1/29/2008

Just for Schaubs, NO POKER TODAY ....

I was well…. ‘A golfer’ back in the day. I’d thought competing for an O.G.A. championship at the age of 28 in front of a crowd of maybe 150 friends and family of the last 8 golfers remaining, was just about the toughest thing I’d ever have to do related to the sport of Golf. Little did I know!

The company I’d worked for at the time was a sister company of a major Import Automobile manufacturer in Marysville and East Liberty, Ohio. In my position, I spent an awful lot of time down in Ohio. Sometimes, 3 weeks out of 5. When it was summer in Ohio, there was only one place for me, Dublin. Central to both factories and a Golf Mecca for any time off I managed to finagle.

I was told about a special event that anyone with enough cash could take place in. Jack’s Memorial Tournament had a Pro-Am that would allow bidders to get involved in an auction, in order to gain entry into it. I was the first person in line and got bidder #3 to go to battle with. (#1 and #2 go to V.I.P.’s every year) The first golfer up, Jack himself! The idea is to set the bar for the charity involved. Great thinking on someone’s part. The bidding was incredible and I figured right then and there, that there was no way I was going to get in. Then came a miracle.

The golfer up for auction was a little known American pro that was probably shorter in height, than he was in recognition. Despite his lack of stature on “the Tour,” his sense of humanity and humour up on that stage, intrigued me in a way that no one else to that point had. The bidding was at an all time low $100. Since the man had my attention and I was prepared to bid up to $600 to play in the event, I bid $250 to shake off any suspects trying to get in free. I took it down. Someone told me that I could have gotten “that guy” for a whole lot less. I didn’t give a shit! I had never heard of him, but I knew I liked the man. I was about to be, Jeff Sluman’s “amateur.” We had a lot of laughs that night, as it seemed that he really appreciated my bumped up bid. I had his word that he’d try his best to win the whole “shebang.” I was willing to work with that. We called ourselves, “Team RESPECTLESS.”

Practice in the morning was beyond incredible. Putting on a Muirfield practice green was a great experience. Having Jack Nicholas line up and read a putt for you, no words can describe it. Having the one golfer you’ve always admired stand beside you and make the same putt with you several times, un-fucking-believable. I made six of ten… He made two. “Maybe I need you to teach me a thing or two.” Is how he made his departure from the green. I was speechless. Absoloutely and un-equivocally speechless.

“Lil’ Slu,” mentioned that we should, “check out your(my) swing.” So we headed off to the range. I’ve never been a big nailin’ Drivers at the range kind of golfer. I totally prefer to hit a few wedges to a few targets closer to the tee. Then I’ll work may way through the bag up to the woods. Once I have a small feel for how I’m hitting them, I’ll pick 6 target lines for the big stick. If I ain’t hitting those 6 shots right then and there, I have no business bringing out the weapon of mass destruction in a pressure situation. That day, I hit all six. I also called my shots to Slu before I did so. “This is going to be a lot of fun Bam!” he said shortly after. Slu stuck 8 in a row within 2’ of the 100 YD shot. “Damn right,” I said. As I backed up to watch Slu’s last wedge to the green, I ran into someone and apologized for not paying attention. “You again!” was the response. Followed by a manly handshake, as he took my arm and guided my hand into his. “No problem Mr. Canadian. Great accent and some great shots you hit there. Love your practice routine bud. Look’s like you got a live one there Slu. Guess we’re gunning for you today. Glad we’re right behind you. I can keep an eye on you two from there.”

“Don’t let him get to you. He’s sincere with his compliments and a hell of a nice guy.” Said Slu. “He’s one of my three heroes,” was what came out of my mouth. Slu stared at me for a second or two and asked, “who else?” “Dale Earnhardt and Paul Molitor.” I replied. “Holy shit! That’s some damn fine selections man.” He said.

Standing on the first tee and looking at the shot required is a daunting task in itself. Doing it with about 500 people lining the tee-blocks, is something else all together. I felt the presence immediately. It might have been the incredible amount of cheering and clapping that had started to make a thunderous noise at the time, or it could have been the fact that I’d grown accustomed to his presence from our earlier encounters. I just knew he was there. With his hand on my shoulders and using a calming and firm but comforting voice, “right down the middle like you did on the practice range. Make me beat you today Canadian.” Was the advice I’d heard. I lined up, caught my breathe and fired one of the best drives of my life straight down the center. A 5 to 6 yard draw that ran and ran. “Cripes man, I was only kidding!” came from behind me, as I started to walk off the tee.
Slu and I finished a respectable 2nd. that day. Had I not had a moment on the 13th. green that cost us a team birdie, at the same time that Slu had issues getting up and down, we could have at least tied for the win. One bad stroke each and on the same hole, it happens.

