June 3, 2003
Note: The press conference was moderated by Julius Mason, the Director of Public Relations and Media Relations for the PGA of America.
JULIUS MASON: Welcome to Philadelphia and the 64th Senior PGA Championship. With us is the host professional at Aronimink Golf Club, Mr. Jim Masserio, who is not a stranger to this event. Jim, welcome to the event in your own backyard. Some opening thoughts and we'll go to questions.
JIM MASSERIO: Thank you. Yeah, I am very excited that the tournament is here. Pleased I qualified. See how well I do this week; how well I can get in my own little competitive world out there, but yeah, I am very proud to have the event here at Aronimink. I have talked to a number of the professionals and geez, the comments are just terrific. They just seem to absolutely love the place. So we're so proud. Very pleased.
JULIUS MASON: Beautiful.
Q. Compare this experience to playing in it when you are the host and, I mean, all that goes into it. Is that much of a distraction?
JIM MASSERIO: It's somewhat of a distraction. It's not much different really. A little bit, but not much different.
Q. You don't get hit on by people pulling you this way that way, when this week gets here?
JULIUS MASON: He had no ticket requests, Mike, if that's what you are talking about, absolutely no one wants tickets from him. (Laughter).
JIM MASSERIO: I have a house full of people in town, but beyond that, it hasn't been too much really. 15 minutes here and there, that's about all.
Q. How unique is this experience -- Julius may have a better idea -- how many pros have actually played on this course before or is this the first?
JULIUS MASON: I don't think it's a first. We have only taken this on the road since 2001, but I think the host professional at Ridgewood -- blanking on his name right now -- I think played. Firestone, I don't think so. And PGA National, I can't remember. But we can get that information for you.
Q. Expectations this week, Jim, would it to be make the cut?
JIM MASSERIO: Yeah, well, that's where I would start, to make the cut. Then go from there. I have played in this tournament three times. I missed the cut last year and the year before my first year I played really well. I can't explain why. It was early in the year, April, we hadn't played any golf. It was -- the way I remember, not a very good spring and I hadn't played much golf, but I made the cut and I came in 17th.
Q. What year was that?
JIM MASSERIO: That was 2000 at PGA National.
Q. Four straight years?
JIM MASSERIO: Seemed pretty easy then my first time came in 17th. I said, geez, this isn't tough. Next year I missed the cut and the next year I missed the cut.
Q. Obviously, you have an advantage because they play more than you do, but how much of an advantage is it to be on where you know all the little nooks and crannies?
JIM MASSERIO: That's a good question. I honestly don't think that there's much of an advantage, if any at all for Jay Sigel (who is a member at Aronimink as well as a participant in the event) or myself. And that's because this course, I think it's typical of what Donald Ross did, there's nothing really dramatic about it; everything is right in front of you. It's very fair. It's challenging enough. He had the knack for designing a golf course that you can play a national championship on, but your grandmother could play it. Anybody could play Aronimink. You can hit your ball, find it, and hit it again and roll it around, and shoot 110 or 95. But you could have a national championship because it's difficult to make birdies. You find that here at Aronimink.
Q. What about walking the fairways and your people cheering for you? I am sure you are going to have your little gallery; if you make birdies, it's going to be loud. Is that going to be overwhelming, you think, or a neat thing?
JIM MASSERIO: To be honest, I think I will need to just maintain even emotions, whether I make some bogeys or make some birdies. And not get too wrapped up, too excited. And golf, I think, at least for me, it doesn't help to become emotional, to get fired up when I make birdies or dejected when I make bogeys. Just keep an even keel. I play my best rounds when I -- the old cliché, play one shot at a time. I play my best rounds when I don't even know how I stand. Somebody will yell across from the other fairway: How do you stand on 15? I think I am 4-under; well, maybe I am 5-under. I am not really sure, I am just playing one shot at a time and those are my best rounds. So that's the mindset that I will try to get into.
Q. Has the anticipation been a lot? Have you been thinking about this moment for a while? You have had a long time to think about it.
