What They Said: Mark O'MearaJune 08, 2011
PGA TOUR staff
STEVE SCHOENFELD: Good afternoon. Welcome to Media Day for the 2011 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, I am Steve Schoenfeld, tournament director. I had a chance to meet a bunch of you this morning.
From August 18-21, we will welcome the top 78 professionals from the Champions Tour here to Westchester Country Club for the season's final major, the 29th make of the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. While this will be the first time that the Senior Players is contested here in Westchester, as you know the PGA TOUR called Westchester Country Club home for over 40 years starting in 1963 through 2007. And the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship have obviously made stops here in Westchester, as well.
We are excited to bring professional golf back to the area for the first time since 2007 and our players are really looking forward to returning to a golf course that they know very well. Mark O'Meara, our defending champion played the PGA TOUR event here eight times, and, in fact, there are eight other guys on the Champions Tour that teed it up here at Westchester over 20 times. That list includes players like Fred Couples, Bob Gilder, who happened to win a Champions Tour event this past week, Jay Haas, Tom Kite, Don Pooley, Loren Roberts, Craig Stadler and Bob Tway, all fantastic.
Additionally five players that are likely to play in our event were champions at Westchester throughout the years, an additional 17 were runners up. So we are welcoming back a group that knows this golf course well and has played here well and we are looking forward to having them compete here again.
As many of you are aware, the underlying goal of any event is to raise funds for charities in the communities where we play and we are no different here at the Senior Players Championship. This benefit will benefit a host of local charities this year and since 1992, the Senior Players Championship has distributed over $8 million to charity, and that's a fact that we are extremely proud of.
One of the vehicles that we'll utilize this year to generate funds is called Tickets for Charity. Tickets for Charity is a program where any 501(c)(3) group can promote the sale of tickets to the tournament and retain 100% of the net proceeds. Any can 501(c)(3) can participate and we already have nearly 50 that are signed up to sell tickets. There's still time for others to sign up, so if you are involved with a charity or know someone that is, send it to us and we'll get them signed up right away. Plenty of information about them and also in the media kit.
We have several guests, and first off I would like to introduce a gentleman who has been extremely helpful to all of our efforts in supporting the event, and he was also instrumental in helping bring the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour back to Westchester Country Club, please welcome the president of Westchester Country Club, Nick Cammarano.
NICK CAMMARANO: Thanks very much. I just wanted to say, on behalf of all of the members here, we are thrilled to have the Champions Tour event here.
I've got to tell you, we haven't had a golf tournament here since 2007, as most of you know, we had Barclays the last time, and this was an easy decision to make when the Tour came to us to talk to us about hosting this major event. We are really excited and I think most of the players I've talked to, gotten a lot of e-mails since the announcement back in December, talking with Mark at lunch today actually, and the players are really, really excited to get back and play this course. So many of them have really, really good memories here.
Of course, as Steve said, the charities for Westchester country and the tri-state area really are the big benefactors here, and we are really, really pleased to have a chance to help move that along. The charities have been very active in the Tickets For Charity program that Steve mentioned, and we are going to see what we can do to really push that harder than we've pushed it so far.
It's going to be a great event, the course, it's basically the same course when they were here, for those of who you played. By the way I looked add the list, there were 38 of and you 15 single digits; so I don't know, you're either playing too much golf or not enough reporting but there's some good golfers out there.
For those of who you have played here before, know that's pretty much the same course they are going to find for themselves when this come back. We did change a couple of tees on some of the courses. And the biggest change of course is we just put in brand new greens, brand new bentgrass greens, which will be completely new. They are new to the members as well. We just opened it May 15. So they have really come a long way, and they are going to get better and better as we golf.
Other than the bentgrass greens and a couple of tees, it's going to be the same classic course that they had and we are really looking forward to see how they do this time. I know the members are excited and the community starts to get excited, and this starts to be the official kickoff for that and we are looking forward to a really, really great event.
With, that Steve, I would say thank you very much for coming and Constellation, we are really proud to be associated with them, as well, and we are going to put on a good show for everybody. Thanks a lot for coming.
