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July 26, 2013

Jim Nelford


THE MODERATOR:¬† Thank you, everyone, for joining us this morning.¬† We are having this brief media scrum available because we will be hosting Jim Nelford's induction ceremony tonight at 7:00 p.m. and realize that many of you will not be able to attend.¬† Jim will be inducted as our 71st Canadian golf hall‑of‑famer.¬† Jim has quite an extensive career, including being one of only 17 players who was ever able to capture two Canadian Amateur titles. ¬†He was also the 1975 British Columbia Amateur champion and won the 1973 BC Junior title.
After turning pro, Jim was able to capture the World Cup for Canada along with Dan Halldorson in 1980 and also won the British Columbia Open in 1983.  We would like to welcome Jim today, and obviously looking forward to inducting you tonight.  Do you have anything that you would like to start off by saying about the honor that will be bestowed upon you?
JIM NELFORD:  Oh, sure.  Obviously it's an honor to get inducted into the Hall of Fame, and so many of my friends have gone in before me, and the people that I got to know by playing professional golf that are in, I'm honored to be able to have called them my friends and still call them my friends, and to have known so many of the great players throughout the ages.
I've always said that there is no lack of talent in Canada.¬† We've got great players up here, a lot of talent.¬† It's just a tough thing to make it on the PGA TOUR on the world stage with the best in the world.¬† When a person does, it's‑‑ you know, it's a whole new world out there on the TOUR, and that's never a goal of anyone's to make it to a Hall of Fame.¬† They're too busy grinding every week just to stay out there and get your card.¬† Throughout my career it's been such a pleasure to play not only with our Canadians and support our Canadians out there but be able to broadcast and tell some of their stories on TV.
To be inducted into the Hall of Fame is an honor, and to go up on the walls with a lot of my heroes and a lot of my friends, it's really fun.

Q.  So you mentioned heroes.  Who would be some of those heroes on the walls?
JIM NELFORD:  Well, certainly guys like George Knudson and Stan Leonard who came from Vancouver, Moe Norman, my good friend Sandra Post who we've done a lot of broadcasting with, and of course my hero of guys, who, you know, you get to know them, you get to know what they're really like when they're not in their persona on the golf course, and who would have known that Halldorson is such a shy guy and such a good guy and has such a great heart, and to get to know a guy like Moe and to understand him where so much of the world didn't.  You know, George Knudson helped me out a lot.  There's just so many of the players that went in there and represented Canada well and gave us belief systems.
I remember as a kid watching the U.S.Amateur when Gary Cowan holed it out to win the U.S.Amateur right on the 18th hole, and going, man, that's one of our Canadians doing it.  Every one of those guys that broke through allowed the guys behind a little smoother road.  You felt like you could do it and somebody has done it before you.
So you always respect the work that they did to get there, and you try to copy some of the things that they did.  Some things you copy work out, some don't, but nobody's perfect, but they're all great players, and it's fun to be inducted and be a part of that.
THE MODERATOR:  You've played in numerous Canadian Opens yourself.  Do you have any advice that you would give to the Canadians playing today?
JIM NELFORD:¬† It's a long journey.¬† Every week that you play is just a small little chapter in your life, and when we came‑‑ whenever Canadians came to a Canadian Open there was so much pressure to play well, and we put so much pressure on ourselves, and all of our fans that are cheering for us, it can work for you, it can work against you, and it's very difficult to find that spot where you care less.¬† I found it when I came to Canadian Opens, I tried so hard, and my parents often described me as a people person, and I would see the crowds and I'd think, oh, I've got to hit a good shot so I can please these people, and it took me a while to get over that feeling of saying if I don't take care of this stuff and block everything out, I can't hit that shot.
So it's so exciting for the young guys to play in the Canadian Open, to get in a big TOUR event, that for them to calm down and actually play well, it's very difficult, and it takes years to be able to do that well.  Guys on the PGA TOUR have learned to do it, so that's why they're still out there performing.  You put it into a perspective of this is just another shot on another hole and a round of golf and a tournament and a year and a career.
As you get a little older in golf, you start to realize you have to deal with it that way.

Q.  Just as far as playing in the Canadian Open goes, obviously you played in I think basically all of them here, didn't you?
JIM NELFORD:¬† Yeah, a bunch of them until‑‑ well, even after the accident, and then broadcast the rest.

