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January 25, 2008

Kevin Streelman


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Kevin Streelman, thanks for joining us here at the Buick Invitational. Right now you're in second place through two rounds, played the South Course today and shot 69, finished with a birdie. Maybe open with a couple comments about the opening two days for you.
KEVIN STREELMAN: Thank you. I was blessed to get in this week, first of all. I was last alternate. I was sitting on the putting green and they come up to me, it was about four minutes before my tee time, and they said, I think it was Matt Goggin withdrew, here you go, you're on the first tee.
So I ran to the first tee and fortunately found the fairway and ever since then the putter got hot. I've been making a good amount of putts and keeping the ball in the fairway. Everything has felt good, so it's been a nice start.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Don't you have a relative or friend or something that flew from Scottsdale?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah, Courtney, my fiancée, was in Phoenix. I called her right before I teed off, and she was here by the time I was on the 13th green (laughter). She was at the gym, too. She got home, showered, packed, got in the car, parked at the airport, got transportation to bring her here and got to the tee by 13. I had some sponsor that I called like an hour away from here and they didn't even make it in time and she did from Phoenix.

Q. You went through all three stages of Q-school. I can imagine you probably didn't have an agent starting this year, didn't have an equipment deal, now you've got logos and this and that. What's been process been like for you?
KEVIN STREELMAN: It's been pretty overwhelming as far as the business aspects of professional golf, PGA TOUR professional golf post-Q-school, that's for sure. I did end up signing a great agent out of Ohio and he's helped with me some things along the way. Cleveland Golf has been incredible to me over the last three, four years, so to go with them contractually through the PGA TOUR versus a mini-Tour was a no-brainer. I wanted to use the clubs that got me here and they were happy to oblige.

Q. Difference between the North and the South?
KEVIN STREELMAN: The difference between the North and the South is probably an average of 30 to 40 yards off the tee, and definitely the fairway bunkers are brought in a bunch in comparison. That and probably the par-3s, you feel like you hit a lot more 3-irons and hybrids on the South, and the North you've got a couple softer par-3s in comparison.
And then the par-5s additionally are a touch easier on the North Course in comparison. So I guess overall it probably plays three or four shots easier I would assume.

Q. What were your thoughts yesterday after -- going to bed last night when you were where you were and compared to where you were today. When you got up this morning and you had to play again and you played well, what were your thoughts?
KEVIN STREELMAN: It was just really cool to have some family here. Some of my sponsors are here. It's been a very welcoming environment. It's just been a lot of fun. I've been fortunate to, like I said, make some putts and keep the ball in front of me.

Q. What were the conditions like today?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Today was a touch windy. It was warmer than yesterday, that's for sure. But the greens out here, the poa annua greens, they get a little bumpy later in the day, that's for sure. So all of a sudden those three-, four-footers are difficult to make if you get one going one direction or the other. Obviously there are a couple birdies to be had.

Q. Everybody has got a horror story when they're on the Hooters Tour or another mini-tour. What's your best horror story?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I've got one.

Q. Everybody does.
KEVIN STREELMAN: It's a Q-school story, second stage of Q-school.

Q. This year?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Probably three or four years ago, Deerwood Club in Houston, and we start out, we play the first two rounds and I'm even par, and the cut line is at 2-under. We come out the third day and I'm 5-under par through 13 holes, inside the number, playing great.
All of a sudden this torrential rain comes down, and it comes down, and it comes down for three days straight. They not only had to cancel the fourth round but they took our third round and threw it out. So all of a sudden I was two shots short of going to the final stage and at least having some sort of status for the following year.
I'm a believer that things happen for a reason and it just wasn't my time yet. I don't think I was as prepared as a golfer and as a person as I probably am now. I'm a touch more mature and everything, but that was a tough one to get over.

