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August 6, 2007

Chip Sullivan


KELLY ELBIN: Chip Sullivan, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 89th PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He's the PGA Head Professional at Ashley Plantation in Daleville, Virginia and is the 2007 PGA Professional National Champion having won that championship in Oregon in late June.
Chip, welcome to your fourth PGA Championship. Congratulations on leading 20 professionals into the championship this week.
CHIP SULLIVAN: Thank you. I am very proud to be here and represent 28,000 PGA professionals around the country, and I'm sure it's going to be a wonderful week to be here.
KELLY ELBIN: Are you playing a little bit of practice yesterday, give us some thoughts, please, on the golf course conditions, the conditions with the temperature outside, et cetera.
CHIP SULLIVAN: This is my fourth -- I shouldn't say only. I've only played in four of these. I'm sure some others, they've played more can vouch.
But I would say out of the four I've played this is the best-conditioned PGA Championship I've played in. The course is immaculate. Conditions are fantastic. They're fair. And I expect that good shots are going to win the tournament.
You're not going to be able to get away if you're not hitting it well and it's going to require a lot of fairways and greens to win this major. As far as the heat (chuckling) it's very hot out there. I played this morning which was much better than yesterday afternoon.
I don't know, I feel it's going to be a factor for some, and just have to stay patient and try to stay focused and drink plenty of fluids.
KELLY ELBIN: Thanks, open it up for questions.

Q. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the health issues that you've gone through this year, even though you're playing in PGA Championship No. 4, is this a little different, a little special considering all that?
CHIP SULLIVAN: Sure. As I guess as has been noted in some of the articles, I have gone through a little bit of a battle. It's just some life changes I've had to go through and feel like I've got things under control and just a bump in the road as far as I'm concerned. And I feel that it's not going to affect my ability to play now.
But starting as a new person with diabetes, and it's a life change. And you have to get used to this life change and what you have to do to make sure you're healthy when you're out here.
I'm not used to watching what I eat and watching my blood sugar 24/7. So it's important now, because if it gets too low, you're going to have to withdraw.
It's very important that I monitor myself, like any diabetic. And if you do, you should perform just like anyone else. Scott Verplank does a very good job about it.

Q. You've been asked before, could you elaborate on the hemachromatosis and the diabetes and that saga that you've had to endure the last year or so?
CHIP SULLIVAN: Well, hemachromatosis is a little different. A lot of people don't know about that disease. It's gone unheard of fairly new disease. Basically too much iron in your blood, and that excess iron can damage your organs; poison your organs.
So I have to be careful, make sure that my ferritin level and iron level in my blood is at a normal range and as long as it is, it shouldn't affect, shouldn't affect me one bit.
When I first went in, I was very weak, and when I first got diagnosed, and they had to do a lot of phlebotomies on me, which means they take a lot of blood out of me twice a week several months. Now I'm in the normal range and feel a lot better than I did a year ago.
So it was a blessing that it was diagnosed and I am now able to feel a lot better and perform I think at the highest level I can.

Q. You mentioned Scott Verplank. Did you have a chance to talk to Scott about how he's been able to battle with the condition and make a living playing golf week-in, week-out?
CHIP SULLIVAN: I haven't talked to Scott, but I have talked to several friends and people I know back in my hometown that have battled diabetes for several years as Scott has. I remember playing junior golf against Scott actually in the Southern Golf Association Championship we were paired together. And I remember he was a diabetic back then.
It was a hot day, and he was staying focused on his fluids and what he was eating and drinking. And so I'm sure he's doing real well with it. It's so new for me. I'm just trying to take any bit of advice I can and learn from it and hope that I can manage it as successful as Scott has.

Q. When you got word last winter about the condition, did you ever think why me, or this is just a life obstacle, let's conquer it?
CHIP SULLIVAN: I never said "why me." I went through it with my sister who had it, and you know, I just treat it as a bump in the road. We all get older and things happen. But it's something that when managed it shouldn't affect your lifestyle one bit. So that's the way I feel about it now.
I think that I was a little scared at first, but I feel I'm in a normal range now, and I feel that my body hasn't taken too big of a hit from it. So I'm ready to move on from it, actually.

Q. Could you just talk a little bit about this being number four for you? I imagine those first couple, it might have all been about the butterflies and trying to get the club through the ball. What are your expectations in this one, and what are you hoping to accomplish this week?
CHIP SULLIVAN: Well, trust me. I still have the butterflies. That hasn't changed one bit. Any time I tee it up, whether it be just a fun pro am back home or the PGA Championship here, I get nervous like anybody. And I think that the only difference is that maybe I'm trying to turn that nervous energy into a positive and not let it hurt me as much.
I was fortunate to play a year on Tour back in '97, and so I'm not as awestruck as being around all the big guys, but I still am. And it's a great experience for me to be able to have both sides of the world, I'm able to enjoy my job and my family at home. And every now and then, I get to come out here and compete against the best players in the world. I mean, you can't have it much better than that.
I have three young children. I have no interest in traveling the circuits and being away from them. You could pay me many millions, and that wouldn't take over me leaving them at home and me being on the road.
So I enjoy being able to come out here every now and then and try to keep it as fun as enjoyable as I can and realize it's not my living.
And if I can compete on the weekend, that would be quite a joy and a super experience I'll never forget. And I got to do it one time over at Whistling Straits and made several cuts on tour, but making a cut in the major and competing on the weekend it's something I'll always remember.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record, Chip's best finish in the PGA Championship was Whistling Straits in 2004; he tied for 31st.

