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July 4, 2007

Judd Silverman


RAND JERRIS: It is a pleasure to welcome Judd Silverman to the interview room this morning. He is playing his first United States Senior Open this week and has quite a bit of experience with the Senior Open, having been the Championship Director in 2003 Inverness. Judd, maybe you can start us off with comments about what it means to you to be playing in the Senior Open.
JUDD SILVERMAN: It's a tremendous thrill, it's an honor. I've had the pleasure of playing in three USGA events. I played in the USGA Junior, way, way, back in the early '70s, played in the U.S. Amateur in 1975, and 32 years later I guess I'm playing in another one.
I have the utmost respect for the USGA and all of the great volunteers and the wonderful staff and had the pleasure of working with Tim Flaherty and Pete Kowalski in the 2003 U.S. Senior Open at Inverness, great to see them again. And it's an honor to be in the field, walking the same fairways as the greatest players in the world. It's something you dream about.
All I can say is golf is the only game that at 51 years old you can be sitting on your couch dreaming about playing with the greatest players in the game and have the opportunity to go qualify to actually do it.
Any other sport, you know, you can dream all you want but you're not going to get on the playing field. So it's just a dream come true to experience what these guys go through week in, week out.
RAND JERRIS: Could you tell us a little bit about qualifying rounds, anything happen interesting in qualifying, how you got into the field this week and how it felt when you realized you were going to be coming here as a contestant.
JUDD SILVERMAN: I qualified in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is the closest spot to our home in Toledo. And I think there were 82 guys for two spots. And there were three guys from Toledo that played in the U.S. Senior Open before, so I called them on the phone and I said, how do you do it, and they said to make 18 pars in a row, stay away from a big number.
And luckily I was able to make one eagle and two birdies and played a nice, solid round and got in. But these conditions here at Whistling Straits are a little different than where I qualified.
I was telling some people from Toledo -- they said, what are the conditions like, and I said, it's like playing Inverness from the back tees with 30-mile-an-hour winds because we're not used to playing in winds like this, and every day it's been blowing from a different direction. So we've seen it from just about every direction.
I just played nine holes with Craig Stadler and Gary Koch came out and walked the last six holes and I told him that and he said, "That's good, that way you've seen every hole in every wind direction so you'll know what to do once the Championship starts tomorrow."
But it's a demanding golf course, as you all know and you've really got to drive the ball well. If you can keep it on the short grass, I think the golf course rewards you. It does reward good shots.
So I think players like Jay Haas and Tom Watson and Craig Stadler, great ball strikers like that, these guys are going to be able to deal with it and if the winds don't blow 40 miles an hour. If it's like it is out there today I think the greatest players in the world will get out there and make some birdies.
RAND JERRIS: What can you tell us about your game, how you're feeling about your game coming into this week?
JUDD SILVERMAN: After playing with Craig Stadler and Scott Simpson Wayne Levy I'm reminded why 32 years ago I couldn't beat them and I'm sure I can't beat them now. And there is a reason that they've been professional golfers for this long, because they're the most talented players in the world. They have about three more gears than I do.
But there are 156 players, 60 spots up on the weekend and you've got to come up with your game plan and go out there and play the golf course as best as you can, as smart as you can, take your medicine, you know, when you hit a wayward shot and try and hang in there as best you can. Hopefully throw in a birdie or two with a bunch of pars and try and put a good number on the board.

Q. With all the things you have on your plate, particularly what's happening next week, how much golf have you played and how significantly more is it than you normally have in order to get ready for the U.S. Senior Open?
JUDD SILVERMAN: Our Jamie Farr LPGA event is next week so it's been busy. But I've tried to get away early in the morning, late in the day to work on my short game, hit balls, probably haven't played as much as I would like to, but I'm still keeping in shape. I run every other day, try and lift some weights, and try and get as ready as I can because I knew it was going to be a demanding golf course to walk and the conditions with the wind. It will wear you down.
I think I read where Loren Roberts said he was only going to play nine holes today because you've got to be ready to go when the bell rings and your legs have to be ready to go. And I don't blame him for doing that because it's a lot of up and down and walking on the paths and it's like climbing stairs all day long.
So I think the guys that are in the best shape and that can drive that ball in the fairway, those are the guys that are going to play well this week.

Q. I'm interested in your relationship with Craig Stadler, how it's evolved, how you got hooked up with him in the first place, how many years you were with him, and how it's evolved over the years till now where you're playing with him in the same group.
JUDD SILVERMAN: The caddies were laughing. I met Craig way back in the late '70s through my good friend, Gary Koch who I met when I was playing on the golf team in South Florida, he graduated from South Florida and he lives in Tampa, so he would occasionally come out to our golf course and play with us. And he became like a big brother to me and we've had that kind of relationship, you know, for 30 years. He's been tremendous.
And Gary was the one that introduced me to Craig and we hit it off and he me to caddy for him for the season in 1982. And I jumped at the opportunity. It was one of the greatest things I've ever done in my life. He was the leading money winner that year, he won the Masters, the World Series of Golf, and it was -- to get paid to travel around the country, I was 24 years old, to watch the greatest players in the world play, it was just a great experience and that's where I sort of had the idea for the LPGA event.
And after I stopped caddying for Craig and went back to Toledo and tried to put the tournament together. And we played our first tournament in 1984 and next week will be our 23rd tournament. So I owe a lot to Gary and Craig. They're such great role models and great friends both on and off the golf course. I have such a respect for them.
And it's a thrill for me to qualify for this event and have a chance to play a couple of practice rounds with Craig and he was helpful to me out there and I can't say enough about Craig and Gary.

