SENIOR PGA TOUR MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 16, 2002
JEFF ADAMS: Good morning, I am Jeff Adams, Director of Public Relations for the SENIOR PGA TOUR. I'm joined her in Ponte Vedra Beach by SENIOR TOUR Media Official, Phil Stanbaugh. Also joining us on the line from California is Toby Zwikel of Brener, Zwikel & Associates.
Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming Ben Crenshaw to the SENIOR TOUR via media teleconference and this week it gives us great pleasure to welcome Fuzzy Zoeller.
We're excited he's about to join the SENIOR TOUR very, very excited about that.
Having turned 50 last November 11th Fuzzy makes his 2002 SENIOR TOUR debut at next week SENIOR Skins game at Waialae Golf Resort on Maui in Hawaii. The following week will play in his first full-field SENIOR TOUR event the Royal Caribbean Classic in Miami where we'll complete the February Florida swing playing the ACE Group Classic in Naples and Verizon Classic in Tampa. His early season schedule also calls for him to play the SENIOR TOUR's three California events in March; those being the SBC Senior Classic in L.A.; the Toshiba Senior Classic in Orange County and the Siebel Classic in Silicon Valley.
Just a reminder, the SENIOR TOUR season officially gets underway in two days at the MasterCard Championship on the big island of Hawaii. It kicks off an exciting year for the SENIOR TOUR with Ben, Fuzzy, Tom Purtzer, Wayne Levy making debuts; we've got the testing of the new SENIOR TOUR initiatives; the second year of the Charles Schwab Cup and a whole lot more in store.
A few announcements before we get started, the audio of this teleconference is airing live on pgatour.com. I would ask you to please identify yourself by name and affiliation. A full-text transcript will be emailed to you about two hours after the completion of the call. Likewise pgatour.com will archive the audio version.
Fuzzy's joining us from Naples, Florida where I understand he's hard at work at his golf game.
Good morning, Fuzzy, and welcome.
FUZZY ZOELLER: Good morning, how's everything?
JEFF ADAMS: Everything is good. How is your weather down there?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Today is absolutely spectacular, about 75 degrees and clear blue skies.
JEFF ADAMS: I will pose the first question then open it up to general questions. You are playing with Arnold Jack and Hale in the Senior Skins next weekend; then head to Miami to rendezvous with many of your friends from the PGA TOUR days for the first time as a member of the SENIOR TOUR. What are your general thoughts about these first two ventures out on to the SENIOR TOUR.
FUZZY ZOELLER: A lot of miles in between swings, I will tell you.
No, I am looking forward to it. Jeff, I will be very honest with you, it is a great honor to go over to play in the Skins game. I had pretty good luck with it in the early '80s, so the Skins game is something I am looking forward to. Playing with Jack and Arnold and Hale, you know, three classic individuals.
JEFF ADAMS: Then the next week you kick it off at the Royal Caribbean, your first full-field SENIOR TOUR event.
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, I think I am going to have to fight my caddie for the cart. That's the only problem I see with that, but it's going to be a little bit different, again here the greens have been very kind to me, telling me where to stay already. I feel like a rookie again, that's the great thing.
JEFF ADAMS: We're excited to have you joining us as a rookie. Let's open it up to questions.
Q. Talk about coming out onto the SENIOR TOUR as a rookie and, you know, it's been a while since you have won a tournament. Just talk about what you feel about your game and about maybe possible winning again. How is the health and the game right now?
FUZZY ZOELLER: (Laughs) Thanks, I am glad you brought that up, about not winning in a while.
I am winning everyday I get out there and play the game of golf. That's the key to it is enjoying the game. Everybody likes to be in the winners' circle but I guess if you look at my career, I have been very fortunate, you know, three back surgeries and I am still playing the game I enjoy. And able to do it and still make a living at it. So that's my winning. Winning just being able to get out there and hit it.
Q. Talk a little bit about how you are feeling physically, your back and your elbow and that kind of thing as you get ready for competition.