Q.  A lot of people are asking why you didn't have it in Vancouver and you wanted to have it here for that reason, because this is almost like a second home to you, isn't it?
JIM NELFORD:  Yeah, it really is a second home to me.  It's where my professional career was really played.  In my playing career and then in the broadcasting career, it all started right here that year that John Cook and Johnny Miller had the playoff.  I was asked to go in the booth on the weekend.  It was a great experience because I had played the course, I knew all the hole locations, I knew the players, I knew exactly how everything was playing, and so it became pretty natural for me to do that.
And it also gave me a lot more confidence because when you're out on TOUR you're always living on the edge.  You're one bad streak away from sometimes losing your card, or like I had, like an injury, you don't know when this career and when this dream stops.
But one of the real reasons I had it here was after I had my accident, the doctors told me I would never play the game again and I would have half a right arm.  When I was recovering, part of my recovery was trying to think positively, trying to think as positively as I could, but I had many dreams about coming back to play at the Abbey, and if I could just come back and play the Abbey one more time and get in contention one more time, that was my dream, and it was a recurring dream.
So the first time I came back after the accident, it was too soon.  It was too soon for me to be back on TOUR.  The first six months I didn't make a cut, but the PGA TOUR basically forced me to take my year as per medical extension.  I didn't make a cut for six months, missing by a shot, missing by two shots, but I started to play a little bit better on the weekend.
And that was a very special time playing in that Canadian Open because something happened, and that was‑‑ it was that dream coming true.¬† I was on the ninth hole, I was three shots out of the lead in the final round, and of course that back right pin on 9, I tried to‑‑ tried my hardest to put it left of the pin and leaked it out there in the water and ended up finishing 15th or so.
But I had a good friend Don Lloyd who kind of started the Nelford Navy, and he would go up to every green and tell everybody, hey, this is Jim Nelford, start clapping, get on your feet.  Bless his heart.
So the whole back nine he was doing that and walking up 18, the dream that I'd had so many times became a reality, and everybody stood up around that hole, amphitheater, and were clapping on 18.  And that was a real heartwarming moment.  Glen Abbey meant so much to me, and being able to play here and compete here and compete well at times and go through the gamut, the missing the cuts and how much it breaks your heart, and you don't know what to do.  You don't know whether to leave town, you don't know whether to sit in your room and cry.  It meant so much every time.
And all the friends that I've made being here and playing in front of people, this was just the spot, and at the Canadian Open this was the spot.

Q.¬† Given the accident itself now, obviously it cut short your pro career or definitely stunted it, does that put more of an emphasis or more of a warm feeling for you as far as your amateur career goes, just because that was really where you‑‑ it seems to me that's really a foundation of your Hall of Fame induction, what you did as an amateur, and does that have extra meaning for you?
JIM NELFORD:¬† You know, it was a short amateur career.¬† It was really‑‑ from the BC Junior on to the last Canadian Amateur, I was trying to win three in a row and I had a seven‑shot lead after two rounds and got beat by a great guy, Rod Spittle, and I remember finishing second there.¬† I just kind of ran out of gas, and he won it at Ancaster.
But I was so excited to get to the pro Tour, it didn't have a big effect on me.¬† I said, okay, that's‑‑ now I'm going to the pro Tour.¬† I get to live my dream.
Actually when I think about it, my amateur career was very short, and I didn't play a lot of amateur golf outside of college golf, or we didn't have a lot of extra money in my family, so I only really got to go to those tournaments that the BC Golf Association sent me to or the RCGA sent me to.  When I look back, it's like, wow, pretty good percentage of winning, but a lot of my amateur career was really college tournaments, playing against the best in college, guys like Stadler and Strange and Scott Simpson and Jay Haas and those guys in that era.
So when I came back out of college to play in the events that I did in Canada, I knew I was tuned up and ready to go, but looking back on it, it was a short amateur career.  I only played, I think, in four Canadian Amateurs.
So to have won a couple and really probably should have won a third one was neat.  It was really neat, but time to go on.  I said I've got to make some money because I was broke and a college guy and married, and it was time to make some money.

