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November 2, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, I'll turn it over to you.
TOM WATSON: Sandy said, Watson, if we can get together at the tournament here, let's see if we can talk about what the game of golf is mostly all about, and that is trying to get people to play. How do you get them to play?
Get them started out on courses that are affordable. America is the best place in the world for affordable golf. No question about it. I've been it Japan, been to China. You may argue that the U.K. is maybe the little bit better than the United States, but the United States has the U.K. beat on the number of affordable golf courses.
But I think this is what made the fabric of golf so good in our country, as well as the U.K., is that people can get involved with the game early and cheaply. There are three things are wrong with the game of golf. Not wrong, but there are problems we have. We've got affordability, the difficulty of the game, and the accessibility in the game.
Those are the three things that are very, very difficult for our game. Soccer -- football, if you will -- it's a single ball. It's very simple. Get a ball and go out and kick it. When we were kids, it was a baseball bat and a ball. Used a tin can for home base and pie pan for second and third base, whatever, a piece of paper for first and you have a diamond.
Golf is not that way. Harding Park is one of the courses that I grew up on essentially when I was at Stanford playing the San Francisco City Amateur here, public golf course. I was telling the story of playing it when I came out here as a senior in high school. I had the chance to play this golf course with Allen (indiscernible), a teamate on my golf team from Kansas City, my high school golf team.
We came here to Harding Park and they had the course closed. It was raining, as it does. This was in March, and it was just pouring. We went up there and they said, No, course is closed. So we hung around for an hour; hung around for two hours. Finally the guy said, All right, go out and play.
We went out there and it rained the whole time. Got it to the 18th hole. Allen hit first. He hit the most beautiful drive. Just smoked it right down there, and his club flew 75 yards right into the lake. We hit the ground laughing. We were so wet. Couldn't hold onto the club.
But that was a memory that I'll always remember. And, yes, it was -- Harding Park was a very affordable golf course. Lincoln Park, Sharp Park, courses I played up here when I was a kid, a youngster. Those courses are -- we need courses like that to get our kids and people out to play the game.
Golf has gotten to a point -- when the bubble hit us, when the economic bubble hit us, everything got inflated. Golf courses were built right and left. Taj Mahals were built as clubhouses. Exorbitant fees were charged to join these clubs.
This country still has a foundation of public golf, and this course right here is an epitome of that.
SANDY TATUM: Tell me, what's your take on this golf course, Tom?
TOM WATSON: My take on it is it's lot different than when I played it before. The renovations the golf course made it a better golf course. It's in wonderful condition this year.
But it's always been a difficult course for me because of the air. Simply the air. The air is heavy. We all have egos in the game. You can hit a ball with a 7-iron 150 yards. You get up there and hit the ball.
On this course, you don't hit it 150 yards unless it's a day like today when the air a light and warm. Like tomorrow is going to be 57 as a high, raining. That ball is going to go nowhere. I mean, when I play this golf course, I'm always coming up short it seems like. I still haven't figured it out.
SANDY TATUM: I think you got a little time left. You might possibly get there, you know.
My own personal take on it is the fact that I first played it 70-plus years ago. Loved it. It has a combination for me that engages me intellectually, engages me physically, but most importantly it engages me emotionally.
I have experienced that. This one really does get me. I think that the (indiscernible) of it is absolutely brilliant. To have put nine holes inside and then to go all the way around the perimeter, and as you go around the perimeter, it gets better and better and more beautiful and more impressive.
In the end, I think it it's a truly, truly great golf experience. The fact that we can have it on an affordable basis to me gives it the ultimate designation as a golf course.
TOM WATSON: I would agree with that. I would have to add that California, the one thing, it a beautiful golf course. There's not a question about it. I always love smell of the golf course. You feel like with the eucalyptus you feel you're in a spa or someplace. You're near one of these fancy spas with the snow and the eucalyptus, it's -- the beauty of it, especially today.
