2013 PGA Championship Interview Transcript: Craig Harmon
KELLY ELBIN: Hello to everyone. On behalf of The PGA of America, it's my pleasure to welcome you to our second conference call leading up to the season's final major, the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. Five time PGA Champion Jack Nicklaus was with us yesterday and today we are pleased and honored to welcome Craig Harmon, who for the past 41 years, has served as the PGA head professional at Oak Hill Country Club where the 95th PGA Championship will take place the week of August 5 through 11.
Craig is joining us here at PGA of America headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens. Thank you so much for being here with us.
CRAIG HARMON: Delighted to be here away from all the hubbub in Rochester now. We are ten days away from the tournament, 11 days away from the tournament, and we are incredibly excited to get this thing going. It's unbelievable.
KELLY ELBIN: It's become quite a city that's developed there, as you and I were talking about earlier. This is for the members an interesting time because the golf course is shut down for member play, so it allows you to in a sense to even get away for a day or two.
CRAIG HARMON: I'm just down here for a couple of days. Interesting how they have built a city on our golf course. I've seen it happen many times and I've been lucky enough to go through some major championships and this infrastructure is so much greater than anything I've ever seen. I think the media credentials went from 300 to 1,200 compared to ten years ago. You folks in the media, you're going to have a beautiful place to do your work from, I can tell you that. It's going to be pretty cool.
KELLY ELBIN: That's great, and we'll talk about your role during the week of the championship and cover a number of other topics and maybe some talk of Phil Mickelson, someone you know very well that was helpful to Phil winning the championship
CRAIG HARMON: A guy named Butch.
KELLY ELBIN: Someone we've heard of.
This will be Craig's 11th major championship held at Oak Hill, the third PGA Championship with Mr. Nicklaus winning in 1980; Shaun Micheel winning in 2003 and now coming up. It's one of the great tests in American golf.
In your opinion, having been there such a long time, why has the golf course held up so well as technology has changed and players have gotten stronger, the golf course is still so good; why is that?
CRAIG HARMON: Well, it's one of the all time great driving courses, the fairways are anywhere from 16 to 24 yards wide. They don't narrow it down for a major championship. We play it that way all the time.
We don't play with the high rough that's going to be there. If you hit a drive off line or if you're in the rough, it's not like at Doral where there are no trees in your way. You have these huge trees in your way, so there's a huge difference between hitting a shot out of the rough with no trees than one with trees.
I'll give you an interesting stat because I don't know how the course has held up over the test of time, other than it's a phenomenal driving course. In 1968, I have the stats for driving distance. The average driving in the 1968 U.S. Open at Oak Hill was 246 yards, Lee Trevino won the event at 244. Nicklaus was the longest hitter at 271 in the field. Now there will be nobody in the field who hits it 271. That would be too short and the course back then played about 6,900 yards long.
So the players today, they hit the same shots that Jack Nicklaus hit into the greens, as a comparison, the course will be about 8,300 yards long. Over that period of time, we have only had ten people break par in all of the medal play championships at Oak Hill; not ten in one tournament, ten total.
Course record is 6 under par, which is not a lot under par having all these great players. So you would have to say the course has stood the test of time, even though the length has changed. They have not been able to make the course that much longer, probably 20 yards longer now than in 1968.
But definitely the driving is quite unique. The greens are benign looking and just don't break like people think, so you have to have some subtleties on the greens and challenge them. So they are not overly undulating, but there is something about them where you think they are going to break and it just doesn't.
KELLY ELBIN: Are there several holes at Oak Hill in terms of driving the ball that you must put the ball in the fairway to have any kind of chance to score well on those holes, pivotal holes perhaps?
CRAIG HARMON: Well, you have a whole bunch of them, 7, 8, 9, great holes. The finishing holes, 15 is a par 3 but 16, 17, 18, if you don't put it in the fairway, you will not reach the green; I don't care how long the rough is or what kind of lie you have. It's just too difficult. But that's what it should be.
The beauty of major championships this year is how par has been the standard. Merion and The Open that was just played, it was kind of fun to see that where a course holds up and par is the standard. So we are wondering if Oak Hill will hold up with the modern golfer, the Rory McIlroys and Tiger Woods don't have to hit a driver off the tee like Jack Nicklaus did. They hit it that far with their irons. They will lay up. I would say most of the players won't use a driver more than half the time. I would be shocked if someone hit seven drivers at Oak Hill.
KELLY ELBIN: And the golf course measures just a little over 7,100 yards, so many holes where you don't
CRAIG HARMON: By modern standards, it's a short course. A lot of our tees are elevated so shooting downhill on a 470 yard hole, it's not where they are shooting uphill on a 470 yard hole. Plays shorter than the yardage book. There's something about it that has stood the test of time. We are all curious to see what will happen this year.