FUZZY ZOELLER: (Laughs) It's tough to get old. No, but I am doing magnets right now. I got magnets on my elbows on my knees, everywhere, as opposed to taking a lot of Advil like I was. I am seeming to have a little progress with it.
So things are really coming along very well down here right now. I am practicing. I am a little bit ahead of schedule as far as swing. I am starting to get the feel for it again after being off for the eight weeks that I was during the wintertime.
Q. Your personality obviously is something I am sure the SENIOR PGA TOUR will welcome. What all do you think you bring to this brand of golf?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, hopefully I can bring a few more smiles out there. That's kind of the way I play the game; whether it is good or bad I am still smiling and gagging like everybody else, but if we can make one person smile; maybe make the next guy next to him smile, it will kind of bleed on.
Q. I know there has been talk that you may try to bring a SENIOR TOUR event to Cover Bridge. Is that something in the works that's maybe for 2003 or beyond?
FUZZY ZOELLER: We're looking into that, yes, as a matter of fact, now that you let the birds out of the bag, that's something that I think our area needs and I think it would be a plus for the SENIOR TOUR to have it in our area.
Q. Any kind of timelines?
FUZZY ZOELLER: We were looking at 2003, or 4, maybe. Again that's up to the Commissioner and the Tour.
Q. A question about Arnold Palmer. I don't know if you are aware that he's playing this week; he has been working on his game. He's 72, I guess, now. How are your thoughts about a man that age and still out there hacking trying to entertain people?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, I can tell you one thing, he's got his name "The King" for a reason. This man doesn't feel that he's 72 years old and he still feels that he can compete and be very, very competitive and still win. That's what keeps Arnold Palmer driving toward, I guess, you can say perfection in this game. It's still fun, trust me, to play in the same group with him or just go out and whack it around 18 holes with him. He's a competitor from the word go.
Q. What about the Skins game. You mentioned you had success in the 1980s, you said -- I thought it was sooner than that, and the original Skins game now; what about the SENIOR Skins game, do you see much difference there?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, the whole secret to the Skins game is not to get out of the hole; try to keep yourself in the hole. One thing you don't want to do is have your ball in pocket while the other three are putting (inaudible) so you try to stay in and be very competitive there.
Q. Talk about -- I know a couple of years ago before you had a little rash of injuries, you had told me your game was -- you thought your game was right there where you can compete at the highest level. What do you think now and how does it transform going on from the PGA TOUR, you know, onto the SENIOR TOUR, playing against, you know, guys your age now, not having to worry about 20 year olds who can hit the ball two miles?
FUZZY ZOELLER: (Laughs) Listen, from what I hear, the older guys can hit the ball two miles. I don't know how to say it, it seems like when the guys turn 50 and they get out on that SENIOR TOUR obviously they are putting at a bigger hole, instead of four and a quarter inches round or a thimble like I have been putting at it for the last six, seven years -- probably a thimble -- this hole is starting to look like an ocean. So that's nice. I am looking forward to putting at a bigger hole. Maybe that ball of mine will fit in there a couple of times.
Q. Two-part question. First is: Obviously with guys like Tom Watson, they were looked upon as a guy that would come out and really make a difference for the SENIOR TOUR. How do you feel about probably being put in that light which a lot is going to be expected of you. Also have you made your schedule past like The Masters, have you looked that far ahead? I am wondering about Kansas City in early May?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I haven't really done anything up to Augusta. That's about as far as I have gotten with it. But I do plan on playing a lot of golf. I am going to be on the SENIOR TOUR full time. I am not going to make a statement saying I can do both Tours. You can't do that. So I have made the commitment SENIOR TOUR is it.
As far as Tom Watson and guys like Tom Kite, again, you have to enjoy the Tour. You've got to enjoy what you are doing I think they had a hard time accepting the fact that they were 50 years old. In your mind you are not aging any, it is just your body ages, that's it.
