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March 17, 2004

Todd Hamilton


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Todd Hamilton thanks for joining us. First and foremost, congratulations on winning the Honda Classic last weeks your first PGA TOUR victory. Maybe we could start with some openings comments. Certainly a great week for you.

TODD HAMILTON: It was very nerve wracking and very exciting all at same time. To have a four shot lead and end up winning the way that I did, it was very satisfying. Never could have dreamed something like that would happen, especially this fast being my first year on TOUR. I hope it happens again. It may not happen for a while, but I will try my best to make it happen.

Q. I know it's only been a couple of days, but can you give us some examples of how your life has changed even in that short amount of time?

TODD HAMILTON: I obviously understand what I did. I don't think I really comprehend what happened a couple of days ago. I think once I get home and see all of my friends and my buddies that I play golf with, I think then it will sink in.

The last couple of days have been pretty hectic. I finally learned that I need to start carrying my own pen around in my pocket to sign autographs. It saves a little time. It's very exciting. It's a great problem to have, having to sign a lot of stuff and coming in here to talk to you guys.

Q. Do you see evidence that your peers are treating you differently?

TODD HAMILTON: Definitely. A couple of great things happen. One, right after the round, Davis Love came over and congratulated me on birdieing the final two holes. He said, "It was a great way to win and you deserve it." That meant a lot to me.

I came out here on Monday hit a few balls. I didn't play at all but I practiced, was on the range. Scott Hoch came over, and I had met him before. I've never played with him but, I had met him a couple of times in Japan when he came over for some of our events over there. He came up to me and said, "I've got to tell you, I don't usually watch golf. I was home, I was watching the golf last week. It was so exciting that I had to continue watching it to the end." And he congratulated me. I thought that meant a lot.

It makes me feel that I may be belong out here; that I can be accustomed playing out here. That definitely settles me down, calms me down.

Q. A lot of the guys that are out here are peers of yours, same age, colleges days, things like that, did you ever have doubt that you belonged out here over in the time that it took you to get here?

TODD HAMILTON: Maybe doubt that I would get here. But I thought once I got here, getting through the qualifying school would relieve a lot of pressure and I thought that I could do well. My career in Japan started out great. I won some tournaments here and there. I had a couple stretches in there where I didn't play well for a while. But I had gone through something like that before when I first started as a professional, so I knew how to handle it. I knew that I had the game to play well, whether it be Asian Tour, Japanese Tour or here in the States. It was just a matter of getting through the hurdles to get here. I think getting my TOUR card last December really took the monkey off my back.

Q. Is Q School unfair in the sense that you've got to be on your game maybe for three stages or the final stage or whatever, and your whole career is on that one week, as opposed to a season somewhere?

TODD HAMILTON: I don't know if it's unfair, but I think it's very difficult. I've been told it's one of the hardest things to get through, qualifying.

I was lucky that when I went through this year, I had a respectable tour to play. Had I not gotten my tour card, I could have gone back to Japan, hopefully had the year that I had last year over there, make a decent living winning a few tournaments. A lot of guys, they don't have that option. They were going to get at worst they were going to get conditional Nationwide status, which is great, but you can't really plan out what you want to do throughout the whole year.

Of course, getting my TOUR card allowed me somewhat to play here and there, and winning last week really is icing on the cake. Now I can decide, instead of being told, hey, you can get in this tournament but you can't get in this one. Now I can pretty much decide which ones I want, which makes things a lot easier.

Q. Like Hawaii?


Q. Not a bad road trip.

TODD HAMILTON: I never thought about that and somebody mentioned it last Sunday after the round.

Q. You just did something not a lot of guys have done, which is win on this tour. The big storyline this week is a guy trying to win this thing for the fifth straight year. Can you put into words how hard that must be from where you're coming from and where that guy must be?

TODD HAMILTON: Obviously, he likes the golf course. I think that's very important for a guy that's going to play well. Sometimes holes, certain holes, don't fit your eye. Last week, they fit my eye well. I enjoyed playing the golf course.

But he can play golf well at any tournament on any golf course. But to win a tournament four times in a row is unbelievable. I don't know what the longest streak is, but that's got to be pretty close.

Q. That's it. Ties it.

TODD HAMILTON: So if he wins this week, he sets a new standard. Pretty impressive. That's why he's No. 1.