KELLY ELBIN: How about the greens? You mentioned some of the undulation; how about green complexes that stand out to you that are really going to challenge best players in the world.
CRAIG HARMON: Well, there are so many greens that slope from front to back, and like I say they are kind of in a flat area where you can't really see the break.
When I played with Rory McIlroy on Media Day, he liked greens that had a huge slant to it; and this will break left to right. And there are so many greens at Oak Hill when you're putting side to side or back to front where you cannot quite tell when it's going to do. It looks like it's going to break and it doesn't break.
That has to be part of the defense of the course, the mystery of the greens. The modern player doesn't come in weeks in advance like they used to. The older guys used to come in and play the course backwards and forwards. And they all have their charts and think they can learn these things in a few days really.
So I think the nuances of the greens would require a lot more attention to detail. So if they are not going to do it they just won't be here to putt on them enough to know the nuances I think that's part of the defense of the course.
KELLY ELBIN: You will have some players in next year. The golf course is shut down for member play, and you will have some guys that will come in and some who maybe played at the PGA Championship in 2003 but also some playing for the first time.
CRAIG HARMON: We have Graeme McDowell coming up Monday. Phil Mickelson is coming in on Monday. That was the last that we heard. I know Phil is going to be there on Wednesday with what's his name, Butch Harmon, and I'll have to tell Butch how to play the course, and he'll tell Phil and I won't get any credit for that one.
They come in, and I think those who are thorough enough are going to map it out. But please understand that driving is very tricky. You can't come in there and just launch it. The greens are incredibly tricky. You just can't figure those out in a couple of days. That actually is the defense of the course because they don't come in in advance and figure it out.
KELLY ELBIN: We have had through the years some great shots that have been hit at major championship. And what Shaun Micheel did in 2003, the shot he almost made from the fairway to clinch his victory at Oak Hill certainly is up there with some of the greatest ones.
The golf course has seen, what, some modification, some alterations since that time, and you've got a little different setup as far as the rough is concerned, as well, this year, versus what you had in 2003. Can you talk about that?
CRAIG HARMON: Yeah, as far as the setup, Kerry Haigh sets up the course himself for the PGA, a phenomenal guy. He has the new graduated rough concept, you have the first cut of rough, which isn't rough, it would be fairway. The second cut, 15 feet, is 2 1/2 inches, and pretty much whatever is left after that will be four inches and growing.
So it gives a guy a chance if he's in the rough not to just pitch it out to the fairway and have a lock on a putt for a par. It gives him a chance to go for the green out of the 2 1/2 inches than maybe not having a good shot.
From my standpoint, I wish they kept it the same they had it for all the championships there. We had the first cut and then four and a half inches. We would like to see how the course stands the test of time with the same setup so to speak.
But we discuss it back and forth and a lot of people think because they can go for the green they can short side themselves and make a higher score than chipping out to their favorite wedge destination.
They made a couple of changes to the greens or 5, 6 and 15 have been altered both for better pin placements that they did not have in 2003 and the 15th hole in particular will be an incredibly hard hole. The spectators are going to be there for the people on TV, I want to tell you, coming down the stretch.
15 will really be something if you miss a green long and left and you might be 15 feet off the green, you'll be chipping back toward the water that's to the right; I'm not sure you can keep it on the green. And people won't know that. They will try it. The rough there is maybe the thickest rough I've ever seen in my life. The green slants that way, and it's probably 30 feet wide, and it would take a remarkable pitch shot if you're actually going for it.
Now, say someone has the lead, they hit it over the green, they try and pitch it back, it trickles and it goes in the water. They have to drop it back where they are, go to the other side of the water.
And then 17, 18, they lengthened it a little bit. Two long holes to begin with, both 17, 18 17 is the hardest hole at Oak Hill. It always has been. 18 is one of the hardest. They have added about 15 yards. So there are 500 yard par 4s.
When I played with Rory McIlroy, he hit a drive and a 4 iron to the 17th hole and they actually had to tee it back where it was playing about 515 yards. So for a modern day golfer to be hitting a long iron into a par 4, the hole has to be over 500 yards. Just one of those oddities in golf.
Our 8th hole which is 440, his caddie said, well, it's 225 to carry that left bunker. He says, you can clear that easily. But they are looking at the hole, there was no bunker at 225, which he hit easily, hit a wedge to a 440 yard hole.
So golf is different and the defense of Oak Hill is the rough and the defense of Oak Hill is the angles of the fairways. You literally have to shape the ball both ways. You just can't play a one way shot. We are all curious to see; I think it will stand the test of time as it has in the past.
Q. Just wondering if you could just talk a little bit about how much the game of golf has meant to the Harmon family. So many great moments in golf seem to have a Harmon tied to that, and I just wonder if you can talk about that a little.