STEVE SCHOENFELD: Nick, thank you. We are happy to be back here and we are looking forward to putting on a fantastic event this August.
The next it speaker is no stranger to the sports world and media and we are glad to have him join us, Westchester County Executive, Mr. Rob Astorino.
ROB ASTORINO: Thank you, Steve. Wow, I've got to tell you, I was here for many, many years in this room with all of you sitting in your seats, and I never imagined that I would be here welcoming the TOUR back to Westchester Country Club. And Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, we are so happy to have you back in Westchester County, here at Westchester Country Club. We are very grateful for all that you are doing, not just for the image, but also for the reality and the charities. We talk a lot about less government money all over the place, so this is a big boost to all of the charitable organizations in with Westchester that could really use the money.
Thank you very much, and as many people know, Westchester is considered the cradle of golf. St. Andrews in Hastings is considered the first course in America, I guess back in 1888, and we have six tremendous county courses, and we would love to play them all. We have some great courses in Westchester County, some private courses of course. And my goal and job as county executive is to get out on as many courses as I can and play with all of you if we could.
My greatest memory, of Westchester Country Club, and I'm looking at Rick Carpiniello who was with me, and Sam Weinman, from the Journal News, as well. Media Day, Buick Classic. I was playing in the Media Day Buick Classic, and it was the 16th, which I guess is the 7th of the tournament and I get up there, it was 195 yards and boom, three bounces and a hole-in-one.
So on the par 3s was listed, hole-in-one, win a Buick. So we are all jumping up-and-down; I won a car, I won a car. Well, it happened to be, the only one of the four that they did not give a car. I got 36 dozen Nike Golf balls, which are still stacked up in my garage.
And I remember somebody saying to me, "If you take this, you lose your amateur status." I signed it, I took the balls and I guess I'm considered a pro at a 20 handicap but that's okay. And of course the double-eagle by Bob Gilder, that's amazing. You play this course and you see the actual spot where he hit. It's incredible to think about.
I want to thank you for coming back. I want to thank Constellation Energy, and it's going to be a great tournament in August. So I look forward to seeing everybody back.
STEVE SCHOENFELD: Rob, thank you, we appreciate all that you and the others at the county are doing to promote the event this year.
The Senior Players Championship is fortunate to have a fantastic title sponsor in Constellation Energy. Here today representing constellation, please welcome the company's director of events and sponsorships, Stacey Ullrich.
STACEY ULLRICH: On behalf of Constellation, our 10,000 employees, 36,000 customers across the nation, I'm excited to be here today to have the opportunity to bring professional golf back to Westchester Country Club.
For us, it's not only a great sport for the players, for the spectators, but also for the community. And Constellation for the past 200 years has been guided by the communities where we live and work. So bringing back a sport that's so welcome in this community but also supporting the charities was really an easy decision to make when the TOUR came to us.
We look at not only providing our financial support but our people power to make a difference, and the fact that in the end, together we are making this possible for the community and the charities; that really makes who we all are, is really the power behind Constellation.
Thank you to the club for hosting us and for all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into this event; I know if you don't show up, it doesn't happens. The players, their commitment to being here every week the TOUR staff and to all of to you send our message out to the community that we get the spectators out here so that they can be wowed by all that is done, we appreciate it. Thank you.
STEVE SCHOENFELD: Thank you, Stacy. Our next speaker, we are honored to the president of the Champions Tour with us here today on his way to this week's event outside of Charlotte nor Carolina, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mike Stevens.
MIKE STEVENS: We have a new airline partner at the PGA TOUR, Delta forever, and now we have Continental, so I don't know how that can go to Westchester to Charlotte direct, but anyway, I'm here.
I actually got up here Sunday afternoon, we had a Commissioner's club outing on the Monday, and so spent Sunday night in the city and at 21 Club with a lot of our title sponsors from the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour and had the opportunity to listen to Mayor Bloomberg, which was quite unique, and he's done a lot of great things for the city. Dan Hicks was our host, emcee for that night and we have Jimmy Roberts here, and I've played a lot of golf with Tommy Roy, so we have a nice little NBC connection here.
