Tampa Bay Championship interview: Kevin Streelman

March 17, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Tampa Bay Championship transcripts archive

We'd like to welcome Kevin Streelman, winner of the 2013 Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank, Kevin, I know that's been a long time coming, getting this introduction on a Sunday night. Congratulations on your first PGA TOUR win. Just some comments on the week overall and then we'll open it up and take some questions.

Yeah, this is a dream come true. I think 153 rd event on the Tour, many, many events before that on the Hooters Tour and Gateway Tour and Dakotas Tour. Always had a dream of getting here.

And so to get this is the cumulation of a lot of hard work and a lot of time spent late into the evening and getting up early in the morning, and it's really a dream come true.

Q. At what point did you think this was going to happen?

When I made the putt on 17, that freed my mind up a little bit. I knew I needed bogey to win, and I told AJ, my caddie, I should play it differently on 18.
He said: 'Grip that driver down the middle.' To flush that, knock the wedge on the uphill putt and tap in for par, was pretty magical.

Q. You didn't make a bogey over the last 37 holes, and I don't think you missed a shot from the fairway over the last, probably, seven. How did you do that?

That's a good question. We've been working really hard on my swing. Been with my coach now for a year and a half. I played, actually hit it incredibly well last week in Puerto Rico and putted poorly and missed the cut and came back and worked with him at The Bear's Club on Saturday.

Woke up Sunday and had to go to the emergency room. I was very ill. I don't know if it was the flu or a 24 hour bug or if I ate something, but I was out of commission for 24 hours. I was in the ER Sunday, and didn't really feel good until Thursday. And so I think that probably took a little stress off me as far as having maybe lower expectations.

But we kind of had something click between me and AJ of just saying, we are going to align our body where we want the ball to start, make the normal, great movements at that target and then let the wind dictate the ball from there. We were not trying to shape it into winds, with the exception of 13 today. Was pretty much trying to play straight balls in different parts of the wind and picking really good targets and kept it really simple.

Q. What kind of effect did it have with Boo posting the number early, like 12 holes to go, did that make it easier or harder? Did it make a difference to you?

I didn't really look. I tried to not look too much today. I kind of noticed out of the corner of my eye, I think on the par 5, 14, they had already posted. I kind of saw it at 8 but I didn't know if he was done yet.

I just glanced and looked away real quick, because I would just rather focus on my game and not someone else's. And I did see that he was posted and I knew I was at 9, and I needed to get through the big shots are 16 tee, and I just stepped up with a great target and flushed that one, and then knew 17, to keep it left of that pin somehow and just hit an awesome 4 iron in there and made that putt. Pretty much knew we had it.

Q. What was your target on 16?

16, there's four trees, and I was splitting the second and third one. Just putt it right on

Q. Closer to the second or the third?

Limped into the third one after it ran up. (Smiling).

Q. There's no simple answer, of course, but why do you think it's taken you 153 starts to get a win?

I don't know. I guess level of comfort, level of confidence, level of saying it's just kind of time, a level of saying I've put in the work. And seeing my buddy, Mike Thompson win, was awesome. See all the Americans doing well, pretty cool.

I kept is one shot at a time pretty well today. I think that's what I can go back on. I was really at peace with whatever the result may be, doesn't really matter. Had bigger things in mind, long term visions of our career and weren't going to let one week, great or bad, dictate that.
So got long term plans and we're sticking to that process and hopefully these are just going to be the results now.

Q. What's it feel like to get something on the resumé, finally ahead of the Kodak Challenge, which was neat, but now you've got something better to talk about.

People always ask you, have you won yet. And it's not going to change who I am. It's just something to put on a resumé. It's really nothing more than that. But I'm very thankful and it means a lot to me and my team and people that I've surrounded myself with. Hopefully we can do it again. This is a lot of fun.

Q. What club did you use on your approach on 13, and how important was that shot?

I hit a hold 5 iron. The number the were perfect for that. We had 187 to cover and I think it was 194 to the pin. It was slightly hurting, hit my 5 iron about 200 yards. So hit a cut into that and knew it would be about right.

We worked really hard on that shot, with the idea and vision of being able to pull it off on Sunday. I can sit there all day and Tuesday and Wednesday, but that doesn't mean much if you can't do it on Sunday.

So that is where I was aiming, and I was able to execute.

Q. You qualified for the Masters a couple years ago but through the FedExCup; wonder if it feels better to do it this way. You might have got some questions back then about getting there that way, just wonder if you can talk about that.

Yeah, I wouldn't say better. Either way, when you get the invite, you get the invite. But everyone knows, when you win a PGA TOUR event, you get to the to go to the Masters.
So to do that on my own is very special. To get to Kapalua is pretty special. To do it at Tampa Bay and Innisbrook and such an incredible golf course here is really, really awesome.

