Champion Chapman enjoys time of his life
By John Kim
PGA.com Coordinating Producer
ST. LOUIS – As the week of the 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid commences, the players are enjoying what will certainly be one of the more memorable weeks of their lives, with a chance to change their place in golf – and their life – forever. However, for one player, this event actually started a month ago.
On April 22, one month before the official start of the season's first major for the senior players, defending champion Roger Chapman embarked on a whirlwind 36 hours to promote the event that vaulted him from journeyman professional to historic golf figure. PGA.com was fortunate enough to accompany him on his whirlwind media tour that truly reflected the special way winning the Senior PGA Championship can change one's life.
Monday, April 22, 7:00 a.m.: Chapman steps off the elevator of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in St. Louis. He's going on only a few hours of sleep after coming in late from a tournament in Atlanta, but you'd never know it by the spring in his step and the smile on his face. He has no idea what he's really in for on this Senior PGA Championship Media Day but knows that promoting this year's event means reliving last year's win.
It's a far cry from how he approached the Senior PGA Championship a year ago. He's a humble man but justifiably proud of the amazing year he had in 2012. In some ways, he's still processing it – and his newfound place in golf history.
In some ways, Chapman is the consummate Cinderella story – the relatively unheralded Englishman who showed up at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Mich., with no real expectations for his performance – and walked away with the Alfred S. Bourne trophy. And before anyone had a chance to say "fluke," he validated that win with another dominant performance at the U.S. Senior Open (coincidentally, again in Michigan) a mere six weeks later.
"I'm walking a bit taller now," he says with a wide grin, "maybe I stick my chest out a little more." Becoming a two-time major championship winner (in six weeks!) in 2012 can do wonders for one's self-esteem.
7:45 a.m.: Chapman is on the range at Bellerive Country Club, getting ready to play golf with PGA President Ted Bishop and executives from Bellerive and KitchenAid. He's hitting balls beside PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua. People come by to snap photos as he swings. More people come by to ask for photos with him. Chapman knows golf, but this – being the center of attention, the man all the cameras are trained on – is a new side of the business to him. "It's different," he shrugs. "But I don't mind it. Kind of enjoy actually."
8:00 a.m.: Chapman's group tees off on Hole No. 1. Chapman is playing with Bishop, Deb O'Connor of KitchenAid and Bob Cox, the chairman of the Senior PGA Championship.
8:08 a.m.: After a perfect drive and then an 8-iron to six inches, Chapman taps in for birdie.
In other ways, Chapman is not a fairytale story. It's not like he was an ugly duckling that blossomed into a swan – he's had, by any account, a successful career. Prior to 2012, he had amassed more than 500 career European Tour starts, with one victory on that tour and a couple of other wins on various circuits around the world. He has more than 20 second-place finishes worldwide and famously beat Hal Sutton twice in one day at the 1981 Walker Cup.
1:30 p.m.: Following a round where he says he shot "around par," Chapman now faces a much less familiar task – sitting on a dais of golf and political dignitaries taking questions from the media. But before the questions, a video on the history of the Senior PGA Championship is shown, as is another video on Chapman's historic performance the year before at Harbor Shores. When a clip shows Chapman looking skyward, with a photo of his golf mentor George Will appearing as part of the picture, Chapman's eyes tear up. He maintains composure enough to answer each question with grace, humility and humor – but talking about his win obviously brings about many emotions.
3:00 p.m.: Chapman joins Bishop, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and other officials as well as tournament personnel for a ceremonial raising of the 74th Senior PGA Championship flag above Bellerive. The 2013 Senior PGA Championship festivities are officially under way.
3:30 p.m.: Chapman arrives at Urban K-Life with officials from the PGA of America and KitchenAid to see firsthand the impact that PGA REACH is having in providing life guidance and direction to economically challenged Greater St. Louis. Chapman is a warmly greeted and asked to try out a homemade putting green created by the youth members. He accepts the challenge and sinks his first putt. The crowd roars its approval.
6:00 p.m.: Chapman, along with a select group of PGA and KitchenAid officials, arrives at Spirit of St. Louis airport for a 45-minute flight up to Benton Harbor. Chapman and his wife Cathy sit up in the first four seats with a KitchenAid executive and Senior Director of Communications Julius Mason. His wry English humor flashes as he looks to the other five passengers seated directly behind them and asks, "How's sitting in coach treating you?"
