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October 23, 2007

Curtis Strange

JANE FADER: Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here and thank you to those who were just on with us about an hour ago with Hubert Green. I'm Jane Fader, director of communications for the World Golf Hall of Fame. On the line with us is Curtis Strange, one of our 2007 inductees.
The World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Monday, November 12th, at 6:00 at the Hall of Fame. There are six members of the 2007 class. The late Irish amateur Joe Carr is a lifetime achievement inductee. Hubert Green was selected via the veterans category. Charles Blair Macdonald also being inducted posthumously, was a lifetime achievement selection. Kel Nagle was a veteran selection. Se Ri Pak came through the LPGA points system. And last but certainly not least Curtis Strange, who has 17 PGA TOUR victories to his credit, including back-to-back U.S. Opens.
At this point, Curtis, I'd like to invite you to talk a little bit about how it's been since you learned you were being inducted and as you prepare your speech, all of the activities happening next month.
CURTIS STRANGE: You had to bring up the speech, didn't you (laughter)? I first just want to say it's an honor to be inducted with the other five members, Se Ri, Hubert, Mr. Carr, Macdonald and Nagle. It's a great class. Certainly excited about being there on November 12.
Since the announcement back in April, things really haven't changed much for me. I still feel the same way I did then. When I think about what's getting ready to happen, I don't know what to think sometimes. I'm in awe of it. I'm overwhelmed. I am appreciative of the voters, what I was able to do. There's a lot of things that go through my mind. A lot will be in the speech obviously because you certainly can't do this on your own. We think we can, but we can't. We need a lot of support along the way.
It's been very, very nice. The comments have been just nice to hear. You hear comments from people that you don't know who they are or where they came from. People keep up with this game, especially when I'm still playing and active, people keep up with the game. They're very appreciative when people make an effort to say, Great going, congratulations, whatever they might say.
Hubert and I had a couple of laughs. We actually talked yesterday. We have a big game of golf with all the family members on the Sunday prior. That will be fun. But, yeah, I've been working on my speech for probably the couple days after the announcement. But pretty much just getting the arrangements of all family members and friends that are going down to St. Augustine, the Hall of Fame, trying to get everybody situated, travel plans worked, family members, sons and wives. Actually, wives are doing it all, to be honest with you. It's just been busy and looking forward to it very much.
But, you know, once it's over, once this thing is over on November 12, it's not over. Gosh, I still will think about it, still will appreciate it. This isn't taken lightly. I don't know really what to say. I don't know how to say it sometimes. But it's certainly not taken lightly. I grew up in this game with the heroes that are still heroes of mine today. I had a wall full of pictures of Hogan, Nelson, Snead, my dad, Nicklaus, Palmer, whoever else at the time. Snead was always -- my brother Allan and my idol, because of being from Virginia, having the greatest swing of all time, all of the above. But I still remember that wall. I still remember the thoughts. I still remember all the things I went through as a kid growing up.
When you look at that, think about that, remember those times, it really is, honest to goodness overwhelming that I'm going to be in the Hall of Fame with them. As I jokingly say, probably will jokingly say on stage again, they're never going to put me in the same breath with Hogan, Snead and Nelson, but at least I'll be under the same roof. I truly mean that. Would never ever be presumptuous enough to think that my career stands up to theirs or anything. That's not even close. We know that.
But it's exciting for us and we look forward to November 12.
JANE FADER: We can go ahead and open it up for questions.

Q. Hubert told us a couple of things that his father would always teach him that stayed with him to this day. I know it's probably difficult to single out one thing over a lifetime of the kind of guidance your father gave you, but is there one thing he told you, whether about golf or life in general, that has always stood with you and stuck out for you?
CURTIS STRANGE: Well, unfortunately I didn't have a lifetime with him. I had 14 years. I think he just kept pushing me -- not pushing me, because he certainly didn't ever do that. He just believed, always believed, you can do anything you want to do. That was the one thing that always stood out. You can do anything you put your mind to. You can do anything you want to do.
He wasn't specifically saying it at age 9 through 14 when I was hanging at the golf course every day. He wasn't thinking golf. At times he might have related that back to golf when I would say I couldn't do this or that because I was just learning the game. But at times it was golf. That's pretty much it. I guess he instilled in me just the love of the game, having the access to be at the golf course every single day because he was the head pro at Beau Creek Country Club.
Yeah, I grew up on the golf course, had great access. Some others don't. At least I felt like I always appreciated it and took advantage of it, fell in love with it early on and stuck with it.