I walked into a little franchise-like place called Damon’s in Dublin. I immediately noticed the guy at the table in the bar area. It was him. I didn’t take advantage of my time with him when I had the chance earlier. Damn if I’m going to waste this opportunity now. “Mr. Stewart? I was wondering if you’d allow me to buy you a beer for everything I’ve ever enjoyed watching you do? I asked. With a devil’ish and quite humourous grin in his smile and eyes, he responded with this little gem. “Let me get this straight Mr. Canadian. You kicked my ass on the course, the range and the practice green…. And now you want to buy a millionaire a beer? Is that right?

We sat for hours discussing anything but golf, politics, religion or money. We were joined by his good friend Peter Jacobson. It was a drink, turned to a dinner, turned to a night out with the boys. Payne and Peter signed well over 500 autographs each and posed for no less than 100 photo’s with fans. (I’m in at least 75 of those!) It was a display of sportsmanship and professionalism that I will never forget. They gave of their time freely and not once, for even a second, did they appear the slightest bit upset at someone asking for piece of their time. I asked Payne if it ever got tiring or annoying. He said, “I’m the luckiest man in the world. Someone out there cares who I am. How can I get pissed about that? Why would I?”

I had an early morning planned and needed to make my way to the hotel. I planned to walk because heading over there, I already knew alcohol would be a factor. When you travel as much as I do, it happens on a regular basis. The hotel was a short 4 minute walk. I said my good-byes and thank you’s and left with one final, comment. “I took a great picture of you today Payne. It was as you were watching that shot you hit to 6” from about 119 YDS away on #12. I had Black & White film in the camera when I heard you’d be in the group behind me. I like the Classic look and that’s how I see you. A Classic.”

As I approached the hotel entrance, there was a figure sitting on the bench just outside. It was Payne. He typically stayed with The Bueter’s while in Columbus for the Memorial. That night, he created a “pass” to stay with me until I’d had enough. Sitting there with a six-pack and a smile or two, it became 3:00am in a hurry. I’d been in the presence of a master of humanity. A master of humanity with a swing as smooth a silk. The golf didn’t matter though. The man did.

I love my golf. It just hasn’t been the same since he passed.

That picture still graces the wall right in front of me now. There’s several others around the room as well. They serve to remind me of what a special time I had with a true professional and gentleman of the game. I don’t really need reminders, but they bring on the feelings more frequently as I age and require a little help.

Today’s golfers would do well to follow in Payne’s footsteps as they go along. Having a charity tournament and still taking first place cash, is a far cry from donating 100% of your 1st. place cheque to charity on not only your first professional win, but several others afterwards. Yelling at a kid, dressed in all of your Nike souvenir garb as he tells you what a great shot he thinks you just hit, is a far cry from signing over 2,300 autographs after your second U.S.Open Championship win.

I’m a golfer, I’ve got nothing against Tiger. The man has mad skills with a club and ball for certain. Probably the best pure golfer there ever has been as judged by results, swing and championship titles. No doubt about it. History could start to consider him “un-touchable” as far as someone coming along to dethrone him. But didn’t they say that about Jack, and Arnie before him. Oh… then there was Hogan, Nelson, Sneed and others before them.

But as for the total package, Tiger is a mere shadow of those that came before him. A weapon created by his Father to succeed. Nothing more but many, many things less. A media dream that needs that same media to turn off the microphones and tape delay his reactions to certain activities due to his so called “personality.” I’m not a hypocrite; I know Payne had his moments early in his career. But they were seriously short lived. He was, (as explained to me that night) confused between the difference of any attention and some deserving attention. A man’s statement, if I’d ever heard one.

IMHO... That beats the hell out of, “You! Get him kicked out. The little fucker said something in my swing.”


My sincerest thanks for stopping by….

15 comments:

Schaubs said...

Awesome stuff. That's like flopping a Royal...

It makes much more sense now that you tell your story this way. Tiger who?

I have never had any experiences even close to what you have told here.

I do feel like you are a bit biased, but that is natural considering the number of beers you pounded with those guys and the great memories you have because of that special day.

Unbelievable really, you are a very lucky guy to have had the chance to meet such a class act.

Well written, well said.

Maybe one day, I'll meet one of my heros...

Was the guy on the range Jack or Payne?


The one record that I think will never be broken is Nelson's 11 wins in a row and 18 in one year... nuts!

Schaubs said...

Also... I HIGHLY doubt that Tiger called someone a "little fucker"... that just does not sound like him at all.

This is hearsay at best... unless you were there?

Tiger does have a personality for sure, but he is like a little kid.

Payne never had to grow up with the scrutiny that Tiger does. I wonder if things would have been different if Payne had to grow up without friends his own age.