CRAIG HARMON: Well, you know, back in the day, my dad was the big guy. He was the Masters Champion and to me the greatest club professional of all time and to be growing up around him and to be at Winged Foot and sit at the big table with Tommy Armour and Jackie Burke, Dave Marr; so to say we got a head start on golf is a tremendous understatement. We got just a tremendous heritage from our dad.
Now, of course, Butch is the No. 1 guy in the world, and he's get tired of being introduced as Claude Harmon's son, but I think we are getting more tired of being introduced as Butch Harmon's brother. Now as a family, when we do get together we marvel at what we have accomplished in a nice way. We don't get together that often.
When my brother was alive, he was an outstanding PGA professional and we kind of look back on our origins; Dick and I were the same; Billy and Butch were the same. Billy and Butch were the two rebels of the family. Dick and I were the more stalwarts and straight arrow guys.
There's so many great stories about Butch, went to the University of Houston on a four year golf scholarship, playing his qualifying round in 100 degree weather, and Butch had the worst temper of all time. It was not possible for anybody to have a worse temper than Butch. And basically he got fed up with golf after being there for a week. Broke all his clubs. My dad gave me the irons he got his third in the U.S. Open with, threw them in a lake and joined the army. He left, went to California and joined the army.
So a couple weeks go by and my dad has not heard from Butch and he calls him and says, Butch, what are you doing?
He says, I quit University of Houston, couldn't take it any longer. Broke all the clubs and threw them in the lake and joined the Army.
True statement, you talk about our heritage, my dad said: "Well, the least you could have done was join the Navy and get my Goddamn clubs out of the lake." But that's a true story, and Butch will tell you that, too. And he had tremendous humor. That's how he handled a problem in life, and that's how he handled stress in situations.
That's how we all came together, and like I said, if we didn't have golf, we didn't know what we were going to do anyway. But we had a good head start, I guess, and then carried the ball from there.
When I got the job at Oak Hill, I remember my dad coming up and said: I never would have gotten the job if my name was Craig Schultz, and he might be right there, but I kept it as Craig Harmon.
KELLY ELBIN: How are you a reflection of your father day to day at Oak Hill in terms of how you interact with the membership and work with your staff, etc.?
CRAIG HARMON: You know, I would say his legacy is he wanted to have fun. When everybody came to the club, he wanted to make sure you enjoyed your experience at Winged Foot or Seminole where he was a pro, and certainly at Oak Hill. I train my staff to make sure you play to have fun; how was your day; what did you do. I've never been a yes, sir / no, sir person. How did you play out there sir; how did you play out there, ma'am.
If you know their name, you should call them by name. I would never want to go to my favorite bar and they say: Sir, what would you like to have, and I say, well, I've been getting the same drink for 20 years; my name's Craig.
So I've always been a big fan of making you feel comfortable which I learned from my dad. They are not out there for a root canal; they are out there for a good time. And when they walk in the shop, we like to encourage that environment.
Q. If you could talk a little bit about Butch and Phil, huge story there, nobody thought for a long time that Phil could win on an Open Championship setup and he was able to do that last week, actually pulls the Scotland 'Double' so to speak with the with the Scottish Open the week before. Can you talk about that?
CRAIG HARMON: Well, first of all, you never count Phil out of anything. He is the most resilient golfer I've ever seen in my lifetime. It's not possible for someone who drives the ball like he does to have six runner up finishes in the U.S. Open. You would never think that would be possible. He's not a fairway hitting machine, and yet he has. Nobody has finished runner up in the U.S. Open more than that, and for him to come back from his U.S. Open, which was just devastating to him, Butch said he's never seen him that disconsolate in his life.
And to come back and win The Open, there must have been something just about playing golf a little bit differently that he embraced, playing it on the ground versus in the air. And I know Butch was encouraging his feel for things, his vision for things: Have fun with this course, you can do this type of stuff. Look at it differently; it's not just launch it in the air. Very much looked like Phil did that.
This was one of the coolest victories I've ever seen, really to have him come down the stretch and birdie four out of the last six in a major championship, where the course was so difficult. But I think he encouraged he's always creative, he said, let's go the creation on the ground, not in the sky. He's always been creative in the sky, and I think he embraced that all week. He had a great ball striking week.
KELLY ELBIN: Having your brother and having Bones on the bag for so long, they form a good team when they get out there between the lines.
CRAIG HARMON: Well, certainly Bones, for sure. The teacher never hits the shot and can't nurture the guy, he's not there, and Phil and Bones just have unlike anything I've ever seen in the history of golf, the player and the caddie, they are dear friends and communicate on every shot more than anybody else, every shot they are communicating on. Phil can't hit a shot unless they have a chat. It just focuses them. Just a very cool thing that they have.
