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Club Pro Guy – The Interview

The early December wind rattles the branches of a crabapple tree against the single-pane pro shop windows. Inside, a Groupon member checks out some Tabasco Chiliwear golf shirts folded next to a life-size Arron Oberholser cardboard cutout and accompanying xE1 wedge display. But this story does not lie with the brisk winter wind or browsing customer or even the wedges.

This domain is home to something – and someone – much larger. Behind the front counter stands a man under a television screen paused on Golf Channel’s Blair O’Neal. The twinkle in his eye is evident as he relives his glory days while simultaneously reshafting a Wilson Killer Whale driver with a TI Bubble 2 shaft.

Club Pro Guy is a myth, a man, and a legend all-in-one here in Kansas City, Missouri. It’s been almost 30 years since he made the regional finals of the Oldsmobile Scramble, but the competitive drive and confident swagger oozes nonetheless as he recounts his professional playing days on the Mexican Mini-Tour and transition into the club pro industry.

His story is best told firsthand and, journalistic pride aside, we felt the importance of his tale dictated a full question-and-answer transcript to best detail his life’s journey.

You played with a lot of other pros during your 14-year pro career. After your playing days, you opted for the club professional career. What did some of your colleagues wind up doing following their playing career?

It’s so different than what we’re used to seeing here when guys leave the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a Mexican Mini-Champions Tour to fall back on. Some of the ultra elite players like myself, Felipe Calderone and Juan Extapa were lucky enough to find lucrative careers in the golf business either via the club professional route, like I did, or as a maintenance worker at one of the higher-end American clubs, but the vast majority of my peers had to leave their professional golf dreams behind and become productive members of Mexican society by finding work with the cartel.

Chili’s seems to be your go-to place to throw back a few Zima’s. Did you have a favorite go-to restaurant and adult beverage when you were traveling around Mexico on the mini-tour?

 (Laughter) Well, you have to understand that back then I wasn’t making nearly as much money I do today, so I wasn’t able to afford to frequent higher end places like Chilis. Ernesto and I would typically stay with a host family during tournament weeks and we were generally well fed. I would stay in the house and Ernesto would typically sleep in the barn.

If the host family had daughters in the house over 17 I would typically stick around to see what developed. If not, I’d usually do Peyote and go to a cat house.

You met El Chapo at a Monday qualifier for the 2002 Culiacan Skins Game. Have you stayed in touch with him since that day, including after his extradition to the US on Federal drug charges?

It’s interesting because people in the States don’t appreciate the impact El Chapo had on growing the game in Mexico. The guy loved golf. He had a legit 12 handicap that could travel. He didn’t have a lot of length but could get up and down from anywhere. The ultimate grinder.

I think the recent incarceration of El Chapo coupled with the passing of George H.W. Bush will be a real blow for golf in North America. Both men had contrasting styles but were ambassadors for the good of the game. Bush ’41′ chose to champion the First Tee Foundation to cultivate character and fair play among America’s youth, El Chapo promoted success through fear by threatening to be-head the parents of of any child who finished last in a junior tournament.

Differing methods that produced similar results. Both men will be missed.

At the 01’ La Paz Match Play, you made it to the 3rd round via forfeit because your first two opponents couldn’t get a flight out of Honduras due to 9/11. What happened in your 3rd round match.

(long reflective pause) Looking back, 9/11 has always been sort of a bittersweet memory for me. On one hand, that day was a tremendous tragedy. But on the other hand, it helped result in the deepest run I ever made at the La Paz Match Play. So I view it as somewhat of a wash.

Being the #64 seed that year, I was slated to face the #1 seed Juan Julio Dominguez in the opening match. Fortunately, him and his autistic twin brother Paco (the #32 seed) couldn’t get out of Honduras due to Central American plane groundings which allowed me to win my first 2 matches via forfeit vaulting me in to the quarterfinals. Sadly my nerves, a balky tee ball and a couple of questionable rulings got the best of me and I ended up getting ‘Stephen Ames’d’ 10 and 8 by journeyman Pablo Cortez.

Pablo literally made everything he looked at and just ended up parring me to death. Most veteran tour players will tell you if you play long enough you’re bound to have days like that. Overall though, still really proud of the run I made that year.

You went through a nasty split with Lynx this past year, did you have any endorsement deals that ended similarly during your Mexican Mini Tour days?

 Anything performance-based ended poorly. That’s why I tried to get all my endorsement deals in cash up-front.

