It’s not every day that a couple of Champions Tour rookies get to play a casual round of golf with a US Open Champ (Corey Pavin) and a Masters Champ (Larry Mize). Add to that the fact that not only are they Major champions, they are just good guys. I want to share with you our day & why we’ll not soon forget it.
When Tom qualified for the US Sr Open he started thinking about all the famous Sr Tour players he’d have the potential to meet; then he had the idea that he’d like to try to arrange a practice round with someone notable. While devising this plan, his tour buddy Scott Pieri also qualified for the Open – which was almost as exciting as qualifying himself. Now Tom was on a mission…he was going to get a practice round for the 2 of them with a famous tour player.
Enter Tom Gillis. Tom played college golf with Tom Gillis (who I will refer to as TG to avoid confusion), a former PGA Tour player who lost to Jordan Spieth in the John Deere Classic a few years ago. He’s good. Like, really good. When Tom ended up playing a practice round for the Michigan Open with TG, they talked about the Sr Open and Tom told him what he wanted to try to do. TG, being sponsored by Dow, volunteered to text Corey Pavin, a fellow Dow staffer.
A day or so later Tom got a text from TG which was copied & pasted from what Corey Pavin sent him…Corey agreed to play with Tom & told him to add himself to the tee time he already had with Larry Mize. What? Wait. Corey Pavin has a tee time with Larry Mize & he doesn’t mind if Tom joins them? It was a “pinch me” moment that would only get better. Tom immediately began the process of trying to get himself & Scott added to this tee time and within an hour, his crazy idea became a reality. Tom & Scott we’re playing a practice round at 8:24am on Tuesday June 26th with Corey Pavin & Larry Mize. US Sr Open week could not come soon enough!
Fast forward to today. Tom introduced himself to Corey on the practice range and then to Larry on the 1st tee while they waited for Corey to arrive (which he finally did AT their tee time). The 4 of them chit-chatted then got to “work”. Corey is a jokester & Larry is a little more reserved class act. Right off the bat, after Larry hit his shot & Corey followed, I overheard Corey saying, “just get past Larry, just get past Larry!” This was a precursor of what was to come. Now, I should tell you that Corey & Larry have known each other for 30 years & been playing practice rounds together for probably that long. Tom & Scott were truly welcomed into a very special situation.
The rest of the round was filled with casual banter & jabs at one-another whenever the opportunity presented itself. Corey Pavin was very nice to me at one point on #7, telling me I could walk with them behind the ropes whenever I wanted…and in doing so could avoid mixing with “the commoners” (which he said very tongue-in-cheek). Larry Mize chided his caddy when, after finding a wayward ball that belonged to him, I threw it to him about 50 yds away & (I guess) impressed him with my throw. I guess his caddy doesn’t throw golf balls as well as I do. Thing is, his caddy probably doesn’t look for (or find) as many wayward golf balls as I do either! Either way, I liked these 2 guys.
During most of the round and especially the back 9, Tom demonstrated that he had no problem giving any of the other 3 a hard time. He also demonstrated that he has the demeanor to carry himself as a high-profile golfer. Because of their 2 special players, their 4-some garnered quite a bit of attention from fans following Pavin & Mize. Scott & Tom were asked for autographs several times…mostly followed by, “what’s your name again?”
Tom didn’t play all that great for most of the round, but he did finally come around at the end…right before the singers showed up.
Tom received a text Sunday afternoon from the Champions Tour that they had secured 100 tickets for the Vince Gill concert Monday night that they were giving away, 2 per player, on a first come-first serve basis. We are not big country fans, but Tom’s caddy & his boss Melissa are, so he decided it would be great to get the tickets & let them go to the concert. We got up early the next morning & headed straight to the golfcourse to get the 2 allotted tickets. Mike and Melissa went to the concert that night & came home just giddy over how great the concert was, especially since his wife Amy Grant was part of it. Melissa had been a Vince Gill fan for as long as he’d been singing…she had a GREAT time!
Back to today. While trying to escape the sun walking up to 15 green, Melissa & I sought a welcome break in the shade of the grandstands behind the green. As we climbed to a spot at the top, Melissa commented to a couple sitting in front of us, “great show last night, we really enjoyed it!” It immediately dawned on me who these 2 were. They got up shortly after we sat down when Corey walked over to the grandstands to chat with them. As they were chatting, an older woman behind us leans over and says, “excuse me, who was that?” To which Melissa told her, “Vince Gill & Amy Grant.” What ensued next was hilarious only because it was one of those things that you were glad wasn’t happening to you. She began to “OH MY GOSH” and openly gush about how she watched Amy Grant sing as a teenager and on & on. She then jumped up & headed straight over to them to do the obnoxious fan thing. It was truly the funniest thing all day to see Melissa realize that she had just thrown her favorite country singer right under the bus and watch the ensuing damage unfold.
As it turns out, Vince & Amy are good friends with Corey. He invited them to walk along with the group & they chatted for most of the next couple of holes. Tom hit a brilliant shot into the par 3 16th hole and had Vince checking out his putter while he waited to putt. He then asked the couple if they’d pose with Melissa for a picture (since Melissa was too scared to ask them herself – she didn’t want to inconvenience them). Once again, Tom saw an opportunity to do something nice for her & insisted she take the picture with them. Then we had our chance to add to this awesome day of memories with another special picture of us with them.
Between 17 green and 18 tee I had a chance to chat with Amy about golf. She used to play in her 30’s until she had her daughter when she was 40 (she’s 57 now). She’s never gotten back into it because she feels any spare time she has should be spent with her daughter, since she missed a lot of the younger years of her other children due to her job. She’s a super soft-spoken, very reserved-but-sweet lady. It was really fun meeting & talking with her!
Tom hit another amazing shot on 18 that culminated in a birdie to bring him -2 for the last 5 holes. As a golf wife, any time you can finish with a birdie makes for that much better of an afternoon. This afternoon, however, would be great regardless as it was filled with recaps of a great day played with 2 great players and topped with a cameo by 2 great singers. This afternoon was the end of one of the best golf experiences either of us has ever had – and we got to share it together.