I mean, what a beautiful day we had today with the sun coming through these trees. The trees are just magnificent. It's a park. The most important element of golf for players, and it has been documented, is not the golf course, how it plays, but it's just being out in a park. In green grass. In a beautiful, manicured place. Some are more manicured than others.
But the beauty of it is the most important thing for golfers, and that certainly doesn't go unnoticed by me. Even when I have blinders on playing as professional, there are still times when you have to stop and you just have to look. You have to take it in. And I do that.
The 14th tee, for instance, looking over the lake. The 16th tee. You know, it's one of the elements that the golfers say gets better and better. The visuals get better and better as you finish the golf course.
SANDY TATUM: Exactly.
TOM WATSON: You always feel -- maybe not when you're shooting 80 in my case -- but you always feel after you've played the course you had a good experience just walking it.
SANDY TATUM: You talk about the impact of the game and the impact of public courses. I think we lose sight of the fact that public golf, in my judgment, is the heart and soul of the game. The statistics are really pretty impressive.
TOM WATSON: It is.
SANDY TATUM: 80% of the players that play golf in this country play public golf. And more importantly, on the basis of how many rounds of golf were played, those 80% play 90-plus-percent of the rounds of golf.
So to think about that and to be concerned about making something available to them, seems to me to be to be very, very important.
TOM WATSON: I live in the Midwest, in the farmlands, and I hunt and I go out to different towns and through different towns. It's quite remarkable how many of these small towns have their own golf courses.
There was a flurry of golf courses built in the '20s in these small towns. Every one of them had sand greens, but just the numbers of golf courses, how old these golf courses are in the state of Kansas and Missouri in small towns. In Missouri where I hunt, they had a nine-hole golf course. Still do. It was sand greens.
I played it a few times. I never broke 40 for nine holes.
SANDY TATUM: I would liked have to been there.
TOM WATSON: It wasn't very long. (Laughter.) But that's the legacy of golf that America has and the U.K. has.
But I changed directions here. I'm building a couple courses China. I had the opportunity, one of the men I met over there is pretty high up in the hierarchy of China.
We had a wonderful conversation. He, being this man who was basically designated as the golf man in China from the government's standpoint, he basically fell in love with the game. The golf courses that he's building, and he's built several golf courses over there, they all are development golf courses and they have that element to them.
You know me. Sometimes I'm not shy at expressing my opinion. I asked him rhetorically, How will the people of China get involved with the game? Will there be public facilities? The people under him said, No, no, these golf courses are all built with economics in mind.
I made a plea with him. I said, You have to get the people involved with the game who can't afford it in some way, shape, manner, or form. I don't know if it fell on deaf ears or not, but I feel China, as it emerges into the golf world with its propensity to try to be the best at every sport that they get into, golf being one of 'em, it may prove very beneficial to them have to golf come up through the ranks. I hope it didn't go on deaf ears.
SANDY TATUM: When you're talking about growing the game or the stagnation of the game, I think it's worth spending a the bit of time talking about the First Tee. You have an operation in Kansas City, do you not?
TOM WATSON: I'm very involved our First Tee in Kansas City. 2,600 kids this year. We go into schools, we go into programs in schools during the winter when golf is not available in Kansas City.
We have five facilities and one satellite facility that people have -- the people have taken it on themselves to get the kids, get the kids and the parents involved.
You know, we had some winners. We really do. Every year we have a founders' or sponsors' dinner. We have a day on the golf course with the kids. A clinic and things like that for the kids.
But to hear these kids, some of the kids, saying how the First Tee changed their lives and how their parents, after talking to the child, they pull you aside and say, Hey, you don't know how much it means to us have to the First Tee here. Our child has really excelled because of the core values of the First Tee.
It's a good thing. It's a really, really good thing. I know you've been instrumental here in San Francisco with the First Tee program. Why don't you tell us the little bit about the project you have over here and what the three, four, five acres that the First Tee is put together right here.
SANDY TATUM: You know, when I got interested in the possibility that we could rescue Harding Park, a really prime motivator for me was the thought that I didn't have the facilities so that we could create a base. (Indiscernible) Had a marvelous nine-hole golf course, so basically it got me going.
