An Interview with: JERRY TUCKER and BRIAN FOGT
BOB DENNEY: Welcome back. We're joined by two gentlemen who may know more about every blade of grass in this championship than possibly the superintendent himself. I'm joined by Jerry Tucker, the former head professional and now the owner and director of Jerry Tucker Golf in Stuart, Florida. And to his right, Brian Fogt, who is a director of instruction at Bellerive Country Club. Gentlemen, great to have you with us. You're great hosts. Just, first of all, give your impressions about bringing this championship back, Brian, and then we'll get back to Jerry.
BRIAN FOGT: Well, I just think it's obviously I'm very grateful to be able to be a part of it. We have been looking forward to it for a couple years. And it's good for the club, but St. Louis has always supported the golf in a very hearty manner. And just the course is, in spite of the bad weather the last month or so, is just in outstanding condition. So we're really looking forward to the next four days.
BOB DENNEY: Jerry, you know so much about this golf course, I guess you've said to me that you've played this at least 800, 900 times.
JERRY TUCKER: I think 8 to 900 times. I was the host for the PGA Championship here and my nine hole ladies would always tell me, you're going to win this tournament. And I did play in the PGA Championship, and I said, why do you think that? Because, they said, because you played this course more than anybody. I said, no, Shirley Miller's played it more than me and she's not going to win it either. But anyway. So we're going to do our best.
BOB DENNEY: Great to have you. Brian, you have the honor of hitting the first shot at Bellerive tomorrow morning. I know that that's going to be great thing for you, any professional would enjoy that.
BRIAN FOGT: I told a friend in Las Vegas, I get to throw out the first pitch. I'm going to have to take a couple extra deep breaths, I think. I'm going to be probably as excited as I've ever been, just because I know the magnitude of it and it's a great honor and I just want to hit it in the fairway.
JERRY TUCKER: Any drugs or booze or anything? No.
BOB DENNEY: About how many times have you played the course?
BRIAN FOGT: Oh, man. It would be hard. Jerry, some of my fondest memories are JT and I playing early in the morning on the back nine. And we did that countless times. I probably haven't played as many 18 hole rounds as Jerry has. I played the redesign more than he has. I'm very familiar with it.
But as I said, Mike Tucker, just a little bit ago, we don't always see it in this condition. The greens are quite a bit different than what I've ever played them.
BOB DENNEY: Jerry, your brother's the head professional at Bellerive Country Club, taking over the position that you had originally. He's done so much work with the PGA of America, obviously on the PGA board and so forth, and I know you're proud of him.
JERRY TUCKER: You know, he stole my job, that's why I had to move to Florida. But, no, I am extremely proud. He's, I recommended Mike and one much my other assistants be the co head pros and the board did take that route. So it's thrilling and I told him how proud I am of Mike.
BOB DENNEY: Before we open it up to some questions I would like to give you just a little more background here. Jerry Tucker played in 17 Majors, 13 of which in the senior ranks. And Jerry is making his 10th appearance in the Senior PGA Championship. He is the first PGA Master Professional to compete in a Major, which is the 1989, PGA Championship; and the last PGA host professional to compete in a PGA Championship when that exemption was still alive, and that was 1992 here at Bellerive.
And for Mr. Fogt, he was a runner up in the 1997 PGA Assistant Championship and he has also competed in four U.S. Opens and competed in the 2012 U.S. Senior Open. So, gentlemen, you're well qualified, we're glad to have you with us. And Brian, you're both a member of a 41 player delegation for this championship. So great to have you. Open up the floor now for some questions.
Q. I would like to ask both of you, is there a shot or a hole out there at Bellerive where you tell yourself, you can't hit it here or I must do this? Is there something that you two know that the other players who have only seen this golf course twice don't know?
JERRY TUCKER: Well, that may not be true, because these guys are awfully good. The guy guys that do this every week are good at charting a course and finding it out.
But the obvious one here is No. 6. I think it was the hardest par 3 in Open history until the burned out green at Shinnecock. And I know when I played it Kemper Lakes is the only other time I had a media interview and he asked me, Steve Hershey asked me, all right, out on the course what did you find the most receptive. And I said, well, I found the water hazards very receptive. And that's the way number six is.
So that was original, by the way. So, but, no, I think of the course as it's almost the only hole that you could and should or not should, but could make a double bogey. The rest of the course can bogey you to death, but that's the hole you really have to be careful on. To the point that, supposedly, Player played over the green every day, to make sure he made a four at the worst. And I considered certain hole locations where I would just actually play short left of the green and over the green. So that's the hole. That's the key hole to me.
BRIAN FOGT: It's changed a little bit from when I first came here in terms of the big old tree's gone and the bunkering's a little different. But I would agree a hundred percent that I talked to a couple guys on the putting green today and it's a, it's not a tricky golf course, it's just right there in front of you.
No. 6 is the most, especially from 209 yards or into the wind, I mean that's the most daunting shot. And like Jerry said, you can, with a little miscue, you're looking at double bogey or worse. So you got to give that its due respect, I think and making, playing that hole 1 or 2 over par for four rounds, you wouldn't be losing a ton of ground to the field, I don't think.
JERRY TUCKER: Do most of you know about Bob Panasik, in the '65 Open, on in one and made a nine, yeah. So.
Q. I would assume for both of you that a lot of players have picked your brain a little bit to learn a little bit more about the golf course. Do you tell them everything or are you keeping anything to yourself to maybe hold back?