Tiger's dad played that role too don't forget...

http://community.foxsports.com/blogs/kenrickthomas12/2007/11/10/Tiger_Woods_Looks_In_The_Past_Racial_and_Hard_Lifestyle

BamBam said...

Thanks Schaubs, for making me think hard about some great times.

1) The guy at the range was Payne.

2) 2000 US Open at Pebble beach. "Little Fucker," and the rant on 18, (I think?) after driving one into the Ocean were both caught on tape.

Finchem made him issue a formal apology for both. Tiger chose only to mention the bad shot.
The kid was given a lifetime exemption to any PGA event he ever wanted to attend.

Since that day you may have noticed something a little different when Tigers on the tee.
A lot less volume from the Tee itself, and a lot of "noise" in the background. They originally decided to turn the mic's off completely. This drew a lot of attention and bad press. They came up with the "noise" as a means to stifle what ever might come out.

Also just so you know. The NBC tapes mysteriously dissapeared just days later. DAYS ! Now whoever did that, had to have had a whole whack of money for sure.

Schaubs said...

Sounds like a conspiracy theory in the making!

Tiger called a kid "little fucker" when he had a 15 shot lead heading down 18?

This must not have been the final round...

I wonder if the kid is taking advantage of that deal, that is awesome!

I might just go and heckle Tiger so I can get me some of that...

RaisingCayne said...

Nice post Bam Bam... great story!

Few ever have the opportunity to even meet their heroes! Havin' a night out with one is a very special experience indeed. Glad you shared!

And here I was thinking just shakin' the hand of my hero, (the deity-like Ken Griffey Jr.,) was a big deal!

BamBam said...

LOL Schaubs.. conspiracy? I don't think so. He's the media's Lady Di and JFK all wrapped up in one Cal Ripkin like athlete. Nothing the man will ever do, will go un-noticed. But un-published? It all depends on the story and how it's written.

This guy got his ass ripped for this story. And if you read the whole thing, he was on Tiger's side.

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 18, 2000
-----------------------------------

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- If you want to find fault with Tiger Woods these days, you have to be mighty persnickety. Here's an example: When he hit his tee shot into the Pacific Ocean on Saturday morning, a nation of early-rising golf fans got an earful of profanity.

Tiger's tirade was rapid-fire, picked up by a microphone, and left no doubt about his state at that moment.

-----------------------------------

And thanks R.C.! It was pretty special. I've been fortunate enough to meet all three of mine. I met Dale in Martinsville when I stuck my hand out to shake Danny "Chocolate" Myers hand in the pits. He laughed and said that no one ever wanted to meet him before. I took that as a sign we could chat and the next thing you know, he's taking me to meet Dale Sr.
Dale was an impressive human. His presence was like no other I know of. You could actually feel the admiration, love, respect or hate coming off of those around him. He brought more out of a person than anyone else I can think of. To be a part of it for a couple of hours was euphoric and drug like.

I threw a pretzel, (one of those giant ones) at Jim Gantner at County Stadium in 19... well, a long fuckin' time ago 'cause right now I'm fairly sure you're trying to figure out who Jim Gantner is.
He was coming off the field in the first inning and looked right at me and said, "man that looks good." I asked if he wanted one as a joke, but he said "sure." So I launched one at him. (heh)
Paul Molitor saw the whole thing and we had a bunch of laughs about it during breaks between innings.
At the end of the game, he came over and sat in the seat beside me and told me all about hitting.
I didn't learn squat from it because I was amazed at how many autographs he signed that day. When there was no one left in line to sign for, we talked life, Wisconsin vs Ontario and a little about beer.

mookie said...

Awesome story man!

TenMile said...

Cared for the observations very much.

Must say your upspoken obervations into your own personality were just as interesting.

KajaPoker said...

I miss my gold so much. Great story Bam. The closest I ever got to something like this was when I shanked one into a tree next to the tee and it ricocheted right back into my crotch and gave me a little pain in my "stewart".

Uncle Bracelet said...

Enjoyed the hell out of that, Bam!

Schaubs said...

Ironically, it would have been Payne's 51st birthday today...

I just got chills...

Another post in your honor sir.

Instant Tragedy said...

What a great story.

The way you wrote it grabbed me and I couldn't help but keep reading.

Wow.

Sometimes are heroes are heroes and sometimes are heroes are men.

I'm glad you met your hero and he was everything you imagined and more.

IT

23skidoo said...

Nice Story Bam! Thanks for sharing.

Corron said...

Awesome read! He was great. Its a sin that he left this world so suddenly.

Drizztdj said...

Glad my 30 handicap ass loves golf even if I can't play it :)

Great read man.