There were exceptions. My most lucrative endorsement deal was with Igotcha golf ball retrievers because I used the product so much it received excellent visibility. I had a “Wheels Up” type deal with a taxi cab company in Juarez that gave me cab fares in exchange for having their logo on my bag which was a decent deal.

Of course, everyone knows about my deal with U.S Kids Golf, which was a well-documented disaster and went a long way towards derailing my playing career due to the fact that I was contractually required to play their equipment. Most of the “off course” income we were receiving during that time came from the residuals my 2nd wife Brandi was getting from the bootlegged VHS sales of an underground solo movie she starred in on a farm outside of Oaxaca called “Donkey Barn III, This Time It’s Personal.

Many of your members were sad to see your beverage cart girl Chastity leave the club. How is the process to replace her going?

 I don’t like to use the word “replace,” because in my mind Chastity is irreplaceable. Did she ever show up to work on time? No. Did her cash box ever balance at the end of the day? No. Did she have the first clue about golf etiquette? No. But she brought intangibles to the job that you just can’t teach, like being smoking hot and always finding a way to blur the line between flirtation and prostitution. She’ll be missed.

I’ve always been a huge believer that in order to have a great golf club you start with the beverage cart girl and then build around her. That’s how you put together a winning team. So without her, we’re operating a little bit like a rudderless ship right now.

Luckily it’s the off-season so I have some time to do a thorough search. To answer your question, I have begun to do some cursory FaceTime interviews, visited informally with some of Tawny’s co-workers and posted the opening on Bumble.com, but we’ve got a long way to go.

Your first two marriages did not pan out, yet you are now happily dating Tawny. In your experience, what makes a relationship work?

Communication, pure and simple. If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that to have any successful relationship, poor communication is a must. Case in point is my ex-wife, Mercedes.

She always wanted to talk through everything, a complete open book. She used to just come right out and tell me that my golf game was garbage, or that I looked ridiculous going to the nightclub wearing my Dexter saddle teaching shoes with my acid washed True Religion jeans, or she would just blurt out that she just had sex with Ernesto’s twin brothers Edgar and Arturo.

It took me two disastrous marriages to finally learn that ignorance is bliss. Listen, Tawny is an exotic dancer and I run one of the most successful golf clinics in the Midwest for single and divorced moms, so neither of us are angels, okay? But we’ve found a way to compartmentalize and separate our personal and professional lives and it’s made for a great relationship.

Is the club looking to do any capital improvements to the facilities or course for the upcoming year? 

Our wish list is a mile long, but like so many clubs we have budgetary constraints. I’ve tentatively received approval from ownership to rotate the range mats, re-gravel the cart path from the 11th green to the 12th tee, treat the temporary greens with growth retardant, repair 2 of the 5 damaged sections of the netting between the driving range and the 1st fairway, create 9 new parking spots for our B thru J flight Net Club Champions and order a used Bowflex for our fitness center.

Your relationship with your clubs GM Chip Kennedy has been rocky to say the least, what are your interactions with him at work like these days?

 We don’t speak to each other unless it’s absolutely necessary. In my view, he’s single-handedly driven this club into the ground. Case in point, he knows that my entire off-season is going to be consumed by this beverage cart girl search and he has the balls to call me into his office to discuss the possibility of tweaking the 2019 member/guest format to make it more competitive, entertaining and inclusive. As if I have time for that!

He’s always coming up with harebrained ideas in an attempt to increase member participation in social activities and naturally, I’m trying to do the exact opposite. So that creates a natural conflict.  He thinks he’s such a big shot because he wears a tie to work, has a timeshare in Galveston and contributes to a 401K. Honestly, our relationship died the day he took away my parking spot and converted it into a handicap spot to satisfy a “so-called” state law.

Naturally, shortly after that a wayward tee ball broke out the tail light in my Miata and no one came forward to take responsibility. That was the final straw. He’s dead to me. The fact he’s going through a nasty divorce and custody battle is one of the few silver linings to an otherwise tough year for me.

If Len Mattiace and Jay Don Blake played an 18-hole match play competition, what would the outcome be?

If Picasso and Monet had a painting competition, what would the outcome be? Does it really matter? Would we care who won or would we just marvel at watching them work?

I view a hypothetical match between Mattiace and JDB much the same way. It obviously would never happen because there’s not a corporate sponsor out there that could afford to pony up the money, but it’s still fun to think about.