Q. I'm sure you've talked about this a lot last week, but could you again discuss the whole culture shock that you've gone through playing in Japan and how much more difficult that made it to play good golf with a language barrier, the food, travel, were those even added burdens for you to play well there?

TODD HAMILTON: It was difficult at first because I didn't just like here, I didn't know what courses fit me. I didn't know how to get to the courses, where to stay. I think playing on the Asian Tour for five years definitely helped me out. Went to a lot of big cities playing over there, cities that were I grew up in a small town of 1,500 and most of the cities we went to were 6 million, 7 million, 10 million, 11 million people. So that was a big culture shock and maybe helped me out with my performances in Japan.

For me, Japan when I first started, it was very interesting. As a kid I had never I knew there was a tour there. Never really saw any information as far as Money List or who were the good golfers. I knew Jumbo and Aoki were all good players, but because I saw them playing over here tournaments like Bay Hill, Masters, Memorial, U.S. Open, things like that, but I never saw any information on the Tour and I never really knew what to expect going over there. But I had played well in Asia early year in the year in '92 when I started playing in Japan.

I had a lot of confidence. So I just tried to go over there and keep that confidence going. But it was a big culture shock. Even recent years, not playing as well I had in years prior, if you don't play well in a strange country or a foreign spot, it's not like I could get in my car and drive down and see a movie on a Saturday afternoon after I had missed the cut or go shopping at the mall. It was really difficult and it almost forced you to play well.

I remember a stretch, oh, I think it was two or three years ago, I went over for six weeks and missed every cut. It was probably the longest month and a half I've ever had playing golf. It was so boring.

I did have a DVD machine, portable DVD machine that I took over, but you can only watch 15 movies so many times. (Laughter.)

But I think it forced you to play well. If you didn't play well, you knew you were going to be in for a long Saturday, a long Sunday, a long Monday, Tuesday was going to be a practice round and I wasn't getting in the Pro Ams on Wednesday, so I had five long days to wait to get a chance for the next round.

Q. Have you had a chance to visit with Arnold?

TODD HAMILTON: I have not seen him. I've never met him. I look forward to shaking his hand. I have not seen him this week.

Q. It's an exciting year for him with his 50th Masters, do you have any reflections on Arnold as a young person or the fast few years has he been an influence?

TODD HAMILTON: I know he kind of had his own way of doing things on the golf course. He didn't have the beautiful swing lot a lot of guys have now. It seemed like he overpowered golf courses when he played. He had a lot of determination.

I'm not big into the history of golf. I know who won certain tournaments way back whether but as far as a historian I'm not really into that. But I do know a lot of the perks that we enjoy out here or that I've seen in my two months out here can be attributed to guys like him.

Q. Last week we talked briefly about the Masters. It seems like it's a foregone conclusion that you'll be there. Talk about what you are looking forward to experiencing there, if it's playing Amen Corner or what it may be, what are the things that you're looking forward to going there?

TODD HAMILTON: Well, I've set foot on the golf course but it was closed. I've never hit a shot off the property. So I look forward to hitting the first shot, whether it be on the driving range or if I get there late and can't hit any balls, the first tee. Just being able to play a place, even playing here, I watched it on TV as a kid. When I was in Japan, they would show the final two rounds every morning on Sunday and Monday and I would get up before my tee time and watch the telecast.

Playing a course that I've seen on TV for the first time is great, and to have it be the Masters will be a dream come true.

Q. One brief thing, back to Japan. In the better tournaments on that tour, what would be your guess as to how many guys would be capable of winning over here?

TODD HAMILTON: Guys that play in those events could win over here? A lot of the good tournaments that happen late in the year are very limited fields. They might only have 90 players. They get a lot of guys coming over from the U.S. and European players.

Q. But the Japanese players

TODD HAMILTON: The Japanese players, I'd say there's probably five to ten that could have success over here. Maybe not win right off, but they could contend. Maruyama, if he was still over there, he would be one.

Tanaka I know plays over here, he had a great career in Japan. I remember playing with Tanaka in a tournament called the Aichi Crown (ph), I don't know what year it was, but that tournament gave him a sponsor's invite. He was an amateur back then. He lived in the area and he shot 5 under par.

It wasn't a real difficult golf course but you had to really think your way around it. If you thought well you would probably do well. I don't know, I probably shot 2 or 3 over. This little guy, 20 years old, 19, whatever he was, he's not any bigger than my wife who is 5'3, he's barely bigger than her, and he went out and just beat the tar out of me. So I knew he had a good future. I felt he could do well in Japan and I figured if he ever got over here, he would do well.

