A US Open Champ, a Masters Champ & The Singers

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.

The Singers

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.

Hosts, Posts and a Bad Attitude

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it…without the kindness of friends and the generosity of strangers, this whole experience would take on an entirely different characteristic. Traveling is usually something people complain about; being away from friends & family can be lonely & an unwelcome added stress. In his effort to maximize sponsorship funds, Tom has been seeking out the availability of friends in the areas he’s traveling to as well as renting rooms and homes using AirBnB, almost exclusively. While this proves to be much cheaper than a hotel room, it’s also far more comfortable for him as he feels more relaxed – personally I prefer coming back to a hotel room with a freshly made bed & a clean room – but perhaps that’s the 20 years of being a Mom & wife speaking. Tom, likes things a bit more “loose” – it’s our ying/yang – you know, opposites attract.

When he stays at these places, whether it be an AirBnB or a friends home, he makes an effort to not only express his appreciation, but to try to learn something about the people he’s staying with. This is such a change from the Tom I married 20 years ago. He’s taken this experience of being somewhat of a “local celebrity” and used it to come out of his shell. He used to be quite an introvert (again, the ying to my yang as I’m an extrovert) but has blossomed into an outgoing, truly interested person. He loves meeting new people & while he may never see them again, he likes to think he’s made new friends. The last place he stayed, in Polk City, IA, the AirBnB’s hosts’ boyfriend came to visit her and introduced himself to Tom. He was from Walker, Michigan and a really great guy! Small world for sure! That ended up being one of his favorite stays as she was a classically trained pianist and her teenage daughter played banjo! He told me of how he would listen to them play in the evenings & how nice it was to listen to the music. They were really nice people; it makes me feel better when he tells me stories like that.

When he played TPC Sawgrass a month or so ago, he met a guy named Jim Voss while shopping in the Pro-shop. Jim is from Michigan (and a member at Oakland Hills CC) and recognized Tom’s name. They struck up a conversation while in the pro shop. Tom had already rented a room at an AirBnB for his trip but cancelled it because Jim ended up inviting Tom to dinner and to come stay at his place for free! He also invited Tom to play OHCC sometime with his son-in-law! Sometimes those chance meetings have added benefits – a concept not lost on my salesman husband.

That brings me to our current situation. When our friend Eric Hammersmith learned that the Michigan Open was returning to Traverse City and that Tom was exempt, he immediately offered to let us stay at his family’s place in Empire – right on Lake Michigan! It’s been amazing! Eric’s wife Amanda and their little girl Cienna are with him and his Mom Diane spends most of her Summer at the home. Spending time with Eric’s family has brought an invaluable amount of peace and comfort to this trip that would’ve been impossible anywhere else! They are so welcoming & hospitable (that’s truly the only word to describe them). They’ve cooked every night, been fun & engaging…Tom is planning on moving in actually. Not sure he’ll get away with it – but I think he may try to sell that idea. It’s good to have goals.

Staying with a friend like Eric can be humbling for Tom as well. Eric is a hard sell on the legitimacy of Tom’s golf game – mostly because Tom usually plays poorly when he’s around (today was a good example). The banter back and forth between these two has been nothing short of hilarious – we’re thankful for his friendship. It’s from that banter that my latest FB post was borne, mostly because I welcome any chance I get to throw a little dig at my “almost perfect” husband myself. If you’re not on FB, let me share with you what I shared with the people who are on FB:

So you may have seen Tom’s scorecard for today…let me tell you how the day started. After he putted out on #1 green, the first words out of his mouth were, “I may not break 80 today”

Ahhhh…the old Tom is back. Cheers to the power of positive thinking. ??‍♀️

He shot 67 that day actually. When he saw I was making that post he wasn’t terribly excited about my sharing his mental gymnastics on the golfcourse with the world…but he knew what he was getting into when he wanted me to take over his social media presence. The good, the bad and the ridiculous – it’s all out there for everyone to see. That’s what he signed up for and that’s what I try to bring to you. I’m currently working with our website developer to have a way to share my short FB blurbs to the site – again for those of you who don’t use FB. I feel like blogs are more in-depth and introspective where FB allows quips and short updates on a more regular basis. So many people have shared with me that they actually read these blog posts that it inspired me to want to share the short bursts of consciousness that only find their way to FB on here as well. Hopefully we’ll get that figured out. Stay tuned!

As for the subject of my post; what most of you don’t know is that Tom has been seeing a sports psychologist over the past 6 months. It’s made a difference for him in the respect that he’s able to control his temper on the course better (read: less clucking). However I almost feel like it took away a bit of the fire that makes Tom the fierce competitor he is. Does he need to get mad? Yes, he does. Does it need to be a controlled reaction? Absolutely, 100%. That’s the struggle. Leaving that bad shot behind to move onto the next shot is where he struggles most – but he’s getting better. What I didn’t want to see was a nonchalant attitude evolve from that process, which is what seemed to be happening. So…much to my chagrin, I’d rather have him out there with a little fire in his belly, then just going through the motions. What does this mean? Well, for me (and his caddy Mike) it means we need to suck it up & just listen to him vent. It werks for him…and by now we should know to leave well enough alone.

So bring on the bad attitude…and bring on the mid-60 rounds that go with it!