older brother’s career in tennis. We ran out of daylight that first day, (people played slowly in those days as well!) but I do remember shooting 101 for 15 holes. It was more than enough to wet my appetite and make me want to play again.

How old where you when you decided you wanted to play golf professionally for a living?

My parents divorced when I was 17. By the time I was 16 I had quickly got down to scratch, engrossed in the game part distraction and part lifeline. While the game ticked so many boxes the thought of turning professional didn't happen until the following year. I played my first New Zealand amateur in 1978. The week was like a dream and I won the 36 hole final 10 and 8 over a very experienced Peter Maude on May 14th, my 18th birthday . The Eisenhower was also in 1978 and getting picked to represent New Zealand was an opportunity to see the best amateurs in the world and it was after that when I knew Professional Golf was where I wanted to be. 

What’s a few differences about Australia and New Zealand, both in the culture and the people?

While New Zealand and Australia sit so far out in the Pacific there are commonalities that we aren't necessarily proud of. Upon meeting an Antipodean for the first time, that chip on the shoulder mentality that both countries have can easily be taken the wrong way but once you see past that, most of what you hear really is water off a duck’s back .... Quintessential laid back. Growing up a Kiwi so close to that large continent Australia, it was hard not to be envious of how prolific they were in so many different sports. Golf was no exception, playing in the Australasian junior series I got to see first-hand their fabulous courses and wealth of talent. But it didn't take long to realize that their open-door policy aided my own development and I’ve lost count of the number of times one of those "across the pond brethren" came to my defense. 

Tell me something about Frank Nobilo that maybe us golf nerds don’t know? (can be anything, not necessarily golf related)

Personal Trivia:  None of my family had ever picked up a golf club prior to me playing golf; My first ever golf coach was a woman ... Gillian Bannan.  Every now and again I would go for a lesson and I would leave with a book on golf course architecture ... she believed in educating the mind; Love taking things apart to see how they work. It often backfires and we would finish up having to buy a new one. My wife takes it in her stride now, it used to drive her crazy but as I have managed to fix the odd thing my stock has gone up. I build my own desktop computers ... I call them rocket ships; Love photography, Motor Racing and Tennis. Because golf was a winter game in New Zealand I only ever got to see the All Blacks (Greatest Rugby team on the Planet) play live once and that was at Twickenham of all places ... even that's a long story.

Do you read a lot?  If so fiction, non-fiction?  Favorite subject?

I start each year about 20 books behind. I'm a great reader of chapters, not necessarily the whole book ... consequently most of what I read is nonfiction. As a kid growing up my library card was like gold dust. As I moved from sport to sport I would get out every book I could on the subject. Golf with all its changes in eras, technology and equipment is perfect for the inquisitive mind. I’ve lost count of the times I've picked up a book to just read about one particular part of the swing or for example, why Jack Nicklaus never grounded his club at address.

Who if anyone mentored you early in your professional golf career?

Mentorship in golf or life is essential. Coaches; Three will always stand out. Gillian Bannan my first, Alex Mercer (who coached Elkington as a junior) was very instrumental in my decision to turn pro at 19 and Denis Pugh who I played my best golf under.  Player mentors are equally important. Terry Kendall who was a marvelous striker of the ball, allowed me to play practice rounds with him when I was still a wet nosed amateur schooling me by example. When you see a ball struck properly it stays in your mind forever. The Australian Billy Dunk held more course records than anybody at one stage. But the little man from Gosford was huge in my books, organizing practice rounds with the Thompsons and Nagles of the world so I could be in the company of men who knew how to get the job done. My tenure in Europe was aided by South African John Bland who provided a gateway to that other Rugby loving nation and laughter along the way. A book on John Bland would rival that great book on tennis in the 60's "Handful of Summers" by Gordon Forbes.

Is Johnny Miller misunderstood?  He seems to get a bad rap amongst the players, but I loved listening to him.