Q. I take it you've been in touch with Craig over the years and I wondered what relationship -- the relationship is like now and play with him as an equal today.
JUDD SILVERMAN: I'll never be his equal on the golf course, but it was a great experience. We keep in touch, our family had the opportunity to go to the Masters this year for one day on the Wednesday practice round. And we have -- Lisa and I have two sons, 11 and 14, and Craig couldn't have been nicer to both those guys. Talked to them about the course and we followed him. And it was just a great experience. Monday both my boys -- one caddied for me and the other one walked with us and Craig was great to them.
Guys, I've won this week, whatever happens from here on out is just icing on the cake. It's an awesome experience already. I don't want it to end.

Q. Can you tell what it was like playing with him today?
JUDD SILVERMAN: We played Monday and Wednesday. You know, it's a little intimidating, because he is so strong, he hits it so far. I had the opportunity to come over Whistling Straits a couple of weeks ago to play a practice round and when I got off the course I was so excited for Craig, because it just seemed like every tee shot was a left to right tee shot. So I called him on the phone and I said, "You're going to love this place. It was built for you." So it's been fun to watch him go around it a couple times and he hits that cut tee ball so far on many of the holes. I think he's going to do very well this week. I try not to watch him, because I can't really relate to his power. All I know is I just close my eyes when he hits, I hit, and I go up to my ball and his ball is ab! out 60 yards ahead of mine.

Q. You were a good amateur player, but at what point -- did you ever get to the point where you thought something like this week would never happen for you? Did you ever think you would never have the chance to experience something like this?
JUDD SILVERMAN: Yeah, because when I was playing in college you tried to qualify for the U.S. Open. And I did that a few times and never made it past local qualifying, I would shoot 73, 74, 147 and miss by 7 shots. And you could see the guys -- they were much better than I was. I couldn't bring my game to their level.
I never thought about playing in a TOUR event or another USGA event and I never tried to qualify for the Mid-Am and I started playing better last year for some reason and won a couple of tournaments in the Toledo area and said I'm not going to have very many more opportunities to qualify, I might as well give it a shot. And was lucky enough to get in and it's been a great, great experience.

Q. Were there any experiences as a caddy that may help you out on the golf course as a player this week?
JUDD SILVERMAN: Well, I think it helps from a standpoint I've been to plenty of tournaments before. I've been to plenty of U.S. Opens and U.S. Senior Opens before, I've been inside the ropes before. So to a degree it certainly helps when you know people, because really what you're trying to do, I think the biggest challenge for me will be controlling my nerves tomorrow and just trying to concentrate and focus on every shot and not be thinking about everything that's going on around us. I think that's the biggest challenge. But so far so good. It's been a lot of fun.

Q. Trying to couch this the right way, but you're probably looking at yourself as one of the 64th seeds in the NCAA tournament, or maybe I'm wrong. But in terms of you saying whatever you do here you've won already. How do you get yourself to the competitive level mentally so you can actually go out there and say, "You know what? I don't want to go home on Friday, I want to play on the weekend"?
JUDD SILVERMAN: Well, Pete, I'm not going to have a problem doing that. I'm a competitor and I want to play my best. So I won't have a problem getting fired up. And we'll take it a shot at a time and Jim McGowan, my friend who is caddying for me, we will plan our strategy on how we want to play every hole and depending on what the wind is doing and we'll focus on every shot and give it our best.
Hopefully, we can control our nerves and put the ball in play and hit some greens and make a bunch of pars and put a decent number on the board.

Q. You talked about your nerves a little bit. Are you happy you're the first group off tomorrow, just to get going?
JUDD SILVERMAN: Sure, yeah, absolutely. I would rather be playing early than late, I guess. But you know you're going to play early one day and late one day. And I didn't really give that much thought about where I would like to tee off and what time. And I knew, as an amateur, I was going to be at the end of the field, I know how that works. But, sure, I'm happy we'll get out there early and hopefully the wind will be nice and calm and good conditions and go out there and cheer on the guys I'm playing with, David Thore, he played on maybe one of the greatest college teams of all time with Jay Haas, Curtis Strange and Bob Hyman. And hopefully we'll have a great day and a good round and cheer each other on.

Q. For the record, you said you started playing well within the last year or so. Can you give us specifics on what events you won and how low you've gone in terms of scoring over the time that you've played well?
JUDD SILVERMAN: Sure. I played in Toledo District Golf Association events. We had a team Championship, I played on the Inverness team, I shot 71, 69 and won the event. And that helped a lot because there was a lot of young college kids in that event playing for their clubs. So it was fun playing two solid rounds against formidable competition in our area.
And there is a senior event, one-day event in Toledo and I shot 68 and won that. And automatically your mind starts thinking, "Well, I'm going to be 51, I'm not going to be able to qualify for this event much longer, you know, anything can happen in an 18-hole qualifying."
So I told my wife that I was going to qualify and I tried not to tell anybody else that I was going to go for it and went up to Ann Arbor and had a good round and here we are.
RAND JERRIS: Thank you very much for your time today and we wish you lots of luck this week.
JUDD SILVERMAN: Thanks for having me.

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