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golfertrb

Paul Azinger and me

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2 hours ago, golfertrb said:

 

So this is a really embarrassing story but it always makes me smile - even if the smile is while I'm hiding my red face! I have had the opportunity to attend several tour events, especially practice rounds for the PGA Championship, the now defunct NEC Championship, as well as others, and during those events I've had some really great conversations with players like Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Sergio García and others. These interactions are typically only a few minutes but I have found these players gracious and I have never been star struck although certainly excited. I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences while attending tour events; my experience is not unique nor am I special in that regard. But for whatever reason, when I met Paul Azinger, I completely fell apart and here's the story - enjoy emoji28.png

 

I had been living in Palmetto, FL for several years working as an associate pastor of a church there when I accepted a position in Ohio. It was literally my last day in Florida and I was having lunch with my father at a really great little restaurant by the name of "Peaches" in Bradenton, FL. Peaches was always busy with a long line forming for seating every day during the lunch rush. We had just gotten our food when I noticed Paul Azinger waiting in line to be seated. Paul had always been a favorite of mine. His unique swing, his passionate play in Ryder Cups, the way he spoke his mind and his friendship with Payne Stewart. Payne Stewart is from Springfield, MO and that's where I was first on my own in college, it's where I met my wife and I really learned my game at Payne Stewart Golf Course in Springfield. So Springfield and Payne are important figures in my development.

 

I was moving to Ohio in January of 1999 and Paul was back playing after beating his cancer diagnosis in 1993. 1993 was a big year for Paul: he held off Payne to win the Memorial and Greg Norman to win the PGA Championship and in December he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his right shoulder. But by 1999 he was back and playing well again and would even win again in 2000 at the Sony Open. I share all of this to simply say that I KNEW a lot about Paul and could have said any number of things to him when I met him but it wasn't to be. When I saw him standing in line I somehow was transformed into a child seeing a hero for the first time and I proceeded to make an idiot out of myself.

 

I tell my dad, "Oh my gosh! That's Paul Azinger! I've got to go say hello." So I get up and as I'm walking towards him I'm thinking of all the things I could say to him (think Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney on SNL): "Remember that time you beat Payne Stewart at the Memorial by holing out from the bunker? That was awesome. Remember that time when Payne smashed bananas in your loafers when you beat him at the Memorial? Remember when you beat Greg Norman at Inverness for your first major? That was awesome." All these thoughts were rushing through my head as I walked closer and closer to him. Suddenly I'm in front of him! He's looking expectingly at me and I'm staring awkwardly at him for what seems like minutes and I'm screaming to myself, "SAY SOMETHING!" And I blurt out:"Your Paul Azinger!" To which he replies,"Yep." This is not going well. He's looking around for some escape and I'm still standing right in front of him, sweating now, in full blown panic. I tell myself, "Come on, you can do better! You have all those facts to share - remember?" Suddenly, my mind is completely blank - I got nothing. Sensing my moment is passing, feeling my desperation and dread growing I declare with all the confidence I can muster, "I love golf!" With a look of compassion for the humiliated man in front of him, Paul smiled and said, "Yeah me too." I had the wherewithal to grab a take out menu in order to procure his autograph (which he graciously signed) and managed to slink back to my seat and finish my lunch. He was as kind and gracious as anyone could possibly be in that situation. I was humiliated and yet elated. I knew it was a moment I would never forget.

 

In October of 1999, Payne Stewart tragically died in a plane crash and when I heard the news I cried and thought of Paul. In the days that followed Paul was in the news a lot because of his close friendship to Payne and how he handled himself made think all the more highly of him. He is a class act!

 

This story is one my family enjoys so much because dad who is most always calm and collected and in control, was a total super fan one day in Bradenton, FL. I still have that take out menu signed by Paul Azinger and every time Paul is on the TV commentating my kids yell, "I love golf!"

 

I sure do 🙂

 

 

 

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Great story!

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3 hours ago, golfertrb said:

every time Paul is on the TV commentating my kids yell, "I love golf!

This is the best part!!

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What a great story.  Nice to know my family isn't the only one that takes pleasure in reminding you about your weak moments.

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This is the best part!!


Absolutely! Makes me smike every time


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What a great story.  Nice to know my family isn't the only one that takes pleasure in reminding you about your weak moments.


They have had SO much fun with this over the years :)


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Great story!


Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!