Q.  When you look back at that moment in Pebble Beach, how did you come to terms with that, the bad luck you had, the good luck Hale Irwin had and that that's as close as you came to winning on TOUR?
JIM NELFORD:¬† That was certainly a heartbreak.¬† It was a tournament that I loved playing in, fantastic golf courses.¬† We played Cypress Point and Spyglass along with Pebble, and my kind of golf, just a magical place.¬† I think it's probably‑‑ probably Augusta National, St. Andrews and Pebble Beach are where the golf gods reside.¬† It's just golf the way it was supposed to be played.
Yeah, that was devastating.¬† It was very difficult to deal with, and the next week I actually got paired with Irwin in the third round at the Hawaiian Open after he had won, and I remember shooting 5‑under on the front side.¬† It took everything I had to not go, now that's how I played last week; I saw what you did.¬† I'm still waiting for my apology from Hale and still haven't got it, but I'm not holding my breath any longer.
But you have to take the positives out of something like that.  A lot of people years before don't realize that I'd stood on that same tee exactly in the same position, I was four back, but Mark Hayes was leading by four and had just made a triple bogey, so I was one back.  And I hit a cut out over the ocean and bring it back to the fairway, and I thought, okay, that caught the edge of the fairway, I'll walk down there and get it and see if I can make birdie.  I'm walking off the tee and I'm playing with Leonard Thompson, and he goes, where are you going?  I said, what do you mean where am I going?  He goes, your ball never crossed.  It hit the edge up there and bounced out in the ocean.  You're kidding me.  No.  I talked to the other guy in the group.  Sorry.
So I made double bogey.  I probably should have made birdie.  I thought Hale Irwin should have made the double.
So even though I didn't come away with the results I wanted, just one of the favorite places for me in golf I've ever played.  It's not all about sometimes the winning.  That would mean it's about the destination, and it's not; it was the journey.  It's all the shots that you hit, all the work that you do to get yourself in that position.
And to have the definition winner or second‑place finisher, you know, it's such a small line.¬† Every guy on the TOUR knows that you hit 15, 20 putts in a tournament that should have gone in that don't, and one lips out and you don't know why:¬† Spike mark, whatever.¬† The line is so fine.¬† But just to know you can be there and you can compete on that level and you can look a guy like Irwin in the eye, like Nicklaus, like Trevino, and they're watching your shots and they're saying, that's quality stuff, quality stuff.
And when you get the respect of your peers like that, that's the long journey, and that's part of that journey.  The winning, I don't agree with Tiger Woods.  Second place isn't first loser; it's the silver medal, and there's a bronze medal and then there's participants.  But you beat 154 other guys, and that's what we're trying to do every week.
In this era we put so much emphasis on winning, winning, winning that everybody that doesn't win is a loser.  That's a horrible thing to tell our kids.  No, you're competing.  You're doing the best you can.  It's a long journey, and enjoy that.  If you don't win, you're competing.  You're a winner because you're out there doing it.  It takes a high level of passion and of work ethic and the ability to go through those things and come out on the other side and hold your head high and say, that was a good effort, that was a good fight.  Let's go to next week and see what happens there.
So you admire the guys that go through the tough times.  Like I said, it's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how many times do you get up.  Get up one more time, that's all.  Get up one more time.

Q.  As you see the development of the game in Canada, do you think the Canadian field here is great or do you think it should be much better?
JIM NELFORD:¬† Well, it's nice to see a lot of Canadians playing.¬† They're getting an opportunity.¬† This is a tough stage for them to go on, on a tough golf course, under a lot of pressure.¬† So it's a heck of an opportunity, but it's an event.¬† They have to‑‑ they really have to go through their building process, getting through college golf, getting through their amateur career, getting through‑‑ now it's going to take going to the Web.com or the European Tour and building and building.¬† One tournament never makes a career.
They get a taste of this, and that's good.¬† It should show them how much farther they need to go to get to the top level.¬† You know, I think back to the time that Jack Nicklaus and I played an exhibition, and he was good enough to three‑putt enough times for me to win.¬† It was like, oh, you beat Jack Nicklaus.¬† Yeah, I beat him one day in an exhibition.¬† I'd gladly trade a few of his wins for that one day.
You know, it's good.  A lot of them are in over their head, but I hope they don't feel like this is the pinnacle.  This is just one of those steps that says, okay, now I've got to realize how good these guys are week in and week out, because we get a lot of phenoms that play great golf early on, and then they have to deal with the pressure and the anxiety and the playing against the best of the world, which you do when you get on the PGA TOUR is you find out how many great players there are, and not all of them are playing great any week, but you've got about 10 that are.  And if your level isn't up there, boy, you find out quickly.
That's a tough thing for a lot of guys to deal with.  All of a sudden they were the best in their group, now they're going and playing against a bunch of guys who were already the best when they were kids, but now they've learned how to play professionally.  So it's a long road.  It's a long road for these kids.
I'd like to see these guys get on the Canadian Tour, play, learn to travel, learn to deal with all the stuff you have to deal with and your inevitable failures against better players.  Do you learn or do you tuck your tail between your legs and slink away?  I think that's happened too many times to some of our good players.  They got a lot of attention, and then when they go into the big leagues they're a very small fish in a big pond, and you've got to start at the bottom again and go all the way back up.  But now you're against the best in the world.
It's a stepping‑stone, but I think nothing more than that.