Three players I admired growing up … heroes in fact, were Nicklaus, Weiskopf and Miller. The ‘75 Masters probably had a lot to do with it. I got to play with Nicklaus and Weiskopf but never Miller … but I can say I worked with him as a broadcaster. In his TV role he is a pioneer, not unlike a Longhurst. Colour commentators I believe fit in one of three categories: those that talk about what they have just seen (past) those that talk about what is happening (present) and the crystal ballers (future).  Two sports that I am very familiar with - Rugby and Cricket had their Bill McClarens and Richie Benauds to set the standard. There are many that have tried to go down the Longhurst route, the most successful being the genius in Peter Allis but as far as American Colour commentary Johnny Miller with his crystal ball, set the benchmark. His love for the swing and distinct belief in the way in which the game should be played always rings loud in his work.  Descriptive with his words .... “Powder burn” while describing a bunker shot is a nice departure from our stat driven world. In my snapshot of Johnny’s world, three things come to mind 1) there is no deliberate malice in his announcing,2) there is no attempt to play a role to strike a nerve and 3) honest .... forever a pioneer.

The prep work that goes into ‘Live From’ always amazes me.  You must have a tireless team behind the scenes.  Do the analysis like yourself ask someone to provide stats on certain topics/players or are you pulling all that information out yourself?  I imagine Justin Ray plays some role?

My first year at the Golf Channel was 2004 which coincided with the birth of "Live From". The show has grown in leaps and bounds over the last dozen years and evolved to quickly mirror the game with its new band of players and ever changing technology. What was originally an opinion based TV show is now a slick, stat driven Sport show that just as often starts the narrative as reports it.  While the show is formatted with a rundown, akin to a roadmap designed to get you from a to b, but I assure you the show is not scripted, which explains why at times it appears we are arguing a nuclear treaty. With that comes the constant chaos of trying to prepare for each and every show during a Major Championship week ... probably something similar to childbirth in the hope that pain will produce joy. What the viewer doesn't see is the "money ball" approach by many of our statisticians, the Reed Burtons, Gil Capps and Justin Rays of our team come to mind.  They always seem to find the right coordinates for our search. All of that is put into play by Chyron operators (those whose typing makes it straight to the screen) or weaved into the narrative of those you see in your living room. That orchestra is constantly conducted by producers like Matt Hegarty or Ben Daughn who are barking in our ear to stay on point. In a dozen years that show has never lacked passion from all who work on it. 

    Did Chambers Bay get a bad rap?

The US Open for me was always golf’s toughest test. Over the last decade there has been a push away from that and the introduction of ultra-modern and often untried venues. If you are a believer in climate change then you have to champion the USGA in adopting a browner Pinehurst number two and their endeavors to highlight the issue at Chambers Bay along with fescue fairway and green with virtually no delineation. If they had stopped there, Chambers Bay might have escaped with more of its virtue intact with focus being more on the beautiful vistas but the changeable par concept on 1 and 18 added in with the 90 degree different tees for the par 3, 9th was always going to draw attention. I voiced my opinion early on in my "Tee to Greens" that 18 was designed as a par 5 echoed by eventual champion Jordan Spieth on Saturday. Every now and again we need reminding that golf is and will always be a conservative game.

You can pick only one car to drive the rest of your life, what brand and model are you going with? 

My favourite car was, and will always be, a Ferrari 348TB. I wish I never sold it. Those things are a work of art with a sound to match. I was Living in London in the early 90's far from the era of Austin Powers but certainly a fun time, lots of good memories. Back to car, the colour you ask? Red ... it's a Ferrari.

You played in 27 majors and made the cut 21 times, that is very impressive.  What, if any, was your most memorable?
‘94 US Open. They didn't use the Top 50 WR in those days so it was tough to get in the American majors. The 94 US Open was my first US Open and I got to play in the final group on Sunday with a good friend in Ernie Els. Earlier in the week Arnold Palmer played in the group in front for the first 2 rounds with Rocco Mediate and John Mahaffey and bid farewell at his beloved Oakmont. As I have referenced more than once in my current job watching him in the media center was a great lesson, he made it ok for men to cry. A lot happened that week.

    In your opinion, out of all the athletes (not necessarily just golfers) you’ve seen,
    who is the greatest?

     Athlete and Golfer were rarely synonymous. Gary Player might have started the trend,          Greg Norman pushed it but Tiger Woods actually changed the Golfing Gym culture and        now it’s a case of which players don’t go to the gym. The modern day professional                Golfer has garnered a lot more respect from athletes of other sports because of the              change in our culture. Sports are so specific these day but a few athletes still stand taller,      Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are simply incredible.

