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PGA TOUR Champions offer stories, humor

Akron, OH — Fans young and old were regaled with golf stories, some laughs and an impromptu Q&A session Friday morning at the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.

While second round play began, Tom Kite, Andy North, Craig Stadler and Hal Sutton sat down in the newly formed Water Tower Club, which is close to the infamous Bridgestone Country Club water tower, were all ticketed fans could sit and listen during the 30-minute event dubbed Chat With Legends. It was there that all four discussed events important to their respective golfing careers.

That time was extended when North determined it was time for some audience participation.

Stadler discussed his son Kevin’s planned return to golf upon fully recovering from a hand injury and both Kite and Sutton expressed frustrations about modern technology and how it was sending an incorrect message to the average golfer whose opinions were not being sought after.

After the event, all attendees had the opportunity to obtain autographs from the four legends and had an exclusive opportunity to conduct an interview with Kite, after the event’s completion which is edited below.

Zachary Weiss: I know you were talking a lot about memories. For you, when you think of Firestone, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Kite: “Firestone was a big and hard golf course. It was one of the toughest courses that we played all the time, and you know, it was one of those courses that challenged every aspect of your game. You had to drive the ball really, really well. That’s not just long, that’s drive the ball straight. The golf course was very narrow off the tee, and it was long, so you had to drive it long and straight. If you didn’t, you had no chance to hit the greens, but even if you did hit the fairway, you generally had a long shot into the green, and you had to play some wonderful irons, and, with all golf courses, you had to chip and put well. So, I think Firestone was one of those courses that really tested every aspect of your game.”

ZW: Hal kind of touched on it, and you did too, the balance between fun and work. Where do you think that barometer is for you, or where was it, or where do you think it is now?

Kite: “Well, I always enjoyed the competition, and I loved it. You know, as we talked about up here, guys that were on the PGA Tour and now the Champions Tour were a family for us. We traveled together. We were a bunch of traveling gypsies, if you will, and you know, one week we were in Phoenix, Arizona, the next week we were in Tuscon; next week we’re in L.A, then we’re down in Florida, you know, Augusta Georgia, wherever the tour event was. We were there, but the whole family, the whole family of the PGA TOUR traveled, and so we spent a lot of time with each other, and families got to know each other, and spent a lot of time with them, and yet we were competing against each other at the same time, so the competition was there, but you know, it’s kind of like brotherly competition, and we had a great respect for each other, and the guys that were able to have success out here on the TOUR. So that’s just kind of the way it was. You know it is a little bit of a sacrifice. Certainly, the relationship that you have with your family is different than what is normal, so the sacrifices that you had with your family are different than what most people go through, but I don’t think any of us have had a great life out here on the PGA Tour. We’d change it for anything.”

ZW: Shot clocks, anything like that to get guys to speed up; do you think those should be more forced, or something to get it to go faster; make it more accessible to the fans; make them more interested?

Kite:  Well, I think slow play is a bane of all sports. I think, you know, you have a shot clock in basketball, you have a shot clock in all the other sports; in football, so you know, I don’t know that you want to put a shot clock in there, but certainly playing slow is not a real good thing for the game of golf.

ZW: You see guys like Stricker that are doing it now, and guys like Kenny Perry that have done it, Davis Love, that have managed both TOURs, and to some have had some degree of success. Steve, especially now, how do you find balance, or make that balance work?

Kite: “I think you’ll continue to have a lot of guys, that as they turn fifty, are still somewhat competitive on the PGA Tour. I know the first three years that I was eligible for the Champions Tour, I played half the time on the PGA Tour, and the other half on the Champions Tour, and I think you’ll continue to see that. You see, you know, fitness plays a role in that guys who are remaining in top physical condition into their late forties and into their fifties, and so it’s natural to want to continue to play on the big stage, which is the PGA Tour, so I think it’s nice. I think it’s a good combination for everybody in the tour, and the Champions Tour is a beneficiary of when you see guys that have some success when they go back and play the PGA Tour events.”

Colston Cooper also contributed to this report

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