Sindelar: Playing near home is always special

July 03, 2008
Joey Sindelar, Special to

Joey Sindelar turned 50 earlier this year and has now played in eight Champions Tour events. He's been hot in recent weeks, having tied for third at the Senior PGA Championship and finishing solo fourth at The Principal Charity Classic. Sindelar, a seven-time PGA TOUR winner and one of the TOUR's most likable guys, last captured a title at the 2004 Wachovia Championship for his first win in 14 years. He's writing a diary for PGATOUR.COM throughout his rookie season to share some of his more memorable moments. ARCHIVE: Senior PGA Championship | Having a blast out here | My Tour debut

ENDICOTT, N.Y. -- This week we are in Endicott, N.Y., site of the former B.C. Open on the PGA TOUR. That's a tournament I played in almost every single year since about 1983, I think. I actually played in it once or twice before I was even on TOUR. Needless to say I've had an enormous amount of thrills on this course and in this town, especially since I won in 1985 and 1987.


In 1985, that was one of my first wins on the PGA TOUR. It was actually my second win, with my first coming earlier that season. The win in 1987 was also very special for me. My dad was caddying for me that week and, in recent years, my son Jamie caddied for me here. When you look at it, I've had three important caddies with me on this course -- my good friend and caddie John Buchna for the first victory, my dad for the second win then Jamie later on.

Besides those victories -- which, of course, are monstrous milestones for a PGA TOUR golfer -- I had a hole-in-one at En-Joie Golf Course in 1985. I was one down to Mike Reid going into the 14th hole, a really good par 3 along the river. Reid, who was playing ahead of me, made bogey while I knocked it in the cup for an ace. I went from one down to three up, which helped me keep my composure over the next four holes.

You know what's funny? There were probably a few thousand people actually at the course who saw that hole-in-one but I swear, over the years 80,000 people have come up to me and said they saw it! It was just one of those memorable shots.

The whole thing about playing a TOUR event in your home area is an interesting topic. Some do very well, some don't. I can certainly see both sides of the picture -- there's always more going on. More media stuff, more fans, everybody is excited and revved up. They'll come up and say, "Wow, you are going to win this one." It creates a lot more excitement for you but sometimes golfers like to be in their own little vacuum, so to speak. Some like to operate anonymously, something Tiger doesn't know about, of course.

Look at Davis Love III at Hilton Head, which is played near where he lives. He's played so well there. For me, I've done remarkably well and that has been a great thing because I've had a lot of good finishes. On the flip side of the coin, when you are inside the ropes and you make a couple of bogeys, it is very funny to watch the energy go out of the crowd. You have to regroup, they have to regroup -- playing in front of hometown supporters is a fun but unusual thing to experience. It's much busier. The world spins much faster when you are home, you have tickets to leave, dinners to attend, greetings to make, especially because you don't get to see a lot of these people except for once a year. Like I said, luckily for me it's all added up to a great experience.

This week I'm staying at home and it's exactly one hour from door to door. It's one of those cool things that occurred for me. The former B.C. Open is now the Dick's Sporting Goods Open on the Champions Tour. How could I have asked for anything better? To be able to change Tours and have one of my very favorite events switch with me, I will enjoy this for as many years as I'm able to stay healthy and play.

It's a completely different environment from the Senior PGA Championship, which was played in nearby Rochester. The crowd in Rochester and Central New York really supported that tournament and it was as good as any tournament I've ever played in my career. Sure, not quite as many people came out as they would to a PGA TOUR major but it was absolutely the real McCoy. I was thrilled my people did such a great job with that event.

The Dick's Sporting Goods Open is a small-town event. It's not a major or a big, electric, national show but it's more of a reunion kind of tournament. You get to see people you haven't spoken with except maybe at the B.C. Open. It's nice to be able to count on seeing people that I know. My caddie John and I will say, Oh, we haven't seen so and so, I hope their health is well. Wait, we know their kids were going to get married soon, maybe they are at a wedding. That kind of stuff occurs when you near home.

Oh, another angle I forgot to mention is the needling you take when you are playing near home. "Come on, Sindelar, you haven't done anything in a few weeks," some people might say. A bunch of people who are statisticians will go, "Do you realize your front nine scores are 1 over and your back nine average is 2 under? Does it take you a while to warm up or something?" Then, a couple of holes later, someone will say, "I notice that you play better on the front nine than the back. Do you get nervous on those back nine holes?" It's fun to balance perspectives and take needling from friends.

Graduation was last Saturday for my son, which is why I had to miss the Long Island tournament. I really wanted to go because I've heard it's a great course and just a super event but obviously I wanted to see my son graduate. We are very proud of him. He's an honor student and will go to Ohio State in September. The coach that recruited Jamie is the same coach that I had, Jim Brown. He recently announced his retirement but Jamie will get to have a year with him, which will help him very much.

Looking over my past few tournaments, Oak Hill was just a very tough, grind-it-out, exciting tournament. At the end of every round you were wiped out and it was very similar to playing a PGA TOUR major. Then we stepped back into a very normal Champions Tour event at the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa. That course (Glen Oaks Country Club) and the next one in Concord, Mass. (Nashawtuc Country Club) are both beautiful courses. Not so much bloody-nose kind of courses but we're back to playing good golf on beautiful courses.

That's what's been great about this Tour, I've enjoyed all of the courses and, of the eight that I've played, I think I've seen five different types. All of them have been very interesting in their own right. If you include Dick's Sporting Goods as the ninth, along with Nashawtuc and Glen Oaks, those are very typical Northern type golf courses.

Cap Cana, that's seaside golf on paspalum. Then my next event was the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, that's typical Florida with a little TPC flair, more of a modern type of golf course with Bermuda grass. At Birmingham, that was a very wide course, a very Southern course. I've loved every one of the courses but my biggest success really came on Northern grasses. I guess that's going back to my childhood days.

I look forward to getting back to every one of them. I'm still in that mode where I'm a rookie and seeing these all for the first time. Obviously that doesn't apply this week but, for all of the other Champions Tour events, this is basically my first time. I have to go through a learning curve and am really having to work hard to know how to play the course, where do mis-hits go, where do good shots go, etc. I look forward to next year on my second cycle where I can be riding the plane to the tournament and have a really good picture in my head of the venue.

This week, I know this course so well and therefore I certainly will have confidence going into it. I've pretty much taken divots in every good and bad place on this course and I understand it. But, you know, all of the good golfers have a real knack for understanding courses the first time through and can remember stuff about them, I think. There is a certain advantage to having played somewhere100 times versus three times. I would say there's certainly a little bit of an advantage but I'm not going to bank on being the tournament winner. You still have to put the ball in the hole.

If you remember from my other blogs, I hurt my hip the first week out and it bothered me for three weeks. We've got great guys in the fitness van who said I strained my IT band but I couldn't hurt it any further if I kept playing. You just have to get it knocked back down to where it feels comfortable. It hasn't bothered me lately so I'm back with no health excuses and ready to play.