     Frank, you are the great grandson of an Italian Pirate!!! Are you kidding me?  Any        stories from Grandma or Grandpa about Great Grandpa?

Both sets of my Grandparents hailed from what was then Yugoslavia. Sunday lunches were spent trying to decipher what they were talking about as neither my sister or I could speak the language so it was tough to ask where we came from. My Dad tried to track the lineage on his side and he was the one that came up with the story of Pirates from southern Italy with their unique way of making a living and then eventually settling in Yugoslavia. Part of me thinks it's not true as I am horrible in boats, seasick all the time. As for the nickname it was Steve Elkington that first called me the Pirate.

     Toughest TV moment for you thus far in your television career?

Passing of Seve. I got my US citizenship on the Friday before he died. (I now possess both a US and NZ passport) my wife and I were going to celebrate over lunch. She had my cellphone during the ceremony and was the first to see the message that I had to go into the studio asap. That show was more of a blurr, trying desperately to find the validity of the information and how much time he had left. When I finally left the studio that night it had come to light that it was simply a matter of hours or minutes.. The news came quickly in the morning and when I went back the studio day the goal of the show was two fold,  deliver the news and secondly talk about Seve’s impact on the game. It's the most professional I have ever been on the set trying to tell the story of the man I knew. There are two ways off the Golf Central set the main way and a side corridor. The others veered out the main route and I went the side route to be met by the then head of studio shows Joe Riley, a big 6 ft 5 plus of a man who was there waiting for me. He gave me hug and I burst into tears. Some people know you more than you know yourself.

    Most underrated player of your generation?

I'm going finagle this one because I actually played with him. No question, Billy Casper. Prolific winner at all levels and for those that are lovers of the 50's 60’s and 70's check his record against Nicklaus, Palmer and Co.. Then when you are done with that check his Ryder Cup record. Those that say he could only putt never saw him hit a shot. Wonderful player.
You get one last meal what are you going to order?
Penne Arabiatta with shrimp. But it has to be from Angelos in Little Italy New York.

Do you have to have playing experience at the highest level to be a golf announcer?

There is a reason why a Faldo or a Miller sits in the main chair at the biggest events. Their experience is invaluable and often a conversation starter. Fortunately there are many TV platforms, studio shows and live golf are vastly different and if Golf keeps its current niche there is still a career to be had for those with a golfing knowledge and quick to learn it is not just limited to those on golfs Mount Rushmore. Things could change with the tail end of this generation purely because the amount of money available to the very best resulting in less need or desire to develop a second career as a broadcaster.
    Funniest professional golfer you have known?
Richard Boxall. The name should ring a bell - famous for breaking his leg on his tee shot on the 9th hole on Saturday of the 1991 Open Championship while playing with Monty and he was in contention. He was to go on to say " the lengths you go to not have to play with Monty". Baker Finch went on to win that Open but the sound of Richard’s leg was nearly as memorable. Boxall has that classic British comedic delivery that comes out whether you are about to hit a 3 iron across water with a strong left to right breeze onto a pimple for a green or stuck in Geneva airport waiting for a flight home. Boxall took no prisoners and yet still made himself the brunt of the joke so no harm was ever done. He now works for Sky TV. (side note by Paul: I must meet Boxall)

When you were playing what were your strengths and weaknesses?

I've always enjoyed hitting mid irons; 4 iron through to 7 and I think that became the best part of my game. A mid iron was that perfect blend of ball then turf contact. Wasn't ripping divots out with a short iron or sweeping of a long iron it was just right...sweet. I holed out well and in my mi-thirties just before I got diagnosed with inflammatory poly-arthritis I learnt to be "my best friend on the course”

Does the lifestyle of a worldwide golf announcer ever get old or since you’ve done it your entire professional career are you used to it?

Oh it can grate on you. Puts a lot of pressure on the people close to you. Consequently I fluctuated between nomad and hermitover the years but never tourist. Two thirds of my life have been on the road. The first 23 years of my travels I chased a little white ball around the globe and the first fifteen of those flew by, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do ... play golf.  Now going on 14 years I’ve chased the people chasing the little white ball around the globe. Long may it continue.