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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hello Mr. Anonymous.....

My red eye flight from Vancouver to West Virginia was scheduled for just over four hours. I spent the evening writing my blog from this past week's RBC Canadian Open. I was planning on combining my last two tournaments into one entry so that I hopefully wouldn't bore you to death. But oh how things quickly changed. As our wheels touched the ground, I turned on my phone and a few emails and texts began to show up. One email in particular made me sit there and scratch my head. So, rather than post my blog from the last two weeks of tournaments, I have decided to write a new one and focus on the nature of this "Anonymous" email.

When I began writing this blog, I did it because my friends and family asked me too. As a group, they have always been extremely supportive and insanely interested in my whereabouts. They convinced me that a blog could keep everyone informed of my weekly adventures without having to repeat myself through emails and phone calls. I reluctantly began writing the week prior to my first tournament on the PGA Tour in 2010. As the weeks progressed, I began to enjoy writing the entries because I realized just how special my blog might be one day to two people in particular. You see, my weekly entries are more like a diary. At some point, my children will be able to look back and not only read about their Daddy and his weekly battles against the best players in the world, but about their lives as well. There are stories of birdies and bogeys, first words and first steps and, of course, big laughs and big tears. So you see, my blog is not for me, it is for my kids. I have said a thousand times how difficult it is FOR ME to leave them for weeks at a time. I certainly realize that I am not the only person out there that goes through this dilemma. There are millions of parents that experience my same predicament each and every week. Our jobs require us to travel in order to provide for our families but that is what we do! I get up every morning and do my job the best I can because my family needs me. I travel a lot because my job is on the road. I would give anything to spend every night at home so I can tuck my kids in bed….but I can't. I sacrifice my time at home in order to provide a better life for my family.

With that being said, here is the message that was sent to me via the comment box below one of my entries…..

"You really are stuck on yourself and want it to appear that you just have the perfect life and perfect family……wow…… you complain that you have it so hard being away from your perfect family…….how do you think the military members feel being stuck in a desert for a year or two without the option to fly home on a private jet…….

By Anonymous"

First of all, I AM VERY PROUD OF MY FAMILY AND MY LIFE. Is it perfect?…..certainly not. But I have a wonderful family that I love dearly and I have worked extremely hard to get where I am in my career. Golf is not like some Fortune 500 company where I was handpicked to run a business and collect some huge salary. Golf doesn't care who you are or where you came from. A player must earn his stripes and climb the various levels or ranks to hopefully one day play on the biggest stage of all, the PGA Tour. I am guessing that Mr. Anonymous doesn't know me personally. If he did, he would know that I was not a spoon fed child growing up. My parents worked hard to provide for our family but we were certainly not living some fantasy life of luxury. I began my career on a very small tour (similar to AA baseball) and worked my way up. I battled injuries year after year and through hard work and perseverance, I made it to the PGA Tour in 2010. My body is beat and battered from the process and I put a lot of unseen and extremely hard work / rehab in each week just to be able to tee it up on Thursday. But I don't complain about that. The only complaint that I have is that I am away from the day to day activities of my family. But, as I mentioned earlier, my job is on the road and I must travel to provide for my family.

Secondly, Mr. Anonymous certainly hasn't read my blog over the last year and a half. If he did, he would realize that I have the upmost respect for the men and women in our military and their families. In fact, a large number of my family members have dedicated their lives and service to our Nation through military services over the years. In addition, one of my very first entries in 2010 was about my breathtaking and incredible experience when I visited Pearl Harbor. Most recently (because I know Mr. Anonymous didn't read that one), I wrote about meeting several members of the Wounded Warrior Program at the AT&T National in Pennsylvania. I spent a long time with each of them and I was blown away by their stories. I wrote how I walked away from the humbling experience an even better person.