Anyway, it's a pleasure to be here, it's a problem being the last speaker because everybody said everything that everybody wrote up for so you will talk off the top of my head here.
I want to thank Nick for all his hard work and allowing us to come back to Westchester Country Club, I can tell you as president of the Champions Tour when I had the opportunity to stand in front of the players and let them know we were coming back to Westchester, it was met with a lot of smiles and a lot of shaking heads that are anxious to come here. They have obviously played here for quite a long time and there's a lot of great history on the Champions Tour now that was made when they were at the Westchester Country Club.
We also played a few weeks ago at Shoal Creek, our major, the Tradition, was held there, and having the opportunity as president to announce Shoal Creek and then Westchester Country Club is pretty sweet for the Champions Tour, raising the stature of this tour and that's what it's all about.
I want to thank Rob and all of the support we are getting from the county, obviously we can't do it without you. Stacey, obviously, and Mayo Shattuck, her boss, from Constellation Energy, they are a great title sponsor, and they have done wonders for us. We have been in Baltimore at their headquarters at the Baltimore Country Club and then we were over at TPC Potomac at Avenal Farm last year outside of Washington, and it's great to come to New York, and we'll see where we go next year.
But thank you for your support. And Mark, thanks for coming in. I know you flew up from Houston. I know it was a great win for and you it was very special, and I know he's got a few words he wants to talk about relative to that when he and Jimmy take the stage.
But again, you guys are important to us. We are here for a year, and a lot of people probably don't know that we are here, and we need you to talk about us. Our success will be dictated by the marketing campaign that Steve puts together and the stories that you guys write about us to get the excitement up.
But I'm telling you, the Champions Tour is good, it's very good. And if you haven't seen these players play in a while, you're going to be impressed because the skills that they had when they were here back in 2007 or before still exist and in some cases may have even gotten a little bit better with some of the equipment and ball advancement.
But for Bob Gilder, it's nice to see that the plaque is still out there on 18, that it says he hit a 3-wood 251 yards so I guess we have to put a ball out there and see how far he's hitting a 3-wood these days. He won on Sunday and it was great, unfortunate for Mark Brooks, he 3-putted the 18th hole at Glen Oaks in Des Moines and if you know that green, it's pretty tough. And you're usually above the hole, and you've got a tough downhill putt and Bob sunk a 30-footer, and then unfortunately Mark 3-putted from 25 feet. But it's great to have Bob have his win. He has not won in a long time, and I know he's going to be excited to come back here where history was made back in 1982.
Thank you all very much for coming out, this is a great turnout and we really appreciate that. I look forward to coming back here in a few weeks for the tournament and having another good time with you guys. Thanks a lot. We'll see you soon.
STEVE SCHOENFELD: We have a special guest with us today that will introduce our depending champion, from NBC Sports and Westchester Country Club, Jimmy Roberts.
JIMMY ROBERTS: Well, he really needs no introduction, I don't know what it is I'm doing here because one of the things that used to anger me when I was sitting in the seats that you guys are sitting in and do sit in, I don't need somebody else to ask the questions for me.
But I'm sure you'll all agree that you get asked this question a lot, for those of you who cover golf, tell me who the really good guys are and while the list isn't necessarily short, the top of it is, and I know that anybody who knows Mark, would agree with me, that he's always giving of his time. He's generous and he's sincere, and we can use an awful lot more people like him out playing professional golf. He sets a great example for young kids today who are coming up.
I've known him for a long, long time and I know that whenever I need a question answered, and even if it's a difficult one, he's always one of the people that I can go to and I don't have to tell any of you that that's something that you can really appreciate in a professional athlete.
So Mark, come on up, and let's have a little bit of a chat, 16 PGA TOUR victories, including two majors.
MARK O'MEARA: Thanks everyone for obviously coming out. I've known this guy as Jimmy pointed out for a long time, and he's as good as there is when you're interviewed by a guy and he asks the right questions, he's very direct.
