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May 20, 2009

Kirk Hanefeld


KELLY ELBIN: Kirk Hanefeld, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 70th Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury Golf Club. Kirk is the 2008 Senior PGA Professional National Champion. He's leading a contingent of 37 PGA club professionals into the field this week at cant bear golf club. Kirk, welcome to your fourth consecutive Senior PGA Championship and your first visit to Canterbury.
KIRK HANEFELD: Thank you. Great to be here.
KELLY ELBIN: Just some general thoughts. You played a little bit of the golf course, certainly you got a very different front nine and back nine, just some general impressions so far.
KIRK HANEFELD: Terrific golf course, really there's nothing that it lacks. The front nine, with the new rotation is a little bit on the short side, but certainly not an easy golf course. And the back nine is long and difficult. So what I've seen so far, the greens really kind of make the golf course. That's what make it's difficult every, all 18 holes is really the tough green complexes.
KELLY ELBIN: I know you're playing out on the Champions Tour as much as you can, but you're also representing club professionals this week. Can you talk a little bit about what that means to represent the 37 who are here.
KIRK HANEFELD: It certainly was a thrill for me to have won the national championship last year and I'm proud as can be to represent all of the PGA member professionals who are playing.
I get to see the Champions Tour guys quite a bit, that's nice to see the club pros and the PGA members out here because that basically defines most of my career.
KELLY ELBIN: Let's open it up for questions, please.

Q. (No microphone.)
KIRK HANEFELD: Well I'm currently a life member. I haven't worked actively for a couple years. But when I was working, it was a 60, 70 hour week and try to play golf when you can. And it's very, very difficult for club professionals to be able to compete with the Champions Tour players and the international players considering how much they do play.
But there are an awful lot of talented PGA member professionals who don't play a lot of golf, but still play very, very well.

Q. Do you feel a little bit different now as opposed to maybe your first one, the emotions that you get coming to one of these and do you, I would assume you feel a little bit more comfortable?
KIRK HANEFELD: Yeah, I think I do. My first Senior PGA was at Oak Tree back in 2006. And it was actually my very first senior event. And I played pretty well considering my first event and I think the more you play and the more you get used to the atmosphere and the players and the golf courses and so on and so forth, it does get a little bit easier, it doesn't get easy, but easier.

Q. Your career path, you finished school and things to where you are now, talk about that.
KIRK HANEFELD: Well I was a club professional in the New England section right out of college. And that really was my career. When I turned 49 I went to the Champions Tour school and got through and was exempt, didn't turn 50 until more than half of the first year was over, but really my career has been as a club professional and just in the last three years I've been out more playing.
KELLY ELBIN: Before he joined the Champions Tour Kirk was the Director of Golf at the International Club in Massachusetts for seven years.

Q. Seems to me that you graduated in '77, '78 when you left college?

Q. Would you have been there with Fred and --
KIRK HANEFELD: Fred came in just after I left. But I was there with Keith Fergus and Ed Fiori and David and a host of other good players.

Q. So that's one of the best golf schools in the country.

Q. How does a kid from New Hampshire get to play enough golf when you don't have enough season to get noticed?
KIRK HANEFELD: I had a decent junior record up in New England. I had won pretty much everything there was to win. And I got a call from Coach Dave Williams my senior year in high school and that's where I decided to go.

Q. So you knew that were you good enough to play professional golf, because you were playing with guys that obviously that was their goal. What happened after that where you said, you know what, I'm going to take another route?
KIRK HANEFELD: Well, I think that I came to the conclusion a couple years after finishing college that I really wasn't good enough. And Keith and Ed both beating me most of the time, as well as a lot of other players, and certainly that's what I had wanted to do, but because I wasn't quite at their level, I felt as if, and of course I wanted to stay in golf because that's really where my passion was, so the club professional route is what I did. Now that I'm old, just like all the other guys, I think I'm a little closer to where they are now.