Q. Speaking of this golf course, in 2008 on the weekend, you had to sign for a number, I won't mention the number you can mention if you want to, but it was a pretty high number. At that time, would you ever have thought that you would be sitting here five years later in this seat doing this?

Yeah, I had kind of forgotten that. I think I had posted 83 or 84 and MDF, got out of town. But this course can do that to you, this course gets gusty and running and it really tests you. Feel like a more mature golfer and a more mature person than I was then, and where I want to be in my life and my faith and was able to just overcome it.

Q. You looked really focused today. What were the keys to this round, to this win?

I had very solid ball striking all week. AJ and I kept it very simple. We just were picking targets and picking the right club and just swinging. It was letting go of results. We were meditating on a lot of Scripture together. We were singing together. We were having fun. That's when I play my best is when I'm just enjoying myself.

I said, I'm thankful for the opportunity. If I shoot 80 or 60, it's going to be fun out there and enjoy it, and this time I was able to finish it off, and sometimes you don't and sometimes you do.

Q. You're holding a mic now, any chance of singing for us?

I do a Bible study, you're more than welcome to come (laughs).

Q. Talk about 13, now that the hole is over and you've won, this is going to sound like an awkward question, but what could have gone wrong if you had not pulled it off?

I was not really scared of it going right of where it went. Last second, if you bail out and flip it, the wind will take it kind of where Justin's ball went left and you'd be chipping across the green. One of those shots, keep your body rotating and the club can't flip in front of you, and it stays on the target line. If your body stops, you can flip and get into trouble.

Q. People talk about a course where you can be aggressive but you pick your spots, would that be an example?

Absolutely. I hit two great shots on 1 and then was very fortunate that on 3 the chip hit the pin and dropped and then after that, I didn't really have great numbers to attack, I just was trying to play smart and I didn't have great putts that could run in, but I knew that a lot of pars would get me where I needed to be today. I was really patient, and the back nine, I did have a couple opportunities, and I was able to execute.

Q. I guess when you were playing the mini tours, you also caddied to help yourself get by, can you tell us what that time frame was and where that was and how that all worked?

Exactly, I came out to Phoenix my first time I graduated in 2001 and I came out to Phoenix in 2002 for the Gateway Tour in the first summer that it was open. I don't know if I made a cut. Got my butt kicked. Lost all my money.

Fell in love with the area, though. I loved Scottsdale from then on. Left town kind of my head down and went back to Chicago and very long story short, was abandoned by another group of sponsors in San Diego a year later. And unfortunately it kept on the guy's card who lived up in Cota de Caza, gave him a call, said, I don't know what to do, I have no money.

I had just Monday qualified for Pebble the week before and missed at Torrey. Called these guys in Chicago and to this day they have not picked up the phone. I was there, had about $400 to my name, could have driven back to Chicago and my family or stick it out. They kind of gave me some money to get going back on the Hooters Tour and played all right.

And then Courtney and I met, wanted to get back to Scottsdale, caddied at Whisper Rock and scrubbing clubs at Kierland Golf Course on the weekdays, worked from about 6:00 to 1:00 and I would play golf from 2:00 till dark, and on the weekends I would caddie up at Whisper Rock in order to actually make decent money.

Then my rookie year, Greg Tryhus called me. I was at Puerto Rico and invited me to join him at Whisper Rock and now going on my fifth year as a member. Won the club championship my rookie year. Went from caddie to club champion at Whisper Rock which is a pretty cool story.

Q. What year was that?

My rookie year was 2008.

Q. Who did you beat?

I took Billy Mayfair down.

Q. Did you cross paths with Boo in the clubhouse before he left?

I did not.

Q. Anybody else, anybody unusual you get congratulations from in the clubhouse?

No, it was kind of really quick there. Just saw the volunteers and I didn't see any of the players together.

Q. There's got to be some doubts I would think along the way, but I'm not good enough for this, I'm talking about the 2002 2004, did you have those?


Q. How did you get through it?

The funny story is the assistant coaching job at Duke came up, and it came down to me and one other guy. Went and interviewed and came down to the two of us, and I didn't get it.

So that same this had to be 2004, because that's when Mike Weir won the Masters it was 2003, right after he won. And Western Open, I remember I got told Friday, I didn't get the job.
My dad gave me $400 to play the qualifier for Western Open, I make a long putt on the last hole to get in and on the next day I'm in the locker room and Mike Weir, Masters Champion, locker is next to mine, my first ever TOUR event and so nervous and excited and go, Mr. Weir, mind if I play a practice round with you today.

He was awesome. He invited me, said "Love to have ya," showed us how to use yardage books and things we needed to know. Shot 78, 77, missed the cut. That practice round with Mike, especially coming right after his Masters win, just said, you know, he's much better than I am but I think I can hang.

