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July 30, 2008

Dave Delich


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Dave Delich to the interview room this afternoon. He is playing in his first U.S. Senior Open Championship this week. He's a member here at the Broadmoor Golf Club, and, in fact, a six-time club champion.
Can you tell us what it means to you as a Colorado Springs resident to have this championship in your backyard and be part of the field this week?
DAVE DELICH: As a resident, it's been a terrific opportunity. We have held USGA events here in the past, as most of you are aware, but it's been quite some time. '95, I think was the last one. The city is, as you can see, by all of the effort that's been put forth from the different governmental groups, police, fire, the city agencies, The Broadmoor has spent an inordinate amount of money to make this thing successful, and I think they've got everybody not only locally, but regionally very excited about the tournament.
So as a citizen we've all been happy about it. I live in the neighborhood, so I'm probably as inconvenienced as anybody with the tournament being here, but we're thrilled. If we could do this every few years, it would be something terrific for our community.
I don't think there's been a bad word said about the tournament, about the preparations from the tournament. And everything I've been hearing from the players and the volunteers is that they think the venue is just tremendous.
So, we're excited, first and foremost as a citizen. I'm not sure about the other part yet.
RAND JERRIS: Tell us a little bit about actually qualifying for this. What was it like when you realized that you had actually made it into the field?
DAVE DELICH: The qualifying round was held up in Parker, Colorado for this section, a place called the Colorado Golf Club, very, very, difficult Crenshaw course. They had the course set up a little bit over the edge. For the qualifier, I think the scoring average was extremely high that day, 87, 88 range with the 95 or 96 players that were there. I played early that morning. I was the second or third group off.
We played in a lot of wind and a lot of heat. They had the course long, around 7,400 yards. I played as well as I could play under the conditions. I thought that I left a pretty good score on the golf course, missed a two-foot putt on the 17th hole and bogeyed the last hole. I was 20 feet from the pin and in a divot and I had to hit a blast shot to get it out and ended up making a bogey.
So when you walk in and give away a couple right at the end when you know the score is going to be around 72 as difficult of the conditions were I was pretty disappointed. One of the guys from the Denver Post asked me, "Do you have time for an interview?"
I said, "Well, maybe in a few hours. There's a lot of guys out there." I said, "Right now, everybody's got a story and mine's just sad."
So that's what I felt about my qualifying round and coming in, but as the day wore on, we sat there for three and a half hours waiting for the rest of the field to come in, and there were a lot of good players, a lot of guys who played in Opens and Masters and PGA championships and things like that on the golf course.
I think it was the fifth or sixth guy from the end who finally posted a score that was better; 73, I shot 74. So I had the second spot, and there were three available in this section this year.
RAND JERRIS: I'm going to take this in a slightly different direction. I think in your bio you were the all-time leading scorer at the Colorado college hockey program and there are certainly a few guys out here who were former hockey players, John Harris and Allen Doyle, who have had some great success. What do you think it is about hockey players that make them such good golfers?
DAVE DELICH: I think probably the straight answer would be that you just have a lot of foreign skills that you have to learn as a hockey player. Nothing is natural. You don't run and jump. Learning to skate, learning to handle the stick, the speeds at which you play, the hand-eye coordination that's involved. Those are all key ingredients.
I know a couple of hockey players who swing a little bit like Charles Barkley, so it's not an automatic, but it seems like a lot of the skilled players from the game of hockey are pretty adept at playing golf. I think there are a few out there on the Celebrity Tour year-in and year-out that are pretty strong golfers.
And I know John Harris was a very good hockey player. Allen Doyle, I understand, was also a very good hockey player out east, and I think it's part of the competitive advantage they might have also from a sport like hockey. You have to kind of suck it up at times.
RAND JERRIS: Is there a time in your life where you found yourself trying to decide between the two sports?
DAVE DELICH: Oh, no, not really. I grew up in northern Minnesota. I learned to play golf from a gentleman that had one of the prettiest golf swings ever, a fellow named Ernie Hill, a neighbor. And we played on a nine-hole course in a little mining community in northern Minnesota.
So our golf season was about three hours long. But that's what we did in the summer. The rest of the time we were shovelling snow and playing hockey. So my goal was to try and get a college scholarship like a lot of the kids growing up in the area I grew up in. And that fortunately happened here at Colorado College, where I played college hockey and then went onto play professionally with the national teams after that. Ended up retiring, I was 26 or 27 years old when I finally quit playing, 26 and feeling like 66. Another good thing about the game of hockey.
RAND JERRIS: Thank you. We'll take some questions, please.

