WORLD GOLF HALL OF FAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 24, 2002
JACK PETER: Welcome, everyone. Good afternoon and good morning, depending on where you're sitting. Welcome to the announcement of the newest World Golf Hall of Fame inductee, the veteran's category. We are joined today by PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem and our very special guest, whom I will introduce in just a moment.
I just wanted to take just a minute to talk a little bit about the World Golf Hall of Fame and the induction ceremony. As many of you know, the World Golf Hall of Fame is located just south of Jacksonville, just north of St. Augustine. The induction ceremony this year is scheduled for Friday, November 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the World Golf Hall of Fame located at the World Golf Village. Like last year, the ceremony will be televised live by The Golf Channel.
The veteran's category honors the professional players whose accomplishments were primarily before 1960. The first inductee through this avenue is Jack Burke, Junior in the year 2000.
So, it is now my sincere pleasure to announce the newest member to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame, selected through the veteran's category. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr. Tommy Bolt.
Tommy joins a notable group of inductees for the 2002 ceremony, including Ben Crenshaw, Tony Jacklin, Marlene Hagge and Bernhard Langer, who will all become part of the current membership of 90 Hall of Famers.
Tommy, if you could talk a moment and share what this means to you, being a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
TOMMY BOLT: Jack, unbelievable, what it's done for me. I'm so delighted for what you guys did, and I just appreciate it so much. It's pretty hard to explain it, believe me. It's unbelievable, and I'm so happy. I thank you for being part of it.
JACK PETER: Well, you're very, very welcome, Tommy. I look forward to working closely with you to work on whatever we need to, to make the Hall of Fame whatever it needs to become.
TOMMY BOLT: I'll be happy to help you in whatever way I can, pal.
JACK PETER: With that, I'd like to invite the Commissioner to comment.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, everyone. Good morning everyone, or good afternoon.
I want to first of all congratulate Tommy on his selection, and also say that I think Tommy is most deserving, being recognized as a Hall of Famer.
He's always been -- we all know about his competitive record. He won 15 times on the PGA TOUR. Tremendous U.S. Open victory at Southern Hills in 1958. But beyond his direct competitive record, I think there are two other things that stand out about Tommy.
One is though he's clearly recognized as one of the great personalities to have played the game. A great showman, an individual that had a lot to do with the growth of the game during his era, because of the interest and excitement that he has instilled in fans.
But also, his very direct contribution to the start of the SENIOR TOUR, with his play early on in Liberty Mutual of Legends and lending his unique character the SENIOR TOUR in the early years; I think he had a tremendous impact on the development of that tour.
I think as the nominating committee looked at individuals who might be considered for inclusion in the World Golf Hall of Fame in the veteran's category, they concluded that as you look back in history, Tommy Bolt was one of the great contributors to the game and to what it is today, and I think it's very appropriate that he be included, and I'm delighted that he will be added to the class of 2002 and inducted this fall.
JACK PETER: Thank you, Commissioner.
We'll now open it up for questions.
Q. Could you tell us what you're doing now? You're living now I believe in Black Diamond, how much you do?
TOMMY BOLT: Yes, I do. I live at Black Diamond Country Club. I play almost every day. I play most every day, but I'm kind of a nine-hole pro. I don't get up too early in the morning like I did in my earlier years. I like to be an afternoon player, you know.
Years ago when we were on the Tour, the late starters were always leading the golf tournament. You know, that's the way I think about it now when I play practice rounds.
Q. Just curious if it ever wore on your mind that you were not voted in through the other ballot; did that bother you at all, through the years?
TOMMY BOLT: No, not really. I'm delighted that I'm able to be in there, and I'm happy to be there. I'm very thankful to the guys that voted for me, the senior committee. I'm proud to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Q. Couple other things, Tommy. What do you recall most about Southern Hills, winning there, and what do you consider your other favorite memory, besides the U.S. Open?