Thirdly, I want to apologize to anyone if I have ever offended them in anyway with my blog. I am a very prideful person and I care what people think about me. I have never, and will never, compare my job or life to anyone else. I don't care if someone has $2 to their name or $200 billion….I don't care…..I treat people the same. I am just an average Joe who loves to spend time with his family, hunt and fish. I am who I am……and for those of you that know me (I am obviously convinced that Mr. Anonymous doesn't), know that I am just a big Redneck who can occasionally hit a golf ball halfway decent.

And last but not least, I, for one, completely understand how this world works. There will always be people who thrive on watching others fail. They cannot wait for you to make a mistake and they constantly root against you. I completely understand this ……it is only human nature and we are all guilty of wanting to see an eventual outcome…….a winner and a loser……and in most cases we don't care who suffers. My job is certainly not immune from this situation and I am perfectly OK with the haters of the world. I can handle their criticism. Our tournaments are viewed by millions of people all over the world each and every week. Every shot is praised and criticized by fans in the stands, announcers on TV, and the people following at home on their TV and Internet. However, when you sit back and think about it, how would you feel if you had someone standing over your desk at work criticizing you every move? You probably wouldn't like it. Like I said, I can handle the criticism because it is just human nature and part of being in a sports-related job. What I do not like, however, is for people to judge how I feel about my family. My job and the way I hit a golf ball is one thing, but my relationship with my family isn't. I AM VERY PROUD OF MY FAMILY AND MY LIFE and I will never apologize for that. I am very fortunate and I count my blessings every day.

I am curious about one thing though…..why would "Mr. Anonymous" bash someone that he probably doesn't even know without at least leaving his own name and personal information? Is he afraid of criticism? Is he afraid that I would post his information for everyone to judge his family and life in the same way he has mine? Can he handle someone looking over his shoulder watching his every move……telling him when he did something wrong? I think I have made my point and he obviously answered my question by signing it….."Mr. Anonymous"

I will leave you with this…..feel free to leave a comment, good or bad, in the comment box below this entry or any in the future. I have also set up an email address that can accommodate your responses as well ( I value your opinions and I apologize if I have ever offended any of you during the duration of this blog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Three Weeks of Being Inside the Ropes....

Temperatures in the high 70's dominated this year's Travelers Championship in Hartford, Connecticut. Cloud coverage and rain fall unfortunately played a role in these lower temperatures but after my off week in a very hot and humid South Georgia, I wasn't complaining. I practiced extremely hard on Tuesday and when I awoke Wednesday morning, the sound of rain filled my ears. I went to the golf course and after sitting there for almost five hours, I went with plan B. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to play in the Hootie and The Blowfish Monday After the Masters Pro-Am in Myrtle Beach, SC. It was there where I met ESPN employee, basketball expert and radio host Doug Gotlieb. He invited several of us to visit ESPN during the week of the Travelers Championship and after the rain decided to spend the entire day with us in Hartford, I gladly made my way over to Bristol. Doug met a few of us when we arrived and he immediately began giving us a tour of the enormous ESPN campus. I met several legendary and longtime ESPN employees throughout the day and we even sat in on a few shows. Sports Center and NFL Live were being taped Live during our tour of the facilities and it was an unbelievable experience. Doug's radio show began at 4pm and he asked us to participate in a round table discussion before he went on Air. When the conversation quickly turned to golf, Doug asked me to join his show and discuss my opinion on Tiger's game, his personal life, and the respect/intimidation factor that players on Tour have toward him. I politely declined. Talking about other players is not a good idea in my opinion ....especially when it is done through the media! However to Doug's delight, immediately after I declined two other players (both Rookies) jumped at the occasion. They were both pretty opinionated during our round table discussions but as soon as the "On Air" light came on, they quickly changed their tune and they were both became very reserved. Smart move.

The tournament went ok for the most part despite a disappointing bogey on my 71st hole. I finished in a tie for 9th thanks in large part to a solid iron and putting performance. The putts didn't fall on Sunday but I couldn't really complain because I hit great putts....they just didn't fall. That's all the boring golf course information you get!! Haha.