Q. I was just curious about the odds of all the Harmon boys going into the golf business; was there ever any thought of doing anything else?
CRAIG HARMON: Well, you know, like I said earlier, Dick and I wanted to be club pros, and Billy and Butch wanted to play. They worked their hearts out trying to play and when that didn't work out, they gravitated to being teachers, we'll say.
An interesting thing about Butch, he had an unbelievable story, really, if you go back, because as we tell him, we knew him when he was nothing. Then he became something. But we did know him when he was nothing. And I know Dick bailed him out in Houston, Texas. Got him a job working on courses for Jay Revere, Dave Marr in the hot sun when he was down and out. He then became the head pro at Lochinvar an all men's club, which if you know Butch, you cannot have a better environment for Butch than an all men's club.
He was teaching some of the guys, and on the range at the Houston Open, Greg Norman was having problems and came over and said, Butch, will you help me with my game, and the rest is history from there. He helped Greg Norman a lot and that stimulated the whole thing with him.
Butch is so good at teaching. He's just different. He's ready for someone to come to him. He's always said he looks at all the players out there, if anybody is in a slump, he's ready, he will help them. He doesn't go off though he doesn't quirk them, per se. He's really a genius, and he would have to be to be as successful with all these great players.
So, we will say, he can only teach people with talent, because the average golfer he gives to me and Billy, because we can teach anybody. Butch only likes to deal with these thoroughbreds. But we gravitated to it just through our history growing up. I've had a chance to play with Craig Wood, my namesake, Tommy Armour, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and along with the Tiger Woods of the world.
So we have been inside of the ropes of the stuff for a long time, the gift our dad gave us and why wouldn't we be doing what we are doing. We are just in that this great environment to be around Winged Foot, Seminole, all these great clubs. We are so fortunate.
Q. Your career has paralleled your dad's, both at the same club for a long time and one of the best clubs in America; what do you think dad would say about your career at 41 years at Oak Hill?
CRAIG HARMON: He would say, I'm crazy, what are you doing there that long. I'll tell you a good dad story.
We are both 43 years old and he's the head pro at Winged Foot. They have the U.S. Open I'm playing in the 1980 PGA. Now there's quite a difference; in the 1980 PGA I lagged my putt down on the last hole and to break 90. I shot 89 with a 10 footer. I said, I'm not going to shoot 90. And I had to go call my dad and tell him he was living in Florida at the time. I call him and just did not want to make this call.
He goes, "What did you shoot?" It wasn't how are you, Craig; what did you shoot.
I said, "I shot 89. Pretty ticked off."
He goes, "Man, that's great."
I go, "What do you mean, that's great?"
"I bet everybody down there didn't even break 90." When he was a head pro at Winged Foot in 1979, he finished third in a tournament, should have won the tournament, he would have been the host pro and would have been the tournament, so we have our comparisons there.
But really he was a role model as a PGA golf professional and I always wanted to do what he did and used all his ideas all my life, and to this day I still think about how he handles certain situations. He was just so perfect with people. One of his great lines is to be a golf professional with people, you have to have a duck's back; meaning the water never gets inside the feathers and people never bother you.
My brothers, Butch and Billy, people do bother them on occasion. They marvelled at how I could stay at a club that long; but I can, because nobody bothers me. I enjoy everybody, allow them to be who they are, everybody has their idiosyncracies and I kind of like them. I kind of like having the challenge of someone being different.
Q. When I was up there last fall, the guys who work in your shop, are all perfectly dressed, they have got the towel or the tie everything is in its place. Does that come from your dad or something
CRAIG HARMON: Oh, 100 percent from dad. He would have people dress up on the weekends at Winged Foot. They had to wear a shirt and tie every weekend at Winged Foot. We segued that certainly into the modern golfer does that now for major tournaments that you have at your club, the invitationals and things to dress up, having presence, we'll say, is a little bit different.
You go back to the Dave Marrs of the world, who dressed them up, taught them you how to act so they could hang around the Wall Street people. We have always had that where you want to look impressive. At least put on a show where you kind of look good; you don't want to be a slob. One of my assistants might come in and their shoes are not shined; what did you do, shine your shoes with a divot or something? Put a shine on that today. You're representing not only yourself and me and the club.
So you always want people to look sharp, and 100 percent came from dad. As he said, he was a they had awards, Best Dressed Golfer of the Year way back when and I know when I worked for him at the end of his career, he made plaid, stripes and paisleys all in one outfit and brought that to a higher level (laughter) not sure if the sport coat goes together with that shirt, but they are the right colors, he said.
Q. After reading Butch's book about your dad, that sounds like him. One last thing, in 2003 at the PGA there, the rough and the weather got a little out of control, so I'm looking forward to see that guys play with four and a half inch rough and not eight inch rough. Do you remember the conditions that week and how it will be different this year?