But when I began to get into it far enough, I began it realize that we were removed physically from the war zone neighborhoods, where these kids live in absolutely miserable situations. So we took a look out there. I went to this middle school, huge playground.
It was recess, and all the way over in the corner were the kids and the armed policeman standing around. I thought, Boy, what a way to have to go to school. What a way it have to live.
The principal of the school came out and saw me there and asked me what I was doing. Well, what I told him. He said, You know, you cannot know how much it's going to mean to these kids.
So we got it up and running. We built the putting greens, the bunkers, the chipping area, and the whole process was mostly (indiscernible). In fact, we got use of a classroom, because it's in the classroom where the ultimate reason for me to be in the First Tee program takes place. They're in a structured environment. You're instilling in these kids the main, core values that you need, and it works.
I can certainly testify to the fact that it works, because the principal of that school, the who that I talked to when I first went there who was the 2008 National School Principal of the Year and a wonderful human being, sent us an e-mail not long ago and he thanked us and said, You can't know what you've done for those kids, the neighborhood, and the city.
Let me tell you something, the First Tee rocks!
TOM WATSON: Well, it was not a question that the values that you teach there, they get through to most of the kids. You know, doesn't matter from what economic strata they come from, it gets through to 'em.
The teachers there, just like anything, you have a good teacher, you remember your favorite teachers. You remember the once you didn't like, too. You remember your favorite teachers. You remember who won the U.S. Open in 1994? Do you remember who won the Super Bowl in 1976? Do you know who won the World Series in 2002?
No, but you remember your favorite teachers. You remember the people that really made a difference in your life. These kids have the same feelings about their coaches they call 'em.
We use different facilities for the First Tee, and it makes kids, they get attention, unqualified attention. They get -- they're disciplined through the values. They get to understand the basic common value of humanity. You want to be treated the way other people -- you want to be treated -- you treat other people the way you want to be treated.
SANDY TATUM: One of the factors that really engages me is that we can get to a lot of kids in various places which we operate, and we've got a program going in the public schools here. (Indiscernible) we get one way or another, we make off with about 5,000 kids. In 2010, nationally, the program reached 1,400,000 kids. Now you're talking about making a real difference, way beyond golf.
You're also talking about golf when you're talking about (indiscernible) millions of kids that want to play golf. I think in one way, almost most importantly, just think what it's going to do for the demographics of the fame. It excites me.
TOM WATSON: Me, too. Going on the different note, Sandy, tell me -- I didn't talk to Sandy about the Kids on Course program. The golf courses got together with some generous benefactors, and they subsidized to get kids who have the capability of playing golf, they know the rules and they have a proficiency, that they can go play an over 100 different golf courses in the Bay Area, Sandy?
SANDY TATUM: It was started by the Northern California Golf Association, a creative guy by the name of Paul (indiscernible.)
The basic concept was you go to find kids who could play, and then you go around and hit the golf courses to sign up on the basis that they can play for a couple of bucks, and they negotiate with the golf course how much more you have to pay.
What's happened here in northern California in my judgment is absolutely stunning.
TOM WATSON: I haven't heard of any other place that does this.
SANDY TATUM: We have over 100 golf courses in Northern California that are signed up to do this. Last year we had 30,000 rounds of golf played by kids.
So that covers a hole, in my judgment, in the First Tee program.
TOM WATSON: It does, because the First Tee does not have the capability of taking it to the next level when the kids become good and they want to go play different golf courses. You have the different training facilities and they can play those, but many kids outgrow those facilities. The facilities may be three holes or six holes, maybe just a single hole or a green or something like that on a little bit of land.
You learn the game and you want to play, where can I play? That's the beauty of this program.
SANDY TATUM: I'm going to talk some about your Timeless Swing, Watson.
TOM WATSON: Timeless swing?
SANDY TATUM: Come on. You produced a book.
TOM WATSON: You've got a timeless swing.
SANDY TATUM: Yes, I do. It takes a long time for me to swing.
