Planet Golf — 06 May 2013 by GW staff and news services
Q&A: Fred Couples at the HOF

Moderator: I’d like to welcome everyone to the World Golf Hall of Fame class of 2013 press conferences here. We’ve got our friend Freddie Couples in the house, and I’ll open the floor to questions.

Q. What do you make of all this, Fred?

COUPLES: Well, I got in. It’s been a blast. We just came from a lunch where there were a few stories told and a great forum. I don’t know if you were here yesterday. Probably not, you might have been in Charlotte. So it’s a unique and unbelievable place. Spent a little bit of time walking around the lockers and the Hall of Fame room and all the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Solheim Cup area. They have a putt that I guess I made somewhere at RTJ that you can listen to and try to make. I’ve never been to any Hall of Fame except for the one in Seattle, which is Washington guys, and then Texas. But this is from all the things we went and looked at Phil Mickelson’s he’s got like a wing over there (laughter), and it’s 10 Ryder Cup trophies, 10 Presidents Cup trophies, Masters trophies everywhere. It’s a great spot. For me, I gave, or lent, and they can have a lot of things, because I don’t have any of it out, so it’s kind of a nice home. I looked at it, and there are great pictures and clubs I won Augusta with and all kinds of other things. So it’s been fun.

Q. Looking back now kind of where you’re at at this point in time, are there two or three moments that really kind of stick out from the past that really just are memorable in your mind?

COUPLES: Yeah, well, I can say this one because it’s a little too long of a story to tell tonight. But I lost in the U.S. Amateur to Hal Sutton, and I had a ticket from Charlotte to Houston to start school after that tournament. And somehow I changed it to Los Angeles, and I went and spent a week with some friends of my parents who were older, and after a couple days I got bored and I said, Mr. José, is there a golf course near here, and we went to the golf course.

This is memorable because this is what got me here 33 years later. He says, yeah, right down the street. So we drive into the parking lot,and I knew something was going on because there was a big banner that said Queen Mary Open. If you know the Queen Mary, it’s an old tournament, so I walked into the shop and I said, hi, I’m so and so, I’m here or I’d like to play a practice round or hit balls or do something, and the guy said we have an event. I said, I just was dropped off, can I hit balls. His name was Larry Benson, he said, sure. He said, I’m playing later today with a friend; play with us. We played. At 5:00 we finished, and I said, well, is there any way I can play as an amateur before I go back to school, and jokingly he said, but no, if you turn pro we have a spot for you.

I went back, had dinner with these people, I went into a room, the next morning drove back to the course and turned pro. Why, I have no idea. And that’s how people nowadays they come out of college, they turn pro, but at that time I was going to say I didn’t have a manager or an agent or a lawyer or a chef or a masseuse or a trainer or a cell phone or anyone to call, I made what was probably at the time the dumbest decision I ever made, turned out to be the greatest decision, and that’s how I turned pro. I went to the Queen Mary Open and looked at a guy and said I want to play in this as a pro.

Q. What was the course?

COUPLES: El Dorado.

Q. What year in school were you?

COUPLES: Well, I was going to be a senior. If Jim Nantz was in here he would say you were still on freshmen academics, but I went as a freshman, sophomore and junior to Houston.

Q. What was the reaction from friends and advisors at the time?

COUPLES: Well, like I said, I was staying with friends of my parents. My mom was calling Houston, the dorm room, and honestly, Jim Nantz loves my mom because he had to lie to her for two or three days, and he would say, Mrs. Couples, he’s not in right now, he’s out running around. I was in Long Beach. And so Sunday I called home, and my mom answered, and she knew where I was because I think the people I was staying with, they didn’t know anything about golf, but they knew that I was staying much longer than I told them I was going to say and that I was playing golf at this course every day and they put it together. Anyway, she was okay and she put me on the phone with my dad, and I said, hey, dad, I just made $1,800, and he hung up on me. But there’s more to the story because when I turned pro there was a guy Tom Lamore who came up to me on Wednesday. He went to Houston. He didn’t really play on the team, but he was a Cougar, and he said, holy ess, what have you done. I said, what are you talking about. He said, you’re a pro, you’ve got another left of school. I said, yeah, yeah. He says you realize Tour school applications have to be postmarked on Friday. A, I didn’t know what postmarked meant, and B, I had already borrowed $200 to enter the Queen Mary Open. And I didn’t have signing my name as a joke on applications was easy. Paying I borrowed $500 from Tom Lamore’s uncle. So they got it in, and I went to the regional, qualified; I went to Fresno and qualified, and then two months later I was on the PGA Tour.