Q. There's a lot of interactive material, audio, visual stuff. A kid who goes in there after your induction maybe 20 years from now who never saw you play, if he sees all that about you, your exhibit, what would you like him to take away from that experience as far as what he thinks or learned about Curtis Strange?
CURTIS STRANGE: Tough one early on. I don't know. I don't know if I can answer that one. You can answer that better than me.

Q. What do you think your legacy in golf is and will be?
CURTIS STRANGE: You know, honestly, I don't think of that. I don't think of it in those terms. I mean, how do people remember me? I don't know. Again, I jokingly said before, it's obviously going to be the U.S. Opens. It might have been putting Tiger Woods last in the Ryder Cup in '04. Who the hell knows. Obviously, it will be the U.S. Opens. I think you have to have some tenacity, patience. It's weird that I say that, patience, because I didn't have a lot at times.
I don't know. I think you'd have to ask somebody else that. I'm not avoiding your question. I just don't know. We all love the game. Anybody that's in that Hall of Fame, anybody that's done well, you know, amateur or professionally, has loved the game, to put in the time and the effort, the lonesome times, the quiet times at the end of the range by yourself. There's no getting around that. There's no coaches. There's no sports psychologist. There's no motivators when you're on the range bay yourself at home doing a lot of hard work. It's got to come from within. I think you better be in love, not just love it, be but in love with it to go through those times.
As far as answering your question, it's a tough one. I don't know if I can right now.

Q. How long is your speech? Have you narrowed it down?
CURTIS STRANGE: I don't know yet. I swore it was going to be no more than four minutes. I don't think I need to ramble too much. People like speeches that are short and to the point. They like me and like speeches like that. I don't know. But I think it's going to be a bit longer than that because I've -- I had notes stacked on stacked on each other. I've just kind of tried to get this together in the last three days. I got them spread out all over the kitchen counter. Sarah is not allowed to touch anything. I'm getting my first really official rough draft together and I'll go from there.
I'll tell you, it will be seven or eight minutes, then it will be condensed from there. Hopefully it ends up about five to six minutes.

Q. You're going to mention Jesse Haddock. You've talked about him before. What might you say about him in your speech?
CURTIS STRANGE: Well, I'm not going to let out everything, but it's not going to be anything I never said before. If it wasn't for Jesse Haddock and Wake Forest, I wouldn't be talking to you today. I truly believe that. He gave me the opportunity to, first of all, attend Wake Forest on a golf scholarship. He gave me the opportunity to play against three of the best amateurs in the country every day in Jay, Bob and David, a couple others. We pushed each other. We played hard. We played every day. We became a very good team. All of that confidence out of Wake, all of that playing against Jay every day made me a much better player.
I might have been on TOUR for 30 years, not going to Wake Forest, but it certainly would have been different. I owe him a great deal.

Q. You accomplished a lot in your career. What finishing No. 1 on the Money List and being the first guy to break a million back in the day when everybody didn't make a million dollars, where do those rank? Was either one of them a huge deal for you? Talk about those two things, if you would.
CURTIS STRANGE: Well, both of them are a result of good play, doing my job on the golf course. I don't care if it's winning a tournament or winning a million dollars, the Money List.
When you talk about tournaments, the lady introduced me, winning tournaments was fantastic, but winning the Money List or the Player of the Year was a culmination of 10 months of good play. God, I love that I had the opportunity and was lucky enough to do that some. I think that's a huge part of me.
The U.S. Opens were the greatest things that I ever accomplished twice. But when I look at things that I think back on, and I don't that often, but when I think back on the Money Title, it was huge to me, it was big. The winning the million dollars, somebody was going to eventually do it, I guess. Back then we didn't think much about it because, God, it was basically not possible until the purses went up. At that time corporate America was getting involved with the TOUR. I guess it was inevitable. But it meant a great deal. I guess the million dollar thing, somebody had to do it first. I guess Arnold was the first one to do it in a career. My gosh, I don't have any idea how many will win a million on TOUR in a year. There's a bunch on the SENIOR TOUR. It certainly changed a lot.