JIM MASSERIO: It's been coming on but there have been other things to do, regular club activities, plus little bit of extra activity for me getting ready. I haven't been dwelling on it that much. Now, I am, of course.
Q. Next couple of days when you are done with your round, they are not going to say Jim, we need you here in the pro shop; you are off limits to the staff?
JIM MASSERIO: If somebody needs me and I can be of help, I would be, but nobody is asking too much of me.
Q. You and Jay have a side bet?
JIM MASSERIO: We're playing today. So we will see how we do. We'll talk about it.
Q. Jim, with the equipment vendors here, have you changed anything as far as your club makeup this week?
JIM MASSERIO: No, I haven't. I did sniff around the equipment vendors a little bit just to see what was new, but I am staying with what I have.
Q. (Question about Jay Sigel and how many shots will he be given.)
JIM MASSERIO: Used to be when he was a member here, I had to give him a shot a side. His handicap was higher than mine. I am not sure if that was the way it should have been, seems like I lost most every time, but no, no, nobody been giving any shots today.
Q. (Question about the winning score).
JIM MASSERIO: Well, the course is playing very long. Just I think as long as I have ever seen it play. The rough is very thick and very consistently thick. However, the superintendent's doing a great job of controlling everything. He has everything, I think, the way he wants it. He's an excellent guy. Great at what he does except he can't control the weather. And the greens are softer than we would really like them to be. We'd like them to be a little firmer; makes it a little bit more difficult to get close to -- let me say, it actually -- it requires you to hit more precise iron shots when the greens are firmer to get near the hole. You can hit a so-so iron one that isn't really spinning all that way, it will hold, when the greens are a little softer and that's what we have right now.
So if you are asking me what is going to win, I think, under these conditions I would pick 8-under par. If the greens firm up, then you know, I reserve the right to adjust that to 6 under, 4-under, 2-under, even depending how hard the greens get. Because I think we know with the speed it's going to be -- it's going to be what it was yesterday, which I think is a good speed, fairly fast, but not overly fast.
Q. If it rains a lot?
JIM MASSERIO: Even if it rains, we still feel we can get the green speed up to about 11 and a half, maybe 12 (on the Stimpmeter). So it -- just the firmness of the greens that's going to make it just a little bit easier to score is going to make a difference.
Q. How much pride do you get in showing off your course to the world? It's going to be on TV, best senior players in the world playing it. How big is that to be on the showcase for a weekend?
JIM MASSERIO: Yeah, I am very proud. The membership, I think the whole community is very proud to be staging a national championship here in their backyard, here at our home course. I think we have good ideas -- me as a head professional and the members of what a wonderful course we have here, great facility, and we are proud to show it off to the world. And the compliments have been just coming consistently and we're even getting better reviews than we'd even hoped for. So we're very proud.
JULIUS MASON: Final thought for you here, if you could only choose one hole to watch as a spectator, all these greats playing, what hole would it be? What hole do you want to see these guys play?
JIM MASSERIO: If I could only watch one hole.
Q. Better be that par 3.
JIM MASSERIO: I think if I could only watch one hole I think it would be the 18th hole.
JULIUS MASON: Why?
JIM MASSERIO: A couple of reasons. It is the final hole of the event, is one, but 18 is such an interesting hole. It's more difficult, I think, than it appears. And once again that's characteristic I think of Donald Ross, he was so subtle. Looks like an easy hole, but you know, if you hit a great drive and a great iron, you could make a birdie but you could make a double-bogey on the hole easily. I think things could turn around. You could say the same for 17 and 16 as well. 16 is a par 5 that some guys can hit. So the eagle is possible there. But you know you could also make a bogey; have a couple of several deep bunkers there, in the fairway. 17, you have the water, but if I had to pick one I think it would be 18 because of the subtlety of it, as I said, it could produce a birdie or a double-bogey, and the last hole of the event.
JULIUS MASON: Beautiful.
Q. No. 8.
JIM MASSERIO: You have a lot of time to make it up, though. But it's beautiful.
JULIUS MASON: Hometown hero, Jim Masserio. Thank you very much.
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