Q. How did you end up in the Ultimate Game, and what was that experience like?
KEVIN STREELMAN: It was a blast. It was a very cool event, great venue. They just took great care of us. I actually ended up winning. Scott Piercy, his investment group, recommended me as the second player. They wanted to have two horses running in the race, and he finished first, I finished fourth, so they made a couple bucks along the way, too. So we all had a kind of nice event.

Q. You were sitting by the putting green wondering if you were going to get in. What do you think you would have been doing this weekend if you hadn't gotten in?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I would have gone back to Phoenix, just practiced a little bit, probably maybe flown my coach out and maybe worked with him a little bit. The last two weeks have been -- Sony was great to make the cut, and then Bob Hope, I didn't find out that until the day before I got in that event as an alternate, as well, so all of a sudden I had to race around trying to see four courses and then play four days straight and then ended up birdieing four of the last five to miss the cut by one. It's been a whirlwind beginning to the PGA TOUR for me, but it's been a ton of fun.

Q. Are you in the FBR?
KEVIN STREELMAN: No, it's a tough one to get in because the field is so small, for us rookies. Actually a Top 10 would get me in there, which I'd love to play. I Monday qualified for it I think three or four years ago, and it's a pretty fun event.

Q. Talk about a whirlwind, have you digested the possibility that you could have gone from four minutes from not being in this tournament to playing with Tiger in the last group tomorrow?
KEVIN STREELMAN: No (laughter). That really hasn't sunk in yet, either. But in regards to that, if that happens, if that works out, it's going to be, for me, very gratifying, I think, and a tremendous learning experience, obviously to be able to walk next to him, probably be a little bit behind him (laughing), to just kind of see what he does and just kind of try and compare -- obviously if I can keep doing what I'm doing, just play the golf course. That's all it is.
Obviously it's going to be a huge ordeal out there, but it's going to be a great -- if I play great, great. If I don't, it's going to be a tremendous learning experience that hopefully I'll be able to build on down the road.

Q. Have you ever met him or followed him in person and watched him play?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Thursday morning when I was waiting on the putting green I kept my head down was hitting some putts into this cup, and looked up and boom, he was right there in front of me. I was kind of awestruck for a second, and I said, wow, I guess I am on the PGA TOUR (laughter). It was pretty cool.

Q. Did you introduce yourself?
KEVIN STREELMAN: No, I was too scared to do that.

Q. Having had to go through the three stages, what were your realistic expectations when you were starting out? Did you let yourself think about trying to get here, or were you more, I'd be satisfied with the Nationwide Tour? It's not an easy road, obviously.
KEVIN STREELMAN: No, it's been a very difficult road. It's one where you have pitfalls and tremendous highs and lows, and in this game you lose more than you win obviously. Especially when you're scrounging money to get to the next tournament and to put gas in your car sometimes. It can be quite an experience. At the same time I think that makes you a stronger person and a stronger golfer at the same time.
So I think in a lot of ways my trials and tribulations the past seven years has kind of been -- they've been building blocks that I've been able to grow both as a golfer and as a person.

Q. Did you ever run out of money or close to it?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Oh, yeah. There's another nightmare story for you. Six years ago I got sent out here by a firm in Chicago that was supposedly going to back me for the whole year; everything was great. They bring me into their boardroom and they send me out to Phoenix. I missed Monday qualifying there, go up to Pebble and successfully Monday qualify there. I miss the cut, come to this event and miss the cut by one to get into the event from the Monday qualifier.
I called this group of investors, this company back in Chicago, to say, I need some more money for LA, for Riviera to do a Monday qualifier, and they stopped answering the phone calls. To this day I have not heard a word from this guy.
So I was stranded -- living in Chicago, stranded in Southern California with not a -- probably had $400 in my bank account. A week ago I had been in a PGA TOUR event. It was just like a slap in the face, but at the same time, God willing, I was able to meet my first initial sponsor up at Coda de Casa up in Orange County, and through him and friends of friends, it's just an amazing story. All of a sudden we've got a group of 10 to 12 guys who have been with me the last three or four years.