CRAIG HARMON: Well, they do have a graduated rough system this year. The first cut; and the next 15 feet is going to be 2 1/2 inches, and then you get into the 4 1/2 inches. I think that's going to be a more benign way to do it where the players have a shot at doing stuff. By the end of the week, the rough just grows about another inch and then it's just chop it out; hit it in there and chop it out.
This is true of courses that stand the test of time far as difficulty. It's a lot different hitting 72 tee shots, with your whole heart and soul, in your minds, I've got to hit this fairway than hitting a 7 iron into a green and worrying where the pin is. The course, you don't have any threat off the tee but a 7 iron into a big green or the green is undulating, that's not as difficult as the drive.
The drive stands the test of time as far as challenging the golfer, put them in a straightjacket if they are not driving well, but these guys can hit a 7 iron from anywhere. So I think any course that has challenges off the tee is much more difficult than those challenges into the green.
KELLY ELBIN: You mentioned Kerry Haigh as far as setting up the golf course. You have a tremendous amount of respect for your superintendent at Oak Hill and the conditions of the golf course from what you said is just super.
CRAIG HARMON: We have been blessed with great superintendents and Jeff Corcoran, he may be as good as anybody in the world. I watched his staff, if you've ever been at a club and watched the maintenance crew, you see them waiting for stuff to do and you see them at Oak Hill.
The huge staff, they just work so hard and he's just so talented and his attention to detail is unlike anything I've ever seen. They are in charge of the ground, they are not just in charge of 18 holes you're going to see in the championship.
When you pull in the clubhouse, the way the front lawn is cut, the way the trees are trimmed or the way the flowers are there. That's part of his job, also.
And his attention to detail, I just marvel at it. I don't know how he has enough hours in the day to do what he does. Players are going to love the conditions you're always going to hear, these are the best greens, but in this case, it's true. These fairways are outstanding and always have been. They are that way for the membership.
When he came there, I remember he wanted championship conditions for the members, and then he just kicked it up a notch growing rough for the players and maybe cuts the greens a little bit faster for the tournaments but he basically, his whole life, I want to be this way for you, the membership and it's kind of neat that they are that way. He doesn't just do it for this one week.
Q. Just thought I would ask you as a host professional at a club for 41 years, have you ever had a player come in and ask, will you be with me, just to give me some help before I prepare for this particular championship on the course?
CRAIG HARMON: Basically my bothers, they would have players come in, and I'd have something written up on how to play Oak Hill for them so I have this little secret bible. As an example, 13, the great par 5, almost 600 yards long, and the left side of the rough is like concrete and the right side of the rough is like mush, and the reason for that, so they actually drive in the left side of the rough it might bound another 30 yards into it the creek right there. That's where the cart traffic goes all year long, they go in this left rough, they go through the bridge to the left.
So even though you have 4 1/2 inch rough, that's like concrete over there, and once you hit that ball, it will bounce 30 yards, so the players wouldn't know that. So you get little nuances like that. It's a very secretive bible. I guess the cat is out of the bag on that 13 hole landing area.
For my brothers, I tell them about some of the putts, I have some outlines. But in general if someone asked me, I would tell them the same thing. I do have something in writing I give to my brothers' players.
KELLY ELBIN: And you played with Rory in the Media Day. Will you typically go out and play with a player who maybe is coming in if he asks?
CRAIG HARMON: I would never play with him. Too busy just to lock your day in for four or five hours.
When they play a practice round, they are chipping around the green, they are not just playing 3 1/2 hours. They are out there 5 and 6 ours. But I could walk the course with some of them. I've done stuff like that in the past, just showed them. Like with Rory, I put him behind the second green and the 7th green and hit putts down there. He know nows from the nuances of the putts where he just can't read them.
Q. This is the 88th year since Donald Ross built the course and in all the Majors since Trevino won in 1968, the scoring average for the field, if I can read these off to you and have you comment: 1968, field averaged 74.5. 1980, 74.6. 1989, 73.4. And when Shaun Micheel, 74.3. Just your comments about the way that course has held up through all those majors?
CRAIG HARMON: Well, you've done your homework there, Bob, that's unbelievable. I noticed when I looked at the scores, like I say, we have only had ten human beings break par in all the medal play championships, not ten in one tournament.
The difficulty in scoring is obviously the driving and landing areas. The club has been able to lengthening the course a couple hundred yards. I remember when we lengthened for the 2003 PGA, holes like 7 and 9, we added about 30 yards.
But the 30 yards was not to make it play longer. It was to still have the continuity of the landing areas, the great landing areas out there, that you have to kind of fit it. In; and because of that 30 yards they had to do that where before they would be shooting past all these things and the nuances of the holes would be gone. Unfortunately you can't do that with a lot of the other holes.
