Back in early Spring…Tom took a trip down to Georgia with Jim Poll (JP) to play golf with a couple Sr Tour pro’s. It was there that he met Sonny Skinner. Sonny and James Mason agreed to play golf with Tom & JP on the request of JP’s friend Larry Vaughn. This trip was maybe the most important event in Tom’s decision to turn pro. While he had mostly made up his mind by this time, he wasn’t 100% sure he’d made the right decision. This trip (arranged by JP) was designed to be a chance for him to meet these two gentleman who’d actually been on the tour, play golf with them & pick their brains as to what to expect should he continue on with his decision to become a pro. During those couple of days he did learn about the tour, the cost and even got feedback from them that he had the game to compete. What he didn’t expect, was to make a new friend…an ally as Scott Pieri likes to refer to the guys who make friends out on the tour (more about him in Part 3).
Tom didn’t see Sonny or James again until he went down to Florida to compete in 1st Stage Qualifying. Sonny was also trying to qualify (James was not) at the same site, the Disney Palm Course in Orlando. As fate would have it, after 3 lackluster rounds of qualifying, Tom ended up paired with Sonny for the last round. This is exactly what Tom needed. A familiar (and friendly) face. I like to think it was mostly me being there that contributed to his much improved 4th (and final) round of qualifying in Stage 1…but I’m sure playing with Sonny in his group had something to do with it also.
Obviously Tom advanced from Stage 1…Sonny did as well. Both were excited for the other & agreed to get together for practice rounds for Final Stage Qualifying in Scottsdale, AZ in 2 weeks.
I had the opportunity to accompany Tom for the entire week in Scottsdale. I went along for the practice rounds and was able to ride in the cart with Sonny for the 1st of 2 practice rounds. I can tell you first hand that Sonny isn’t your typical tour pro. He’s humble, passionate about his game and a genuinely nice man. We got to chat about how he got to this point in his career, and much like you’d hear from Tom…he tends to give a lot of the credit for his success to his wife who’s supported him all along. She doesn’t come out to watch him much anymore because she works, but this has been something he’s adjusted to as she made the choice to stay back when they had their (only) daughter Marlee, who is now married. Sonny has been working at playing golf for his livelihood for most of his life…and it hasn’t been an easy road, but this is what he loves to do and fortunately he married a woman who understood that & encouraged him to follow his dream. He has worked at other jobs, but golf is ultimately his calling. I mentioned to him how much Tom has enjoyed getting to know him, and how appreciative he is for all the help Sonny had given him up until this point (mostly tips about how to play the course and general encouragement about his game). Sonny said he could tell Tom had a passion for the game and that he wasn’t wrapped up in himself like most of the other guys out there are. He said he enjoyed his time with Tom as much as Tom appreciated him. Not the first time I’ve heard someone talk of Tom in those terms… it is certainly nice to hear from someone of Sonny’s background.
You can check out some more facts about Sonny’s career here.
Now…back to the guy with the fascinating pre-shot routine from Part 1. I thought I’d probably never see this guy again, much less get a chance to video his routine. Then…out of sheer coincidence…there he was! He was practicing next to the 1st tee for the first round at Final Stage Qualifying in Scottsdale! He obviously made it through First Stage and there he was, in all his glory! I couldn’t believe it was him! So this time…rather than catch bugs with my mouth hanging open…I had the forethought of mind to get my phone camera ready & I managed to capture him on video. I had to do it discretely so as not to interfere with him teeing off so the quality isn’t great, but hopefully you can catch the club flip that’s going on during his whole routine!
I now have a reminder that everyone has their unique process or swing that works for them – and this guy, along with another good friend who shall remain nameless at this point, are the most memorable! That being said…he made it to Final Stage Qualifying so who’s to say what’s right & wrong…all that matters is it Werks!
Below: Scott Pieri, Sonny Skinner and Tom