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April 22, 2009

Tom Alter

Tom Lehman


MICHAEL McPHILLIPS: Thank you, we appreciate you joining us this morning. I'm here with Tom Alter, who is vice president of tournament business affairs, and the newest member of the Champions Tour rookie class of 2009, a gentleman who has had major success on the PGA TOUR, Tom Lehman.
TOM ALTER: We are excited Tom is going to be part of the Champions Tour, and we are excited to be at the tournament that started it all, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. They basically inspired the creation of the Champions Tour in 1980, and Liberty Mutual is one of the great title sponsors in all of golf, and it's a great thrill for us to be here where the Champions Tour is off to a great start.
It's been exciting season so far and all of our tournaments have come down to one or two shots or a playoff. Matter of fact, when Nick Price holed an 8-footer last week at Outback. He won by two shots, and that's the first time that anyone won by that large of a margin.
We are really off to a great start. We have a tight race for the Charles Schwab Cup with Bernhard Langer, Tom's partner this week, leading the way. And through the events this year, we have had seven different winners: Hall of Fame members winning, Bernhard Langer Nick Price; proven winners in Loren Roberts and Keith Fergus and Eduardo Romero and first-time winners, Dan Forsman and Mike Goodes. It's really an exciting start.
This week, is special, because of the format and because of the players who are here. This week's Legends division is a unique format. It's a team format that counts for official money and an official win.
The Champions Tour is fortunate to have some of the most recognizable and accomplished players in the game here. If you have look at the credentials of 118 players who are assembled, it's really pretty remarkable. Including Bob Charles and Gary Player who won the Demaret Division yesterday, we have 12 World Golf Hall of Fame members here. That's pretty neat. We also have 74 Majors on the PGA TOUR and with almost as many majors on the Champions Tour; and if you combine the Demaret and the Raphael and the Legends Division on the PGA TOUR and the Champions Tour, they combine for 134 official wins. That's pretty remarkable.
Speaking of some solid credentials, the rookie class of 2009 is fairly distinguished itself. We have got major championship winners in Bob Tway coming out next month, Fred Couples later in the year, and we also have other rookies Olin Browne, Tom Pernice, David Frost and Tommy Armour. We are really excited about the caliber of the new guys coming out.
Now, our newest rookie, he's enjoyed success at many levels. He has five PGA TOUR wins including the 1994 Memorial and Colonial in 1995. In 1996 he won the British Open and THE TOUR Championship en route to Player of the Year. He's a member of three U.S. Ryder Cup teams and was captain in 2006 at K Club at Ireland. He has also played on three Presidents Cup teams.
He's the winner of numerous awards, such as the Golf Writers Charles Bartlett Award for unselfish contributions to the game of golf, and he's involved in numerous charities both in Minneapolis and Phoenix. His Lehman Design Group, along with his brother, Jim, work with projects that hosted Nationwide and PGA TOUR events, in particular the TPC at Twin Cities where the 3M Championship is played just outside of Minneapolis.
And Tom will be active on all three tours this year. He has played in eight PGA Tour events, made the cut in the last four, including a tie for 8th at the Transitions in Tampa, and is one of the most successful graduates of the Nationwide Tour, and will serve as the national chairman of the Wichita Open this summer celebrating its 20th anniversary.
We are just excited that he's here. He's a great family guy, he's a man much great faith, ladies and gentlemen, Tom Lehman.
TOM LEHMAN: Thank you. I just want to say first of all that it's nice to finally be here. Turning 50 has its ups and downs and one of the true bright spots is being able to have a chance to come out here on the Champions Tour and participate and play golf out here.
Being my first tournament, I want to thank Liberty Mutual for their ongoing and long-standing support of the Champions Tour and hopefully into the future. It's a tough climate in some ways to be supporting events like this, but you know, my thing about professional golf is that professional golf does more than anybody else that I know of to support title sponsors, and them with the players as well, but in terms of sponsorship and marketing.
But in the long run, the real issue is charity. The work that the Nationwide Tour, PGA TOUR and Champions Tour do to help with their title sponsors is just simply remarkable. And so I've always been just very, very proud of all of our sponsors and all of our players and all of our staff for the great work that they do raising money for charity. Want to mention that before we go any further. Just grateful to be here and look forward to playing.