TOM WATSON: How was the snow up there in the east, Sandy?
SANDY TATUM: They closed the goddamn golf course. Outrageous. In any event, that golf swing that you have, and you have I think --
TOM WATSON: That old broken down golf swing.
SANDY TATUM: It's an absolutely superb swing. I'll expand on it that in a few minutes.
TOM WATSON: No, stop it.
SANDY TATUM: I won't. A basic factor that you created in that book, that is (indiscernible) time to swing, right? Furthermore, it is "the" Bible in my judgment about how to learn to play golf. Apropos to that, as I think I told you, I thought your public relations people did a serious mistake with the book. If they had put you on the cover (indiscernible).
TOM WATSON: I told him to stop it. Stop it. Thank you. That's nice. That's very nice.
SANDY TATUM: How is the timeless swing holding up?
TOM WATSON: It's doing well. There is a bunch of copies out there and we sold a bunch of books. The video is nearing over 50,000, so we're hitting a lot people with that.
You know, the reason I did it is I just felt that it was time to do something comprehensive from my knowledge. There is no arrogance at all. This is what I've learned from the game by watching people play, reading tips in Golf Digest or other books, listening to pros talk.
This my 40th year as a professional this year. I figured before I couldn't play anymore, I better get something out there that I wanted to get out, and that was a book to help players get better.
Like today in the Pro-Am. Just amazing to me how many times you get to the Pro-Am and the grip is wrong and they slice the ball. It was just typical today. I had three slice grips and one hook grip.
I changed one guy's grip, and he's going to enjoy the game now. He really is, because every drive he hit after that was just a bullet either straight or a slight draw.
Listen, that's what I do for a living. I've learned how to play the game to the best of my ability. Trial and error, a lot of it. By listening, by watching the best players play. And I know a little bit about the game, and I want other people to enjoy playing the game and get better.
I want them to come to me after seeing the book or the DVD, and say, You know, you helped. Frankly, most of the stuff in the book and the DVD is stuff that you've read before.
I was just with a gentlemen in Los Angeles that said, I have 650 golf books, and I've got your book and I love your book. I said, Frankly, how much new did you learn out of my book? He didn't say anything. He was being nice to me, but he knew what I was getting at.
I just kind of put it in a form that, again, this is the important things that I think if you can keep it simple, (indiscernible) is the most technical thing that I put in the book.
SANDY TATUM: There is no way, Tommy, that you can read that book without getting great deal out of it. Apropos of your timeless swing, you must remember the one time I told you I had had a fortuitous life full of fortuitous developments. One of them was that the devil never turned up and offered me a golf swing.
If he had, then everything but Barbara and the kids would've been on the table.
TOM WATSON: Sandy and I, as many people here know, we go back a long time. We go back to the Stanford years, 1969. '68 maybe. Then we started playing the Crosby together. Played every other year. Every other year I played with Bob, my dad's best friend.
We had the lot of good times together. Did we ever make the cut together?
SANDY TATUM: Did we ever make the cut together?
TOM WATSON: We never won.
SANDY TATUM: That's right. I can't explain that, except it's all your fault.
TOM WATSON: You have to understand, Tatum had a 1 handicap. My friend Andy says, we always played (indiscernible) do you realize that Tatum never ever parred a stroke hole? Ever. Always bogeyed or worse.
SANDY TATUM: Mark continues to tell me that any time I get together with him. It's about time he thought of something else to tease me with.
TOM WATSON: Are there any other questions? I know we've taken up a bunch of your time.
Q. In all the time and having played the lot of golf with Sandy, did you ever once just get the urge maybe on the practice round or on the practice tee to emulate Sandy's swing?
TOM WATSON: I did.
Q. How did that work out?
TOM WATSON: I hurt myself. (Laughter.)
Q. Sandy, are you still carrying the 2-iron?
SANDY TATUM: Absolutely, and there is a bit of a story that goes with that. Some time ago, as my game began to seriously deteriorate, I needed to have some premise upon which I could manage to find some basis for hope.