But the holes we could move some tees back, had nothing to do with making the course play longer. It had everything to do with making this generation of golfers have to fit in that same landing area that say, Lee Trevino had to do in '68.
So because of that, if I can go back to 2003, they changed a couple of tees, and those holes, I think there are four holes played one shot higher than the previous major championship, just by changing those tees. And so had you not done that, the 9th hole, which is a great hole, it's only 419 yards long, the old one. Dustin Johnson might take it over the tops of trees and try to drive the green or something with the right wind, and now he has to put it in the same landing area, just add another 40 yards; he can't do that. He has to fit in the same landing area.
I think the scoring averages are the same because of the nuances of the fairways and club being able to lengthen some of these holes. That's quite a stat where they are pretty consistent over all the years.
KELLY ELBIN: If you could play one hole over and over, what would it be?
CRAIG HARMON: 13, it's almost 600 yards long, and you stand on the tee and get to see the entire hole, which is unusual for a hole of that length. And so it was kind of down in the valley and then goes up the hill and you just see the whole thing in the amphitheater setting. And often times when I play it, I kind of dream that I'm actually playing in a tournament, four or five thousand people are around and they are cheering you on and you're hitting a good shot. Just a memory of that hole where you have all these people there.
I think in one of the tournaments, my son as a young man got a wave going around the 13th hole. He actually had the first wave in the history of a major championship, and he stood up and everybody started doing that between shots. That hole was memorable, just a very cool hole.
KELLY ELBIN: And the Hill of Fame will induct yet another member on Monday of championship week.
CRAIG HARMON: Yeah, Tom Watson is going to being into the club's Hill of Fame which honors sportsmen, sports people, people of tremendous integrity and credit to the game of golf, and you couldn't have a better candidate than Tom Watson, what he's done in his career, role model. Never seen him throw a club, never heard him swear. Always see him ultra competitive all the time, never see him give up. There's never woe is me.
This is what you get to see publically, but behind the scenes, he's always been a role model as a human being. Just a great man in golf, love talking to him, and had occasions where I get to sit down and talk and babble about stuff, Ryder Cup. What you sense is he's very honest, open, competitive, but what a role model for the game of golf.
You would hope more and more people are like Tom Watson of the world and conduct themselves at a high level and try their hearts out. He's just a phenomenal man.
Q. I meant to ask about the 15th hole which has been tweaked, the par 3. When I played I thought it was 17 and 18 you know are long and a killer but I thought 15 was a really scary hole because there's no plays good to miss that green. Can you talk about the changes and whether that meeting a challenging hole for the guys this year?
CRAIG HARMON: Yeah, 15 is an incredibly hard hole. It's only about 170 yards long. It's not a long hole shooting down the hill, and a lake on the right, and when they changed the green, they kind of level it out so that you can have more pin placements.
But in doing so, they narrowed it a little bit and there used to be a little sliver of rough between the green and the lake. There's no rough there any longer. I can see you putt it off the green in the water. If you miss it left, you have no chance; either out of the bunker or even out of the rough. You just don't have any chance.
I can actually see where they might shoot to the left of the hole or right of the hole and have a 20 footer versus left of the hole if you miss it, and it's so easy to miss it left, and the angle of the green, it's easy to do it. That's a game changer, by the way. I as you know, things can change dramatically on that hole, unlike almost any hole at Oak Hill.
KELLY ELBIN: Is that the best of the par 3s?
CRAIG HARMON: It will be the hardest and most controversial. 3 is the best by far. 3 is just a great par 3, but 3 doesn't have a penalty shot staring you in the face.
So you have no shot off the tee if you miss it to the right, which is easy to do. If you miss it to the left, it's easy to chip it back into the water with a penalty shot. So the penalty shot is the deal and it's a scary hole you're right, that's a scary one.
Q. Sets up those last four holes which really are no fun at all.
CRAIG HARMON: 16 will be more benign. All the players who can carry the ball 270 yards, which is the field, they will hit this downslope and the ball runs 60 to 70 yards down this hill and this will be a drive and a wedge hole. Curtis Strange hit a 6 iron when he won the U.S. Open. Had a phenomenal landing area and hard to fit in the slope of the fairway. Even though it's 24 yards wide and played about 12; well, now they carry over that. So 16 will be a tap in hole for them and won't be the threat.
But 17, 18, my God, those are really, really hard holes. So 15, 17, 18, that's some kind of stretch there. If you play those even par, you're lapping the field.
Q. Kelly mentioned Shaun Micheel's 7 iron. Will you do anything to commemorate that with a plaque or a marker, and do people gravitate to that spot and try to hit that shot when they come and visit?