Q. And also one benefit for winning is THE PLAYERS Championship next week. Have you ever played that course and what thoughts do you have about that tournament?

TODD HAMILTON: Again, I've watched it on TV. Never had a chance to play it. Most of these courses I've never played. I did play Pebble Beach once. I played it during the AT&T, but a lot of them, I've never played. This is all new to me.

Q. When you watched it on TV did you ever imagine yourself at 17; is a hole that intrigues you?

TODD HAMILTON: Oh, yeah, I've never played a hole like that in my life. The course I play a lot in Dallas, I've been told by a friend who is a member there that's played the Tournament Players Course a bunch of times, he said it's a very similar to the course we play in Dallas. They are both Pete Dye courses. It's just a little bit shorter. So I'm look forward to it.

The course I play, is a Pete Dye course. It used to be called Stonesbridge. They now have a deal with the Dallas Stars Hockey team and it's called the Dallas Stars Country Club. Very, very intimidating shots, big lakes, deep bunkers, fast greens with a lot of undulation. And they said it's basically the same golf course as the TPC course only a little bit shorter. So I look forward to playing there.

Q. In the three days or four days it's been, have you jotted down or documented or thought about a schedule or what you're going to do, because obviously it changes everything.

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I sat down last night and kind of figured the tournaments 100% that I felt that I was going to play. You know, being a rookie, I'd like to play every tournament. I've never had a chance to play on the PGA TOUR before for a full season.

So I say, play here, I play here, well, I've got eight tournaments in a row that I want to play; and then I look, well, I'll take the next week off and I look and it's Hilton Head. Well, I've been told I have to play there; it's a great tournament.

So it's really difficult for me because I want to play as many as I can. I have not really set up 100% of a schedule for the whole year, but sure there's tournaments I'm going to play for sure. It's hard to do because I like to play golf. When I'm at home I play golf all the time. Why not play in a big tournament and enjoy yourself?

Q. If all you would do when you went home is play golf anyway, why not just

TODD HAMILTON: Play every tournament.

Q. Like a Dana Quigley.

TODD HAMILTON: I'll give you my wife's cell phone number and you can ask her that question. (Laughter.) So I don't have to answer it.

Q. In U.S. dollars, what was the biggest check you got for winning a tournament up till last week?

TODD HAMILTON: It was 30 Million Yen, which at the time was about 270,000, 275,000 and that was last year. It was a match play event last September.

Q. When will you play in Japan again?

TODD HAMILTON: I would like to go over toward the latter half of November for the Visa Taiheiyo Masters. Probably shouldn't say Visa too loudly here. And the Dunlop Phoenix tournament. The Visa tournament is one of my favorite golf courses over there. I'd like to go over there just to see some old friends and hang out.

Q. This whole psychological process you spoke about, the psychology of winning, your interviews a couple of days before, you actually won, can that be sustained with all the new

TODD HAMILTON: I think it can. Tiger has proven that. I think what Tiger he's a great golfer. Obviously he's a great golfer. But what he does under the scrutiny of you guys is, the other media, he's always hounded, can you do this, can you do that. What he does under that amount of pressure is unbelievable and I think that makes him appear a better golfer than he might be, at least in my eye. So it can be sustained.

You have to be a very strong willed person to do it because you're going to have a lot of times when you're not going to feel like playing golf, yet you're going to have to go out there and try to improve or keep something going. I think it's possible, but you have to be really strong willed. I think the trials and tribulations that I went through for a long time, I think it will help me out to do that.

Q. Not necessarily the American players, the better ones that go over to Japan once in a great while, like Duval won the Dunlop Phoenix one year, how are the American players like and you, a Brian Watts, let's say, viewed over there by the Japanese fans? Are you a curiosity or do they go overboard to make you feel welcome?

TODD HAMILTON: I think early on, we weren't treated poorly, they wouldn't holler at our backs or anything like that. But I think some of the older players that were borderline able to keep their card for the following year, I think they resented us a little bit coming over there because they felt like we were taking a spot away from them.

The younger players didn't mind it at all. I think they enjoyed the competition and I felt that they thought that playing with us, not that we were great players back they be, but playing with someone else outside of Japan, would enhance their game.

Q. Did winning lessen that borderline resentment or did it increase it when you won over there? Did you get more respect with each victory?