TOMMY BOLT: Well, at Southern Hills, I was probably playing better golf than anybody in the world at just that particular time. I had just won the Colonial tournament at Fort Worth a couple of weeks before that. And I missed a 4-footer on the last hole in Dallas to keep from tying that tournament.
And I went right from there to Tulsa, Southern Hills, with a great deal of confidence, and I felt like I could play as well as anybody in the world. I had complete control of my emotions.
I birdied the first hole and I looked back toward the clubhouse and I said, "Well, I wonder who's going to finish second." I know it sounds cocky, but that was the way I felt. And I led from the word go. Birdied the first hole and never relinquished the lead.
I guess winning the North and South at Pinehurst in 1951, the first tournament was also a big part of my career that I remember mostly.
Q. That was your first career victory?
TOMMY BOLT: Yes.
Q. You mentioned a minute ago that you had complete control of your emotions. Fair or not, your name comes up when people think of club throwing; is it fair?
TOMMY BOLT: That's been ballooned out of proportion a little bit. Now, I threw a couple of clubs. I'm human, just like the other guys, but I threw them at the most opportune time, it seemed like. (Laughs). They always had the camera on me when I was throwing one.
Actually, it didn't bother me too much then, and it doesn't bother me too much now because I'm recognized. People recognize me for being what I am, rather than otherwise.
Q. What do you mean by that?
TOMMY BOLT: Well, they recognize me for being a golf player and showing my emotions. Some people try to -- you can't keep your emotions inside of you. You've got to let them out somehow, because you're not going to live very long if you leave those pent-up emotions in you. You have to have a release.
Q. Any favorite showing-your-emotions stories?
TOMMY BOLT: I've learned to control it a little bit now, but it's pretty tough, though, I'll tell you.
But I never blamed anybody except myself for a missed shot. It was not anybody's fault except my own. I never blamed it on the caddie or gallery or a camera clicking as I was swinging or something like that like some of the guys do nowadays. That means that they have not got their mind on their business if something that minor bothers them.
Q. Commissioner, one question I have. There's been a lot of focus recently, and I apologize to Tommy for asking this question recently, but there's been a lot of focus on the Tour and where it's going as far as tournament sponsorships and tournaments that are looking for sponsors, looking to renew for more money and things like that. What is your assessment right now with the tour and individual tournament sponsorships going forward?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: As I said last fall, the reality is I think we all recognize we have been and we basically are in a recession. As we went through this in 1990-1991, it takes a lot longer to get things done in this environment.
But the value of our sponsorship is very strong. The pricing is reasonable compared to value. So consequently I'm very confident that going forward we will be fully sponsored on all of our tours, and I have no reason to change my opinion now versus then. It is obviously taking longer to get things done, and that is to be expected in this environment, but we are getting it done and that's because the real value is there.
Q. Are you worried that the focus on this may be leading the public to think that the PGA TOUR is in a little bit of trouble?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You know, I can't worry too much about that, but I think that we have announced a good number of renewals and we have some very interesting announcements coming up the next few weeks. I think if there is an issue in terms of a question as to where we are going, it will be erased here shortly.
I think people need to recognize when I say that I believe that we are going to be 100% fully sponsored, I'm not saying it because I would like for it to be true. I'm saying it because I honestly believe that that's where we are. And based on all of the marketing effort that we are going through, the conversations that we are having, I'm very comfortable to be able to say that.
Q. Tommy, what do you see as the biggest difference between golf now and the way it was at the height of your career?
TOMMY BOLT: Well, there's two or three things. The equipment is better, and the golf courses are better manicured.
You know, they have found -- it's just the improvement in the golf equipment and the golf courses being so well manicured, and the guys are actually taking care of themselves and they are a lot stronger than we were back in our day on the Tour. They have a fitness center that they go to that travels around the Tour with them, and they all do their little -- the exercises, you know, that you're supposed to, to strengthen yourself. I think that's helped them hit the ball a lot further.
Well, the know-how. Knowing how to play golf has done a lot, too. They have learned a lot from the old-timers. I know I did, and it's just passed on down to them. They know how to hit the ball the correct way. They are just better all-around players, believe me. It had to happen this way.
Q. How do you think you would stack up if you were hitting your prime right now?
TOMMY BOLT: Well, I'd probably be one of the better players. I won't say I'd be the best, but I'd be one of the better one, probably. I try to take care of myself and practice. I've hit a lot of balls. You've got to devote a lot of time to golf. It's a very demanding game, and that's why Hogan was so great, because he spent a lot of time practicing.
Q. I'd be curious on your perspective on one thing. You hear on one side from Nicklaus that Tiger right now doesn't have anyone really challenging him in the majors the way Jack had Arnie and Player and Watson and Trevino. And on the other side, they say that the players are so much better and the depth is so much greater that it's actually tougher. How do you see it?
TOMMY BOLT: I see that Tiger is just the outstanding favorite to play every major tournament that he plays in. He's no doubt the best player out there, all-around player. He has every shot in the bag. He does it all. He has the focus for it, too. Concentration, we used to call it. Now they changed it to focus.
Hogan and Nicklaus had that back in my day. They were better than anybody else. They could keep their mind on what they were doing out there. Well, Tiger Woods is better at it nowadays than anybody out there.
Q. Do you think Jack had stronger competition, or do you think Tiger is just that much better than everybody that he's playing against?
TOMMY BOLT: I think that Tiger is that much better than anybody else. Now, this is really my belief, I'm being honest with you. He's just that much better than anybody else.
Q. I remember you were here for the Legends Media Conference before the tournament, and at that time you talked a little bit about equipment changes, and you mentioned that the weight of the clubhead is different now and you were talking about swing speeds being generated. Could you talk about that a little bit?
TOMMY BOLT: Yes. Well, the clubs are a lot lighter. Equipment, the golf ball, is actually hit with the acceleration of the clubhead through the ball. That's where the power lies, and the clubs are lighter than they were back in our day.
Just like in baseball, they have lighter bats now than they did when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and those guys were playing; they had 38- and 40-ounce bats. Now we have 28- and 26-ounce bats; that's why they are hitting more home runs than the other guys did.
The golf business is the same way. The lighter the club, the more head speed you can create and the further you can hit the ball.
Q. Tommy, you have mentioned Ben Hogan a few times. I wonder if you could speak for a few minutes about the influence he had on your career and what it means to be part of the same institution with him now?
TOMMY BOLT: It's wonderful how incredible it is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Ben Hogan had a lot to do with my -- I was a pretty good player in 1955 when I went to him, because I was hooking the ball; I didn't know what to do. I said, Ben, you've got to get me -- I knew that he had fought a hook up until the accident with the bus, and right after that, he was unbeatable. He was the greatest player that I ever played with.
I went to him and I said, "Ben, you've got to help me. I'm fighting a hook. When I get under pressure, it seems to get worse. What can I do?"
He put the left hand on top of the club and put the three fingers and the thumb right down the shaft and right after that , it took me about a month of constant practice to get acclimated to this new grip, but then I learned how to play. I learned not to fear the hook, which is very important to a golf player. Believe me, you can hit the ball a long ways if you can release your hands hooking the ball.
That's what he did for me. Changed my whole outlook on golf. I felt like I was I much better player.
Q. You only won the one major, but you did come close in 1971 at the PGA when you were 55; you were tied with Jack Nicklaus with nine holes to go. Can you take us through the last round?
TOMMY BOLT: I was kind of free-wheeling back in those days, too. I was playing good golf, playing every day, at 55, and I think Jack was 30 years old then . I had actually just won the World Seniors or PGA Seniors, U.S. National Seniors. I won all those in the same year. Jack and I were tied after 63 holes, and I birdied the 10th hole. So I might have been actually leading the tournament after 64 holes.
But, of course, I kind of folded up down the stretch, shooting even par and Jack shot 3-under, so he beat me by three shots. That was a lot of fun.
Q. You also did pretty well in the 1955 PGA Championship and beat some pretty good players along the way. I think your first match you won by default and you also beat Snead 3 and 2 and you won by default to Al Waltrous in Detroit. What else do you remember about the tournament?