JIMMY ROBERTS: Why don't we talk a little bit about this the sport, because as Steve mentioned I'm a member here so I get to play it a lot, keeps me up a bunch and it will be a pleasure to watch people who can really play the game get beat up by it a little bit as well. Can you talk a little bit about -- we were talking at bunch about the difference between a place like Westchester and some of the more contemporary courses.
MARK O'MEARA: (audio break) A lot of it comes down to, there are a lot of elements in running an event. Certainly we can't do without great sponsors, your company being involved in this championship for many, many years has helped grow the tournament in what it is today; the volunteers, a lot is said about charities but when I go to these tournament sites and the volunteers they pick you up at the airport, the look in their eyes, they are excited about having you tomorrow could their community and play their golf course and tournament, and everybody involved, me as player, it just amazes me. Those things all come into play when it comes into having a successful events.
The Champions Tour player, at this stage of our lives, to still be competitive and still play a game that we love and still want to try to get better at and win, to have that opportunity, there's no other professional sport that has that.
And the fact that we grew up in a little different era of maybe back in the old days, we had our own cars out there driving from event to event; the guys set the plate for me prior to had it even much more difficult and the game has certainly changed. I tell the young players, I remember when I started, a $300,000 purse tournament, and it went to 500,000, and was I like, I'm not going to miss that tournament, $500,000 purse. I'm not going to miss that.
And a couple of weeks ago I'm playing at THE PLAYERS Championship and representing Constellation Energy Senior Players, winning this, I got to play in THE PLAYERS Championship in Jacksonville and a $9.5 million purse. So I did play good the first day but I finished 74th, the last guys who made the cut --
JIMMY ROBERTS: You got a paycheck.
MARK O'MEARA: I beat all the other guys. I made like 19 grand and I finished third at Bay Hill my rookie year and made 14,000.
JIMMY ROBERTS: As a member of Westchester Country Club, what was the reaction among you guys out on Tour? You were the defending champion of this events when it was announced it was coming to Westchester, because there was an association with it and a lot of guys who played here a lot and it's different than some of the places you've played these days. What was the reaction.
MARK O'MEARA: Most of the guys are probably very positive. A lot of guys -- myself, I just won. I certainly wanted to stay right where I was. I think that it is a bigger market. Certainly Constellation, the energy company being involved, and New Yorkers love their sports.
And the fact that there has not been a tournament played here over the last, what is it, four years, something like that, I thought it was a great idea to come back. And I know you helped spearhead that a little bit, too, and we certainly appreciate what Westchester Country Club is going to do for us. We have played here before and know what to look forward to and I think everybody is pretty excited about it.
MARK O'MEARA: My dad was in the furniture business, so he was -- obviously North Carolina, that's a big furniture town, he was always getting transferred different jobs, moved around a lot. Packed the station wagon; I had an older brother and two younger sisters so we pretty much drove from place to place.
For a young guy growing up I thought it was a good thing because I enjoyed living in the Midwest, a lot of good family value there is and certainly the northeast, Texas, and then all of a sudden, boom, California. That's when I took up golf.
JIMMY ROBERTS: How long did you live in New York with your family?
MARK O'MEARA: We were in New York for about 3 1/2 years. I remember sitting at the bus stops waiting for the bus in the blizzard in the wintertime. I wondered if it was so bad that they wouldn't come, and we would walk home and make a snowman or something like that. I remember those days, getting stung by the jelly fish -- all the positives. (Laughter).
Q. How important was the victory -- inaudible.
MARK O'MEARA: Absolutely. When I came out on the Champions Tour in 2007, I was a rookie coming back out to play, but I had not been playing that great on the regular tour late in my career. My prior win was maybe in 2004 at the Dubai Desert Classic. And so to have had like nine or ten seconds, even though I won earlier in the year with Nick Price in the Liberty Mutual, that was a team event.
For me it was funny, I didn't play well two weeks prior to the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. And I remember going home -- it was a tough summer. I lost my father Monday after the British Open, just a lot had transpired last year in my life and I needed to get away. And I talked to my wife; she came with me. I didn't practice and knew if I went home and practiced, that would only frustrate me more.