How did you and Darrel Bevins meet up, and what has his hire as on-course marshal meant to the clubs pace of play and no outside drinks policy?

If there’s one person that has single-handedly changed the culture of this club, it’s Darrel Bevins. I met Darrel in 2016 in the lobby of the Raytown Community Center when I was coming out of a Gamblers Anonymous meeting and he was walking into a court-mandated Anger Management class.

We hit it off immediately. Ironically, he ended up assaulting a pit boss at a local casino later that night defending me in an argument I was having about splitting 10s. I loved his energy and passion and asked him that night if he wanted to join the team.

He has completely revolutionized course marshaling with his zero-tolerance policy. Our average pace of play has gone from 5 hours 16 minutes to 3 hours 52 minutes under his watch. It’s not uncommon to see members literally running to their ball, electing not to putt out or even skipping holes completely when they see Darrel parked off in the distance. His shoot first, ask questions later philosophy when it comes to outside drinks is a game changer.

In August, he tasered an elderly gentleman for having a Keystone Light in his cup holder not knowing that our snack shack just began carrying Keystone products. Darrel’s not afraid to make an occasional mistake and always tries to be on “offense.” I think that’s what makes him such an elite marshal.

Rumors are swirling that your former Superintendent Javier is part of one of the migrant caravans. Have you been in contact with Javier since he was deported and can you confirm these rumors?

That’s really a sore subject for me. One of my biggest regrets from 2018 was the April Fool’s Day joke I played on Javier by reporting him to ICE. I thought it would give him a harmless scare and we’d all get a big laugh out of it. I never dreamed that they would actually show up with guns drawn.

Ernesto is still upset with me about it. I hope he makes it back up here, I would hire him back in a minute.

Has any progress been made regarding the legal troubles surrounding your junior camps?

Unfortunately, the parents just won’t let it go. My public defender is somewhat optimistic I can get out of it with probation, but only time will tell. I think the whole episode is part and parcel to a bigger societal problem we’re having with our youth.

We have this entire generation of “snowflake” parents who think that their kids learning how to gamble is somehow “bad” or that a couple beers after a long range sesh is the end of the world.

Give me a break.

It’s no secret that Bobby Jones had a crippling gambling problem as an adolescent and he came out just fine. You don’t think a teenage Nicklaus and his instructor Jack Grout didn’t get shitfaced after a long day on the range? Please.

No matter what happens from a legal perspective, I have no plans on changing. These kids need me to teach them the game of golf and the game of life and that’s what I’m going to do.

Your Learning Center videos have become widely viewed, including an episode in which you had PGA Tour player Roberto Castro in for a lesson. What other pros would you like to get in to your stable for some swing tweaks?

 It’s amazing how many DM’s I get from PGA Tour players wanting to pick my brain about either the 7-4-7 system, course management or if Tawny is willing to send out “next-level” selfies.

Roberto Castro came into the Learning Center a couple months ago and immediately went on to make 6 straight cuts on the PGA Tour, so my record speaks for itself.

One of the guys that hasn’t reached out yet, but I think will at some point is Cameron Champ. Here’s a guy who I think has the frame and athleticism to be one of the longer hitters on Tour but has issues with his sequencing and optimizing levers.

I see power leaks that I could fix it in about 16 weeks if he and his team would just swallow their pride and give me a chance. Or, he can keep doing what he’s doing and continue to get the same results.

His choice. 

What type of show would you like to see replace Shotmakers on the Golf Channel?

Honestly, anything they put on would be a huge improvement. Some ideas I’ve got that would be a major upgrade are…

  1. Big Break 47 – Topeka
  2. It’s a Reed Family Christmas! Starring Patrick and Justine Reed
  3. A show with nothing but outtakes and bloopers from xE1 wedge commercials
  4. Chipper vs. Chipper
  5. ‘Inside the LPGA Tour’ spoken completely in Korean with no subtitles

With the Holiday Season upon us, what are you and Tawny planning for Christmas?

 The holidays are tough for us because our schedules are so demanding. Of course, I have to work in the shop on Christmas day and Tawny is so busy doing bachelor parties and “anything goes” office parties throughout the holiday season she is pretty much wiped out by the time Christmas comes.

I usually try to take her somewhere ultra fancy on Christmas Eve like Buca Di Beppo or Texas Roadhouse where we exchange gifts and just reminisce on the year gone by. It’s moments like these that I treasure.

Then she typically heads off to work.

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