Week two brought me to the city of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, home of the AT&T National at historic Aronimink Golf Club. Tiger Woods played host for the event and as usual, everything was first class. I arrived at my hotel late Sunday evening and I couldn't wait to crawl into bed. My schedule was already slammed for the week and when my alarm sounded at 5:45am, I was ready to get started. Thanks to an invite from good friend and VWR (logo on my collar) President, John Ballbach, my Monday morning was a rare treat. When he picked me up at my hotel, we made the short drive over to the infamous Pine Valley Golf Club. For those of you that don't know, Golf Publications have always ranked Pine Valley among the top 3 courses in the world! Every year there is a battle between Augusta National, Cypress Point, and Pine Valley. I have been fortunate enough to play Augusta National twice and I played Cypress Point earlier this year. I was curious to see where Pine Valley ranked in my own personal rankings. To say the least, my experience was incredible. The atmosphere was extremely friendly and very laid back. I was expecting to "walk on eggshells" all day but it never came to that. I played with Michael Brown (good friend of John Ballbach), 11 time PGA Tour winner John Cook, and founder and CEO of Quicksilver Bob McKnight. We had a great time and I think they were all a little overwhelmed by the redneck wearing the TaylorMade hat. As far as my personal rankings go??? I am from the great state of Georgia....enough said.

On Wednesday morning, I was asked by the Tour to attend the opening ceremonies for the tournament with five other players. Tiger was among the five chosen for the event and before the festivities began, we were all escorted into a room inside the Aronimink Clubhouse. It was there where we spent about an hour speaking with several Wounded Warriors. As you can imagine, it was quite a humbling experience. Several of the soldiers were without limbs while others were severely burned from explosions that occurred during battle. One gentleman in particular had a roadside bomb to thank for his complete blindness and the loss of both of his legs. And I complain about needing hip replacement surgery?? Really....

That evening, John Ballbach and myself were guests at a private function that I will remember for a very long time. Darius Rucker performed a private concert for just over 150 people and to say it was incredible is a huge, huge injustice. He played all of his latest songs as well as a collection from his Hootie and the Blowfish days. We were even treated to him singing The Joker (Steve Miller Band) and Purple Rain (Prince). It was arguably the best concert I have ever seen!

A balky week with my driver lead to a disappointing missed cut. I was able to avoid my driver problems the week prior in Hartford because I gave up distance for accuracy and hit my 3wood all tournament. Aronimick Golf Club demands a long and straight driver which wasn't part of my arsenal for the week. Once again, that is all that you get from the boring side of the golf course!

If there is one tournament on Tour that caters to a redneck, the John Deere Classic in Moline, Illinois, certainly fits that bill. Beth and the kids made the trip up north and after two weeks alone on the road, I was ready to see them. If you remember from last year's entry about this tournament, the biggest highlight of the week takes place on Tuesday evening at the annual Big Dig. This event is located at the John Deere Test Site and only the players and their families are invited. Food, games, toys, fishing, and enormous equipment await the large number of wanna be rednecks. Kids of all ages are allowed to climb aboard excavators, tractors, dump trucks and other equipment. Most of the "kids" that attempt to maneuver the huge green equipment are above the age of 25. However, one of the most experienced operators on site happened to only be 4 years old. His name was none other than Jake Adams. As he sat in my lap on one of the extra large excavators, several players walked by and were amazed as he maneuvered the bucket in and out of the dirt. I held up my arms to show them that he was digging the massive hole all by himself. Not bad for a 4 year old. I will admit though, Jake did have a huge advantage over the other "kids" at the Big Dig. His PaPa owns an excavator and he only has to travel 4 miles to play on it.

I missed the cut by one lousy shot again (#5 on the year). Nothing more to say.

This week I am in Jackson, Mississippi, for the Viking Classic. This is my first time at the event and I am looking forward to the week. The course layout suits my eye and I cannot wait to get started on Thursday. Temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees with the heat index between 110-115 degrees. Hopefully my putter will get as hot as the temperature!