Q. Tell us a little bit about, it’s kind of like a package tonight, we’re all sad, I think, a lot of us know that Mr. Venturi is not going to be able to make it today, but tell us a little bit about your relationship with everybody knows the story about you and Jim and college and stuff, but your relationship with Jim and Kenny and how cool it was at the Masters, and then you having played for him at the Presidents Cup and how that’s led kind of to your you’ve had a long, steady and great career and how your relationship with those two gentlemen has been a big part of it.

COUPLES: Right. Really how it started, as you know, Jim Nantz and I are college roommates and friends, and when he started working for CBS, he invited me to a lot of the CBS dinners, and back in the old days, Frank Chirkinian used to make sure they all ate together, and Davis Love and I really were the only two players that used to go, and we used to go a lot, and Kenny Venturi would tell stories. Every so often you’d hear the same story, but it was just so phenomenal that you would kind of go through the motions and listen and laugh, and it was obviously Chirkinian always ate, Lance Barrow, at the time Peter Kostis was there a lot, McCord, we’re talking I don’t think Feherty was there yet, but we’re talking in the late ’80s, early ’90s when I went to a lot of these meals, like several of them.

For us in here, we all know Kenny, but to be honest with you, I’m hoping to give a nice speech tonight, but his is going to be, and we’re hoping he gets back here next year, but he is riveting and fun, and I’m sure he would go on for a long, long time tonight. But he’s a great guy. He and Jimmy Nantz were like this, and because of my friendship with Jimmy, I got to know Kenny pretty well.

Q. What golfers helped you along the way? I know every golfer has somebody they look up to or helped them throughout their career. What are some key players that have helped you throughout your career?

COUPLES: Yeah, I have friends on the PGA Tour, and when I was a rookie in my second year, there are several people that helped me out. But really the ones that I sought out and tried to get to know, Ray Floyd and Tom Watson and spent time with them. I don’t chip the ball like Ray Floyd and putt like Ray Floyd. I certainly don’t practice six hours a day like Tom Watson did in his prime. But I just as I always say, I took a little from them, and a little went a long way. And then obviously the other guy would be Lee Trevino. I played with Lee Trevino in the 1979 U.S. Open as an amateur. Somehow when I got on Tour, we just kind of hit it off, and I played in this thing called the Fred Meyer Challenge with him that Peter Jacobson ran a few years in a row. He would always find me, and as Jim Nantz used to say he calls me Cupcake. Cupcake, here’s what I see you doing. You’re driving it all over the place, you need to shorten your swing, you need to do this, you need to do that. The other guys, I would ask them and they would kind of answer. But those three guys by far have been very helpful.

Q. If someone, let’s call it a mainstream sports fan, says Fred Couples is in the Hall of Fame, he’s the guy who…what? How would you answer that?

COUPLES: Wow. He’s the guy whose ball stayed on the bank at 12 at Augusta. You know, that’s one of them. People know I won Augusta. He’s the guy that doesn’t wear a glove. He’s got a smooth and slow swing. It’s like I was answering this the other day, and Kathy is going to say, geez, he goes round and round, but my knowledge of things are maybe different. When you’re a baseball player and you get in the Hall of Fame and you’re sitting there looking at Babe Ruth, it’s a little weird no matter who you are today. I guess you wait five years. And the weirdest thing in golf, I’m still playing. I had a chance to win Augusta, a month later I’m getting in the Hall of Fame, which is a nice analogy, but it’s not like a month ago I hit a three-run homer to beat the New York Yankees. So George Brett is a buddy, and he was very good friend and we played a lot of golf. And five years later, he knew he would be a first time Hall of Famer, but you didn’t every day you  didn’t go up and say, George, yeah, I bet you can’t wait. I never thought about the Hall of Fame as a kid. I never made a putt in my backyard at the golf course. It was always to win the tournament that was on TV that week. But I never made a putt to say, wow, if I make this I’m in the Hall of Fame. No one does that. But when you get in there, obviously I’m lucky to be in here. I barely got in here, but I’m in, and it’s quite an honor. That’s the answer to your first question. A long one.

