PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Rules official Mike Sullivan won the B.C. Open in 1994
August 14, 2019
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- August 14, 2019
- Mike Sullivan will set up the course for the DICK'S Sporting Goods Open 25 years after winning. (Getty Images)
Fourteen players who’ve won PGA TOUR events held at En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott, New York, will tee it up this week at the PGA TOUR Champions DICK’S Sporting Goods Open.
Six are past DICK’S champions, led by Scott McCarron and Bernhard Langer. Eight won the B.C. Open, a PGA TOUR event held at En-Joie from 1971-2006. That group includes John Daly, Fred Funk and Fred Couples. Much already has been made in New York circles about the return of Couples, who hasn’t played there since DICK’S picked up sponsorship of the event and it became part of the PGA TOUR Champions schedule in 2007.
There also is a 15th former champion at En-Joie who will be inside the ropes. Longtime PGA TOUR Champions rules official Mike Sullivan will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of his third and final victory on the PGA TOUR this week. He claimed the 1994 B.C. Open by four strokes over Jeff Sluman, who went on to get his own B.C. Open title in 2001.
“It was a long time ago, but it always brings back good memories to be here,” Sullivan said this week amidst his duties readying the course for this week’s event. “I’ll tell you one of my main memories is that I wondered if I’d even be able to play. I had hurt my neck the week prior at the Bell Canadian Open, and the first couple of days that week I could barely swing.”
Sullivan stuck it out and eventually he could swing freely. He says now that maybe it was the fact that his expectations were so low because of the injury that it allowed him to relax and play some of the best golf of his career.
“Always beware of the injured guy,” Sullivan said. “Gradually as the week wore on I started to feel better and I had gotten in a groove. I thought, ‘I’m just gonna do my own thing, not watch the leaderboard, whatever happens happens. I can’t go out and tackle anybody. I just have to go out and take care of myself.’”
Sullivan fired rounds of 65-68-67 but Sluman was right with him as they entered the final rounds. But Sullivan started hot, recalling a couple of tap-in birdies among the first four or five holes.
“The other memory I have of the tournament in 1994 is walking off the 18th tee on Sunday, I hit it just into the right rough,” Sullivan said. “There’s water left, and I fudged it a little down the right said. I said to my caddie walking up there, ‘Gosh, do you think I can go at the pin?’ He said, ‘I don’t think you need to. Do you know where you stand?’ I said, ‘No.’ I hadn’t looked at a leaderboard all day. He said, ‘You have a five-shot lead.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding! Are you sure?’ He said, ‘I’ve been watching all day.’
“My next thought was, ‘Let’s see. Is there any way I can foul this up so badly that I don’t win?’ It’s crazy the thoughts that go through your head at times like that.”
Sullivan’s bogey merely cost him a stroke and a four-shot victory over Sluman instead of five. He picked up a check for $162,000.
Sullivan played on PGA TOUR Champions for about a year and a half after turning 50, but he began to have knee problems. He wasn’t sure whether to continue playing, or perhaps to look into a knee replacement. That’s when good friend Brian Claar, who already had joined the PGA TOUR as a rules official, called Sullivan and asked if he’d like to join him. Claar also had been a TOUR player, and he believed Sullivan would be a good fit.
“I said I don’t know anything about the rules, but he said what you have -- experience and having played out here -- you can’t learn unless you’ve done it,” Sullivan said. “He said give it some thought and let me know. My wife and I talked about it. Some of the guys coming out on the PGA TOUR Champions … I couldn’t beat before and now I’m gonna be one-and-a-half-legged. So I figured maybe this is a smart move, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”