KitchenAid, a division of Whirlpool Corp., is the presenting sponsor of the Senior PGA Championship and has developed a special relationship with Chapman – who won the event’s first playing at Harbor Shores, the Jack Nicklaus design located a par 5 from Whirlpool headquarters. The group flies into Benton Harbor for a special Media Day for the 2014 Senior PGA Championship – which will return to Harbor Shores for a second time in three years. One of the benefits Chapman enjoyed for his victory was a new kitchen compliments of KitchenAid. It is a fun conversation topic while onboard the private jet. It's not his first time on a private plane, but it's rare enough that he's obviously enjoying the experience.
7:00 p.m.: Touchdown at Southwest Michigan Regional Airport. Chapman and the group check into the Boulevard Hotel on the shore of Lake Michigan and agree to meet for a late dinner.
9:00 p.m.: The Chapmans are part of a large dinner contingent at the Boulevard. Everyone has a good golf story to share – Roger, of course, more than most. The stories and laughs could go all night. But one of the PR folks lets Chapman know he has a 5:45 a.m. radio interview. That signals the end of the day's festivities.
Tuesday, April 23, 5:45 a.m.: Chapman does his radio interview. PGA.com is not up (nor in his room) to hear the interview, but he assures us it went "quite well."
6:30 a.m.: Chapman and his wife enjoy breakfast at the Boulevard, and Chapman has one eye on the weather reports. He sees that the early morning drizzle is expected to let up just long enough to for his Media Day appearance and clinic. Rain expected later in the day. "I guess the sun always shines on me in Michigan," he jokes.
7:30 a.m.: The Chapmans leave for Harbor Shores for a Media Day with Whirlpool, Harbor Shores and community leaders.
8:00 a.m.: Chapman sits in the clubhouse for a fireside chat (minus the actual fire) conducted by the PGA’s Mason. Chapman talks about memories of his career, his win at the 2012 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid (got to get the full name in there, especially when the room is full of KitchenAid execs) and interesting trivia (including a dissection of his Twitter account) about his life. Chapman doesn't always relish the spotlight, but he is clearly enjoying himself. Afterward, he is presented an honorary membership for free golf at Harbor Shores for as long as he would like.
10:00 a.m.: Chapman moves to the teaching academy to conduct a golf clinic for the locals, including a handful of youngsters. His golf advice is punctuated by humor, insight and the various shots he hits out onto the range. He is championship form for sure. The adults and children are obviously impressed.
11:00 a.m.: Chapman and the kids decide that instruction is informative but playing is more fun, and they go out to play one hole of golf. One of the youngsters will serve as Chapman's caddie, and another six will tee it up. It is probably the only sevensome allowed at Harbor Shores, and it’s certainly the best one.
11:20 a.m.: The group taps in the final putt. Chapman not only plays the hole but provides instruction and feedback to each child before every shot. One young man even manages to make a par. Chapman misses a 15-foot birdie putt and taps in for his par. A gallery member calls out to Chapman, "you tied the kid." Chapman laughs.
12:00 p.m.: Chapman arrives at The Grand Mere Inn for lunch. It’s typically not open for lunch, but today is a special day.
During the 2012 Senior PGA Championship, Chapman, on a rare trip without his wife, looked for a place to have dinner the night before the first round. A hotel employee suggested a nice quaint restaurant nearby called The Grand Mere Inn. Chapman had a nice dinner by himself at a small two-person table by the wall where he could eat and have some diversion from tournament pressure with his favorite book. He then went out and shot 68 the next day. So he went back to eat there (alone again) Thursday night. He shot 67 on Friday.
Not that he's superstitious (or will admit to it), but he turned down several dinner invitations from fellow players and went back again Friday night. By now, the restaurant was ready for him, even reserving that table for him. After he shot 64 to seize a five-shot lead going into the final round, there was no way he wasn’t going to eat there Saturday night. And of course, he ended up winning. But he couldn’t make it back Sunday night as his championship duties kept him at the course late into the evening. So this was his first return to the restaurant that helped propel him to his win.
12:15 p.m.: Chapman signs some flags for the restaurant owners and is then presented a special "Roger Chapman table" that will forever be reserved for him. The wall beside the table is a decorated with tributes to his win. A special lunch menu is then presented to the group, replicating each meal he ordered during his four visits last year. After lunch, Chapman is presented with a special "dining certificate" from the restaurant – his table and meals are now complimentary for him from this day forth.
2:00 p.m.: Chapman and his wife, Mason and your favorite PGA.com writer board a private jet to head back to Georgia, this time Savannah – the site of the next Champions Tour event. Chapman has a little more time to share his thoughts on 2012 – as well as the past day representing his title as defending champion. He speaks glowingly of the experience, relishing every detail, but closes with a simple seven-word summary when asked how it fits into his professional memory bank.
"It's the coolest thing I've ever done."