Q. I may be wrong on this, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time, but I always thought you and Monty going in together tonight were the ones looked upon as the guys whose swings never changed since they were about 10 years old.

COUPLES: Yeah, Monty my swing looking at it, it’s hopefully a little taller because at Augusta this year Paul said, wow, you’re so crouched over it, so I started standing taller and it clicked right away. But fundamentally I think I still swing the same. I feel like power is my game, and at impact, no matter how I feel or as I get a little older, I still feel like I get a lot of zip through the ball. And I think Monty, I’m going to be he’s going to be on the Champions Tour, but I’m three years older. His swing, I think if he stays healthy he can swing like he does for another 10 years. Mine is based a little bit more on how I feel, and if I don’t have power my game seems to be maybe mediocre because I really rely on length, whether I’m at Augusta or at a Senior U.S. Open. I still want to be able to hit it where I’m used to hitting it if that make sense. So when I’m playing the first hole at Augusta I don’t want to be going in there with a 4 iron when I normally can hit a 6 or 7. I normally swing as hard as I can at Augusta because it’s important for me to hit it. It’s not easy to do that every week. I don’t have the power or stamina to just blast it.

Q. In terms of the fundamentals of the swing, there’s a ton of guys who change their swing all the time, not just Tiger.

COUPLES: Right. To be honest with you that’s a great that’s why I’ve worked with Paul Marchand for over 20 years, and I changed to Butch Harmon, and he really didn’t change a whole lot, and now I’m back with Paul, and I’ve been with Paul a couple years now and I don’t see him that much because I don’t practice that much. But if I kept notes, it would be the same things as he told me in 1987; you’re too close to the ball, move a little bit more away, shorten your swing, aim left, get the hips to clear out of the way. It’s nothing like your backswing needs to be revamped. I mean, shortening your swing, to me they show Phil Mickelson where the club gets past parallel. For Phil to shorten it up, it may be an inch. For myself or Phil, it seems like we’re all wound up in rain gear, but that’s really all they ask for, and that’s really all Paul and then it comes down to short game for any golfer.

Q. How would you assess your career? Specifically where do you think you surpassed your expectations and where did you want to achieve more?

COUPLES: Well, I wanted to achieve more. I wanted to win another major on the regular Tour, there’s no doubt about that. I felt like I was very capable of doing that, and I didn’t. And not just really at Augusta. I felt like the British Open I had three or four chances. I played with Norman when he won, I played with Justin Leonard, although we were a little bit back in the pack, but when Justin won. I was in the last group another time. And that was a tournament that I really felt like I could win and didn’t. And then achievements? I think I’m a very good competitor, but I’m never one to worry about really achieving things. I felt like when I worked with Paul and all those years, if I could be ready at a golf tournament, that was the good start. So what I mean is when I went and worked with Paul and I went to a tournament, I felt like just don’t go there just to go, and I didn’t play much. I played 17, 18, 19 times a year. Obviously if I hurt my back a little bit when I came back, I picked up a couple events. But if I was healthy, I always felt like less was more and be fresh and play. But you know, it’s just a hard thing to achieve. I mean, when you say you want to do things in golf, it’s very hard to do. Obviously Tiger wants to win 18 or 19 majors. Phil wants to do this. Vijay wants to I’m talking about all the great Greg Norman was going to do this, and then a guy holes a bunker shot and then a guy holes a chip shot and keeps him from winning three, four, five majors. For me it was just always to win one more major. I always thought I could do it. The majors weren’t the number one thing in my life. It was really playing good wherever I played. If I went to play in France, I wanted to play well. If I went to Japan I wanted to play well, and when I played the PGA Tour I wanted to play well.

