Damon Green was given a sponsor's exemption to play in his first Champions Tour event at this week's Principal Charity Classic. Green, whose full-time job is working as a caddie on the PGA TOUR for Iowa native Zach Johnson, has won 38 mini-tour events in his career and after turning 50 in November, 2010, finished T17 at the Champions Tour's National Qualifying Tournament. With the help of Champions Tour Media Official Phil Stambaugh, Green is doing a daily blog on his experience this week in West Des Moines.
June 5, 2011
I shot 68 today and managed to finish under par for the week. That was my goal after my round of 75 on Friday. Zach [Johnson] did call last night and we talked through a few things. Dr. Mo [Morris Pickens] also actually texted me and said "You may like to stick to the birdies. In a 10-hole stretch yesterday, you're a playing Jessie!" He was complimentary on a good comeback and told me to just keep up the same stuff tomorrow.
It was a struggle out there today. I hit the driver bad, the irons bad. Off the tee, I was in the rough all day, but I made some great recoveries. I had to apologize to the guys I was playing with, I told them I'm really not this good! Mike Reid said a lot of good things after our round. He said, "You got a lot of horse power in your game and you got a great short game. You might want to think about trying this."
Paul Tesori, the caddie for Webb Simpson, texted me last night too and said to get that thing in the red tomorrow (under par) and do a good job. I was thinking about him today while I was playing and it was nice.
Next week I'll be in Memphis working for Zach at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. It's going to be back to normal. This was like a freak thing here this week but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'd like to thank everybody at the Principal Charity Classic for giving me quite an opportunity. Now I can check off that I've played on every Tour except the LPGA and I'm going to work on that one!
I'm actually scheduled to play in Memphis tomorrow, but Zach told me yesterday that it's going to be over 100 degrees every day next week so I may want to think about not playing and resting up. I've got to make a decision on that one soon.
When I look back on this week, I'll remember that I could have shot in the 80's easily in my first round. My short game was stellar. It kept me in the range of not blowing myself completely out of the water. Today, my short game was awesome again. Going into the tournament, I was really concerned about chipping and putting on these bent grass greens, but I really did great on them and I'm happy about that. The entire experience was dream-like. Playing with all these guys I grew up watching on TV was quite an experience. I enjoyed seeing Reid hit almost every fairway today. When I caddied for Scott Hoch, I remember being in the same group with him. Mike's got the funniest since of humor that many people don't realize.
All in all, it was awesome and I can't say enough about it. The Champions Tour is awesome.
June 4, 2011
It was a little better today with 69. After 75 yesterday, my goal was to try and get it back to even par and I did that up until I made bogey at the last two holes. Zach texted me last night and said "Stick to your process." That's one of his Dr. Mo-isms (Morris Pickens). I hit the tee ball better today and hit some quality iron shots on the back nine until the last few holes. I'm not sure why I'm running out of steam towards the end. I'm losing my legs and can't quite figure out why that is happening. I did ride a little bit more today.
It was fun playing with Phil Blackmar and Craig Stadler. Two weeks ago at Colonial, Zach played with Craig's son, Kevin, and he is the spitting image of everything his father does. I grew up watching Craig my whole life and it was a pleasure playing with both he and Phil. I wasn't as nervous today but it was different. Yesterday, I played with a guy I had known my whole life (Joe Daley) and today I played with winners of PGA TOUR and Champions Tour events.
I was two-over after five holes today even though I thought I was really hitting it pretty good. I just stayed patient and after a birdie at No. 7, I got it going on the back nine with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch. I actually left my birdie putt short, right in the jaws at the par-3 14th hole, and had to apologize to the crowd for missing out on $2 beer that's available when players make birdies on the hole.
Last night, I analyzed my first round and I learned that I needed to hit the fairway more off the tee today so I can control my second shots into these greens. For the most part, I managed to do that. The more you play at Glen Oaks, the more you get used to things. Now I really think I could play this course pretty good if I come back here. I felt like I belonged a little more today. I don't want to be a ceremonial golfer. I've done this for a long time and I know how to play. It was very disappointing yesterday so today's round made me feel better.
After I eat lunch, I'll go watch my son Gunnar in the Drive, Chip & Putt contest at the course this afternoon and then I'll practice a little. The Green family is going to the Iowa Cubs baseball game tonight at Principal Park. We will sit in Principal's luxury box so it should be fun.
June 3, 2011
Round 1 is over and done with and I shot 75. It wasn't as bad as the score seemed but I was disappointed with the way I hit it. I actually chipped and putted way better than I thought I would. Being a guy from the South who's used to Bermuda, I was worried about putting on these surfaces. However, I did a pretty dang good job of it I thought and made a lot of really good saves. It could have been a much higher score so I should be happy.
I had the last tee time of the day so I took my time coming out to the course. Before I went to the range, I had a lot of clubs in my bag so I had to weed them out and also get some replacement clubs. My 1-iron was outlawed early in the week.