Q. Dave, how surreal has this week been? Not only are you out with so many of the greats on the course, your press conference today comes right in between Hale Irwin and Tom Watson.
DAVE DELICH: Well, I hope I can meet Tom on the way out. He's the one individual I was hoping to have five minutes with during the week, and I'll find a way to do that. I've watched him my entire life. He's obviously just a few years older than I am, and I love the way he played the game and the way he took on people.
It's a really strange situation. I've played in a half a dozen USGA championships, but they've all been amateur events and you have family and friends walking around with you and that's about it. The golf course is set up very similar to what we see here and the preparation and all of that. But it's just different.
I think it hit me Sunday morning. I came out here just to practice the previous week and a half. I played a couple times but there was no one out on the golf course. I went to the range and Fred Funk and Brad Bryant were on the range and talking and having some fun, and I think I shanked six balls in front of Fred before I went over and apologized to him and I said, hey, I had a late night last night, which I did, Saturday. And they asked me to play along, and I went out and played 18 with those guys and had a really good time.
But I think that's the only time I felt any nerves. It was pretty tough for the first five or six holes just trying to keep the ball in the air and not get in their way, but after that I started hitting the ball and playing my own game and we had a lot of fun. In, fact I played with Fred nine holes yesterday, also. But that's when the nerves hit. That was the first time.
Monday afternoon I came out also, and that was a real strange sensation. I had signed up for a tee time because I registered early due to the fact I live here and a lot of the guys were coming from England (Scotland). And I showed up Monday expecting there was going to be a couple guys here. It was just me and a bunch of people, and I felt like a really small fish in a really big fish bowl, is what I felt like. So I played seven or eight holes and said that was enough.
But it's interesting. I've played another sport this kind of level, a very high level, and I've played in front of 20,000 people, but they're usually throwing something at you and calling you something that shouldn't be repeated here. This is a little different environment when you know you're surrounded by those kind of masses, and they're quiet and they're quiet for a reason. And we all know what a bad sound or a bad shot sounds like coming off the clubhead, so it's a little different experience.

Q. I was wondering how your brother did on the bag today for his first go-around.
DAVE DELICH: Chuck only subtracted once when he should have added today. He did great. My brother, Chuck, we've been playing golf together for 40 years, very good player. I think he's played in a U.S. Mid Am in the past. I think he played up at Hazeltine some years ago, and he's played The Broadmoor probably more than I have in the last five or ten years. He knows it very well. He knows how to read the greens. If I get confused or get into a problem, he knows my game.
He can help me out there if something starts going wrong a little bit, whether it's the putting stroke or I'm not on finishing the swing or something. So I don't have to wait for 18 holes and get on the range to figure it out, and that's a big help.
But he generally, you know, he kind of stays out of my way and lets me go along until time is needed. So he did great and he'll do great this week. We can keep him in there. He's got a much tougher week next week. My oldest sister is getting a kidney transplant and Chuck's the donor, so he's got a tough week in front of him. This will be easy for him?