Q. Talk to us about how exciting it is for your community back home. I notice that you had a Chip Sullivan Day back in Virginia. Tell me about how excited they are for you and how excited you are to be representing your community?
CHIP SULLIVAN: Well, I really got a warm welcome when I came back from Oregon. And they did, they came out. All members of the club came out and surprised me with a nice welcome party, and the county of Roanoke awarded me a proclamation saying June 28th is Chip Sullivan Day. First thing, of course, my kid says, "Daddy, does that mean we get presents that day?" (Laughter).
But anyway, that was awfully nice. And it continues. I get phone calls. I get handshakes every day when I'm at work and it's really nice. But what is really kind of hitting me so far this week is that I've won some smaller tournaments and I get people coming up shaking my hand, congratulating me. But I realize on the international stage how big a win it is.
I've had people from the gallery that I don't know that saw me on TV, knew I won this. And I'm realizing that this is bigger than just winning something back at my home state; that people all over the country, possibly even the world, saw this.
And I just can't tell you how proud I am to represent the PGA of America this year as their National Champion.

Q. When the PGA was last here at Southern Hills in '94 was the last year that 40 club pros got in the field now that number has been reduced by half. From someone in the profession, is that a good thing, or would you wish that maybe there were another five or 10 spots for the club pros in this championship?
CHIP SULLIVAN: Well, you know, I know where they're coming from on limiting the field. We'd love to have more. But we have to show them we deserve more.
The 20 guys that are here, we need to play well. We need to compete. We need to make the cut and show that there's a lot of great club professionals in this country that can come out here in a world stage and possibly throw some nice numbers up.
I've seen it a lot, and I know that they're capable and it's just a matter of doing it this week. And I think if we can do that, who knows, maybe we'll get some more spots back.

Q. Not knowing anything about how much golf you play on a week-in, week-out basis at home, but with the heat that's been forecast for this week, are you going to be okay in that? Have you always been pretty good when it's real hot, or do these guys who have been out here all summer playing a lot more golf have any kind of an edge over you or some of the other club pros who aren't playing as much?
CHIP SULLIVAN: I can't speak for everyone else, but I know that my time's limited. I have several different jobs that I'm balancing at home and family. So whenever I get a chance to play, I'm in a golf cart. I don't have the time to walk.
So I feel that I'm 42 years old. I wish I was 22 this week, because that heat is definitely pretty bothersome to me. But hopefully I'll be fine. I'll work into it this week, and it won't affect me. We'll just have to wait and see.
I wish it was a few degrees cooler, though, like everybody.

Q. I was talking to Fred Funk about the championship playing in the Tradition at Sun River, and Fred was telling me, "I gotta find this guy and get a scouting report." What's the scouting report you give to those guys on that course real quick synopsis on what to expect, and will it be any longer for them do you think than they made it for you guys?
CHIP SULLIVAN: I don't think they could have made it any longer. I'm trying to remember if we played the back tees everywhere. Feels like we did.
The thing there that really makes a difference is getting used to the altitude. I think you're like 4,000 feet above sea level. Those practice rounds are important to see how far the ball's traveling and get your club selections correct.
And I think that's one of the problems some people had that week was just distance control and their shots and how far it was going. But also when the wind picked up; the wind can pick up there, it's high altitude. When you add that factor in, you really need a calculator to figure out what the yardage really play like. So I would suggest that would be the main thing to make sure you get out there early enough to feel out how your club selections are going to change, distance control.
KELLY ELBIN: Chip, could you talk a little bit about any particular holes here at Southern Hills that stand out in your mind, that impress you over the course of the time you've played in the last day or so?
CHIP SULLIVAN: I think No. 2, No. 16, are two holes that stick out. But there's several others. The dogleg left hole sticks out in my mind since I'm a fader.
So I had to figure out how I'm going to play some of those. I can't remember the hole on the front 9. I think it might be 7 doglegs left and the fairway slopes to the right. I still haven't figured out how I'm going to play that hole yet.
But you know the course is fair. It's set up to where if you hit a good shot, you're going to get rewarded; if you don't, you're not. And the greens are some of the smallest greens I've seen. So it really requires you to hit those fairways. It's a big bonus.
And you get a bunch of birdie putts, those are the ones that are going to get a chance. It's not any easier when you get on the greens. They have solid breaks and a lot of them back-to-the-front and keeping it low to the hole. There's a lot of things going on out there. And, you know, for a club pro that's not out here every week, it's quite intimidating.
I'm sure if you're playing each week -- when I played full time in '97, I found the courses were less intimidating the more I played. But you know, this can be very intimidating. I'm glad I got in here a little bit earlier; so each round is going to feel a little bit easier out there and trying to battle hitting out of the rough, because you're not going to hit every fairway.
And we'll see how it goes, but it's all going to be about fairways and greens and hitting good golf shots.
KELLY ELBIN: Chip Sullivan, thank you very much.

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