It was interesting playing with Joe Daley today. He and I had played numerous mini-tour events together over the years. I even caddied for him one week in Louisiana. For the most part, I was really calm. Even going to the first tee I felt pretty good, but once I got there and they announced my name and said Zach Johnson's caddie, the crowd erupted and I got pretty nervous. Dr. Morris Pickens, Zach's sports psychologist, told me to just get the ball in the air and forward on the first tee shot. I did that, hitting it right down the middle about 300 yards. I actually hit the drive too far and was in between clubs. The first hole of the tournament and I have to hit a touch wedge shot. I clipped it perfectly up there about six feet and then was trying to lag the putt close but it went in.
It was nice to start with a birdie at the first hole and I felt pretty good early. However, I think I got really tired out there today. I guess I'm not used to walking without a bag on my shoulder. This course is not as hilly as some that we walk on the PGA TOUR but I ran out of legs out there on the back nine. Perhaps I need to eat something or drink more water during the round. Not sure what was different. The wind was howling today so maybe it was the mental stress of trying to pick the right club. I might have to ride a few more holes tomorrow.
I haven't done this in awhile and I guess I wasn't prepared for the mental fatigue. There were a few times when I was in la-la land out there and I hit some poor shots because of that.
I have no obligations tonight so I'll have a nice dinner with the family and I think I'll be better tomorrow. Zach and Dr. Pickens will probably call me later and we'll go over a few things. Glen Oaks Country Club is a very nice course but it's a tough course for me. There are some tight holes and I haven't had the time to really prepare for this. Most of the courses I play, it's just bomb away.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow's second round. I feel like they have adopted me up here. I feel like part of the family. Everyone is so nice.
June 2, 2011
Today was a light day for me after my dinner with the folks from the Principal Group Wednesday night. They had a wonderful party for us and then I did a 15-minute Q&A with their guests. Everyone wanted to know how Zach and I first met and asked about our relationship over the years.
I came out to the course today just before noon and my family had a wonderful lunch with me in the Glen Oaks clubhouse. After lunch, my 5-year-old son Gunnar wanted to practice his chipping and putting in preparation for the Drive, Chip & Putt contest that will be held on Saturday out at the course. He and I went out and did that and then I hit a few wedges on the range just to keep some rhythm. I actually think Gunnar believes we came to Iowa this week mainly for his Drive, Chip & Putt contest rather than the Principal Charity Classic.
I mainly wanted to rest today so my wife Joy, Gunnar and I got in the car early in the afternoon and did some tourist things. We drove 21 miles to Winterset, Iowa -- the birthplace of John Wayne. We saw a memorial to him and had our picture taken next to his life-sized statue in the town. Also nearby was The Bridges of Madison County, a series of covered bridges southwest of Des Moines that was the subject of a movie.
I'll have a quiet dinner tonight and get ready to play my first round tomorrow. I'm in the last grouping of the day at 12:30 p.m.with Roger Chapman and Joe Daley. I think they let the caddie go out in the final group by design. They want me to bring in the pins when I'm done.
June 1, 2011
I can't thank the people at the Principal Charity Classic enough for giving me this opportunity.
I arrived in Des Moines on Saturday and played in the tournament's Tuesday pro-am and also the Wednesday pro-am. I had another great group of amateurs today and I'm learning the course a little better with each round that I play. Last night, I picked my family up at Des Moines Airport and on the drive to the airport, Zach (Johnson) called me and wanted to know what was going on in Des Moines. When he was a student here at Drake, he played Glen Oaks Country Club quite a bit and he's been giving me some advice on how to play certain holes this week. I still have to come up with a gameplan for this course. I'd like to be able to use my length to an advantage but there's a few holes that Zach has told me to lay back on.
Zach has also cautioned me to not wear myself out but I think I've already messed that up. I've probably already played way too much golf so I'll probably relax tomorrow. Since I'm a player this week and not a caddie, I'm still getting myself acclimated to everything. It's been interesting hanging out with major champions in the clubhouse as opposed to the caddie dining tent. I did go over there and eat with them on Tuesday and thanks to Ron Keener, the caddies have it pretty good here this week as well.
I almost feel like I'm from Iowa. It seems as if everyone here either knows Zach or has had an experience with him along the way. Everyone has been so welcoming thus far and it's been really nice. Before I got here, I didn't know really what to expect. In a way, I'm an outsider but then again, I'm really not an outsider. I used to caddie for Scott Hoch and I've known most of the players on the Champions Tour for years.
When I first came out to the course last Saturday, I did my normal routine as if I were a caddie this week instead of a player. Since I'm able to use a cart this week, I was able to get my yardages, chart the greens and get the run-outs to the bunkers from the tees much faster. By being in a cart, I don't feel like I got everything even though I got every number I normally would have if I was walking. It was just faster for me because of the cart.
I'm sure I'll have some jitters later this week. Dr. Morris Pickens, Zach's sports psychiatrist, sent me a nice text yesterday. He gave me some things to think about, just like he does for Zach from time to time. I have really not played in a TOUR-sponsored event since the 1997 NIKE Inland Empire Open. I have played in some mini-tour events when I'm not out there on the PGA TOUR with Zach and earlier this year, I won the Isleworth Invitational but lost the Coors Light Open in Ft. Myers on the last hole.
I'm off to dinner with the family tonight and I probably won't do much tomorrow except for some chipping and putting.