Q. We all remember the most compelling winner's press conference at the U.S. Open was your first year. First thing you said was, This is for my dad. You talked about what a big part he was in your career. What do you remember about your dad's game? What kind of a player was he? Did you ever caddie for him? I know you were pretty young. Talk about how your dad played the game, what you recall of it.
CURTIS STRANGE: I did caddie for him. One of the best stretches I ever had, I caddied for him in a big tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. I spent two whole weeks with him. We went to Greensboro and I caddied for him. I was 12, maybe 13. We drove straight from Greensboro to somewhere up in Maryland for the Mid Atlantic Open. So it was a lot of fun for me. Gee, I absolutely loved being around him and the game. That was fun. The things you learn that you can't even put your finger on watching a good player play for two straight weeks. He played in seven U.S. Opens, won the State Open here five times, he's in the Virginia State Hall of Fame, Mid Atlantic Hall of Fames. Had the old classic swing.
How much do I take out of that at 14 years old and before? Probably more than I'll ever know. But it's another question that's hard to put your finger on and hard to answer. But when you copy somebody, a classic swinger like my dad or Sam Snead, you can never go wrong.

Q. Was he a big hitter, great chipper, brilliant putter?
CURTIS STRANGE: He wasn't a big hitter. He was average for the day. But he was a good striker of the ball. Big old long swing. It was not too much different than a Snead type, that kind of thing. He would hit balls. I would go out and watch, that kind of thing. He was an excellent chipper and a very average putter, I do remember that.
I don't know if that was true or not. But I know he complained about it all the time, which means he was perfect, because that's what we do. He was a very good player. I never played with him very often at all. He kind of let me do my thing. He had his game every day. He played probably five days a week, maybe six days a week. I never played much with him.

Q. Did you have any northern relatives? In Wisconsin, there's an elementary school called the Curtis Strange Elementary School. Wondered if you had any relatives up there.
CURTIS STRANGE: Not that I know of.

Q. Never called you to come be a guest speaker at the school with your name on it?
CURTIS STRANGE: No. I guess either they don't like me or they don't think we're related. But I have heard that, somebody has written me a note. I assume it was just a coincidence. I've never heard from anybody up there. All my family is from Virginia and North Carolina.

Q. Going back to a minor circumstance in March, you were hanging out with Hubert Green on the driving range in Palm Coast. I find it ironic that both of you shortly thereafter were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Was there anything in the wind at that point that you knew that we didn't know?
CURTIS STRANGE: No, no, there wasn't. I'll be honest with you, there was not. Shortly after that the commissioner called me. I did not know anything at that time. It was announced at the Legends, so somewhere between then is when the commissioner called me. No, I didn't know anything about it.
In fact, I'll tell you the truth. Hubert and I played I think the last round there at the Ginn, and he asked me had I heard anything. I said no. Have you? No. End of conversation. Honestly, that's the only time in the past I don't know how long I've been on the ballot that it was ever thought. Somebody says, Hey, have you heard of anything? I say, No. End of conversation.
I always understood the way this was. I understood I was, what I say for lack of a better term, a bubble boy. You might make it, you might not. It's nothing you can worry about. You know you're close when you have some peers that are in the Hall of Fame.
But anyway it was very nice. Honestly, I'm so happy for Hubert because when you start looking at records, his is actually better than mine as far as wins. So I was happy for him. He's been through a great amount. That doesn't make him a better player or not, but I'm just happy for him, that he can make it into the Hall of Fame. He deserves it.

Q. You mentioned you were on the ballot previous years. Was there any angst or letdowns that you weren't nominated in the previous years?
CURTIS STRANGE: No, I just said every year it would come up when it would be announced in the print that somebody got in. That was the end of the conversation. That's all I ever thought about it. I honest to goodness never thought about it again because it was something that was completely out of my control. I was busy playing or busy doing TV or busy doing other stuff. I didn't worry about it. I guess I didn't worry about it because I accepted the fact maybe it might not ever happen.
But, hey, I had a ball in this game, still have a ball in this game, still trying to learn the perfect golf swing, still trying to swing like Sam Snead. I had other stuff going on. Honestly, that's the only time it ever came up.
You know, if somebody would say something somewhere along the way, but it was out of my control. That's all I can say.

Q. With what has happened in your career, now culminating in the Hall of Fame at this point, is this pretty much exactly to whatever plan you had 35 or 40 years ago?
CURTIS STRANGE: First of all, you never think about something like that. If you did, it was too farfetched. It was too big a dream. It was something incomprehensible to think that as a kid you could make it into the Hall of Fame. I don't think as a kid you think so much of the Hall of Fame. You think about maybe possibly playing your professional sport, maybe playing well. I didn't anyway think about the Hall of Fame because it's too far out there to think that you could have 25 or 30 years of successful, in my case, golf, and make it into the Hall of Fame.
As I said earlier, when I had these pictures on the wall when I was a kid, think about this, think about that, hell, I even had a scrapbook of all these people. This was something, these guys, honestly, when you're a kid, nine, 10, 11, 12 years old spending every day at the golf course, these were gods to me. These were the people that I chose to try to emulate, try to be like, try to swing like. They were so far from me. I never had met any of them at that time. Hell, it was enough of a thrill the first time I just met them much less played with them and got to know them.
To think about the Hall of Fame years ago, I didn't anyway. It was too big a dream.