Q. Was that around the same time you were stranded or subsequent to that?
KEVIN STREELMAN: It was exactly the same time. I actually met the initial guy back in Phoenix after I missed that Monday qualifier. He gave me his card at random and I held onto it, and luckily I did. He said, come by and you can stay with me. I told him my deal and he gave me $5,000 to get going.
I drove all the way cross country to Arkansas for a Hooters event and finished second, made $11,000 or $12,000 there and kept going with it.

Q. All those years when you've got to throw in $18,000 on the Gateway Tour on the front end --
KEVIN STREELMAN: It's a lot of money.

Q. It is, for somebody who doesn't have money or when it's someone else's money. I guess a sociology degree doesn't give you a lot of other options, but did you think about getting out of it at all?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Fortunately when I sat down with my family and sponsors when I started, we both agreed if we just improve a little bit each year we're going to keep going with it. That was a low point for sure when I got stranded out here. That was a time when I was questioning a lot of things. But through Graham and Tim St. John and these people that I met who helped me get started and all of a sudden on the Hooters Tour started doing well and then I kind of stationed myself in Phoenix and started playing well on the Gateway Tour out there and started making a couple bucks and paying them back. It's been an amazing journey.

Q. That was 2002 when that happened, when you got stranded?
KEVIN STREELMAN: That must have been '02 or '03.

Q. But you played at Pebble so we'll be able to find your record?
KEVIN STREELMAN: It was right after the weekend at Pebble.

Q. Why have you done so well here? This is not an easy place.
KEVIN STREELMAN: I don't know, probably not a ton of expectations, just kind of free-wheeling it. I believe in my golf swing. I've worked really hard with -- I started working with an instructor over in Myrtle Beach and he's kind of got me on the right path. One thing that was big, I got to see Stan Utley, my buddy coach, on Tuesday afternoon, and he saw a couple little things that we fixed, and all of a sudden the putter started feeling a lot better. Probably freed up with my swing and a combination of things, plus all of a sudden good things started happening.

Q. Did you say you wore out a couple cars mileage-wise? What were they, and this is just doing the vagabond existence of going from city to city?
KEVIN STREELMAN: My first one was my mom's Nissan Altima. I wore that one out. She gave it to me when it had probably 50,000 or 60,000 and I got it up to 200,000 and burned it out.
Then I got a new Altima in '04 and traded that in last year with 170,000 miles on it.
And then I bought a new Camry last year and had that -- I just traded that in after Q-school. I put about 20,000 miles on that this year, but mostly it was around Phoenix and Gateway, so I didn't put quite as many on that. And just recently upgraded to a Nissan 350Z after Q-school. It was kind of my dream car for myself, and I said if I ever get on TOUR it's my trophy to myself. It was kind of expensive but it's fun on the road.

Q. Do you ever buy an airplane ticket?
KEVIN STREELMAN: That's Courtney. She does a really good job. She handles all the expenses and keeps us -- she's already got everything planned, I think, through Florida Swing practically. She helps out.

Q. Might there have been an advantage to not stressing and just sort of being plucked off that first green before you could think about it?

Q. They just kicked you in the deep end.
KEVIN STREELMAN: Just start running, start swimming. I think that probably had a little bit to do with it. I didn't have a ton of expectations, it was just seeing fairways and greens and trying to make putts.

Q. That obviously worked for yesterday, but last night knowing that you played well and you were going to play the South Course, what went through your mind last night? How did you sleep?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I slept well. We'll see how tonight goes. You know, it was -- can you repeat the question?

Q. There was no expectation yesterday because obviously you had no time to think. But obviously last night and today you did have time to think. Being in contention and having a chance to build on something, what are your thoughts?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Probably just belief in what I've been doing. I've been swinging the club really well. Last week I played really well, I just didn't make many putts. That putting lesson helped out a bunch, and I just kind of was able to -- just have a lot of 15-footers kind of right around the hole and hit a good number and have them fall.