Q. What makes the greens so hard, and what's the key to keeping the scores down once you get there?
DAVE DELICH: Okay. Rand's going to not listen to this. I've played the greens out here when they're so slick that you sprain an ankle walking across them, and the USGA I don't think is going to let them get to that point. I think they want them a little bit slower, and maybe the word is fairer, and I'd like to see them fast. I like to see when they hold a little bit, but really quick.
I think it's hard to get them firm and not lose them out here. There's so much slope in the green, and today they were running pretty darn good. I think they were probably pretty close to where they want them. The ball was releasing. Unless you are hitting a short iron, it was releasing every time.
So I think they've got them where they want them. I think the players are going to still struggle with them. I've played on them since 1975, so it's certainly an advantage most of the time, but some of the times it's a little bit of a disadvantage because I know just what kind of trouble I'm in when I get up and see a certain location on the green.
So I think they're going to be fair. I don't think the USGA or anyone wants a championship won solely with a putter. I think you have to hit the ball in play. I think you have to recover at times. I think you have to hit it to the right spot on the green, the correct spot. And that's all part of it, too.
I think the players are going to find as the week goes on, and there's more pressure to perform that those greens are going to get harder and harder and harder; not from a physical standpoint, but just to navigate, because they are very, very difficult, and unless you've spent a lot of time with them, the speed is really what throws people off. They're so fast above the hole and so slow below the hole, it's hard to make that change in muscle memory when two putts look almost identical. You can have it 15 feet over here and you're saying is this downhill, is this downhill, and it is and they run it 12 feet by and they look at the next one and say, is this downhill. And it's not and they leave it five feet short. So that's the problem out here.
The pros are so good and there are ten or 15 guys this week that really have it going, and they're probably going to make it look easy. That would be my guess on the matter. There will be 110 or 120 guys out there that will be grumbling, but there will be a bunch of them that get it figured out and make it look easy.

Q. Having lived in Minnesota on two different occasions, I've had the opportunity a lot of times to play golf with some excellent former high school and collegiate hockey players. With that exception, every one of them are excellent golfers. Can you equate the game of hockey to golf?
DAVE DELICH: As I mentioned before, I think just the hand-eye coordination required to learn the skill set. There's nothing normal about a golf swing. Ben Hogan was probably the guy that proved that the most. No one worked harder at perfecting something his whole life than that man, and he didn't have it his whole life. It took him years, and his greatness came at an age when most people are getting out of the game.
There is nothing natural about it, and if you've ever tried to play hockey; I don't know who invented it, but it's not natural. The skates and the stick and the pucks and the speed and to watch guys play and to be able to control the puck and to shoot the puck and deflect the puck and do things they're intentionally doing when the puck's moving 110 miles an hour, it's something to watch when you're in the middle of it.
And I think golf is that way, too. You have to learn so many foreign skills. It's just not natural. It's not necessarily a foreign skill; it's not a natural skill.
And I think the timing of the swing. You also shoot the puck, which a lot of people don't know. You shoot your puck -- I was a right-hander, so I shot the puck off my left side. Most hockey players are left-handed because their strong hand is their right hand and that's their coordinated hand and they control the stick with the coordinated hand. I was the opposite. I was right-handed and I shot the other way.
So you shoot off the your left side like you hit a golf ball off your left side. I think the timing, if you watch Allen Doyle hit a golf ball, and the club is getting up about belt high, a good player, that's where he took a slapshot from. And he could create so much torque in that distance, and I think that probably more than anything, you use your legs. Hockey is played with your legs from the waist down, and I think probably so is golf at times.

Q. You mentioned that you had a very successful hockey career, both at the amateur level and the professional level. I suspect you developed certain mental habits that were very beneficial to you. Are you able to bring that over to the golf side? Does that give you an advantage having played at the level of hockey?
DAVE DELICH: I think Rand mentioned I had a successful career. You haven't talked to many of my coaches about my past. They were convinced there was at least 20 percent more there all the time.
What was the rest of the question, Bob?

Q. Does that help you out here, the mental aspect that you developed?
DAVE DELICH: Absolutely. I think I competed well on the ice. I always felt like it was important to give more to the game than maybe what you got out of the game, and in my case I don't think I could have ever done that because hockey was an incredible journey for me and really has brought most of the good fortune that I have in my life to me. Just being able to get an education and see the country, and frankly, the world. I've traveled from Asia to eastern Europe when it was really eastern Europe on national teams, and I just got to do that at a very young age and had an appreciation for what I could do.
But my strongest suit in hockey like anything else was crunch time, the tougher the opponent, the tougher the situation, that's when I was motivated to play.
Golf is a little bit that way. You can take me out and play a two dollar in Nassau and I'm going to shoot 86 and be bored by the third hole. I just don't play a whole lot of golf, but if I can get into a competition, state event or state amateur it doesn't matter if I haven't played for six months, if I got 20 minutes to swing you're going to have to kill me to get me out of there.
It didn't come from golf. It had to be developed from those years as a hockey player and a football player and other things.
RAND JERRIS: Dave, thanks very much for your time and we wish you luck.

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