CRAIG HARMON: There's a plaque about the size of the piece of paper you're writing on, and yes, there are a lot of divots around that flag. When he came to that hole, Chad Campbell had driven it down the fairway, and Shaun Micheel actually hooked his drive, and I don't know how it didn't bounce up. It hit that first cut of rough and just kind of stayed there. Had it gone just another foot to the left, he would have been in the four inch rough and not been able to hit the green and Chad Campbell might have won.
After he hit it up, I chatted with Chad Campbell a few weeks ago out on tour, and I said, I remember that shot you hit, you actually hit a beautiful shot about 15 feet. But his came after Shaun Micheel's. He said, I knew it was close but I didn't know it was two inches. And then he hit a beautiful shot in the green and hoped that he had a chance.
There's plaque there, and first of all, you are going to hit the 7 iron from there, but you're going to come up about 40 yards short. That's a pretty long 7 iron.
KELLY ELBIN: Is that a blind shot in there?
CRAIG HARMON: You can see the green.
KELLY ELBIN: Could you see where the pin was that particular day, where the hole was?
CRAIG HARMON: Yeah, and he knew, you could actually tell, this thing might have gone in.
Q. You've seen a lot of great shots over the years, how does that one stack up?
CRAIG HARMON: Well, the two shots I remember the most in the Senior Open is when Arnold Palmer whiffed his putt on 17. He went to tap it in from about six inches and kind of hit behind it and then tapped it in. And you couldn't tell, even in slow motion that he didn't hit it. He went to Miller Barber immediately and said, "I tried to hit that, make sure you put down a 4." And when you looked only he would know that he made an attempt and kind of stopped and then stuttered. You never saw it.
You talk about great shots, Shaun Micheel, that one just stands out in my mind, a, for the sportsmanship. And nobody, even on replay, you cannot tell that he didn't tap it in. But he knew he hit stuttered and hit it on the go. So kind of interesting that the two shots that I remember are ones like that and then Shaun Micheel's just unbelievable.
Q. How is the course going to be different from The Open in '89 and The Ryder Cup in '95? And the PGA in 2003 in terms of speed of green width of fairways, overall length?
CRAIG HARMON: Well, the course is longer than certainly the '89 Open by about 150 yards. I alluded to earlier that the members play the width of the fairway the same as the PGA pros are going to play this year. So the narrow fairways and wide fairways basically, the 7th hole narrows down to about 16 yards wide. 18 is about 18 yards wide in the landing area, and that's the way we play it with the membership.
So nothing has been changed from, say, the Merions or Winged Foots of the world, they have narrowed their fairways and put it back to member play. We were able to move some tees back over the years to maintain the integrity of the landing areas, which is very cool at Oak Hill, very unique to Oak Hill where you have to fit it in a landing area where the mounds of the fairway kind of keep things in certain directions.
So by and large, the course is not that much longer now compared to, we'll say, the '89bU.S. Open but the players are much longer. So the average driving distance on Tour might be 20 yards longer from '89 to 2013. That's quite a difference.
As you and I know, being golfers, I don't marvel at the 320 yard drive; I marvel at the 210 yard 7 iron, because the 320 yard drive, you see that bounce for 40 yards. And the 7 iron, they are carrying that, that is what gets me as far as how people hit the ball. You can't legislate against distance. I can remember my dad saying 50, 60 years ago, there's no substitute for clubhead speed. He never told anybody to swing slow or you're swinging too fast. Way back when, he taught everybody, how fast you can move that clubhead. The modern generation, they know how to move it faster. Changes of just a couple hundred yards which is not a lot but the course is pretty much the same.
KELLY ELBIN: How about speed of the greens?
CRAIG HARMON: Well, all you have to do is go back on video and look at the Masters when they took a pivot to hit a putt. The speed of greens have changed so dramatically. Might have been a 9 on the Stimpmeter when my dad won the Masters and thousand they are going to be around 12.
I don't think they will it get much faster than that. I think people that setup courses are afraid of having the Shinnecock Hills or Olympic Club where the ball was rolling back at them and they are sensitive to making the greens too fast. 13 and 14, that's almost unplayable on certain holes where you almost couldn't stop a putt. They are geared to be around 12. They are 11.5 as we speak, which is very fast, and they are geared to be about 12.
Q. Do you have any special Hogan stories from your youth?
CRAIG HARMON: I do. I got a chance to play with him when I was 18 years old. I didn't know until they were on the tee so my two stories, we both hit our shots to the third hole, par 5, and I had a walk up the fairway, 240 yards with Ben Hogan walking side by side, and I thought oh my God he's going to ask me a question. I'm just a kid, what's he going to ask me? I was a nervous wreck.