Q. Obviously you are still competitive on the PGA TOUR, how are you going allot your time between the two?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, I have obligations on the PGA TOUR throughout this year, so I'll play probably at least 15 tournaments out there throughout the year, which I'm in a unique opportunity-type situation where I get to pick and choose. I get to pick and choose those on the PGA TOUR where really enjoy playing, and I get to be exempt for all of the tournaments I want to out here, as well.
My schedule is going to be probably 25 tournaments this year, ten out here and then 15 on the PGA TOUR, and then you know, next year will be a different story. Majority of my time will be out here and playing full-time on the Champions Tour.
But there's a great stretch of tournaments for me this year which I'm excited about, some which are PGA TOUR events and some are Champions Tour events. As an example my summer schedule will be Scottish Open, British Open, Senior British Open, PGA Championship and JELD-WEN, and then play at Pebble Beach and then Seattle. It's a great schedule that I get to look forward to and I'm really excited about it.

Q. Can you talk about hooking up with Bernhard and where that comes from?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, first of all I'm really excited he asked me to play. You know, he's been playing such great golf and he's still so committed to the game and working and improving. His results obviously are proving his dedication.
For him to ask me to play and get to kind of ride him like a thoroughbred, that's a good deal for me. But we've been friends for quite a while. We share a lot of common things, family, he has kids, somewhat my kids age, very near. We share a common faith. We both obviously are committed to golf. We both like sports. I've known him now since about 1992 maybe, is probably when I first meant him, so going on 17 or 18 years, and you know, so I consider him a dear friend and look forward to competing with him this week.

Q. So there was not much of a pause after he asked the question?
TOM LEHMAN: A year ago is when he asked me, he said, "Well, Tom, when do you turn 50." (Emulating Bernhard Langer's accent).
I said, "March of next year."
"Are you going to play in Hilton Head?" (With accent) "Well the next week is the Legends of Golf at Savannah, just a short drive, would you like to play with me?"
"Well, absolutely, I can play with you. Consider me in." So he tied me up about a year ago.
MICHAEL McPHILLIPS: And if Bernhard is not available to do some radio promotions, you do a pretty good Bernhard Langer, you could do that for some of our events.

Q. Team golf is something you probably haven't played much in a long time. Strategy-wise, where does it play in?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, yeah, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, it's been a while since I've played those. But I did play the Father and Son with my own son a couple of years ago. And really, it's pedal-to-the-metal golf. You need to avoid setbacks obviously and I think the teams that do well don't make any bogeys or if they do, maybe just one throughout the week. So they do avoid the setbacks.
But you need to be really aggressive. I think that's the one thing about the game of team golf that is fun is that if you can kind of get on that roll and you're feeding off each other and you're making birdies, it can get really fun and really crazy really quick.
Watching the highlights of the last bunch of Legends of Golf on the hotel TV, I think last year North and Watson made 13 birdies in a row or something like that the first day. That's the kind of stuff that makes it really, really fun. But you have to be aiming at the pin. Like my six-year-old son said on Sunday last week at Hilton Head, "Dad, aim at the hole." It's like, oh, yeah, exactly right.

Q. You talk about Watson and North, guys with the target on their backs and have owned this tournament the last couple of years, what are your expectations?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, it's a great pairing for us. I saw Andy last night, and I'm watching this TV thing at the hotel and "you've won this thing like six times or something." I think that's about right, five titles he's won in the team portion of the event, with Jim Colbert and with Tom. So he's almost undefeated nearly in this event. It will be fun to play with him, and they both are tremendous people.
I guess that's one of the reasons why I'm so glad to be out here is there's so many great people in golf. Tom Watson, for example; I competed against him and always respected his golf game. We went on a USO trip to Iraq about a year and a half ago together with a few other guys, and so I got to know him on a more personal level there. So I just have so much respect for him and for so many others, both as professionals and as people, and it's nice to be a part of this group.