Q. Do you want to tell everybody a little bit about your friend Steve Dallas? Is he going to be here today?

COUPLES: No, I don’t believe I haven’t seen him yet. Besides Dick Harmon and Paul, my first teachers the first guy was Steve Dallas. He gave me my first plastic driver and7 iron and 9 iron and putter when I got started. He was a good friend of my brother’s. He was a catcher at Seattle University and my brother was a pitcher, and I caddied for Steve was a great golfer, and I caddied for Steve Dallas, and that’s what he gave me for caddying for him, a little canvas bag and those clubs. But Steve helped me play, and then after Steve I worked a little bit with Steve Cole, another guy at the club where I played. But those two got me started. My father was a baseball player. My brother who’s nine years older, I was the bat boy for his high school and semi pro teams. They’re all golfers now, but back then my dad was a little bit in shock that I started playing golf, and that’s when Lee Trevino came in. He did a clinic in Seattle, and I went and watched him, and when I left, I can honestly tell a story, it didn’t make me want to be I had no idea what the PGA Tour was, but I knew I wanted to play golf. And just the way he struck the ball and obviously Steve Dallas could really hit a ball well and a lot of my friends could really play. But at that time Lee Trevino had just when you’re a kid, you see people stare at people, and I just kind of stared at him and I watched what he did and he was obviously funny and all that, but I was too young to figure out what he was saying, but that’s the guy who came to Seattle. We had Don Bies and Ken Still who played the Tour. I didn’t really know them at all. And we had a couple good junior players that played, one Rick Fehr I used to play a little bit against who played the Tour, and really Peter Jacobson was in Oregon. I didn’t know Peter at all. But that was about it in the Northwest. I’m probably leaving out some people, but back when I was 12 or 13, I didn’t know any pros from Seattle on the PGA Tour.

Q. I remember you telling me a couple years ago at The Players, the influence of your mom and dad. Mother’s Day is coming up; I know you lost your mom on Mother’s Day. Can you give us a glimpse what she meant to you as far as getting you where you are in golf?

COUPLES: That’s funny. My girlfriend is in here, Lynn and Tammy. I wish my sister would have come in because part of the funny story about what my mom has done in golf is she made more money than my father, but my sister felt like I was spoiled because when school was out, whenever it was, I got $5 a day, and that got me to Jefferson Park where it would get me a burger and fries and a Coke after I played golf, and then I stayed up there and practiced. Now, I think I saved her a lot of money because I played with people, as I say, from 15 to 60, so I had babysitters, which didn’t cost her anything and they all took care of me. But to get, as my sister said, I get $8 to $10 a week, you’re getting $35. It’s a little bit unfair. If I needed a new sand wedge, my parents would get a new sand wedge. They never drove me really I’m not knocking I used to ride my bike to the golf course. It was about a five minute ride. But all in all, they gave me my brother needed a mitt, a jock strap and a cup. I know it’s funny. I needed irons, woods, I really never played with golf shoes for the longest time, but I needed golf balls. I never wore a glove because they were so expensive. And it’s just fun.

Q. I wonder if you could tell us about what items you have decided to display here at the World Golf Hall of Fame?

COUPLES: Everything I own is here. No, it was all in storage about three months ago. But I have the Masters trophy, I have the set of clubs from Augusta that I won with. I have a Houston Cougar golf shirt that looks like a kid’s extra small. I don’t know how that ever fit. A golf bag, some other trophies, LA Open trophies.

Q. Both your Players Championship trophies?

COUPLES: Both Players Championship trophies. I have a Ryder Cup bag I think and a Presidents Cup bag in the other area. I don’t display much. It was kind of nice to get this induction where I could get this stuff out of storage and put it in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Everyone is calling it the Hall of Fame, but someone told Jim Nantz today it’s the World Golf Hall of Fame. I’ve looked at it. There’s some other things in there, too. Some junior trophies. That Donna Capone this is funny. She came to me the other night when we were there, and she said, man, what is that one trophy from, it’s awesome, and I’m thinking Augusta she knows, The Players Championship. I said, I don’t have my glasses, can you read it to me. And she said Skagit Valley junior golf. And I was like, that’s probably not what you thought, but it was a big chuckle. She thought maybe it was from some other tournament I won, but it was a junior trophy. They want to make you feel good, they give you the biggest trophies when you’re 12 years old.

Q. Can you tell us where you were, who you heard about your induction from, your reaction and who you maybe first called?

COUPLES: Well, I was at Riviera with this guy right here, and we were doing a Presidents Cup day to announce that I was going to be doing it one more day. And then at the end, really at the end, Tim Finchem said, oh, by the way, you’ve been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He was in there. I kind of didn’t really hear it, and then I said, oh, my God, how awesome is that. And I think a minute later, someone asked me who would present you, and I of course said Jim Nantz, and honestly I don’t think I called anybody. I had people calling me. They were all flipping out. But I honestly don’t remember who I called. It was in January or February when you came out. Yeah, right at the beginning of the year. But I have a lot of friends here. It’s going to be a fun well, it’s been a fun weekend. I just told a story about you, Don.