Q.  I guess this is a good time to take stock as any.  When you look back on your injury and you have something as horrific as that happen to you, have you come to make sense of it?
JIM NELFORD:¬† I don't know really what you can say other than it's a horrific thing.¬† It was a horrific thing to happen.¬† I thought I had enough challenge playing the PGA TOUR.¬† Then to try to play the PGA TOUR with half an arm and that emotional‑‑ it was very much like being blown up, like the guys coming back from war being blown up, dealing with posttraumatic stress.¬† I guess you could say, well, if I can get through that, I can get through about anything.
And so I did have to go back and try to play with half an arm and totally reconstruct it, and it made me think, okay, so what makes the golf swing work?  If I have a right arm that's completely different and I'm still competing, maybe the golf swing comes from somewhere else.  Maybe it comes from our mind, how we think, the way we think, does it affect our body.
So I worked hard on teaching golf a different way.¬† What I've seen from some of the best players, it comes from the ground up.¬† Talk to Ernie Els and talk to Fred Couples and worked with Freddie a lot.¬† They're playing from the ground up.¬† Teachers today are teaching from the top down.¬† It does a couple things.¬† First, it's very hard on the body, so they get wrist, elbow, shoulder injuries, back injuries.¬† Secondly, it's not‑‑ no other sport is played like that.¬† Every other sport is played from the ground up, the legs with the power and they're dominant.
So it's put me into a mode where I'm trying to figure out what do the best players did.¬† What did Trevino do?¬† Trevino and I talked about it a lot.¬† What's different about this so‑called proper classic swing and then all the guys who do it differently, break all the rules and are fantastic players anyway?¬† What's different?
It's so unconscious to the best players.  The best players play unconsciously.  That's why a lot of times they can't teach their sons, because what they do is unconscious to them.  So I've been studying that and I've been working on that and have really come up with some what I think is the truth about the other way to swing, and it happens to be what we do in every other sport.  It starts from the ground up.
So teaching people on that basis, golf, here's what you know in other sports and you can use it in golf, and here's how you do it.  It's a totally different set of rules.
That's one of the great things that came out of it, and I got to be an analyst on TV and talk about the swings and say, hey, this guy is breaking all the rules and yet he's still winning.  He's hitting the ball better than the other guys.  What's going on there?  Because I think we need to get away from that kind of teaching because it's so hard to learn.  It takes so long to learn that people can't enjoy the game, and it's driving people away, that way of teaching, because it's so different.  It's a brand new sport, and it's embarrassing.  It's embarrassing.  You've got to chase all those foul balls.

Q.  Just on an unrelated topic, I'm just wondering if I can get a comment from you on the '94 Dunhill team being put into the BC Golf Hall of Fame as a team.
JIM NELFORD:¬† Yeah, it's the first time I heard that.¬† I thought, what a nice thing to do, though, all those guys from BC to win that tournament, that was a big tournament with a lot of great players, a lot of‑‑ it was much like a World Cup except now you've got three guys and everybody counts.¬† That was a big moment in Canadian golf.¬† I think that was fantastic.¬† Somewhere it's got to be on film, and I'd love to see it because I didn't get to see that.¬† But I'm glad those guys are getting the recognition for that because they took down some big names.
They had a heck of a golf course at St. Andrews, wasn't it.  Yeah, that's neat.  That's neat.  I'm glad they get the recognition for that.
That should be in the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, those feats that‑‑ we don't go in as favorites ever to a World Cup or something like that, but we have come out as winners an awful lot of times.¬† That says something about our guys.
When Dan Halldorson and I won World Cup, it was in Bogota, Colombia.  It was actually under duress.  It was quite funny, they had curfews on every night because they had national strikes, and they said it's best that you get in by about 8:00 at night before it gets dark.  Really, why?  Well, you'll be shot if you don't.  Really?  That's a good reason to eat at the hotel.  And we heard gunfire going off every night.  Well, we're playing under pressure here, aren't we, boys?  Not many people knew about that.  So it was actually a game of life and death.  (Laughter.)  It put things in perspective a little.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much for making some time, and we look forward to hosting you and your family when you're being inducted tonight at 7:00 into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.

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