We walked 50 yards, 60 yards, 80 yards, 100 yards, he didn't say a word to me. I thought, my God, maybe he wants me to ask him a question. What could I possibly ask Ben Hogan? We get to the 200 yard mark and I ask him about the speed spot at the end of his driver, the curve that they carved in, and his was greater on his than the ones they were selling and he told me about the speed spot.
The other one I remember on the 15th hole, and he popped up his drive. And I've never heard my dad swear, and Ben Hogan didn't swear I won't say the swear word here. But as he was picking up his tee, I was walking behind him, and he goes, 'God, I hate that freaking shot; under his breath. He didn't say freaking, he said something else so my two memories of playing with Ben Hogan are those two things.
And I had a great day with him I played in '69 my dad, who everybody thinks is very stern and tough on us, when we walked off the 18th green, he says, pleasure playing with you Craig, you're a very fine golfer. I think within seconds, my dad was behind me rubbing me on the shoulders. He doesn't just say that. He said you were a fine golfer. He wasn't just going to give you that compliment. So you never hear that story about my dad where he gives you a compliment, but obviously I was pumped up to work pretty hard on my game. Those are the two stories I remember about playing with Ben Hogan.
Q. I found out that when the course moved its location back in 1926 is was barren farmland and one of the members, John. Williams, planted about 75,000 seed links, and my question is, knowing that generally Donald Ross didn't design courses where trees were are really integral to most of his designs, is this the way he envisioned the course to look today or was that an afterthought or do you know anything about that?
CRAIG HARMON: You know, what I know about it is he did have ideas for tree planting. Dr. John R. Williams, he was like a budding botanist, like a sidebar thing, and he went all over the world and got different types of elms and oaks and firs and planted trees all over the place.
When Donald Ross decided, let's put it back to the way it used to be, they had to cut down all the trees at Oak Hill. Oak Hill is famous for all the trees, as well as The Donald Ross design. You go back and you say, well, no one is alive that ever saw the course play that way, so how could you put it back to a condition that but the lay of the land, whatever changes he had, he planted all those beautiful trees which now, 70, 80, 90 years old, different species for a parkland course. It was devoid of trees when he built the property, but he did have plans to put trees in certain areas, but certainly not what John R. Williams did.
KELLY ELBIN: Craig, let's wrap this up here. Talk a little about your role during the week of the PGA Championship itself. I understand they have taken your golf shop away from you. Talk about how the infrastructure works in the clubhouse, your role, and maybe just a little bit about the City of Rochester and how it has embraced championships through the years.
CRAIG HARMON: The City of Rochester, huge golfing community, they host the LPGA tournament every year and the volunteerism there is unbelievable. We get to do something every six, seven, eight years and these people come out of the woodwork to volunteer, they are so proud of golf in the area, very proud to host a Major Championship, and I think people who come from overseas will see the friendly atmosphere of our beautiful city. People will say hi to you when you walk down the street.
The committees that have done the tournament, like I told you earlier, the PGA comes in with a great staff, and this is an easy job for them because Oak Hill, with its legacy, people that have been the chairman of parking, they are still doing it, so they don't have to train anybody.
I can't imagine your crew coming in and no one has ever done anything. So very unique to our city. We are a working class city, people who are members of the club worked their heart out for this luxury item and they appreciate things to the highest level.
My role, almost like an ambassador. In the past I have actually run the merchandise, this time I will make sure my staff is in the merchandise tent and make sure the staff is running the driving range. I know many of the other tournaments, I never even saw a shot.
So the U.S. Open, PGA, Ryder Cup, I almost never saw a shot, I had this big merchandising responsibility, so I'm glad to be able to roam around and actually see golf and enjoy the tournament, so to speak. So I think I'll be more of an ambassador. I'll be hanging on my brother Butch's coattails while he's signing autographs.
My golf shop, August 1 we close at 8:00. We have a beautiful golf shop, we have to take everything out, all the fixtures, merchandise, tables, and it's going to be a players' lounge and they will convert that into sofas, chairs, meeting facilities for the players and their families.
It's a weird deal to take everything out, and then the day after the tournament, put it back together. It's quite a bizarre deal just to figure out how to get everything out. We are lucky we have a storage area down stairs that we can actually do something.
It's kind of fun and my staff is very excited, PGA professionals are very excited for the tournament. We have a corporate village going up which we talked about, 32,000 square foot merchandise site and the media center is like 20,000 square feet. We got excited when they put the score boards up. We get excited when put the bleachers up, because that's the golf part for us. And there are bleachers behind the second hole and the score boards are going up so as golf professionals we are, so excited to have this thing and honored to have and just a treat to be involved in any capacity.
KELLY ELBIN: 41 years at the PGA professional in Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, 2004 PGA golf professional of the year and a member of the PGA golf professional Hall of Fame, Craig Harmon, thank you so very much for spending time with us today.