JERRY TUCKER: I told I used to know all the history, so I told one of the guys, he asked me for any little tips, and so on the fifth hole I said, "Well, you know in 1965 Josh Yackborough was in Arnold Palmer's gallery here. Is that the kind of stuff you wanted to know?" He wanted more substantive stuff, but I don't think we can keep secrets from these guys. You got to hit the fairway.
BRIAN FOGT: These guys are more experienced quote unquote Tour players than JT and I are. I did tell Steve Lowry, I played the back nine with him, and number 11 is the hole they're talking about. I said, I think you ought to just go for it from 330.
JERRY TUCKER: We hope they all go for it.
Q. You both have done this before, where this is not your normal element, per say, although Jerry probably a little more so, but what is the big challenge? The most obvious thing is nerves, I guess. But is there something else that when you're playing in a big event like this that you don't do in a regular basis?
BRIAN FOGT: I'm sorry, I'm not asking for sympathy, the biggest challenge for me right now is I got hearing aids, I got bright lights in my face, I can't see anybody's face, and there's a bunch of background noise. I didn't hear one word you said.
JERRY TUCKER: Brian's been through a lot, he was my teaching pro too and we had a little skit, I'll shorten it for you, but I said, he had, he bought this hearing aid, then he bought this hearing aid, and then he got this 50,000 what kind is it, Brian?
BRIAN FOGT: About 10 to 3, JT.
JERRY TUCKER: He always screws up the punch line.
BRIAN FOGT: I love you, Dan, but you got facial hair in the mic right in front of your face, I can't hear you.
JERRY TUCKER: What's the real challenge emotionally?
BRIAN FOGT: Yeah, that's, I have an expectation, I guess, and I want to not just do well for myself, but I told, I got a lot of students, young kids that I tried to point in the right direction. I told all of them, if you want to help me, just tell me, practice what you preach. Which two of them came out today, that's the first thing they said to me, with a smile on their face.
So the shoe's on the other foot now. I'm playing in a significant championship in front of a bunch of people that I care about and have spent a lot of time with. Somehow, some way, I got to try to separate that when I go out and play and get in the moment and just focus on each shot. Which that's going to be a will challenge for sure.
JERRY TUCKER: Same thing. I know Brian's been playing well, I've actually been playing I think my best golf at age 63, which surprises me. But it is a challenge to do.
That's all we want to do. It's not whether we win or make the cut or whatever our goals might be, it's just playing the golf we know we're capable of and not shooting a pair of 80s and going on down the road, even though it's understandable.
But it's daunting in a Major Championship. In my first Open it's like, unfortunately, like you're sometimes good enough to qualify for one, but you don't know if you're good enough to play in it. It's like a dog chasing the car. If you catch a car, what happens now, you know, so.
Q. Jerry, were you in town for the week of American Express in 2001?
JERRY TUCKER: Yes, I saw Tiger do the clinic.
Q. I said that I thought from outside the ropes the golf course looked better in 2001 than for any of these championships. It was almost, it seemed almost perfect. One, do you agree with that description, and two, relative to the best you've ever seen, where would this course be today?
JERRY TUCKER: I didn't get out in 2001. I saw the clinic and I was here, but I really didn't get out on the golf course because of what happened. I actually played in a tournament at Bogey Hills that week. And I do on a couple of the changes in 2006 I didn't like exactly, but I like what they have done now in the latest changes. So I think it could be its best right now.
Q. And condition wise?
JERRY TUCKER: Condition wise, well, it's pretty, it was, if we, if it stays dry, I think by Saturday you're going see just a premier condition too. So the greens are excellent and the fairways are going to be that way too. If we don't get too much more rain.
Q. Obviously with the Major Championship here at this course the setup is going to be much more difficult. Can you kind of describe how much more difficult it is going to be this week than say for your regular play for your membership and can you convey to them how much more difficult it is?
BRIAN FOGT: Well, yeah, it's just the, it's not so much the length, it's just the severity of the greens. And the Michael Allen came up to me, I've known him for a long time, he won this championship I think in 2009. We were standing on the putting green and he wasn't joking around he said, how do you hit out of this thick stuff around the greens here?
And I kind of laughed. It's hitting out of those shots to greens that are basically like this table top, you just don't have much, if you mishit it, it is going way by or 30 feet short. So it's, you just don't have much margin for error. I think that's on, that's how it differs from a regular daily basis for the membership.
Q. Peter Jacobsen was in here earlier and said the fairways are perfect, in great shape. Langer was just in here and said he wouldn't be surprised if they played lift, clean and place. Where's the are we missing something or what's in between there?
JERRY TUCKER: The fairways are perfect, the grass, but just after two inches of rain, a lot of the balls did pick up a little mud today. I just think you got to look at every day. It's very possible by tomorrow you won't have to play it like that. Today if they would have had a tournament they might have played lift, clean, and place, because you would have hit a lot of shots with mud on the ball. But as far as the grass itself, yeah, that's probably where the disparity is.
BRIAN FOGT: I would agree with that. Just in, you know, we got so much rain. I think Sunday it was very close to perfect, but because of the rain that we had leading up to this, the ground was so saturated that the additional rain we got I mean, there was no where else for it to go.
I have a Zoysia yard and when it gets saturated, it kind of, you can look, it can look great, but it can be a little bit mushy in places.
So it will be a close call. I'm sure they will monitor it in the morning and look at the weather forecast and kind of make a decision from there.
BOB DENNEY: Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us and best of luck to you in the championship.
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