Q. As a rookie, what are you expecting?
TOM LEHMAN: You get the same song and dance from everybody, a bunch of old guys that can't play anymore and just take it easy on us. It's like, I know better. That's like being set up on the first tee, giving me two and two and the guy shots 66.
I find it very, very enjoyable to kind of hear the song and dance, because these guys, they are having fun, but they are still competitive and can really play and they can still make putts and they know how to win. It's a set up. (Chuckling).

Q. Speaking of western kid growing up, the guys you are playing against on Friday, how much did you look up to Andy North and Tom Watson as Midwesterners?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, you know, with Andy winning two U.S. Opens, I never played with him until he was just playing part-time on the TOUR, so he was kind of beyond playing full-time and it's like, holy smokes, no wonder the guy won two U.S. Opens. He hit the ball and great touch around the greens and great putter.
Of course, you know, Watson as a kid, he's, what, ten years older than me, so I spent a lot of time watching him play golf on TV all through high school and college, and like most people my age, he was one of my heroes and was one of the guys that I wanted to be like in his style of play. His style of play is a real model for most people who want to play golf, simply because his whole attitude is I'm going to hit it and I'm going to find it and I'm going to hit it again.
Great attitude, never seems to get rattled. He never gets upset and has a real fire that burns. His demeanor on the golf course is always moving forward and always respectful, and he's always complimentary when you hit a good shot. But he's also really, really competitive and so his attitude to me is one of the real models of attitude in golf.

Q. Talking about attitude, tell me about your partner, being paired with Corey Pavin in The Ryder Cups, you have that mentally tough partner history, but going back to the Masters when Bernhard won, what were your recollections of him?
TOM LEHMAN: '93 in the Masters, I think I started the day a ways back and I shot 31 or 32 on the front nine, I forget which; it was pretty low. I ended up finishing third.
It's like you look at this year with the way the Masters went this year, and any time you have -- if you are out late and somebody goes out early and is burning up the course and making birdies, the way Tiger and Phil were for example, it takes a lot of mental toughness to maintain your commitment to what you do and not worry about the results.
That's one thing about Bernhard that he's always done so well is he's always just played his game knowing he's good enough and trusting his game is good enough and takes care of his own business, and as a result, he's been very, very successful as a golfer. Nothing really seems to faze him.

Q. You've had a few strong showings on the PGA TOUR lately, weird question for you, but would you rather win on the Champions Tour or contend on the PGA TOUR at this stage of your career?
TOM LEHMAN: A good question but I think without question, winning would be the primary goal. It's nice to play well, but it's even nicer to win. So whether it was here or there, you know, being a champion is important to me. So I guess to answer your question, I would rather win out here than contend out there.

Q. How encouraging was it, especially with your 50th birthday approaching that you contended and had a good week at Transitions?
TOM LEHMAN: Well, it was gratifying for the biggest reason in that I've been struggling so much with my game after missing five months because of an injury. I didn't play at all from August until the end of January, so my game was in really, really bad shape starting the year, and I've been working very hard at it. So it was nice to see the hard work start to pay off in Tampa to the point where I had a chance to win. I really had a great chance to win obviously.
But it was a light at the end of the tunnel, and the following week at Bay Hill, I played well just nothing went in for me and I played well this past week at Hilton Head.
I think all in all, you know, the work that I'm putting into my game is the right kind of work in the right direction and my game is going the right direction, and I feel like it's on the upswing. So it's all very encouraging.

Q. There were a couple Champions Tour events near your old stomping grounds, one in west Des Moines and the Twin Cities. I understand you're playing in the John Deere so that would take out the event in the Twin Cities. But would those be two events you would consider strongly in the future?
TOM LEHMAN: Absolutely. First of all, I'm not committed to the John Deere yet. So that's still a bit up in the air. I won't even go into all of the particular whys and why nots, but the 3M Championship this year is a question mark, even though would I love dearly to play.
But getting back to your question, to play in the Midwest would always be a priority of mine. I think to play in the Midwest, near home, would be something that I always will want to do. So without having a crystal ball when I look into the future, I don't really see missing playing in the Midwest very often.
MICHAEL McPHILLIPS: Thank you, everybody and we certainly appreciate Tom's time this morning and look forward to a good week and we appreciate you coming out.

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