And it kind of really gave me that kind of kick in the butt to say, if you're going to do this, you need to get serious about it and you need to, watching him hit his wedges, watching him putt, that was different. So seven, eight years in the making.

Q. You did not call him Mr. Weir.

Then I did. I played with him at the Canadian Open a few years ago and told him that story. I go, I know you don't remember this, but it meant a lot to me the way you treated me, my first ever tournament.

Q. So you had doubts starting out your career and then as you're going on, you have not won yet on TOUR, you're starting to have doubts about how good you can be at this level?

Obviously we play with all the different guys, and seeing Webb is probably my best friend out here on TOUR. I've played a lot of golf with him. He's obviously an incredible player, but I think I can hang with him, too. To see what he's done, and what's different, a lot of it's mental. Nothing ruffles him on the golf course.

So he may not have the athletic ability of Tiger or Adam Scott or the golf swing of them, but when it comes down to he hits the ball, he gets a bad break and kicks into the hazard, it's not going to bother him too much. Learned a lot from him in that regard to be honest. That was this weekend, nothing really got to me. Very peaceful.

Q. Guessing that becoming a member at Whisper Rock is not an inexpensive proposition, to go from caddie to that, I realize it's not the same as winning a TOUR event, but must also have been pretty special, a point of pride.

Yeah, very much so, I think on both sides. Greg and the staff there are proud of me and the hard work I put in, and to call that place my home and hopefully be there the rest of my life is a dream come true.

Q. Is it true they don't cut TOUR players a break?

Nobody gets a break. Everyone pays the exact same.

Q. So you've been working with Pia Nilsson and now Ai Miyazato is in contention this week, as well, have you met her and what is your reaction as a team?

Pia Nilsson are amazing, our Vision 54 mental, life, game coaches, golf coaches, a little bit of everything, they are more life coaches than just mental coaches. They are brilliant. They have helped me immensely. I've been with them probably ten years, just great people. I have played a number of times with Ai.

Another person who is mentally extremely strong and just the rhythm on her golf swing, most instructors would look at her swing and say she's got high right elbow, clubs across the line, blah, blah, but that rhythm and repetition that she believes in time and time and time again, she performs and that's why she's at top of the world.

Q. Americans have now won every event so far, do you have any clue or insight?

No, I really don't. It's something.

Q. After you had that practice round with Mike Weir, and said I can hang with him if I step it up a little bit, what did you step up? And then on the course, was there any sort of breakthrough on the mini tours that jumped you to the next stage?

What was the first part of the question?

Q. What did you see in Mike Weir's practice routine that told you, okay, I've got to start doing this, this, and this.

It was mostly his short game and wedge discipline of his wedge distances, the way he looked at a golf course, getting angles. Coming out of college, you just hit it as far as you can and try to hit as close to the green as you can and you don't necessarily think, oh, I've got 55 yards to a front pin. Maybe it would be better to have 85 or 90 yards and hit a full wedge in rather than trying to hit a little flip wedge.

So things like that, kind of people tell you, but you need to actually see and believe firsthand to actually start ingraining that. And that still to this day is what I'm working a lot harder at is my distances inside of 150 yards.

When my coach and I looked at our stats, I think I'm second on TOUR in overall driving, and so he said, this is incredible, this is great, but maybe we need to spend a little less time driving, 125 to 150 yards, do things to win golf tournaments, you need to dial those numbers in, and this week I was able to.

Q. Which coach are you referring to?

KEVIN STREELMAN: Darren May over at The Bear's Club in Jupiter, swing coach.

Q. On the mini tours, was there a win or a stretch?

2007 was my last year on the mini tours. I won four times. I one time was leading the gate way and Hooters Tour Monday list and just felt really confident the way I was playing. My course average was close to 66 or 66 and 1/2 that summer so I went to Q School sky high.

I remember going to San Juan Oaks for the first stage and didn't make many putts the first round, second round; third round, I'm right there. End up birdieing four of my last five holes on the final day to make it on the number. I look back at some of those 12 , 15 footers, if one of those lipped out or something, I don't know what would have happened, because got to second stage and finals and got my TOUR card through Q School. But that first stage was pretty testy at the end of the round.

Q. How many cars did you have between 2001 and 2008?

I burned out three cars. I had two I put 250,000 to 400,000 miles. Started with my mom's Altima, and then my own Altima and then I got a Camry.

Q. Gave up on Nissan?

Yeah. Whatever I could get ahold of.

Q. When did you leave the Camry, after the Whisper Rock membership?

My rookie year when I got my TOUR card, I traded it in for a Nissan 350 z which was like my dream car at the time. My wife, my fiancée at the time, now my wife was not very happy with that decision and I learned quickly that I must discuss these financial decisions. (Laughter).

Kevin, congratulations.