Q. Were you a pretty good junior player in your era or did you walk on most of the time?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I got about a half ride to Duke and did well. I won one tournament. It was probably -- I probably had one beer too many or so during school. I had a lot of fun, but I had some great friends and I joined a fraternity there and just have friends for my whole life from that. I worked really hard my junior and senior year and started getting things together. It's been a steady kind of gradual improvement and kind of knowledge of the game and knowledge of how to travel. There's so many other parts to professional golf.

Q. Were you playing in the Matt Kuchar era when he was at Georgia Tech?
KEVIN STREELMAN: Bryce Molder was my year, DJ Trahan was a year behind me, Lucas Glover was my year, Charles Howell was my year. They used to kick our butts all the time.

Q. What's it like for you to be up there with Tiger?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I don't know. It's cool. Like I said, I don't know if it's really set in yet. It's going to be a heck of a day if I get to play with him. I'm really looking forward to it, to be honest. It's still just me and the golf course.

Q. Is the depth of talent so deep now in golf that there are other guys on the Gateway Tour that could come out here and do this?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I tell people there's a lot of great golfers that nobody knows about. There's a lot of people that just have had a hard time getting through Q-school for one time. I've had many experiences through Q-school, and it is timing and it's -- any week on the Gateway Tour you could see guys go 24-, 25-under par.

Q. Sean O'Hair jumped up off that Tour. He's a little younger obviously but came right out of the chute and skipped the Nationwide and he's up and running.
KEVIN STREELMAN: Nationwide is an incredible training ground, there's no doubt about that. I guess what's helped me, I've Monday qualified for probably six or seven events over the past years, so I guess coming into Hawai'i, I just kind of knew what to expect. It's obviously been a blast, but I wasn't overly intimidated by seeing guys that you see on TV each weekend and stuff like that.
I know I'm a rookie and I know I'm older than a lot of guys out here, too, and I've been chasing -- I look at all those miles on the car and all that stuff has kind of been my rookie year, as well. That's kind of been my journey. I kind of look at it as almost like a rite of passage.

Q. You barely got out of first stage this year; is that correct? Is there a story there?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I birdied four of my last five holes to get through first stage on the number. I'd still be sitting in Phoenix on the Gateway Tour right now if I didn't make that 12-footer that snaked down the hill to get through first.

Q. Do you have to smile a little bit, the contrast from yesterday to today? You came in here last night, pretty much everybody said thanks but no thanks, now everybody is hanging around.
KEVIN STREELMAN: What a difference.

Q. You've validated yourself, congratulations.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You had four birdies and one bogey today. If we could touch on those. You birdied the first two right out of the gate.
KEVIN STREELMAN: Yeah, one was -- I was pretty jacked on that first tee shot. I went after it pretty hard and left it in the right bunker and hit a great 7-iron to probably about 18 feet and put a nice roll on it, made that.
2nd hole, pushed my tee shot a little bit, as well, but found a good lie in the right rough and hit an awesome shot. That was one of my better shots today. The wind was from the left, I caught a 7-iron that landed two, three feet. Knocked that one in.
4 is a tough hole. It was fortunately straight downwind, but the ocean is obviously not moving, and hit a good tee shot, had 166, and my caddie and I agreed on an 8-iron and I caught a ridge and it trickled down there about five feet and made that.
I was thinking to myself I could play the first four or five even and I'll be all right. I got off to a pretty good start.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Only bogey of the day was on 14.
KEVIN STREELMAN: 14. I pushed a tee shot into the right rough, had a so-so lie there, but pushed my approach shot and just got an awful kick that went barreling over the back of the green, I thought it would stick there and hold up pin high, but hit a mediocre chip to about eight feet and just missed that one.
18, I had like 255 front, I was thinking about going for it, and I thought, it's not worth messing with. So I laid up to a comfortable distance and hit a great sand wedge in there about a foot and a half.

Q. How many total trips to Q-school?
KEVIN STREELMAN: I think this was my sixth, fifth or sixth. I've lost count. I don't want to think about that.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Kevin, thank you.

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