TODD HAMILTON: I think so. Especially me being over there 12 years, I think the length of time that I spent allowed me to become more one of them, I guess. I would get noticed a little bit off the golf course, not too often, but people would come up and recognize me. And if I had a good week the week before, they would congratulate me, so that was nice.

Q. So you were seen as someone who supported their tour at a certain point because you kept coming back?

TODD HAMILTON: Yes, I hope they felt that way.

Q. How long did it take you to commute to Japan? And also, do you have like a million frequent flyer miles making the trip so many times? Can you even estimate how many times you've been?

TODD HAMILTON: I probably went on average, it was about a 14 hour flight but it was a direct flight from Dallas to Tokyo which didn't bother me at awe. I probably averaged five times a year for 12 years, so 60 times back and forth. I don't know how many miles I acquired going back and forth.

But I didn't mind the long flight, the no stop flight. Sometimes I couldn't get on that flight, so I would have to go Dallas to Seattle or San Jose; that was a four hour flight and I'd have to get off for two hours and I'd have to go on the eight hour part.

Q. Did you ever get stuck in a middle seat in coach or did you ever have any kind of travel horror stories?

TODD HAMILTON: Not really. Although when I first went over there, this is before they banned smoking on the flights, so I hate smoke. I don't smoke and I don't really enjoy smelling it, so I would always ask for no smoking.

Well, one time I got last seat of the no smoking and the guys right behind me were in smoking and it was three Japanese guys. Once that light went off, you could hear three lighters clicking all at the same time.

I've been fortunate, I haven't had any bad experiences on flights. I usually stay up I used to stay up almost all night the night before. I put everything off, do my laundry, pack, go to bed late and watch TV, eat microwave popcorn, get my fill that have before I went over. And I'd get about four hours of sleep. So I'd wake of cranky, get to the airport and there's been times where I've fallen asleep before we took off, and I would sleep at least three quarters of the way.

Q. Do you speak Japanese now?

TODD HAMILTON: I know a little bit. I can't really put words into sentences but I know phrases and words. I should know a lot more than I do having been there for 12 years.

I can read some of the different writings, though.

Q. $900,000, are you going to blow the dough on something like a hot car? Have you and your wife talked over some luxury item now that you're going to buy?

TODD HAMILTON: We are in the process of building a house, so a lot of that will go toward the house.

But I've been lucky for the 12 years that I played Japan, I made a very decent living. I've had a chance to buy a lot of nice stuff. I'm not one that is going to go out and spend $400,000 of it on a new car. I've got a nice car now. We're getting ready to have a nice house. We've got three kids that will eventually end up going to college, so we'll put some money away for them. As long as I've got a halfway decent car, a nice place to live and a set of golf clubs, I'm fine with that.

Q. Without the dollar figures, how much more does winning mean to you than just getting the card? I know the PGA TOUR card means dollars for a lot of people, endorsement money; does winning kick it up a notch? Have you gotten calls or offers?

TODD HAMILTON: Not really. I came over here, got through the Tour school and I continued to play the same equipment that I've played last year in Japan, the last couple of years in Japan. So I felt that before I went and chased the money with new clubs, changed balls, I probably should do something with what I had and prove myself that way. Plus now that I've done that, I can ask for more money, rather than take a lowball figure, now I can increase that. (Laughter.) I'm a slow learner, but I do learn.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Now from The Honda Classic, we have tournament director Cliff Danley.

CLIFF DANLEY: We are very pleased to have Todd as our champion. We the watched telecast last week, it was a great finish. We are very proud of Todd to him represent us for rest of the year. So I brought up some pin flags for him and today, as far as the car goes, he'll get a Honda of his choice so he'll already have a great car. So you won't have to blow the $400,000 on a great car. In addition to that we are going to send your lovely wife 58 pieces of Waterford crystal. It was a nice week and we appreciate everything you've done. We wish you nothing but the best of luck. Congratulations.

TODD HAMILTON: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

I'd like to be able to say that I was good enough or I believed in my talent enough to make your tournament that exciting to where I could screw up the first 16 holes and birdie last two holes, but I was trying the whole day. I'm glad it worked out the way it did and I think those two tournaments back to back, the Doral and your tournament, I think a lot of fans enjoyed watching it. At least I hoped they did.

CLIFF DANLEY: It was great for golf.

End of FastScripts.

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