Q. Seemed like a couple of years ago, maybe even last year, I remember comments something to the effect you were really looking forward to get on this Tour. You have a lot of friends on this Tour?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Yes, I do. It's people I haven't seen in a long time, so that's the one thing that I am looking forward to is seeing my old buddies again.
Q. Who might a couple of those guys be? You mentioned Hubert. What other fellows in particular?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Hubert. You got Thorpey, really just a whole group of them. Guys like Chi Chi, Trevino. One thing about -- the great thing about the PGA TOUR it is a great close-knit group that we have out there. When you lose a couple of them and they go elsewhere, you kind of miss 'em.
Q. You talked a little bit about this earlier, but so many guys like a Gil Morgan or a Mike McCullough have had their careers rejuvenated on the SENIOR TOUR. I wonder is maybe that some of your expectation? Is there a certain comfort zone in playing on the SENIOR TOUR when there isn't a cut?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I think that has a lot to do with it not having a cut; the pressure of, you know, if you miss a putt, that doesn't mean you are going to miss the cut. So you are going to play on the weekend. That probably has a lot to do with it.
Plus I think playing the three days is a definite advantage too.
Q. In what way?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, I think when you get older, if you watch -- especially some of the older guys who come out on the PGA TOUR tower and try to compete, they do well for three rounds. But it's that fourth round that kind of gets 'em. So that three rounds of golf, to me, it makes it just very easier. Not necessarily to pick up shots on anybody, but just as far as stamina, just seems like it's much easier to play.
Q. Welcome to the ranks of us who preceded you into seen citizenship (laughs.) I don't have any doubt at all what you say you are going to have some fun out there, but all the publications I have seen, they are looking at you to revitalize and almost be the, quote unquote, saviour of the SENIOR TOUR. That may be a little bit overspoken, I don't know, but do you anticipate any pressure at all? You always have been pretty much immune to that. Talk about that aspect of it where you are supposed to come in and spice up the SENIOR TOUR?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, all I can bring is a nice smiley face onto the SENIOR TOUR. It is going to take more than myself. It is going to take the group to do it and I think by putting the SENIOR TOUR back on TV, I think what the Commissioner has done by, I guess, lowering the number of tournaments and getting it down to where it should be, probably in that 38, 35 range, is a plus. What we're doing after the rounds and having an opportunity to be interviewed during a round, I think is a plus. Anything we can do to get the people more involved, to find out that we're all just not a bunch of clones; we are human being out there, I think it's a plus. But the group is going to have to do it too.
Q. Speaking of regards to that, I guess (inaudible)
FUZZY ZOELLER: What was that?
Q. Basically is that why you think Cover Bridge is a good place for you to have the SENIOR TOUR and come visit the area?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, Cover Bridge was kind of designed to have tournament golf. As you know we have that double green there at 18, it's a great spectator place. We have the mounding. So I mean, it's a great little forum and it is a good golf course for the Senior golfers. We have a tremendous golf course for the Senior golfers.
Q. You have been coming to Naples for a while. Your thoughts on playing a tournament here?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well again this is kind of like my second home because as you know I went to school in Edison Junior College in Fort Myers in the early '70s so I have met a lot, a lot of people down here. I have a lot of connections down here so playing, it's going to be kind of like playing in front of a hometown crowd. So yeah that's always gets the players' adrenaline pumping just a little bit more.
Q. Did you happen to see the story about Casey Martin had a little bit of a setback. Do you know much about that and what are your thoughts on Casey Martin?
FUZZY ZOELLER: You mean this morning's paper?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I did see that, yes. It's one of those -- well, I feel sorry for Casey, I will be honest with you, but I do admire Casey Martin.
The deal with the Tour that was really a no-win situation for everybody. You are damned if you do and damned if you don't. Yeah, we have rules on the PGA TOUR that we abide by, but you know, Casey had a special exception and I think -- I think it's great that a man has that much savvy and guts to pursue a life that he's dreamed about, is playing professional golf.
As far as the cart goes, my opinion of the golf cart, when something like that -- it didn't bother me a bit. Let him have the golf cart. I respect a guy who has problems like Casey has and he still shoots at his dreams. That's the great thing about Casey Martin.