So I got on the airplane and I flew to D.C. to come and play, and I said to myself on the flight coming, I'm like, listen I've had a nice year up to this point, but you know, you can do this, you've got to play better. You've got to try to get a win and I was still talking to myself a little bit coming in. And I got there and liked the course and it was a very tough test, four rounds, everybody walking, major championship. I shot in the 60s all four days and was fortunate to get in the playoff and was even more fortunate to win. That was an emotional victory for me, very emotional.
JIMMY ROBERTS: My intuition tells me there might be some more questions people might have privately for Mark, but are want to say on behalf of people around here, we could not be happier to have you as the defending champion. Thank you for coming.
Q. (Do you know if Tiger is going to play in the U.S. Open)?
MARK O'MEARA: Jimmy and I were talking about it, I presume that he's going to play. I haven't talked to him personally in a couple of weeks. I don't really talk to him much. I saw him at THE PLAYERS Championship and played a practice round with him there. At times I see some signs that he's hopefully going in the right direction.
And I care deeply for him. He's had a big impact in my life as a friend. I feel like I've had an impact on his life. But a lot has changed over the last three years, there's no question about it. I live in Houston now and he's still in Orlando getting ready to move down to his new place.
He seems to say he's doing good. I think he's doing better but I think it's been a little longer road back than what everybody would have expected. He's been an amazing athlete and amazing guy to come along and play this game at a level we have really never seen before to be honest with you, no disrespect to the great players, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold, everybody preceding Tiger Woods.
But what Tiger has accomplished in the game, has been just unreal and so for me, as like his bigger brother, to watch and be around him as much as I was around him was a treat. I hope he starts getting it back together.
Sometimes, like anything, you can take a couple of steps forward and a step back. I think all of us myself included thought okay after everything got settled in his personal life would get back really quickly but with the injuries and other issues, it takes some time.
And I think as soon as he gets back on the course and starts playing more tournaments, then nope fly we'll start to see the Tiger Woods we all want to see back out on the golf course.
Q. (What about his Achilles injury)?
MARK O'MEARA: It hasn't been so good the last three years. He's struggled with it; how bad or how good it is or how bad his desire is -- people, it's always hard.
My feeling is this is what he does. This is what I do, play golf. But especially him, and that's what drove Tiger to accomplish what he's accomplished in life. It's kind of in his DNA to be a champion golfer. You know, he's certainly proven that to all of us. Now the toll that it takes to be on top, and occasionally the desire, the work ethic, and certainly the personal issues that have happened in his life, that weighs heavily on any individual and he's probably no exception to it.
So I just hope selfishly on my part that he starts playing to a level that I think I know he can play at. It's going to come down to how physically he feels, how well he can start moving in the right direction. I think he is. We saw it at Augusta. We saw the excitement, the buzz around the golf course at Augusta on Sunday.
It would be great for him to come to Congressional. I know he likes playing there. It's a classic golf course. For him to play the Open and compete well and hopefully healthy-wise, we'll start to see the Tiger Woods that we know.
Q. (Has he asked your advice)?
MARK O'MEARA: Well, if he asked me my advice, I would give it to him. But unfortunately he doesn't ask for it very often, and it's hard to give somebody advice if they are not asking. Sometimes I've got to be careful I don't cross the line and overstep my friendship and give him advice.
You know, like I said, the last time I traded any kind of communication with him was the week after TPC and then a couple of weeks ago I sent him a text just checking on him.
My understanding is that when he's been at home he's playing well and he's hitting it well. How bad the leg is, how much -- I don't know. The hard thing is, Jimmy and I were talking about it, everybody is competing week-in and week-out and we always know that he doesn't play much sometimes leading up to a major championship. But a lot of times, he was always on top and he was coming in on a positive note.
Even though he played well at Augusta, certainly what happened at THE PLAYERS Championship was a setback. He has not played since then, competitively and it's difficult, it's like anything you need to get some reps in. My advice would be come on, get out there and play some more. Because I know he's a great competitor and you don't do what he's done without being a great competitor and I know he wants to get back and win.