I came up with a very, very useful one, and that is if I could just occasionally hit it dead, solid, perfect, 2-iron I would know that the game not all over for me.
Apropos of that, I went to Watson here about a year or so ago, and I said, Tom, you know, I'm coming into my tenth decade, and I've never been outfitted for a set of clubs. I just buy 'em off the shelf, wear 'em out, and just go on.
He says, will you please get fitted up for me so that I can finally (indiscernible) practice world have a set of golf clubs that are designed effectively to take care of my golf swing. About two weeks later -- he said I'll think about it.
About two weeks later, in the mail I got this set of golf clubs. (Indiscernible) Tatum, he didn't make it for the (indiscernible.) Furthermore, he thought about it and he put a 2-iron in the bag.
Q. Okay. There wasn't a...
TOM WATSON: They don't make 2-irons anymore.
Q. A follow up to that, how many good 2-irons have you hit this year?
SANDY TATUM: About three.
Q. I'm still impressed.
TOM WATSON: 91 years old? All right.
Q. Tom, every once in a while we get a sense into watching you working with young players on their game. Also sometimes we get to see the commitment you have to your own children, as well. What does it mean to you? We heard about the First Tee in Kansas City and what the parents come up to you and say. What does it mean to you, and Sandy as well, when you get parents saying the First Tee rocks or tell you about how a child's life has changed because of your efforts?
TOM WATSON: That's what we're here for, to pass on the wisdom, the knowledge that we have. Whatever the responsibility is of the old to pass onto the new. That's our responsibility. That's essentially what we're doing.
Bottom line is how do we make those people understand better? That's our chore in life. It's a wonderful thing when it happens and you get the responses that it has helped.
Q. Tom, earlier you talked about accessibility, affordable, and how difficult the game is. To what extend do you think the amount of time it takes to play a round of golf plays into it?
TOM WATSON: I should've mentioned that before. Time is -- and I tell you, our culture has changed. It's a time that -- sadly, it's changed to go to our devices in our hands. That takes up a tremendous amount of time. You have a cell phone on you, Tatum?
SANDY TATUM: I didn't hear your question.
TOM WATSON: Tatum, do you have a cell phone on you?
SANDY TATUM: No.
TOM WATSON: See. And he can still enjoy the serenity of a round of golf without thinking about a text, e-mail. Most people aren't like that anymore. I don't care from when social strata you're from, this is taking time. That time takes away from other things that might take a lot of time. We're a faster-paced society because of it.
I think essentially that that may be the fundamental problem we have to golf, is time factors. Jack Nicklaus tried to address that I want to say on Labor Day. At Deerfield, they played a 12-hole golf course with 8-inch cups. How fast does it take you to play?
Today, it took or group five hours and almost 30 minutes to play 18 holes. It's a tough golf course. Should be playing faster, though. My good friend, Barney Adams, Adams Golf, he's promoting Play It Forward.
I played with a gentlemen yesterday, Riviera, who never hit an iron to a green. He wanted to play the white tee. Well, white tees are too long for him.
He should get the same enjoyment as we do and play it up on the forward tee. Don't put any colors in it. Just put -- don't put any tees like they do at Double Eagle. Just, okay, I'm going to play this tee. Just don't play it too long.
We have a tendency to try to stroke our egos and play these golf courses way too long, and therefore they take a lot of time.
If you're hitting 3-wood into every green or can't get there, it takes you another -- okay, I've got to do that, I've got to go get my putter, do this. It takes forever.
If you're hitting the 7-iron into the green, one out of three times you might be hitting the green with the 7-iron. You just pull the cart up there, go to the green, and putt. It takes less time.
Using range finders, for instance, instead of going with the yardages on the sprinkler heads. I know Tatum hates this, but using range finders has been documented to save 20 minutes a round of golf course.
You play it forward, saves another 20 minutes. All of a sudden I have 40 minutes by doing those two things. Now, instead of four and the half hour round, it's under four hours. That is now becoming manageable in people's lives, half a day.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports