You’d think with one go-around of Q-School under our belts we’d have been pros at it this 2nd time – that it would’ve been far less stressful because we knew what to expect. Well I’m here to tell ya’…it was harder this second time than the first time. A lot harder. Why? Not sure really…other than to say it seems to all be part of the package deal as a professional golfer who’s not fully exempt into the tour. Nothing is expected and nothing (and I mean NOTHING) is easy.
Silly me. I kind of thought we’d coast through first stage, I mean, top 30? No problem…and the score didn’t matter if you made it. All that mattered is you made it. Little did I know that there was a whole lot going on with Tom Werkmeister prior to finishing first stage…like the pressure he’d felt to advance. Apparently I was the only one who wasn’t worried. That is until the last 5 holes of the 4th round of first stage. Then I was worried. Tom, however, carried with him the weight of the world, concerned that if he didn’t make it through first stage he’d risk losing face with his sponsors; and everyone else for that matter. Apparently I was the only one who didn’t see this as some sort of defining moment. My bad. All I know is that golf is nothing if not unpredictable…but if I had to bet on someone involving golf, my money is on Tom.
The only thing you’re sure of out here is if you don’t shoot under par that day, you’re gonna be behind the pack – how far then becomes your biggest concern.
Going into second stage was a little more nerve-wracking. I sensed Tom’s confidence level was waning after his first stage finish…but deep down I wasn’t terribly worried. In fact, truth be told, I was actually more nervous that he’d actually make the top 5 this year. Not nervous in the sense that I was scared of him getting his card; nervous that it was a possibility. That nervousness went full-blown anxiety during the third round of second stage when he was actually leading for a few holes while I was back at our rented condo working. I was trying to ignore the scoring & just check in every now & again. Then he shot up the leaderboard and I was close to losing my mind. Let me tell you that if you haven’t followed the online scoring before, waiting on hole-by-hole scores to be posted sucks. The 20 minutes or so between scores showing on the website feels like 20 years. People were texting me excited at what was going on…I was eating everything in sight (I’m a stress-eater) and I couldn’t get anything done. By the end of the day he was still in the top 10 and the stress level was pegged at 10 out of 10.
So keeping in true Werkmeister fashion, we went out to dinner that night with a friend. Tom likes to keep things as normal as possible during tournaments and going to dinner and having a few drinks is not unusual for us to do after a round. However, my level of stress was about 15 out of 10 after that day at home alone…away from the golf course & my husband…waiting for each hole score to be posted. I was in such a knot after work that I actually had a glass of wine at dinner to try to calm down! (For those of you who don’t know me that well…I don’t drink because alcohol triggers my migraines. I hadn’t had alcohol in over a year but let me tell you that one glass of wine was totally worth the ensuing migraine afterward!) My stress level lowered to a manageable 9 out of 10 after that glass of wine & somehow I even managed to sleep that night.
The next morning was a typical tournament morning. No talking outside of the necessary conversation and out the door in military fashion. The drive was quiet (as usual) and when we got to the course we all went about our routines. Then the round got underway…and I watched my hopes for something great slowly fade away. I can’t explain to you what it feels like to watch someone you love giving all they’ve got to make their dream come true, only to be denied. It’s heartbreaking. While Tom managed to hold it together to stay well within the top 30 (he finished T18); being so close to seeing your dream come true, only to have it just out of arms reach was a brutal disappointment. Add to that a bogey on the last hole to drop him from T13 to T18 and it’s like someone literally beating you into submission with your own arm. I’ve seen Tom go through some low moments in golf; this was by far the lowest. We waited around for a few moments making sure his buddy Scott Pieri was indeed going to be inside the top 30 (he was on the bubble)…and when we were sure he was, we hit the road back to the condo.
And now we come to the part where I admit that I’m not the perfect golf wife. That I am guilty of a horrible golf wife sin. This is the “where the rubber meets the road” moment that I’m most ashamed of. So why am I going to share it with you? Because I believe in doing so, I’ll make sure it NEVER happens again and because I promised to take you all inside the ropes of this journey…good & bad.
All along I’d been saying that the WORST thing that could happen is he’d lose status & have to Thursday qualify. And I believed that if that were the case, it wouldn’t take him long to get past a Thursday qualifier and a Monday qualifier & into an event – and then he’d have that same associate status he had the year before going forward. It was just a different way to the same end. I mean, I REALLY BELIEVED that. But when he was in the top 10 after the third round, something in me changed. I saw the Tom Werkmeister game I knew he had and suddenly top 30 wasn’t good enough.
So when his game left him that day…walking & watching, I felt an unusual feeling come over me. It was a frustration I’d not really experienced before. Sure, I’ve been frustrated with his game before, but this was different. Maybe I was feeling his feelings again (I do that a lot), or maybe it was just a residual of the stress level from the night before; but that day, I felt like my dreams were also being snuffed out, that maybe all this hard work (on all our parts) just wasn’t going to be good enough. And the saddest part is in the end, really…he’d done what he needed to do! He’d finished better than the year before & maintained his status. But this time good enough wasn’t good enough.
We got in the car to go home & I cracked. I expressed my frustration in what I thought was his giving up mid-round. I brought up all the things I’d seen that day and gave my opinion on his performance (which wasn’t good).
I. Was. An. Asshole. (Sorry for the language…but that’s what I was)
Here was a man…a gentle man…a fragile man at that time…who just had what was arguably the worst day of his life to date…and here I was compounding it. Rubbing salt into a wound is being kind. I was beating him to death with his own arm.
Golf wife fail…on SO many levels.
I’ll leave out the details of the fallout that ensued and cut to the end…I apologized. A lot. I practically begged for his forgiveness (which he eventually offered) and made a solemn vow to him that night. I would step back. I need to be Tom’s “safe place”. To be where he goes to seek shelter from the storm that is the stress of professional golf. I need to let his caddies & coach weather the storm on the golfcourse with him…and while I will walk & watch every round like I always do, I will NOT criticize him or offer my take on his game anymore (unless it’s positive). That day I learned a lot about myself (not much good) and that day will forever be what I feel to be the most awful thing I’ve ever done in the 20 years we’ve been married. Fortunately, I am truly married to my best friend and he loves me despite my failures.
Fast forward to today – we’ve moved past that…and he will never speak of it again…because that’s just who he is. Me? I purposefully will never forget that day…or that week. I only pray that I NEVER break my vow and I truly remain his always safe place.
There aren’t many times that Tom & I get to take trips by ourselves, especially now that I don’t caddy for him anymore. Initially I’d thought this trip would be just us taking a little vacation sight-seeing in Washington & Calgary with some golf thrown in. It would be nice; fly to Seattle try to qualify, miss. Drive to Calgary, try to qualify, miss. Deal with a grumpy husband & fly home early. I was pretty sure I knew how it would go. Then he makes the field in Seattle & my plans to take our time traveling to Calgary with some stops along the way to see some sights are shot. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled he got into the Boeing Classic…it was a great learning experience (because it certainly wasn’t good golf), except now we face an 11 hour trip to a practice round on Monday for a Tuesday qualifier…and it’s 3:30pm on Sunday after playing/walking 18 holes on a not-flat golfcourse. The reality of what pro golf is like was setting in; but I signed up for this & there are far worse ways to go through life…I am all in & I have the perfect partner to experience this with.
The drive to Calgary via BC along Trans Canada Highway 1 was everything we’d heard about & more and other than my head being on a swivel, our trip was (for the most part) uneventful. Except for the last couple hours; that’s when we hit the rainstorm, in the dark, in the mountains. Normally I don’t get stressed out about driving in the rain, but hydroplaning in the rain on a twisty, turning mountain road with no cell service & very little traffic is a new kind of stressful for sure. Tom did a great job white-knuckling it through the rain & (obviously) we made it just fine. We decided to stop in Revelstoke, BC about 11pm to rest for the night, which left us about 4.5 hours to go in the morning.
When we woke up the next morning it was if the heavens were welcoming us to Canada. The sun was out, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the smoke from the wildfires had cleared…which wasn’t much of a factor for us to that point anyway, but listening to the travelers at the hotel, it sounded like the smoke was pretty prevalent prior to the rain we experienced the night before. It seemed like just another sign that our path was set before for us & all we had to do was follow it. We finally hit the road again at about 9am.
We pulled into The Hampton’s Golf Club in Calgary around 3:30pm (we stopped for lunch in Banff & lost an hour in the time change), jumped in a cart & headed out to get a look at the course. I have to say it was the nicest of the qualifying sites I’d seen to that point. Tom played a few holes & I got to play caddy by marking pin positions in the yardage book. Watching him practice & working as a team again was amazing. Here was a man who just came off of a disappointing finish at his first PGA Champions Tour event…now striping the ball! It was as if he had a renewed excitement & (dare I say) positive outlook for another opportunity to qualify. I didn’t say it to him, but I really felt like he was going to make it the next day (contrary to my original expectations)…I didn’t have any reason to feel that way, especially since we had no idea what the number would have to be to qualify, but I saw his game that day…and I felt like I’d see it again the next.
Tom likes to have pasta the night before a qualifier (carbs) so we found an Italian place nearby & had a nice dinner prior to arriving at our host home…which was again, another door opened for us. Tom volunteers for a Winter golf clinic that his caddy Mike hosts at Hillside Church in February each year. While there this year, one of the guys (Bill Zielstra) knew of Tom’s intent to try the Champions Tour in the Spring and asked if he intended to try the Calgary event in August. It just so happens his sister lives 2 blocks from the event course! He was kind enough to arrange our stay with his sister & her husband (Barb & Edwin Kamphuis) and we couldn’t be more grateful! These trips can be expensive and even though Tom has sponsorship, it only covers his expenses, so wherever we can save, we do so. Fortunately the qualifying course was only 30 minutes away so it worked out well. We arrived there about 9pm and had a nice introduction visit before we had to get to bed for an early tee time (8:40am).
We arrived at the course the usual hour before his tee time to allow him time to warm up and we found out he would be playing in a 2-some as their 3rd withdrew. Tom was playing really well for the first 12 holes with the exception of leaving himself left-to-right putts too frequently (those are his Achilles heel). He was 3-under going into the 13th hole & I felt like another birdie (or 3 was totally possible given how well he was playing). Then an errant approach shot left him stymied behind a tree next to the green. He had to hit out sideways and that shot landed in the bunker. A great up & down saved bogey, but now his momentum (and his upbeat demeanor) was gone. He looked at me & mumbled, “I guess it wasn’t meant to be”. I felt awful for him, but I also knew there were more holes left if he could rally from that “bad break”.
Now a lot of you are groaning that there’s no reason to be upset at a bogey when you’re 3-under…but you need to understand that the “typical” qualifying score is usually -4 or better. It’s a different kind of golf out here…par is NOT good and will only earn you a quick trip home.
He managed to make par on the next few holes, just missing a couple long birdie putts. His game seemed to leave him after the 12th hole which was worrisome since he was running out of holes. Then came the par 5 17th hole. He hit a great drive & managed to reach the green in 2…although he had about a 50′ 2-putt to make birdie…which he managed to do. Now he was at -3 with one hole to play. I was stressed out & texting our friend Steve who was kind enough to keep texting me back so I didn’t lose my mind. On the par 4 18th hole Tom hit a great drive that left him 55 yds to the green. Another poor approach shot left him 20+ feet for birdie…which by some miracle went in! He got to -4 and regardless of how it ended, I was proud of him for bouncing back & finishing with 2 birdies. Now it was time to see just what kind of scores were out there. This qualifier did not have online scoring so I really had no idea what to expect.
When we pulled up to the clubhouse, all I saw was a 9-under and I thought we were done. If 9-under was out there, Lord knows the scores would be low. Turned out that Tom’s -4 was 2nd lowest but there were still 8 guys (3 groups) to come in and there were some good players in those groups. The waiting was torture…Tom was chit-chatting with some guys & Tom Gillis stopped by the cart to say hello. He made me feel a little better when he said he was sure Tom was in, but it’s never over until it’s over. I was texting Steve trying to keep my mind busy while the groups came in…then finally it was done & he was officially in! This was crazy, I didn’t think he would make it through one of these qualifiers & he made it through both with the exact same score! We were in bonus time as far as I was concerned…and I was going to enjoy it…right after we found him a caddy because I sure as hell wasn’t doing it! As we were standing there enjoying the moment…a guy walks up & strikes a conversation with Tom. He congratulates Tom on qualifying and asks if he needs a caddy. I’m not even kidding…that’s how we met Tom’s caddy for that week. It turns out he was there to check on his regular player & found out he didn’t qualify so he was available. He explained he’d been a member at the championship course for 50 years & had caddied for several players. How could we turn that down. They shook hands, exchanged info & we were on our way!
The next 2 days would be practice in the form of pro-am’s…which are mandatory, but Tom really enjoys them so it’s a win-win for him. He’s gotten to meet some really great people & make some new friends (and fans)! His Wednesday group of guys all worked at a golfcourse in Invamere, BC and were SUPER great guys…a couple of them even follow Tom’s Facebook page and they were all good players. His Thursday group consisted of the president of the Calgary Flames (Ken King), one of the owners of the Flames (Allan Markin), Allan’s brother-in-law Mike and Allan’s friend Ken. On the first tee, Allan asked Tom if he’d wear a Flames hat; when Tom happily agreed, Allan took his own hat off & gave it to Tom! These guys were really great too…and to give you an idea of the kind of guys they are; Allan is a billionaire and Ken was negotiating a $5M trade deal while he played. These guys could buy and sell our entire City, but here they were playing golf with the “unknown pro” Tom Werkmeister. And they treated us like they’d known us for years…Allan even invited us to a private dinner party Sunday night hosted by one of the other Flames owners. Yah, the pro-ams are a great part of the whole experience!
The tournament itself was great…and I could get used to being a tour wife, eventually. They serve breakfast, lunch & dinner at these events as well as a full open bar. It’s all free to the players, caddies & spouses. The food is always great & it obviously helps with our expenses so it’s pretty awesome. Not only that, we sit & have meals next to some of the greatest golfers in the world! “Oh hey Bernhard! What’s up Vijay? How’s the family Billy? DL3 my man! Buenos Dias Angel!” Of course you can’t really say those things, I mean, you have to act like you belong there for gosh sakes and not like some star-struck fan. But it is really cool to sit amongst them and feel like you belong there…even if it is like “bring your kids to work day” and you’re the kid.
That all being said…not ALL the guys are friendly & welcoming. Tom’s first pairing on Friday consisted of a nice guy & a not-so-nice guy, which can make the round far less enjoyable…but he did manage to shoot -1 so it wasn’t too bad, although he wasn’t thrilled with his score. He definitely left some shots out there. I was super proud of him to be sitting just ahead of middle-of-the-pack, but that’s me. I also saw who he was tied with and who he was ahead of. He only saw who he was behind. There, my friends, is the difference between a champion and everyone else. We look at what we’ve already accomplished; Tom looks at what’s left to accomplish. He’s always looking for better. It’s a curse and a blessing. When the pairings came out that evening, he definitely was looking forward to the next round. He would be playing with Bernhard Langer and Woody Austin. Not bad for a guy playing in his 2nd Tour event to be paired with a couple legends…just when you think you’ve played with some big names, you realize there are more out there!
Bernhard was just as you’d expect; quiet but very friendly. Tom found out from our son-in-law Ryan that Woody was friends with pro-bowler Sean Rash – who Tom had met several times (through Ryan) and even recently played golf with. This was a good conversation starter for him with Woody and they chatted several times during the round about bowling. Unfortunately the golf was not great, although he did manage to shoot even par. Langer shot -5 and shot up the leaderboard. Woody shot -3 and worked his way up also. Tom moved down a few spots but still managed to be hovering mid-pack…and tied with another legendary player he’d hoped to be paired with. What was also cool was that Bernhard had Tom’s scorecard – which means he signed it! Tom mentioned he’d like to have a picture of that for our golf room…so that became my mission for the morning.
Sunday brought the pairing Tom hoped for of Vijay Singh and Dudley Hart (veteran journeyman pro). Before the round, I went about trying to get a picture of Tom’s scorecard from the previous day. They told me to talk to the tournament director on the first tee. When I found him at the first tee & I learned that their scorecards are their property, unless they were to win the tournament. Since that was obviously not going to happen, the tournament director told me we could have his card! This was going to make a GREAT addition to our golf room! While all this was going on, the folks running the tournament learned what I was trying to do and quietly arranged for Vijay to keep Tom’s score for this round so we’d get his signature on Tom’s card too! These people are so awesome…I seriously can’t wait to go back! I was told I could pickup both cards in the scoring tent on 18 after the round was over!
When the round began, Tom wasn’t sure what to expect from Vijay…but what he certainly didn’t expect was for him to ask Tom’s name on the second hole! Now keep in mind, they were introduced on the first tee and he even had Tom’s scorecard! Vijay definitely knew Dudley Hart (who – sidenote – introduced himself to Vijay on the first tee as John Cocktosen [from the movie Fletch] – much to Tom’s delight) and they chatted quite a bit during the round. Tom did chat with Dudley a few times…but not much at all with Vijay. The golf, again, was less than stellar – but once again he held it to even par and finished exactly middle-of-the-pack at T38 out of 77 players. Not bad for his 2nd Tour event, but once again…not good enough for Tom. He went off to the locker room & I focused on completing my mission to round out these past 2 awesome weeks with the best souvenirs I could get; 2 signed scorecards – one with Bernhard’s signature and one with Vijay’s. I waited in the scoring tent while they made copies & walked away 15 minutes later with my mission completed; 2 original signed scorecards!!
That evening we went to the private dinner we were invited to by Allan Markin. Billy Andrade was there as well as a couple other players and quite a few of the tournament people and sponsors. We got to sit with Allan and his wife, as well as a couple of the Shaw people. It was a really fancy Italian dinner…totally lost on Tom as he’s a meat & potatoes kind of guy (although he does like pasta; just the spaghetti & meatballs kind, not the fancy stuff). It was a nice end to a really fun couple of weeks…however we couldn’t just ride off into the sunset, of course there had to be more drama.
We were packed & ready to go and left the next morning to fly out of Calgary for home. Our flight was at 8am so we got to the airport at 6am as we had to drop off the rental car & get through customs. I checked Tom in but I was having trouble checking myself in so I went to the Delta counter to ask for some help. The guy there asked me for my passport and I handed him my passport card (good for travel to Mexico & Canada). He looked at me and again asked me for my passport BOOK. I told him that was my passport card, not an enhanced drivers license which I knew was only good for land crossings). He flipped it over & (while showing me what he was telling me) told me, “this is for land & sea crossings only – you can’t fly with this.” What? Wait…I got INTO Canada with…oh shit. We DROVE into Canada!! My heart sank. What the heck was I supposed to do?? I asked the Delta dude what I could do and he had no idea. He asked if someone could fax a copy of my passport to me. Ummm….it’s 6am on Labor Day. Doubtful Delta dude! I was beginning to panic. I had been gone from home for longer than I’d ever been gone…and now I can’t go home!?!? We grabbed our luggage & wandered away & started trying to find someone to help. The lady who gave us a ride on her golf cart to the Delta terminal started making calls for us. Everyone she talked to said the same thing; you have to have a passport BOOK to fly. I started to figure we we’re going to have to drive back across the border to the nearest US airport & fly home from there so I started trying to find a rental car. The nearest US airport was in Billings, MT which was 8+ hours away! I texted my boss & told him I wouldn’t be in the next day & what was going on. I called my kids to see if they could email a copy of my passport but neither was available to do anything at that point. I started trying to find a rental car & even that wasn’t going well (none available it said). What. The. Heck??
I went back to the Delta dude & asked him if he would UNcheck-in Tom and started asking if there was a way to change our flight to be out of Billings. He then asked for my passport card again & told me to hang tight while he tried one more thing. He took my card & disappeared for about 15 minutes. I was starting to think that now my passport card had been stolen when he showed up & said he worked something out with customs & they were going to let me through. He said I would have to have a background check so we’d have to hurry so there’d be enough time. He checked us in & told me to head toward the US Flag hanging on the wall & they’d take care of it there.
I went through security (where I was “randomly chosen” to have my laptop & iPad swabbed and then “randomly chosen” to have either a pat-down or body scan (I obviously chose the body scan). Honestly, they could’ve told me I had to stand on my head for 10 minutes while whistling Aqualung by Jethro Tull & juggling fish and I’d have done it. Whatever I had to do to go home…I was doing it! I finally ended up at customs & the big burly dude sitting there asked for my passport. I gave him my card & he again asked for my passport BOOK. What the? I told him Delta dude talked with someone & he was told I would have to have a background check to be allowed to fly. After some back & forth while watching him type into his computer, he tells me he has no idea what that guy told me, but that’s not how it worked. Then he said that what they needed to do was prove I was a US Citizen…and since only US Citizens can get a passport card, he would let me through THIS TIME – but not to forget my passport card again! Well no joke customs guy…I’m actually considering having it tattoo’d on my forehead at this point.
I can tell you this with all honesty…traveling home that day took on a whole new meaning for me. When we landed at MSP for our layover, I considered kissing the ground…instead we had lunch & I finally relaxed. Our trip consisted of one more hour-long flight & me, my husband, a couple of scorecards & ALOT of memories would finally be home!
I see it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Truth be told, until the last few weeks, nothing has been going on! July was rather uneventful after the US Sr Open. There were a few local Sr events that Tom played in and didn’t fare so well – and really weren’t “blog-worthy” anyway considering he’d just played in the US Sr Open. But then came August and the whirlwind began! It’s been crazy the last few weeks so I’m going to make this 2 posts rather than 1.
Keep this in mind while reading all of this…also during these past few weeks, we got new flooring installed throughout our condo & painted the entire upper & lower levels; excluding the bedrooms & bathrooms. Our home was (and still is) in a state of disarray & controlled chaos, because a blossoming professional golf career isn’t enough to handle I guess.
Tom left to drive to the Endicott NY qualifier on Aug 11th. I chose not to go to that one unless he actually qualified since I was basically out of PTO at work. Turns out it’s probably best he didn’t qualify. The tournament was held Aug 17-19 and our flight to Seattle was out of Detroit on the 19th for a Tuesday qualifier in Orting, WA. Had he made that tournament in NY, he’d have had to drive back to Detroit right after his round on Sunday the 19th to fly out of Detroit on Monday the 20th (a day later than planned) for the Tuesday qualifier, and I dare say he’d have succumbed to the same fate as Tom Gillis, who did make the NY tournament (and actually finished 3rd) but then had to hop a quick (and very expensive) flight to Seattle – only to suffer from jet lag & consequently was unable to perform his best at the qualifier. Tom on the other hand, was well rested, got in a practice round on Monday & played great, carding a -4 and securing a spot in his first PGA Champions Tour event (the US Sr Open is a USGA event). It wasn’t without drama though. He was told by another player the previous day that (historically), it would take -6 to get in. I can’t even begin to tell you the panic that set in when, while he was at -3 and standing in the middle of the par 5 18th fairway & contemplating a lengthy approach shot to a green protected by water in front, he looked over at me while I was walking by & said (more like vented at me like he often does), “well I might as well go for it, it’s going to take double eagle to even have a chance”. I knew at that point his -3 had a chance and that -4 would probably get him in, because I had the scores in front of me and they were coming in higher than we expected. They weren’t ALL in, but there were enough of them to lead me to think the course may have played tougher than expected. But I couldn’t tell him that (and I wasn’t about to indulge his negativity)…so I prayed he wouldn’t do something stupid and go for the green, but rather lay-up and give himself a much better chance at birdie. To be honest, he had hit a few errant tee shots the last few holes so I wasn’t all-to-sure he had that shot in his bag at that point.
Turns out he wasn’t to sure he had that shot in his bag either…and as fate would have it, he did lay up, then knocked his next shot to 6″ and carded his -4…and (much to his surprise) earned his spot in the event! I can’t even explain how excited we were! We hopped in our rental car & headed straight for Snoqualmie, WA and the Boeing Classic!
Had I known (or believed) he would actually qualify, I’d have taken pictures of the signs at the Seattle airport welcoming players to the tournament. Instead I just looked longingly at them, wishing they were meant for us!
We went straight to the golfcourse. He registered and we had lunch & grabbed a cart to go check out the course. To say it was stunning is an understatement. The course basically sits in a valley and there are views of the mountains at most every hole; and a view of Snoqualmie Falls from 12 tee box. The only real bummer was the smoke from the wildfires intermittently stole our views…but never to the point that it wasn’t still breathtaking.
Snoqualmie Falls from 12 tee box
View from the clubhouse down #18
View from the left side 14 fairway, just in front of the tee box. It’s a severe dogleg left that a lot of players cut the corner to the green for a chance at eagle (about a 300 yd carry)
The next issue became a) where do we stay, and b) how do we get his caddy Mike there…quick?!? We ended up finding an AirBnB about 40 minutes away in Redmond, WA – and we were lucky to get it! Turns out everything was booked up for the tournament. Fortunately, it was a really nice place & while not as close as we’d hoped to be, it was in a really cool location just outside of downtown Seattle. Then came the rush to find a flight for Mike. It was already Tuesday night & the tournament started Friday. The only practice rounds allowed were via playing in the Pro-Am’s on Wednesday & Thursday (which are mandatory anyway) so we needed to get Mike there ASAP! We had him on a flight the next night (Wednesday).
For the next 2 days they played in pro-ams and got a working knowledge of the course. I did learn a couple interesting facts about the pro-ams they have before the tournaments; 1) it costs $20k to field a team and 2) they’re handicapped so the pro is essentially useless unless the team completely bombs on a hole or is so stacked that they don’t get any strokes! The teams Tom has played with had players with handicaps that ranged between 5-25. It is a better ball format with everyone playing their own ball, so usually you can count on someone who gets a stroke to make at least par. That being said, Tom did manage to hole out from 180 yds for eagle on the 11th hole during the Thursday pro-am with the GolfNow folks. THAT was fun since he really hadn’t played well during that round!
You should also understand that Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club is not an easy track. You can’t miss a fairway and the greens were FAST. Add to that the pressure Tom put on himself to perform well (because jeez, he already played in a major) and you have a recipe for the perfect rookie learning experience. Fortunately he had great playing partners…even if they hit it 50 yds past him (okay, maybe just Ken Tanigawa and Michael Grob did…and of course he got paired with both of them on day 1).
Another thing I learned is to stay FAR AWAY from the crowds when he’s not playing well. People make comments; good and bad (mostly good) and quite frankly I don’t want to hear them when I know my husband is grinding away and struggling to make par. They’ll cheer for the good shots and groan on the bad ones. After awhile I don’t want to hear either. Then there’s the well-meaning folks who don’t know you’re a players wife, and say things without realizing they might hurt someone’s feelings; like after a chunked approach shot from a divot in the fairway into a green side front bunker. The guy I had been chatting with at that moment scoffs and says, “well I could’ve hit THAT shot!” I just sighed, looked at him & said, “yah, that’s my husband” and walked away. He then said, “oh! I’m sorry! I didn’t know”. Nope. You didn’t. It’s all good because I’m learning too.
On the flip side, however, when he’s playing well it’s great. I wish I could convey how awesome it feels and how happy I am when he’s playing his game. It’s truly sunshine & rainbows in my world. It’s no wonder people say I live & die on his every shot. It’s 100% true. It’s a blessing and a curse…but I’ve been doing it for 20 years – I’m not going to change now.
In the 2nd round Tom got paired with Tom Kite (who he played a practice round with at the Sr Open) and Wes Short Jr. While he played a bit better that day than the previous day, it still was a struggle. Tom Kite was great, and his caddy Sandy is awesome and Wes Short Jr is a super nice guy…but even Tom Kite had his surely moments. They were all grinding away all day long and while our Tom scored the best that day for their group, it wasn’t anything to write home about. We learned that day that Tom Kite’s competitive days were certainly numbered…he will retire from golf soon and that will be bittersweet; just another golf legend riding off into the sunset.
The final day brought the surprise pairing of David Toms & Chris DiMarco (who turned 50 two days before the tournament started). Tom was at +5 and the other 2 were tied at +6 going into that round. For me, this was comforting. Here’s a guy who just won the US Sr Open, bottom-feeding with another very famous PGA Tour player & my “unknown pro” husband was right there with them & even beating them by a stroke. Yes, golf can certainly castrate the best of them. However, that comfortable feeling very quickly dissipated to the hard realization that these guys know how to dig themselves out of a (somewhat embarrassing) hole. David Toms shot -5 that round to somewhat redeem himself while Chris DiMarco rallied from a bad front 9 to beat Tom by 2 strokes. The good part is that both guys were awesome to play with! Tom got to chat with them quite a bit during the round & they showed a genuine interest in the fairly unique story of how he got there. It didn’t make the day better, but it makes the memories better…which when it’s all said and done, is all that really matters.
The rest of the daily details have been well documented via Facebook posts which flow through to the websites home page. It’s safe to say that the memories we’ll take away from the Boeing Classic will have less to do with golf and more to do with all of the circumstances leading us to that point & through the week.
After that last round in Snoqualmie on Sunday we packed up, made the 30 min drive to drop Mike at the airport and hit the road on our way to Calgary, Alberta for the next qualifier on Tuesday. It was an 11 hour drive & it was 3:30pm on Sunday. Nonetheless to say, we would stop on the way to sleep & then try to get to Calgary in time for a quick practice round on Monday afternoon.
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.
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!
When I started writing these blogs, my purpose was to take all of you along with us on this life adventure we were on…well, Tom is on. So far I think I’ve done well to publish upbeat and (sometimes) funny stories about our travels, our challenges and the good times we’ve had. However, the underlying truth is (and maybe this is a PMS moment but don’t EVEN begin to suggest that if you know what’s good for you) it’s hard. I think this holiday weekend and some of the crap we’ve had to deal with over the last few days brought that into a little better focus as well. If you’ll indulge me for a short bit (remember PMS is nothing to mess with), I just want to explain that this isn’t all fun…and as I type that I think in my head, “Jeez Leslie, really? You’re going to try to convey YOUR petty challenges to a group of people whom you know includes cancer survivors, loved ones left behind by their spouses who’ve passed too soon, women who’ve lost their children and countless other stories of REAL challenges? Really?” And I almost stopped typing at this moment…but I want you to know that I realize that MY present-day challenges are seriously nothing compared to some crap some (if not all) of you have been through. I know REAL challenges…I lost both my parents before I was 35. I’m divorced. I’ve lost friends. I do have deeper darker skeletons…but for now, THIS is my challenge and this is a website devoted to golf, not solving the world’s problems, so please, just read my story with the understanding that my life really is a good life, I’m just in a dark place right now. PMS: God’s never-ending promise that we, as women, will NEVER be understood by men. I don’t even have all my plumbing, but I still get PMS. Dammit.
So far I think I’ve done well to publish upbeat and (sometimes) funny stories about our travels, our challenges and the good times we’ve had.
Memorial weekend is usually the “opening day” for Summer activities. One of those is the local fun golf events that Tom used to be able to play in. This year, however, all of that changed. He is no longer eligible (or even allowed) to play in events that, as an amateur (and reigning State champion), he was welcomed to play in. Now understand, I’m not talking about tournaments – obviously he’s not eligible to play in amateur tournaments as a professional – I’m talking about handicapped fun events with his buddies. It seems that there have been complaints of his playing in these events, handicapped events! Tom, as of this writing is a +4 maybe even a +5…so he essentially stands on the first tee 4 or 5 over par, without even hitting a ball! Who in their right mind has a problem with him playing to those numbers? In turn, because he can’t play in those events, he now has a hard time getting a game together…because all his buddies are playing in the events! Add to that the fact that *I* enjoyed those events because I would go watch (which if you know his friends is actually really fun because they’re hilarious on the golfcourse). So what used to be a truly “just for fun” golf filled weekend, and precursor to what has always been a hectic June golf schedule, is now reduced to realizing that golf (the game he likes that is) isn’t really an option and trying to find something else to fill our time. We don’t camp, we don’t have a cottage, we aren’t beach people. We’re golf people. We do golf. He plays, I watch. It’s who we are and what we do.
I know REAL challenges…I lost both my parents before I was 35. I’m divorced. I’ve lost friends. I do have deeper darker skeletons.
Moving past that is something a little more personal; the fact that he left today for a week+ on what is the start of a very hectic stint in his schedule. Today he drives to Glen Elyn, IL to play in the US Sr Open qualifier on Wednesday May 30. He’ll be joined tomorrow by his coach, Mike Boogaard, so they can get a practice round in before trying to qualify. Then on Wednesday afternoon, after the qualifier, he’ll drive to Polk City, IA for a Monday qualifier on June 4 followed by a Pro-Am on June 5. Then he’ll drive home (unless he qualifies obviously) & we’ll both leave for Traverse City on June 9 or 10 for the Michigan Open, which, if he makes the cut, ends June 14. Then he’ll take off a day or two later for Oregon, WI and another Monday qualifier on June 18. Yah. A lot of travel – and granted I get to be with him for about a week in between – but it’s a lot to think about and on the front end of his travel and realizing how much alone time I have ahead, very depressing. Back when the kids were young it probably wouldn’t have been so bad; I would’ve been busy with them & his being gone would only mean I was busier. Now that they’re grown I don’t have that “busy-ness” in my life, so I’ve tried to start doing some crafting to fill my time. We’ll see if it actually fills that void. Please understand, I’m well aware it’s far better than losing him & never seeing him again. I try to remember to keep that in perspective because my best friend Kris lost her husband 2 years ago this July…the pain she experienced (and still deals with) makes me want to quit writing right now. But she, better than anyone, understands that I’m not comparing our situations, I’m just being an emotional mess. She knows the ravages of PMS because she’s a woman and well, she just gets me.
PMS: God’s never-ending promise that we, as women, will NEVER be understood by men. I don’t even have all my plumbing, but I still get PMS. Dammit.
Because of Tom’s travel, when he’s home he doesn’t really WANT to do anything, which is totally understandable but causes different problems for us because *I* haven’t been traveling! I’ve been stuck at home holding down the fort; working a full-time job & making sure we pay the bills. So nonetheless to say, when I can go do something “distracting”, by God I wanna do it. He, on the other hand, would rather lay low & recharge. Perhaps I need to look at that as I’m doing well to keep him from having to worry about these mundane life things…that that’s my contribution to #teamwerk. Sure, I can spin that to be positive, but right now I’m indulging my PMS, remember? So it sucks & I don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like he’s taking off & waving goodbye with a “sucks to be you” attitude. He knows it bothers me, but he doesn’t know what to do about it – because quite frankly – I signed up for this. I encouraged him to chase his dream…now that he’s doing exactly that it isn’t fair, nor does it make any sense, for me to say, “umm…I’m not ready yet. Can you just not go?” He can’t process that, nor should he have to. This is my burden, this is my dilemma. It’s just hard to handle that I’ve worked this hard for the last 20 years, only to be apart from the one person who’s been the reason I’ve worked so hard for the last 20 years. It doesn’t seem fair. I raised 2 great kids who are self-sustaining, happy adults & I get to enjoy the fruits of that investment of my time (can you say “empty nester”?) But again…I realize this is short term and he WILL come home eventually…and for that I’m grateful.
So where does that leave me? Same place I’ve always been doing the same thing I’ve always done…supporting him, loving him & encouraging him…because (in the words of the great Bruce Springsteen), “some day we’ll look back on this & it will all seem funny”. For now, I’m not laughing & it’s all I can do to keep from crying.
I can spin that to be positive, but right now I’m indulging my PMS, remember? So it sucks & I don’t like it.
Thanks for following along, especially for reading this particularly depressing post to the end. I’ll try to keep things light going forward, but understand that it’s not fun all the time. Sometimes it’s hard, really hard.
Thank God Spring has arrived because apparently I made a critical mistake last week while Tom was gone.
I tend to like to keep a tidy house…and when Tom is gone, I indulge my somewhat controlled OCD tendencies to put everything in its place. After a LONG Winter of preparing for him to hit the road; storing various golf accessories in our front room; including a full-sized putting green, a new golf bag, several putters, several dozen golf balls and some loose practice putting balls…I decided to clean up a bit. During that process I moved a box of about 10 dozen golf balls into the garage. Yes. I MOVED HIS BALLS INTO THE COLD GARAGE! Oh. My. Gosh. You’d think by his reaction when he got home to the discovery of my faux pas that I’d just sliced the cover stock on each one of them.
Him: Why did you put my balls in the garage??? It’s cold out there!!
Me: And that’s bad why?
Him: Nobody likes cold balls! Have you ever used cold balls? They don’t feel the same.
Me: I’m sorry honey. It’s not going to be cold forever. You’re home for a month, I’m sure your balls will warm up by then.
Him: You don’t understand. They have to be kept warm.
Me: Fine. Bring your balls inside & keep them in the basement.
Honestly. I consider myself to be pretty understanding and even overly accommodating when it comes to this sport that dominates every aspect of our lives…but I’m fairly certain that cold balls never really hurt anyone. Do they feel different? Sure, I’ll bet they do; I can’t say I’ve really experienced cold balls before, but if he’s going out to play golf I’m going to guess it’s probably going to be nice out & his balls will warm up. And if he’s traveling somewhere to golf, then I hate to break it to him but his balls will be tucked away in his bag which will probably get cold in the plane.
But here is where I choose my battles. Okay honey, have it your way. I’ll make sure your balls stay warm.
This past weekend I accompanied Tom to his Monday qualifier in Duluth, Georgia. I really didn’t know what to expect, but what I had in my minds eye wasn’t even close to what I experienced.
You’d think these PGA Tour qualifiers would be very formal. Business-like. Staunch (for lack of a better word)…and not without some sort of fanfare surrounding them. Kind of like what we experienced at USGA events or even at the 2nd stage of Q-School in Scottsdale. In reality it wasn’t unlike a West Michigan Golf Association event…except I feel like there is a little more “excitement” at a WMGA event and honestly the courses the WMGA hosts their tournaments at are nicer! Now granted, the club for this qualifier was a “plan B” so perhaps the original course would’ve been a little nicer. It was actually kind of funny how it came to pass that the qualifier would be held there. When Tom called the first course about a week and 1/2 before to make a practice round tee time, he was told by the pro-shop that they “weren’t allowing any practice rounds”. Excuse me? How can you host a Champions Tour Qualifier & not allow practice rounds?? Tom thought it was really odd…I suggested he call his contact at the Champions Tour Office to find out if that’s normal. The next day, before he had a chance to call, he got a text message from the Champions Tour stating there was a change in qualifying venues! If I had to guess (and I basically do because we don’t know the reason)…I’d have to say the Tour didn’t take to kindly to the course deciding it wouldn’t allow practice rounds! Me thinks they won’t be getting any Tour events there in the future! Which brings us to the Plan B course. It was okay…it actually reminded me a bit of the way The Highlands used to be. It was a very nice clubhouse, but a little dated. The course was built in 1964 and the clubhouse retained some of its original character. The golf course reminded me of a Northern Michigan course. The fairways were in less than stellar condition but the greens were perfect as was the sand in the bunkers. The fairways were almost burnt looking in a lot of places & there was no real “rough” to contend with. It was a bit tight & had a couple good risk-reward holes though.
Most all the guys know each other at these things…and have a pretty good dossier to support them being there. The exception would be some of the guys who qualified like Tom did via Q-School & possibly the guys who qualified by making it past the Thursday pre-qualifier (I think only 4 of them advanced). The rest are former tour players (Web.com, PGA Tour, Champions Tour) who have had some sort of success that allowed them to bypass pre-qualifying. Take for example one of his playing partners this past qualifier; Grant Waite. He won the Kemper Open in 1993 and finished 2nd to Tiger Woods at the Bell Canadian Open in 2000. Granted that was a long time ago…but there’s a reason he’s at the qualifier with Tom. He earned his place and certainly isn’t done competing.
It becomes obvious that Tom really is something of a unicorn out there…and for sure…the whole experience is nothing like we (or at least I) expected. Not at this point. I’m sure, however, that the actual events will be more what we’re used to in as much as the organization, professionalism & overall atmosphere is concerned that we experienced in USGA events which is just another reason to want to get there!
Pictures below are of the qualifier course in Duluth, GA.
Today, Tom & I celebrate 20 years of marriage. Looking forward, 20 years seems like such a long time. Looking back, it’s like the blink of an eye. This is true of almost anything in life…and certainly of death. When we lose a loved one, time flies by and before you know it…they’ve been gone how long?? It seems like yesterday that they were here. Trying to imagine living without them for another 20 years seems impossible.
It seems like yesterday that I was living in mobile home in Clinton Twp (East side of the State) going through a divorce as a single mother of two; spending every other weekend alone, passing my time chatting online in an AOL Chat Room on my daughter’s school computer. I’d been dating online for a little less than a year by that time & I can tell you that even back then, before all the dating sites and before online dating was socially acceptable, people were really good at blurring the line between truth & flat out lies. I was 5’8″, weighed 127 lbs (divorce diet) and measured 36-26-36. The only way you could get a picture of someone back then was to ask for a picture – so I got all kinds of attention until I sent a picture – then the conversations would usually come to an end as I wasn’t exactly beautiful. I’d had my heart ripped out, I’d been lied to and I’d kissed quite a few frogs. I was not in a good place in my life…but I was trying my best to have fun. Then I received yet another private message from yet another guy who was going to tell me what a great guy he was. We chatted for a minute then agreed to exchange pictures. I sent mine expecting him to bail on our conversation. He sent his and I tried to download it but it caused my computer to crash so I told him I’d look at it in the morning and kind of blew him off thinking anyone who was still interested in me after seeing my picture can’t be too much to look at himself. But he was funny & something about him caught my attention. I told him I’d email him in the morning.
The next morning I tried to download his picture again & it worked. And there he was…my dream guy! And he already saw my picture & was interested! Holy cow…I needed to wrap this one up! I immediately fired off an email apologizing for cutting him short the night before & invited him to call me…which he did. On his break. During a frost delay. From a golf tournament. Yup…I was well aware of what I was getting into right from the get-go.
We talked every day for the next week and discovered we had been leading parallel lives. We grew up about 11 miles apart. We both had cottages outside of Gladwin (which was about 165 miles North of where we grew up), that were about 11 miles apart (in fact my parents almost bought a lot where his parents ended up building their cottage). We went to the same community college & he played college golf with my mom’s best friend’s son (the only person on the planet who knew both of us before we were married)! Keep in mind that when I met Tom, he had been living in Grand Rapids for about 10 years already. Given all this information & the fact that this just seemed to be destiny…I decided to drive out & spend the weekend with him. This was totally against my online dating rules & a decision that prompted my friends to warn that he was probably a psycho killer & they were certain they were going to find my head in a Burger King dumpster. His friends (I learned later) told him I was going to take him for everything he had (he owned his own home & had a very good job). Our decision to meet certainly met opposition from both sides.
Fast forward 6 months. We’d been dating long distance very successfully; we spent every other weekend (when I didn’t have the kids) in Grand Rapids and he would come stay with me in Clinton Twp on the other weekends he didn’t have a tournament scheduled for. He’d met the kids and most of my family as well. During a weekend of dog-sitting for my brother at his place in Clarkston, we sat one evening on a dock overlooking Mill Pond when he popped the question, “will you move in with me?” [thought bubble over my head: Um. Yah. I’m a newly divorced mother of 2 with a great job and you want me to just move to Grand Rapids]. I loved this man more than anything…but I wasn’t stupid. I made a case telling him there was no way I was moving my kids 160+ miles away & quitting my perfect job without some sort of commitment! In true Tom Werkmeister fashion, after giving it about 30 seconds of thought, he said, “Okay, do you want to get married then?”