Q. Your schedule, you are not sure of like if you are going to be in Boston or places like that, and I mean do you plan on being up there?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Yeah, I plan on playing in about -- 20 or 28 tournaments this year. You know how I work my schedule, I don't like to play more than three weeks in a row so I am going to try to just kind of eke it out a little bit. Maybe two, three weeks here, then take a week off. I have got to try and get Father of the Year award sometime before I die. I know it is not going to happen but I have got to at least try. But that's my schedule. I am going to play a lot like I say. Now, I am not going to be able to make it everywhere, but the ones I am at, I will guarantee you, I will work my butt off and we'll have a good time.
Q. Which one of these -- you mentioned these initiatives that they kind of put in. Which ones do you think are best for Fuzzy and how can you most help, as Jack Saylor said, not main revive the Tour, but in what areas do you think you can maybe help some of the areas that need help?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, personally I think like after the round, putting on a small exhibition for the people; to me, that's a plus because then the people can get up next to you and laugh with you and have a good handshake and really learn a little bit the game. Of course, the on-course discussions with the TV I think is a big plus too.
Q. As long as there -- I mean, as long as they kind of keep it under control, obviously you guys are playing at the same time, so...
FUZZY ZOELLER: Yeah, but it's supposed to be a little bit more laid back even though the object is still the same. Certainly these guys aren't that serious, are they?
Q. They are.
FUZZY ZOELLER: Maybe that's what it is, "They are."
Q. You mentioned earlier being thankful to even be playing because of the multiple back surgeries. I wondered if you ever looked back and think about maybe being robbed of some opportunities because of that. Ever dwell on maybe how much more you could have done if those things hadn't occurred?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, I am one of those guys that never looks back. What's in the history is history. I chose to play basketball in high school and that's where the injury came from. Back then they told me I was going to have back problems later on in life. Little did I know that all the pain that I would have and the troubles that I have had. But, you know, I don't say if I could have, should have, would have back then. That was the way it was and this is the cards I was dealt so you just got to deal with them.
Q. Which was the most serious? Was it '85, I guess, when you came back from that?
FUZZY ZOELLER: '84, yeah. '84 was a major, that's where they deroofed my lower spine. Took what, a disc and half; then they went back in and got the other half. (Laughs) I have had so much stuff done there it's a test item for doctors.
Q. That was what, right after you won the U.S. Open?
FUZZY ZOELLER: That was in 1984, right. September of '84.
Q. I am curious about the magnets and just the different things you have gone through to deal with the pain?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, the pain in my elbows, my left elbow is something new. It just popped up, I guess first part of December. It was like a toothache, just a nagging pain I couldn't figure what the heck I had done because I hadn't lifted anything. You all know me, the people who do know me, I don't exercise a lot. As a matter of fact, the last time I thought about exercising I had to sit down after the thought left. So I had this pain; then I came to Florida here and, you know, started practicing and beating a lot of golf balls, and it started to get worse. So I had a friend of mine from home, he said I've got to try the magnets, so I strap them on every night, lay in bed there with magnets on and it seems to be working.
Q. How many Advils were you going through in a day?
FUZZY ZOELLER: (Laughs) On a good day? Oh, I could go 8 to 10, 12, maybe.
Q. I was watching the Golf Channel earlier this weekend. They had Miller Barber on there. He had a very interesting discussion about his career and talked about how golf had changed; basically it became more of a business and more serious. He says the same thing has happened to the SENIOR TOUR. Do you think that's just a bi-product of progress or is there a way to keep it lighthearted and remained serious about it?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, he's probably right. It has become a pretty good size business out there for those guys. When they first went out there I think the SENIOR TOUR was supposed to play like two tournaments a month. It was more of a fun Tour for the guys, get together and play. Now they are playing every week which -- what, we have 36 on the schedule, 37 tournaments.
JEFF ADAMS: 37 official events.
