July 2, 2003
TODD BUDNICK: All right, we thank Hunter Mahan for joining us today. Of course Hunter is the runner-up, was the runner-up in the 2002 Amateur Championship, First Team All-American Oklahoma State in 2002 and 2003 and the Big 12 Player-of-the-Year in both those years. Hunter is making his professional PGA Tour debut today. Earlier this year he played in the Masters where he finished T-28 as an amateur. Hunter, it's been obviously a very busy year for you and a busy week leading up to professional.
Why don't you talk a little bit about your thoughts on turning pro and what you've gone through this past week.
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I decided to turn pro after the U.S. Open, and after the Open it was kind of tough to find a spot where I wanted to play at. I had to take care of a lot of stuff before playing my first event. I was able to choose a great agency in IMG to represent me and was able to find a good club company that I really like, and I think it's going to be a good relationship for a long time in Ping. To get that stuff out of the way before playing your first event is important. It was important for me because I just wanted to feel like I wanted to start my career off with nothing else but playing golf, and that's what I think I've done.
TODD BUDNICK: Talk a little bit about what you're expecting this week in your first professional tournament.
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I've been lucky. I played four previous tour events so I think I know what to expect. So that experience is going to be HUGE for me, so I'm going to go into this just like any other tournament.
TODD BUDNICK: You mentioned you wanted to figure just at what point you wanted to turn pro. What made you pick the 100th Western Open?
HUNTER MAHAN: I've played WGA tournaments since 97, Western Juniors. I was the Western Junior champion in 99, and I've played some Western Ams. I've known John Kaczkowski from those events and he's been a great supporter of me and there's just been a lot of great people through the WGA. It was a perfect fit, perfect timing, and too good an opportunity to pass up.
Q. You're aware this tournament has had an unusual history from people winning it as an amateur and being from Oklahoma State and Scott winning it in his first approach. Those guys are not far removed. Can you relate to that? That was huge. You are kind of in position to do the same thing.
HUNTER MAHAN: I got to play this golf course twice and it's a great golf course. I think it's one of those where it really doesn't favor anybody. It's not a long hitters' golf course or short hitters' golf course. Someone is going to play well and putt well.
I really enjoy playing golf courses like this where you really have to control your ball, and I'm looking forward to playing this. I think that's good for me because I know Scott and I know the way he plays, so I'm excited about playing.
Q. How well do you know Scott? How did you meet him?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, he lives in Edmund, so I met him when I was playing at school, got to play with him quite a bit at the Masters and practice rounds, and he was really great then because he was able to show me around and he was kind of like my mentor that week and he was great. He was really a good person to be around. He comes to the store sometimes and hits balls and I get to see him hit. He's a really good guy to follow.
Q. Did you talk to him about his experience in 1985?
HUNTER MAHAN: Actually I never have. He was a great player back then, and he also I think finished in the top-5 at the tour championship that year. He was an extremely great player back then.
Q. Why did you leave school early?
HUNTER MAHAN: I just felt it was time for my game to go to the next level. I just felt something like it was in my heart, and I just wanted to take that opportunity. I just didn't know how much better I could get in college, and playing a couple Majors, it's kind of tough to come back to college and to play amateur events when you're playing with the best players in the world; you kind of want to keep going, and I wanted to get in a nice rhythm since playing college and pro events are so different. It's playing about six or seven days in a row of golf, so I've got to try to get used to that as soon as possible and really just pace myself.
Q. Were there people who tried to talk you out of leaving college and turning pro like your parents?
HUNTER MAHAN: No, everyone just wanted to make sure I had all the different sides of each different situation. I mean, you can look at it a ton of different ways, and I just wanted to look at it from every angle. You know, in a decision like this, it has to be made by the person who's going to make it and it's going to affect their life. It's something that I wanted to do, and I just felt it in my heart, and I really couldn't get away from that.
Q. How does the rest of your summer and fall shape up then? Do you have a string of tournaments lined up?
HUNTER MAHAN: I'm going to play next week in Milwaukee, I'm going to play the Buick, and Deutsche Bank Open, and hopefully try to get in the GHO, try to get in the International and try to get in the Bell Canadian. If I can get seven events as soon as possible, that would be great.
Q. I happened to be walking behind you and your agent as you came over from the clubhouse and you guys were alone. Are you looking forward today when you leave needing a half a dozen security guards to get through the crowds?
HUNTER MAHAN: Absolutely. That's a good problem to have. I got to play with Tiger at the Open on Monday, and we teed off like at 6:30 before anybody could get out there so we could have at least 15 peaceful holes out there. You know, it's a problem and it's a nuisance, but that comes with the territory when you're that kind of player.
Q. So when do your commercials start, the "Hello World commercials" or those things?
HUNTER MAHAN: When I start playing better, I guess, start making an impact on the game like he has. You know, you have a lot of publicity and a lot of things to do. I feel like I'm in a great situation because I'm flying under the radar a little bit, and I'm just excited to start playing.
TODD BUDNICK: All right, thank you very much for joining us today, Hunter, and good luck this week.
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