Q. Accomplishing what you accomplished, that always seemed a realistic goal, did it not?
CURTIS STRANGE: I think once you got there -- God, I think what motivates us so much is being frightened of not being able to play the next day or losing your game. That motivates you so much. The reason I say that is you keep striving and striving every single day, keep working, because it really is so fleeting.
So when you're growing up, amateur golf, junior golf in the state of Virginia, it's the foundation that started with me, and certainly Wake Forest was huge when I was able to go there. But without that foundation in Virginia, Virginia Beach, then Wake Forest, there wouldn't -- it wouldn't be that foundation to grow on top -- grow to the PGA TOUR. When I got to the TOUR, I was just trying to hang on. I wasn't immediately successful, which looking back on it might have been the best thing in the world, you know, because you work harder. Then you just kind of grow and continue to improve little by little. That's all you can ask for. Success too early does hurt people. That's human nature. Gosh, you always want success as early as you can get it. In my case it wasn't, so I continued to work. Through the years I got a little better, got a little more confidence, learned a little more on the golf course, how to play.
So my point in answering your question, you eventually get into that the realm of being successful on TOUR. Next thing you know you're trying to win a third U.S. Open in a row. God, you get so involved in that or so involved in the last round at Houston or so involved in the second round trying to make the cut somewhere, you don't think much about that.
But it was nice to enjoy the ride. When you're playing well, there's no greater feeling in the world than when you're just playing well. Bottom line, it was just about playing well. Tournaments came. More tournaments were lost than were ever won, trust me. But as long as you were playing well, at least you could sleep at night, wake up the next morning kind of ready to go.

Q. I talked to you at your debut on the Champions Tour. What is your attitude about playing on the Champions Tour now with how your game is, whether you still look forward to it?
CURTIS STRANGE: I do. I enjoy it. It keeps me busy. I enjoy the golf still. I enjoy competing. It's frustrating when you know you haven't -- it's a vicious circle. You know you haven't put in the time needed to play your best. It's not that I don't want to, I just don't. I'd like to do some other things. You're not 22 any more. When I get out there, I know I haven't put in the time, so I get frustrated at my game and myself. I go back and work a little bit.
I've enjoyed it. I enjoy the guys, enjoy the tour, enjoy the places we go. The SENIOR TOUR has been fantastic. Where else can we compete and still play the game we played when we were 10 years old as a professional? It's the only sport in the world, the guys still play pretty well. You got to keep working. My gosh, I don't care, just because they're over 50, they still play pretty doggone well.

Q. We should expect to see you out there until further notice?
CURTIS STRANGE: Oh, I'm playing. I'm playing the SENIOR TOUR, yeah. I'll playing for probably quite a while. I got nothing else to do. I can't fish every day. I want to stay busy. I do stay busy. Yeah, I'll continue to play. I wish I'll play a little better, but I'll continue to play.

Q. Is your TV work over?
CURTIS STRANGE: Oh, I think so, yeah. There's a new and improved young kid, young guy 40 or 50 that is the hot name, does well in front of the camera. Yeah, I'm pretty much done I would think. I'll listen to anything. I'll never shut the door on anything. Right now it's pretty much done I would think, yeah.

Q. What was the occasion of your first meeting with Sam Snead?
CURTIS STRANGE: Well, I do remember meeting him when I was about six years old. Dad was a pro at the Greenbrier for a year and a half, kind of the head pro. Sam was the head pro/touring pro. There for a year -- I went to the first grade at the Greenbrier. After that obviously I played with him. After dad died, Chandler Harper from Portsmouth, who was a contemporary and good friends with Sam, he would invite Sam a couple times down a year, and I played with him two or three times in Portsmouth. I played with him in a couple exhibitions around in the area. I played with him in the Disney team as my partner one year back in like, I don't know, '90 or something, '87. I'd have to look at that. He was a better player than I was then. I didn't see him for quite a while. He did call me after my first Open. He was one of the phone calls I received, which made me feel great. Sam was still Sam, one of the greatest players of all time. Then Sarah and I were fortunate, I'll always remember going to his funeral at the Greenbrier. It was actually in Virginia. Sam was great to be around. He was good to me in his rough kind of way.

Q. What kind of impact did he have on you as a golfer?
CURTIS STRANGE: Growing up, my brother and I would go to the golf course and be playing by ourselves. We would be at 13 years old trying to figure out this golf swing. We would always say, Does Sam do it like that? If Sam didn't do it like that, it wasn't good enough for us. So Sam was always the model we used from day one, of course, dad was a huge fan of Sam's, too. Sam and dad really got along well. He was our model. Still is. Still is for everyone.

Q. Of all the success you've had in your career, how much of that do you attribute to natural talent, how much to figuring it out?
CURTIS STRANGE: I don't know. I'm the wrong one to ask again. You should ask Jay. I don't know. Obviously you have some talent. You can't make that chicken salad out of other stuff.
You'd have to ask Jay or somebody like that. Obviously there's some talent. But I worked hard at it. I played hard. I did everything I could possibly do to be the best I could be. That's how I can answer that.

Q. As you look back, which loss was more devastating to you, '85 at the Masters or '90 at the U.S. Open?
CURTIS STRANGE: Haven't ever thought of it like that.

Q. Leave it to the press.
CURTIS STRANGE: I know. I thought you were going to ask that other question.
If I never won a U.S. Open, the Masters would have been. I came back and played well that year, came back and played well after that. I would say devastating is the wrong word. Hard to come back from, '90 was hard to come back from. Not because it was so devastating, because it was such a long ride, such an emptiness afterwards, letdown. Letdown is the wrong word, as well. Just such an emptiness afterwards that I just kind of didn't quite recover, I guess.

Q. Does that surprise you? You play golf. You're used to dealing with that.
CURTIS STRANGE: It is. To this day I don't really know how to explain it. I played some decent golf after that. On a day-to-day basis I didn't play well. I think maybe burnout. It was such a nice ride there. I just didn't quite get it back after that. I don't know. Maybe reaching what was my pinnacle was that. I don't know. I can't answer that.
But I do know the -- but on the other hand, what I just said to you I mean, but I still would like to have gone back to the Masters every year after that as the champion. Who wouldn't? But it didn't happen, so you're welcome Bernhard Langer.

Q. Chandler Harper was a significant influence in your life. I wonder if you would talk about that. I didn't think you mentioned who was going to introduce you.
CURTIS STRANGE: I have not. My brother is. My twin brother Allan. There was never any doubt. I didn't tell him for a while. I didn't want him to sweat too long. Anyway, he knows me better than anybody else.
But Chandler, it's just one of those time, certainly will be in the speech, after dad died, he took me under his wing. When I had trouble with my game, he helped me out. Shortly after that I traveled with him to the state opens for a couple of years until I got my driver's license. Obviously he arranged games with Sam Snead. More than anything else, he believed in me. I can't tell you how important that is for somebody. It made me feel good. It's like Jesse Haddock was the same way, they believed in me. They didn't say it so many words, but I felt that. He was a large part of my life from early on in my career. He was no BS. He was to the point. He was old school. He always wanted my left hand a little stronger than it was, and still would to this day (laughter). He was great. He was a lot of fun to be around.

Q. He was quite the player, too.
CURTIS STRANGE: He really was. I should know this. It's just escaped me right now. He won the '54 or '56 PGA.

Q. I was looking it up as you were talking. I think it's the 1950 PGA.

Q. Beat a bunch of people.
CURTIS STRANGE: He did. Match play. Most accurate player. Still the best short game, chipper, pitcher of the ball I've ever seen in my life. I honestly mean that. Seve is tough to beat. Seve, Watson, some of the great players, Chandler was right up there with them.

Q. How hard was it to attempt to win that third U.S. Open in a row?
CURTIS STRANGE: Well, it wasn't hard. It was just pressure. It was certainly a lot of anticipation leading up to it. I was nervous. I wanted to do well. I gave myself a chance, like we do. I had a chance come Sunday afternoon and didn't.
I guess it was just a lot of pressure. A lot of things on the table at the time. A lot of responsibilities. A lot of attention. That wears on you after the fact. It wasn't just the four rounds, as I was just talking about, it was the leading up to it, the two months or so before it. I couldn't wait for it to get there.
JANE FADER: Curtis, thank you again for your time this afternoon. Thank you, everybody, for spending the last 45 minutes with us. We will have wonderful inductee exhibit displays for each of the members of this year's class. Curtis has loaned us over 200 items, including important and significant things from his career, not just professionally, but growing up, and at Wake Forest, of course. We hope you all can make your way here to see it at some point. He'll also have some great things in his member locker room.

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