TOMMY BOLT: About the tournament in Detroit?
TOMMY BOLT: Well, after beating -- this is the second straight year I beat Snead. I beat him at St. Paul the year before in the quarterfinals. I walked in the locker room and all the media was in there waiting to see what I had to say, or Snead had to say about the match, and they said, "Where's Sam?"
I said, "Well, the last time I saw him, he was in the back end of his car changing his shoes." He wouldn't go in the locker room after he got beat and face the media.
Q. You went 39 holes that day?
TOMMY BOLT: I did. That was in St. Paul when I beat him. I beat him 3 and 2, I think, at Detroit.
Q. That's what I thought. What was the one by default over Al Waltrous?
TOMMY BOLT: I think he was a pro there, wasn't he, in Detroit, at Oakland Hills or something? He just didn't feel like playing and he withdrew and I won by default.
Q. For both Tommy and Commissioner Finchem. Tommy, you may have touched on it earlier with regards to tempers and things like that, and today's players versus when you played. Along those lines, Arnie was talking at the Masters that he doesn't quite understand a lot of the young players in the game today. They don't acknowledge the fans as much as Arnie did, or yourself or other players, and they aren't really connecting with them. If you could talk a little bit about that. And Commissioner Finchem, if you could follow-up along those lines, if that's a concern.
TOMMY BOLT: Yeah, we used to talk to the gallery because they didn't have them roped off back in those days. They could follow you right down the fairway. You had to have a fair swing; otherwise, some of the gallery might catch your backswing.
I think that we -- the kids nowadays have to realize where their bread and butter is coming from. It's coming from those people out there. You don't have a golf tournament if you don't have people to watch. They are footing the whole bill, so they have to recognize that. I don't think that they fully, really, recognize it.
We are entertainers and you have got to entertain those people out there. You entertain with your golfing ability. If you can't do it that way, you have to talk to them along the way.
I think you're absolutely right. The kids nowadays don't talk to the gallery and jive with them like they should. They love that.
Q. Ty Votaw with the LPGA recently instituted a plan where he's urging his players to get more involved with the fans, and not necessarily made it mandatory, but urged them to do so. Do you see it coming to that with the PGA TOUR where you might have to urge some of the younger players to reach out a little bit more?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: First of all, we do. We do that extensively on the SENIOR TOUR, as you know, and been very aggressive on that. We think it's important on the SENIOR TOUR.
I think on the PGA TOUR it's important to recognize in a major sport, things have changed a lot in 40 years, when the gallery walked with the players. Whether we like it or not, when we have 50,000 or 60,000 people on the property these days, the way the game has grown, it's just not feasible. We have to protect the players. We have security issues these days. You know, these are realities we have to deal with.
Having said that, on the one hand, I think we do recognize that you can pinpoint that one issue, and I guess you could argue about it back and forth. The reality is that the sport at the PGA TOUR level has grown considerably. The fan appeal has never been stronger, and I think that's an important thing to remember.
Having said that, obviously we are delighted when players do create extra enthusiasm with the crowd and with the gallery and connect. Sergio Garcia may very well be the best player since Arnold in terms of his ability to do that.
But when you go out and watch the way crowds react to Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods, they are reacting to quality play from players that they have a lot of respect for. And as Tommy said earlier, you know, you watch Tiger play, he's very focused on the golf course, but he is still very appealing to the galleries. And while he may not interact in the same way that some other players did in the past, it is still a very appealing thing from the standpoint of the gallery.
So I think it's important to keep this issue in context.
JACK PETER: Thank you, Commissioner.
We have come to the conclusion of the press conference. We don't have anymore questions in the queue. So I want to say thank you, again, to Commissioner Finchem.
Tommy, congratulations again and thank you for your time today.
TOMMY BOLT: Thank you, Jack.
JACK PETER: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you, also, for your time, and we look forward to seeing you November 15 at World Golf Village. Have a good day.
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