How long all of that will take is the question. You're right, it's not easy being thrown back in the mixer at Congressional on that golf course but saying, that he's won there and he knows the course. So maybe he's ready. He doesn't come to a tournament without being fully prepared. We'll just have to wait and see.
MARK O'MEARA: I would say desire and pride. The money, everybody looks at that or how much you win or how many tournaments you won, but a lot of it comes down to personal pride; what I think I should be able to and challenging myself week-in and week-out.
There's always an uncertainty in golf. There's no certainty where you're going to finish and no certainly on what the other outcome is going to be on how you're going to end up at the end the tournament.
And you can't control everybody else, you can only control yourself. There's always a battle going on inside, to initiate moving in the right direction. I think certainly, confidence is a fleeting thing. You can hit some really good shots, you hit it good, and any level that you are at a golfer you can think, okay, I've got it. But you never really kind of have it. You borrow it for a second and you lose it. There are many times that professional golfers including myself play out of a lot of fear; don't want to go over there, so there's always that constant struggle.
And I think that's what brings players back to the game, because there's no real perfect way for myself or any other player that plays this game, that every shot, every putt, every chip, every day, is something new. It's a new experience. There's no two shots are the same in golf. So that in itself is what really propels you to try to come out the next day or the next tournament and try to win.
If you look at it, your chances and percentages of winning are very small. You don't really win that much in professional golf. Certainly Tiger, his percentage of winning, for a while --
JIMMY ROBERTS: 25 per cent.
MARK O'MEARA: 28 percent. I don't think anybody has done that.
JIMMY ROBERTS: Nicklaus in the heart of his career won 15 percent of the time he played.
MARK O'MEARA: For me I've been a professional golfer for 31 years and probably won around the world maybe 34 events, 35 events, something like that. I fail a lot more than I ever win and it's that self-talk that helps you realize, you know what, at any given moment, you set your mind in the right direction, the self-talk, I think helps.
And it certainly helped me at Pebble Beach the five times that I won there, knowing that I won there, I kept using that as a motivating factor in telling myself, hey, I've done this before and I've won before and I can do it again. And that doesn't give you the right to think that you're going to win. But I think it helps move you in the right direction.
MARK O'MEARA: There was one point in our careers that I held more major championships than Tiger Woods. (Laughter).
I always ask people when they ask me to sign the Masters flag, they say, the year that you won and -- wait a minute, you'd getter get it right.
I'll give you a little hint, I say, if you can't guess the year that I won, who do you think put the green jacket on me. I don't know if I would have won major championships if it wasn't for the fact that Tiger -- I met him when he was 17, played golf at Isleworth there, and he moved in when he turned professional.
So we basically lived together for nine years, ten years. We travelled together, played all our practice rounds together, stayed together at all the major championships. We were like brothers, we truly were.
He knows how much I care for him and want nothing but the best for him and he's been there certainly a lot for me when I needed. He's not me; I can't be Tiger, Tiger can't be me. But saying, that during the process of Tiger winning these championships and developing as a player, doing what he did, as a big brother, was there. I told him, hey, man, don't do that or if you're going to go in there and say this.
So a lot of press conferences he did throughout his career, he went, and I told him to say that. You guys didn't know that, but I knew it, and the only way I knew it was because of the way I was brought up and the way I grew up.
I just hope for his own sake that he finds the peace that he's looking for in doing what he wants to do. The easier it is for him to start playing at a level that he wants -- but he's such a competitor. He doesn't want to do anything haphazard. He's either going to bring it or maybe he'll end up walking, I don't know.
But every year that goes by, it only gets tougher, and he knows that. The players, all of these players are playing better, the intimidation factor is not as great as it once was. It happens in every generation. But the respect of his accomplishments are pretty much second to none.
STEVE SCHOENFELD: We are finished with questions for now. Mark does have a schedule to keep. Mark, thank you for coming. We appreciate you coming back, and we know you are a busy man and Jimmy thank you for moderating, appreciate that.
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