Q. What do you miss about being day-to-day involved at a club facility now that you're out playing?
KIRK HANEFELD: I think each club that I've been at I've had terrific memberships and you make a lot of friends, people that you work for, but also your friends, and it's certainly been a learning experience for me to go from a routine every day of going to work and teaching and running tournaments and the golf shop and taking care of the members and so on and so forth, to basically just trying to get from point A to point B and try to improve your game and it's all about playing golf.
So I would say what I miss the most is the people that I worked for and the members.

Q. Last year at Oak Hill the one thing you could not do was miss the fairway, the rough there was pretty brutal. Can you point to one thing here at Canterbury that you absolutely must do in order to play well here?
KIRK HANEFELD: We were talking about that earlier, I think there are two things that are imperative that anybody who is going to be successful this week has to do, and the first one is to drive the golf ball in the fairway, just as it was at Oak Hill.
The second is to keep the ball underneath the hole. I think the rough is, was a little tougher at Oak Hill, not by much, but a little bit. It's still imperative that the ball has to be played from the fairway, but this set of greens, which I think is the hardest set of greens that I've seen on any one golf course with the speed that they're at certainly is more difficult than Oak Hill and that's why the ball has to be below the hole, otherwise you're just defensive the whole day.
KELLY ELBIN: Kirk, you also talked about the difference, the disparity between the length and the so forth on the front side versus the back, can you just discuss that again just for a minute.
KIRK HANEFELD: Yeah, off the tee on the front nine you're going to, we're going to hit a lot of fairway woods, fairway woods, even a hybrid I think potentially on No. 1. But that doesn't mean that it's any wider, it just means that it's a shorter club to the dogleg and you have to keep it in the fairway.
On the back nine at almost 3,800 yards, a lot of rough and narrow fairways, that's a lot of golf.

Q. Through the years as you've played tournaments on breaks from the club and now you're trying to get out there full-time, do you notice that the guys who do play full-time and the guys who have been touring pros throughout their careers, I don't want to say a dividing line between them and the club pros, or just that they're in different worlds or are you treated very well by them on those occasions when you're out with them?
KIRK HANEFELD: I have had nothing but very positive experiences right from the very first day I started. I've been fortunate enough to play with almost every player on the Champions Tour as well as a lot of European players. And they have all been terrific.
Every one of them has been a gentleman and I think they all understand that everybody out here is trying to do the best they can and to make a living and everybody respects each other.

Q. When you look at this golf course and you mentioned about Oak Hill's differences and this year, when you see this, these conditions, one thing I heard from some players who are just getting into the Champions Tour is you got to learn to adapt to the rotation of courses all through the gamut of the schedule. Have you been able to get closer to that comfort zone of adapting to so many different places?
KIRK HANEFELD: A little bit. I have been doing what they call Monday qualifying or event qualifying status over the past couple of years and I've played 11 tournaments in 2008 and/or excuse me, in 2007, and 11 tournaments in 2008, which doesn't sound like a lot, but when you have to qualify every week against 50 or 60 other guys for not very many spots, you know, just getting into a tournament is a very valuable thing.
So although I'm trying to do it full-time, I've really only played part-time. There are three or four tournaments that I haven't played in at all, but then there are other tournaments where I played in all of them over the last three years.

Q. Is it conceivable, could a club professional be in the hunt Sunday? Could somebody win this championship?
KIRK HANEFELD: It's unlikely, but, yes, it's possible. It's very possible. And certainly I hope it happens.
KELLY ELBIN: Kirk Hanefeld turns 53 on this coming Sunday. It just happens to be the final round of this championship.

Q. Are you buying if you win? You are going to buy if you win Sunday?
KIRK HANEFELD: Well, we can only hope.

Q. Does this course look like some of the courses you played at up in New England, old school, tree lined, not crushingly long where it places a value on position. And do you see any affinity between this course and a --
KIRK HANEFELD: It's very much like a New England golf course. I'm not sure who the architect was that built this, but it's very much like a Donald Ross course, which we have many of up in the Boston area. The rough is tough. I'm sure that it's a much more enjoyable golf course to play when the rough is at the normal membership length than it is this week, but very, very similar to a lot of golf courses we play all the time.
KELLY ELBIN: Kirk Hanefeld, thank you very much. Best of luck this week.

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