3rd September,2014

Me and My old golf playing friend.....

~~I never really imagined how good things could be trying to get my professional playing tour card. Now is the magic mark that separates a Senior PGA Tour player from a PGA Tour player. That's what I really want to talk about and of course about my old golf playing buddy.Couple weeks ago we talked on Skype because of the time differences we don’t get to talk a lot lately, the conversation started with;
“Demi, there is so much money out here, all you got to do is pick it up”, says my friend who plays on the tour. When I came out on this tour he said; “its money just lying all over the ground.You just have to pick it up. Demi, you won't have any trouble.”
For my friend, there is no more scratching out a living on the regular tour. No more hustling for a buck here and there, on the course, at the racetrack, in the casino, no more asking a friend for a loan now and then, just to keep going. After being an also-ran for so many years, he is near the head of the pack now. "For too many years I was out there just smelling the roses Demi". "I'm sick of roses. Now, all I want to do is win."
Win, he has. Through his first three Senior Tour seasons, my friend, has won four tournaments and more than three million USD, more than four times as much as he won on the professional tours in all his career.
That success should come to such an affable man seems only fitting. Born in Brisbane my friend doesn't come from a heralded amateur background, wasn't a college wunderkind, didn't have a guru and an entourage to guide his every move and take care of the details. Let's just say that the difference between Tiger Wood's upbringing and him is a country mile,his road to success wasn't paved with gold. Sometimes it wasn't paved at all.His father didn't shepherd him around the country to play with PGA Tour players like Tiger Woods' father, Earl, did. He didn't have a swing guru like Butch Harmon, a management team like IMG, a top caddie like Steve "Kiwi" Williams, a private jet.
My friend management team from the outset of his career has been his wife Kathy, and assorted friends. And his road, traveled in old cars, buses and trains, took him not to the U.S. Open or the NCAA Championship or the Walker Cup. It led him to Golden State Tour in Rancho Park Golf Course in Los Angeles, to East Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., to unremembered municipal courses across United States and Asia where we have met and both played.
That's what professional golf was for him and me.There wasn't much money to be made playing professional tournaments golf for players like us. The Golden State Tour or the Asian tour at that time didn't pay much money. We had to gamble some at the tournaments to make any real money. We have never been afraid to play anyone for money, and I think that's helped us get to where we both are today.We always played even after our professional playing carrers was over with owners of golf courses around US, Asia and Australia, hard games for sure (none of these owner’s had less than 12 playing handicaps).I played them for 2,000 to 4,000 dollars in one single game and sometimes for 500 dollars per hole.
Before you're old and wise, you have to be young and reckless.We used to play for silver,now we play for life.We were never afraid to play for money, but there have been some dicey moments. I once played this guy and he had a putt to tie me on the last hole and missed. He went over to his bag and got out the money to pay me off. Then he went back to his bag, got out a gun, and went over to his ball and shot it. Pow! Just like that. We used to play matches against a lot of guys who carried guns. It got so it didn't bother us. But you talk about pressure.
The hustling life was a living for us, and there were times it was pretty good .My friend reminded me the time in the mid-'80s when I was backed by two men against another player with more than 20,000 USD on the line. If I won, I got a third of the money. And I did win. Now, with more cash than I had ever seen, I had to figure out what to do with the money.My manager said “buy a house” and rent it.That is how my real estate rental properties company start it.
Going back to my friend who is on the Senior PGA tour now, his wife Kathy is the reason that he has a golf professional career. He won his playing PGA card back in 1978, and set out to play among the best. For a brief time, he was among the best. He won three tournaments in 1985—86, his first coming at the Ansett Airlines in 1985 when he played with me in the last day of tournament , and beat me.He had the tournament in his hands with a lead of 3 shots over me, as we approached the 18th green, we were walking together, but I stopped and said: "This walk is for you my friend." It was fantastic feel for me that he did close the deal and it was his first win.
Though he would go on to win twice more, my friend career was stunted by injuries. His outside-inside loopy swing with his flailing helicopter follow-through had taken a toll on his body. Surgery on a thumb and lots of rest for an ailing back took energy from his body and sharpness from his game.
It would be a mistake, however, to believe that he felled into despair over the shortcomings of his game. If he let himself down on the course, he could often pick himself up again at a racetrack or casino. Gambling wasn't just a matter of necessity for him. He swears his gambling was never addictive, that it was for pleasure and relaxation. He had a string of racing horses for a while until he got me to buy a racing horse as well. I did buy a Sydney based race horse named “Major Edition”.After 12 months I looked at the veterinarian's bills and sold him back immediately.
I don't think the horses and the gambling were an addiction for my friend.It was just something he loved to do. Ultimately, it was something that proved to be beneficial for him. It set him apart. He foundered, only making the top 125 exempt list twice. He was lost. I don't think there was another golfer who missed more cuts by one shot than him. He could go play the toughest course you ever saw and shoot 65, but he couldn't take that game to a tournament with him. I think he was looking forward to the Senior Tour too soon.
His game soured enough that when it came time for the Senior Tour, he wasn't exempt by a position in the top 32,some situation that I find myself today. To be fully qualified we have to go back to qualifying school, the “graveyard” as we call it in professional golf. But we had played golf against men with guns in their bags in the mid ‘80. We had played golf with no money in the bank. And we had played golf against all these tour-school prospects, beating them most of the time. Beat them this one more time, he figured, and he would enter Heaven. He beat them, and the Pearly Gates opened.He said; “I knew if I could make it out of the qualifying school with a player card Demi, no one could stop me from making a million dollars”. His game is much better now than it was back then in the ’80 and early ‘90. He works a lot harder on his game now. He hits golf balls or putts instead of going to a casino or a horse race track. Not all the time. He still likes to have fun, but there's no doubt he is working a lot harder. He wants to make sure that in three or four years his family is in a position that he doesn't have to do this anymore if he doesn't want to. His wife Kathy takes care of the money and he should be able to walk away. He gives her so much credit for what he has been able to do. He dedicates his Senior Tour career to her. I will dedicate my last few years of professional golf to my wife Lily.
Now when the “money train” pulled into the station, my friend jumped right into the first-class seats which I hope to join next year. There is plenty of money coming in, plenty of fun to be had. There are outings with the boys, tournaments like the Montecristo Cup. There are new cars, there is respect among our fellow professionals, even if we can occasionally frustrate our best of friends.
I remember a story and I can say that my friend is the most unreliable person in the world when it comes to doing things, for example when we were playing in Asia 25 years ago, we  decided to fly to Bangkok for some action. He drove all of us in his car to the airport. We had like an 11 o'clock flight back the next day. I went down to check out at 9 o’clock and they told me that my friend had already left. He had flown back and never said a word about it. I had to find a ride from the airport to the golf course.He still laughs about it today, but he's a hell of a guy, a real man's man you might say. You've got to respect him for what he has been able to do in the last few years on the golf courses around the world.
The sun is shining, he's on the practice range of the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, site of the US Open. It's pro-am day and next to him is a lady amateur with a smooth swing.I am sure he would say to her; "You gonna beat your pro, honey?,". "You gonna beat him?." And the bet is on.Now, why would I want to win anything other than a beautiful game, played with my old buddy? Mate, can it be any better? This story is for you.See you soon on the tee, just like the old days.
 

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