We embarked on our union much the way we’ve made many of our important decisions it seems. With a lot of heart & very little brain. We had been talking about how he’d been to Vegas & I hadn’t and how neither of us wanted a big wedding…when it dawned on us. Let’s get married in Vegas! After a whirlwind year long courtship (6 months of dating followed by a 6 month engagement) we got married at The Little White Chapel with our parents, his brother and my 2 best girlfriends at the time there with us. It was perfect. He was perfect. We were perfect.
I’m sure over the past 20 years, especially the first few while the kids were young & my relationship with my ex was (at times) challenging, he wondered what he’d gotten himself into…who wouldn’t? He took on a family and a responsibility after only 1 year of consideration. I will admit that the first year was a challenge even for me. We both came into this marriage with baggage, but we have a weapon to battle through that is far greater than any challenge we faced; we are not just spouses, we are the bestest of friends (I don’t care that it’s not a word). We truly enjoy each other. We are different in a lot of areas; but we balance each other emotionally and compliment each other’s weaknesses with our respective strengths. He’s made me a better person in so many ways – he taught me to see the good in people instead of picking out their weaknesses and faults. He showed me that you can achieve anything through hard work & perseverance. He demonstrated an unconditional love that I thought was reserved for mothers or fathers. He is simply unwavering in his devotion and commitment to me. To us.
This man I married could not be loved by anyone like I love him. This was and is our love story. I look forward to the next 20 years…and I pray another 20 after that.
I hope you enjoyed our story…if you’re reading this then you’ve probably committed to watching Toms success on the golfcourse. My promise to you is to do everything in my power to make your investment in him worthwhile and to help him see his dreams come true. I have to. He’s made all of mine come true. ❤️
I apologize for the delay in updates; I’m still struggling with how to write an informed, interesting blog when I’m somewhat removed from “the action”. Fortunately I get to accompany Tom to his next qualifier in Duluth, GA. We leave Friday April 6th…3 day’s after we celebrate 20 years of marriage! I decided to go with him since we really won’t have another opportunity to celebrate – and why not celebrate our marriage doing the thing that’s been the center of our lives anyway? However. That also happens to be Masters weekend and his tour status allows for him to get into PGA events for free. We also have some PGA friends who will be going down to The Masters this year to watch. Hopefully I’ll see him at some point that weekend.
Back to my story. With the first of Tom’s qualifiers behind him, he’s well on his way to learning and being comfortable with his new role as professional golfer…and it’s still really weird for me to say that. If you know Tom (or read my blogs – wink-wink), it won’t surprise you that as he progresses through this adventure, he’s managed to meet and get to know some really interesting people along the way.
In Part 2 of this series I mentioned his meeting Sonny Skinner during his trip to GA with our friend JP, when he (officially) made his decision to turn pro (which, in May, will be a year ago). He saw Sonny again at first round qualifying in Florida and also met & got to know another player, Scott Pieri. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Scott until we saw him in Scottsdale, but I heard nice things about him from both Tom & his coach/caddy Mike. Tom RARELY says anything bad about someone; if he doesn’t like you, he just disregards you by making sure he’s not where you are and essentially just forgets he ever met you. Conversely, if he likes you, he will welcome you into his world with open arms & treat you like family. This is also true of his playing partners that he comes to know & like. I can’t tell you how many times my brother Mike & his wife Jan have indulged Tom’s desire to help and make welcome players were playing in tournaments on the State’s East side by allowing him to invite them to stay at their home. Thank God they are awesome humans because we’ve paraded quite the menagerie of players through their home! Also thank God that as a rule, we don’t associate with anyone who would be less than respectful of this unique situation! Anyway, I’ve digressed. Let me go back where I was heading…
Scott made an immediate impression on Tom as a genuinely nice guy, not unlike Tom in that he was out there just trying to follow a dream. He had no misconceptions about how hard it would be to play in a lot of the events or how good the players out there are…but his was a passion much like Tom’s and one he couldn’t deny. However, the thing that Tom enjoyed most about Scott was his infectious positivity. He simply loved playing golf and he was there to give it all he had. If that effort falls short, he just looks forward to the next opportunity. Tom shares that passion; but he sometimes can struggle with the looking forward part. This is something he works on regularly and has noticeably improved upon over the last 6 months – but that doesn’t change his admiration for someone to whom it comes naturally.
When I finally had the pleasure of meeting Scott in Scottsdale (hah…ironic) I observed that positivity immediately. I also noticed that genuineness Tom had tried to convey to me. Surprisingly (or not) his caddy Dave was equally as engaging. I could well understand Tom’s desire to include Scott in his circle of playing friends (playing friends are guys you enjoy playing golf with, but know that your lives are so different that your friendship likely won’t extend past that – not because you don’t want it to – but because it typically just isn’t feasible). Sonny fits well into this category as well – miles separate their lives but the sport makes the miles disappear once they’re on the course together. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t share personal stories or talk about their life challenges off the course, but they share a game that’s so honor-bound and full of tradition that it makes for a whole other level of friendship that truly seems unique to this great sport called, “Golf”.
Scott did not finish Q-School in Scottsdale the way he’d hoped…so Tom wasn’t sure when he’d see him again, but he had his number so he knew they could stay in contact. Over the next couple months, Tom & Scott kept in touch about the upcoming senior events & qualifiers. Tom let Scott know that his first Monday qualifier would be in Biloxi, MS. Scott wasn’t sure which pre-qualifiers he’d planned on playing in; but then shortly before Tom’s trip to Miami, he heard from Scott that he was indeed going to be in Biloxi. As is true to character for my husband, he welcomed Scott to stay with him at the AirBnB home he’d rented & was staying in alone if he advanced past the pre-qualifier. Tell me; what other sport does a competitor welcome a fellow competitor and try to make them feel comfortable so they can possibly take away from you a coveted spot in the playing field? Golf. That’s about the only sport I can think of where 2 guys who will duel in the heat of competition will then return to the same place of comfort to share stories and a cocktail.
Have I mentioned how much I love this sport? ❤️
Unfortunately Scott didn’t not advance from the Friday pre-qualifier to the Monday qualifier…but he did stay an extra day/night in Biloxi and played golf with Tom on Saturday. Tom got to know Scott better during his visit in Biloxi, including learning that he hosts a radio show/podcast called “Birdies & Bogeys”. You can find it on Facebook here.
Scott left Sunday to go back to his home in Ft Wayne and unbeknownst to him, made Tom’s stay that much nicer. Just another example of how the golf is important, but it’s the people you meet along the way that make the adventure worthwhile.
Read about Scott’s quest to be on the PGA Champions Tour here.