Q. You’re sharing a special moment tonight with Colin Montgomerie. Can you tell us about how well you know him and any memorable times your paths have crossed?

COUPLES: You know, we were up here the other day. I’ve played a lot with Colin. You know, my caddie Joey has a lot of friends, and Colin is one of them. For some reason they would hit it off with their different sarcasm. That made me like Colin a little better. But we were paired obviously in the Ryder Cups, but it seemed like a lot of the majors we got paired a lot. Maybe a few times in Europe when I went over there we played. But really the story is he does work with Paul Marchand, who I have the same teacher. I’ve never been with Colin at the same time in Houston or at a golf tournament working with Paul. Obviously at Augusta I would see Paul and he would walk down and work with Colin later, but we were never at Paul’s course together, which if he’s going to start playing the Champions Tour, which is awesome, we might be seeing more of Paul because I’m going to have to keep Paul away from Monty so he doesn’t get Monty winning every tournament. But I think there’s admiration in the way he plays. Like I think I play a different kind of game. I think Monty plays a different kind of game. I think he’s so precise. But it’s a different like he doesn’t hit 3 iron straight up in the air and stop them on the greens. He maneuvers the ball, a little bit like Corey Pavin without drawing the ball, and I enjoy that. I always liked playing with him because he was fun to watch play. You know, people can think whatever they think about him, whether he’s quiet or mean. I mean, when we played, we always had a good time. It’s just one of those things. It’s nice Ken Schofield I know a little bit from playing in Europe, and he’s always been very friendly, but Colin, it’s great to go in with him. Seven time, as he called it, Order of Merit or Money List champion, that to me is a remarkable feat. Was it in a row? Yeah, seven times in a row. That’s amazing in itself.

Q. I think with tonight’s induction class there’s 146 members in the hall now. Excluding the people you’ve played with or known personally, your generation, which Hall of Fame member do you know the most about or inspired you?

COUPLES: That I know the most about? I probably know the most about Ray Floyd. I’ve spent time with his family and I know his boys and his daughter. I did stay with him maybe three years in a row at Doral when we played, and then obviously we were partners a few times in things. And looking up to any of them, I mean, I looked up to all of them. My favorite player growing up was Tom Weiskopf, who is not a Hall of Famer I don’t think, is he? No, but I was tiny, he was tall. The only thing we had in common was we played golf, but I just liked the way he played, and he seemed to have this way of smashing the ball, and everyone hooked up with, gee, I love Jack Nicklaus or I love Arnold Palmer. For some reason I was attached to Tom Weiskopf. But I would say I know the most, of the 146 guys, would be Ray Floyd.

Q. How about in the Willie Park, Jr., era?

COUPLES: Yeah, I’m not much of a studier. I just realized that Willie Park, Sr., is in the Hall of Fame. I walked by his locker. But Willie Park, Jr., can you tell me a couple things he’s done real quick? Does he have a club named after him anywhere that we’re now using to get out of sand? Honestly, I don’t he was a golf course designer? Can you tell me a course that he designed? There you go, so this guy was awesome. I’m not being funny, this guy was awesome. When I’m dead, they can say whatever they want, but I’ll still have a bronze plaque in there. But they’ll have schlepped all my stuff into another corner of storage. But it’s a good I don’t know Willie Park. I should. I should have studied a little bit. But I’m just glad to be here. Willie Park never turned pro like that, that’s for sure. That was a huge decision. It just happens. Jim Nantz is walking in here, he’s going to

Q. Where did you finish?

COUPLES: $1,800. I tied with Mark O’Meara for eighth place. We played together the last round.

Q. Olympia Fields.

COUPLES: Yeah, Mark O’Meara, that was his first pro tournament, too. I’m 100 percent sure.

Q. Did his dad hang up the phone on him, too?

COUPLES: No, he was done with school, he was a U.S. Amateur champ, he was a lot of things. I didn’t know. I thought maybe I could sign my name on that and still go to school. I don’t really know what I did. That’s the truth.

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