FUZZY ZOELLER: 37 official events. So it's a full-fledged golf Tour right now. The competitiveness of the players is what is making it the way it is.
Q. If and when you do win on the SENIOR TOUR, will it be as satisfying as winning a regular Tour event and also could you tell me which course you are practicing on down in Naples?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Well, I am down here at Naples National right now. I am a member of it. I represent Naples National on the Tour. It would be just as satisfying knowing that you beat the best. They are the best of that week that you play with. I think that's the one great thing about golf in America, per se. These people have an opportunity to see the best every week, which is great. You don't get to see that everywhere.
Q. I am wondering at what point did you start turning your thoughts toward the SENIOR TOUR? Have you been looking forward to it for a number of years or just the past year or thereabouts?
FUZZY ZOELLER: That's a good question. 45 is the number when you start looking. 45 to 50 you are kind of in limbo land nd out there and it is -- on the PGA TOUR, so that's when people really start talking about it, oh, five years. You think about it, five years goes by so dog-gone fast, boom, it's here. But about 45 for the golfers on the Tour when they start looking at it.
Q. When you got to the point where you did start looking at it, what was your thoughts as far as how to prepare for it? Did you cut back PGA TOUR-wise, try and get your body back in, whatever shape it may be in?
FUZZY ZOELLER: No, as a matter of fact I continued to play. I have been very, very fortunate. Last year they gave me a lot of sponsor exemptions. One thing you want do is be competitive. I think the secret to the SENIOR TOUR, the guys who are doing well are the ones who stay competitive over that five-year period.
Q. What are your expectations for your game where you are right now and what do you expect the first few weeks out there on Tour?
FUZZY ZOELLER: That's a good question. If I can look into that crystal ball I would tell you, but I have no idea. Hopefully when I hit my 1st tee shot and I can find it. That's all I can tell you. (Laughs) This game is built around patience. You have to be patient. You can't play well every week out there. And stay patient. That's the main thing.
Q. Clarify something, is the Masters going to be the only tournament you play outside the SENIOR TOUR?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Yes.
Q. Going over to Waialae, have you ever played the Gold Course?
FUZZY ZOELLER: I have not played the Gold Course over there, but looking forward to it.
Q. Reason, though, you will be playing with some guys that you love playing with and kicking off your season, do you still feel it's kind of everybody looking at you seeing how you do kick off your season?
FUZZY ZOELLER: You think they are going to try to measure me?
Q. Yeah, are you feeling that? You said you feel that competitive fire from that regard too to really get off some good golf --
FUZZY ZOELLER: You know where the competitive fire comes? Because I am playing against three of the great ones in the game. That's where the competitive fire comes. I realize Arnold is getting over and Jack is aging a little bit but in a Skins game format, it just takes one putt at the right time or one chip shot at the right time, so there's where the fire comes.
Q. Could you talk about how you got down to Edison College and why you ended up playing college golf down here?
FUZZY ZOELLER: Yeah, when I was a senior in high school all my scholarships were to northern schools and I knew early on that I wanted to be a PGA TOUR professional. I was going to play golf for a living somewhere. Bob Prang (phonetic) who is from Indianapolis, Indiana called me 1st of June after I had graduated and asked me if I had signed with anyone. I said, no. He said, well I need you to come to Fort Meyers, Florida. He said I have a school down here, Edison Junior College where he was going to school at the time. He said you might be interested in it.
My father and I jumped on an airplane and flew down there and that was history after that. I came down fell in love with the place because as a golfer from the Midwest, you don't get to putt on too many Bermuda greens so I was trying to, you know, I guess you'd say, better my horizons. So flew back home, packed my truck and my car and came on down here. It was the greatest two years of my life. One, I got to play in a lot of wind. I got to play on a different surface that I never played on before, Bermuda; so it was a plus for everything.
JEFF ADAMS: I want to thank you very much for joining us. We wish you all the luck at the Senior Skins next week and then the following week as you head onto the SENIOR TOUR in Florida. Appreciate everything and we're so looking forward to having you out there.
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