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That's a great story and nothing to be embarrassed about! I had a similar episode with a musician who I used to drum along to all throughout high school and college. When I met him in my late 20's I got all tongue tied and made a fool of myself. I think there's a bunch of us who have "been there, done that" even if they don't want to admit it 😉

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That's a great story and nothing to be embarrassed about! I had a similar episode with a musician who I used to drum along to all throughout high school and college. When I met him in my late 20's I got all tongue tied and made a fool of myself. I think there's a bunch of us who have "been there, done that" even if they don't want to admit it


Haha thanks - I told my wife and kids I told my "Paul Azinger Story" to my fellow Spies and they thought that was great. I guess it was seeing him in my world vs a golf event that threw me off so bad. It's funny because it's a story that I love even if it's embarrassing. I figured it was time to reveal just how big a golf nerd I am


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55 minutes ago, golfertrb said:

 


Haha thanks - I told my wife and kids I told my "Paul Azinger Story" to my fellow Spies and they thought that was great. I guess it was seeing him in my world vs a golf event that threw me off so bad. It's funny because it's a story that I love even if it's embarrassing. I figured it was time to reveal just how big a golf nerd I am emoji23.png


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I have a similar story where I failed to say anything....but for a different reason. It was Thanksgiving weekend of 1998. My buddy in Pennsylvania and I were going to play at Penn National which has two different courses. My buddy called to get a tee time and was told that the one course was closed. When we got there....they let us out onto the course that was supposed to be closed. As we were playing with no one in sight....we noticed about six to seven black Suburbans parked in the distance and thought nothing about it other than it was odd. 

There is a part of the course where you have to go through a tunnel to get to several holes and then cross back through the tunnel to finish the rest of the course.  If we hadn’t been playing fast...then we would have missed our sighting.

As we approached the tunnel....I stopped because there was a long line of golf carts starting to enter the tunnel from the other side. The first few carts were loaded with guys in suits. The fourth cart had President Clinton in it. All I could do was manage a wave at the President.....mainly because the sight of about twenty guys who seemed bothered by our presence was unsettling to say the least.  My buddy didn’t fare any better. The President did wave and say hello to us. After he passed....we watched him slice on off the next tee with his over the top move...and we moved onto the next hole.  As it turns out, the President liked to play Penn National when he was at Camp David. 

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Great stories!!

In 1993 the year after In started playing golf, I was at the TPC Scottsdale course and had lunch with Tom Weiskopf... well, he was at the next table.  I didn't try to talk to him because I knew about his temper, and he scared me.  In 2012 my wife and I were in Palm Springs and attended the Humana Challenge at La Quinta.  I briefly chatted with Rocco Mediate as he was headed to the 1st tee from the putting green. Love Rocco!!  Then that night my wife and I had dinner at a steak restaurant with Rory Sabbatini and his wife... well, again they were at the next table.  He was very nice, and nothing like his on course personality which I don't care for, but maybe that was because his wife was there.

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I have a similar story where I failed to say anything....but for a different reason. It was Thanksgiving weekend of 1998. My buddy in Pennsylvania and I were going to play at Penn National which has two different courses. My buddy called to get a tee time and was told that the one course was closed. When we got there....they let us out onto the course that was supposed to be closed. As we were playing with no one in sight....we noticed about six to seven black Suburbans parked in the distance and thought nothing about it other than it was odd. 
There is a part of the course where you have to go through a tunnel to get to several holes and then cross back through the tunnel to finish the rest of the course.  If we hadn’t been playing fast...then we would have missed our sighting.
As we approached the tunnel....I stopped because there was a long line of golf carts starting to enter the tunnel from the other side. The first few carts were loaded with guys in suits. The fourth cart had President Clinton in it. All I could do was manage a wave at the President.....mainly because the sight of about twenty guys who seemed bothered by our presence was unsettling to say the least.  My buddy didn’t fare any better. The President did wave and say hello to us. After he passed....we watched him slice on off the next tee with his over the top move...and we moved onto the next hole.  As it turns out, the President liked to play Penn National when he was at Camp David. 


What great story! I remember how much he loved the game - that’s so cool.


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Great stories!!
In 1993 the year after In started playing golf, I was at the TPC Scottsdale course and had lunch with Tom Weiskopf... well, he was at the next table.  I didn't try to talk to him because I knew about his temper, and he scared me.  In 2012 my wife and I were in Palm Springs and attended the Humana Challenge at La Quinta.  I briefly chatted with Rocco Mediate as he was headed to the 1st tee from the putting green. Love Rocco!!  Then that night my wife and I had dinner at a steak restaurant with Rory Sabbatini and his wife... well, again they were at the next table.  He was very nice, and nothing like his on course personality which I don't care for, but maybe that was because his wife was there.


I have always liked Rocco - I was born in PA and my grandfather was a blue collar guy who enjoyed golf and that's what Rocco strikes me as; a blue collar guy who made good - so I have a soft spot for him. Was just thinking about his play in the 08 US Open - what a story that was turning out to be.

I haven't seen Rory in years - I remember when Adams was so huge and Rory was sponsored by them; seems like a million years ago...


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Thanks for sharing.  I was cringing when reading it like watching Michael Scott in the office.  Haha

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Thanks for sharing.  I was cringing when reading it like watching Michael Scott in the office.  Haha


Oh man that's too funny and it also hurts a bit


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