In its first ten years, the Boeing Classic threw up a disparate bunch of winners. As well as two Hall of Fame golfers (Tom Kite, who won it twice, and Bernard Langer) and an Open Championship winner (Mark Calcavecchia), there were a couple of names only core golfers would know (Denis Watson and Loren Roberts), plus a quartet only the most diehard fans would have been familiar with – David Eger, Jay Don Blake, John Riegger, and last year’s winner Scott Dunlap.
Dunlap turned professional in 1985, and will celebrate his 52nd birthday the Sunday before tournament week. He played on a variety of tours around the world during his career, qualifying and playing on the PGA Tour for a total of seven years. His best finishes on the PGA Tour were three third-place finishes including a tie for third at the 2000 Players Championship when he finished six strokes behind winner Hal Sutton.
Dunlap was the Rookie of the Year on the Champions Tour last year, and won the Boeing Classic with rounds of 69, 63, and 68, and a birdie on the first playoff hole against Mark Brooks who had finished regulation with six birdies in the last seven holes.
We got hold of Dunlap as he was preparing for the Senior Open Championship in England where he finished tied for 19th following a final-round 67.
Your Boeing Classic victory last year came in the middle of a pretty impressive spell of golf.
I had a couple of good tournaments in both Opens (T9 at US Senior Open, T6 at Senior Open Championship) that moved me from 41 to 29 on the money list. Had I not played in those two, I would probably have slipped to 50 or so. Being a year-to-year player and needing to finish in the top 30 of the money list to guarantee tournaments for this year, that was huge as my fall would have been a bit stressful otherwise. With some decent form and that frame of mind, I think I was primed for something good, but winning at Snoqualmie Ridge was even better than I could have expected.
Tell us about the playoff – great birdie at the 18th.
As luck would have it, my playoff record is unblemished – three out of three by my count. I think my mindset is that it’s been a great week, I’ve played well obviously, and second-place check is a nice chunk of change, so give it a rip and see what happens. (For my second shot in regulation) I hit a 3-wood into the greenside bunker, and I had a few yards less in the playoff so knew I could reach the green comfortably. The shot came out perfectly, trickling back down to about five feet. Mark was struggling on the hole, so I just needed to two-putt. I slid the first by a couple of feet because it was very fast, plus I couldn’t really feel my hands. I managed to hole the birdie putt though, and wave confidently to the crowd.
You have 12 professional victories in six different countries. You obviously travel well.
Most of that was by necessity early on in my career as I wasn’t getting through the tour school, and I was tiring of mini-tour golf. That led me to places like South Africa, Canada, Asia, and South America. Those places are where I matured as an individual and a player, enabling me to finally test my game on the PGA Tour. I love every stamp in all three of my passports.
Few people know you won the Peru Open three years in a row starting in 1998. Why were you playing in the Peru Open in the first place? Who even knew they played golf in Peru?
The Peru Open has been a constant since the early 1980s (it was also played sporadically between 1953 and 1982) and is played on a very good golf course – Los Inkas GC in Lima. I continued to go back to defend even when I was on the PGA Tour since I felt obligated. Plus, it was late in the year, after the PGA Tour had finished. I quite enjoyed it, and still play it when I can.
This was long before the PGA Tour Latin America. So what was the competition like?
The organization and competition were both top-notch. A guy called Steve Cook used to run the tour down there, and it was great. The players were young and hungry like they are now. Argentina always has a core of 30 or so excellent players, and the other countries usually had a handful tool. Add them all up, and you have a pretty strong field.
You’ve also done well in South Africa and Argentina, winning twice in both. What do you like about them?
South Africa is a special place for me as it was my first foray into international golf. I found reasonable success there over the years, and eventually moved there in 1992 after taking the head pro job at Glendower GC in Johannesburg – a Charles Alison design that opened in 1937 and is, I think, the best inland course in the country. I was there from ’92 to’94. It was a particularly quiet club which was great for me as I was still more interested in playing than working. In the end that all worked very nicely.
The conditions in South Africa suited me I suppose, as it’s a hot place and somewhat similar to Florida where I grew up. Argentina became a good spot for me too when I won the 1999 Argentine Open at Martindale GC in Buenos Aires (Ian Woosnam tied for 2nd). The golf course was very good and, again, I suspect the conditions were reminiscent of Florida.
You had seven years on the PGA Tour. Did you enjoy them?
Sure. It’s the pinnacle of my profession, and I worked my butt off to get there. I suppose the only negative was that my golf was never good enough to establish myself in some permanent sense. My ‘job’ so to speak was up for renewal on a yearly basis, so I don’t think I’d describe it as fun. More like tenuous, exhilarating, trying, competitive, and somewhat rewarding. It was rarely fun though.
You finished in the top ten twice at the majors, including a tie for tenth at Carnoustie in 1999 (also the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla). Tell us about that experience.
Carnoustie was a joke, really. I think it had been 24 years since the Open was played there and, apparently in that time, the R&A had forgotten Carnoustie is a very difficult course and probably doesn’t need US Open rough besides fairways that are ten yards-wide, or less. But it actually suited me just fine, and shooting +11 to finish tenth makes for a great story. Carnoustie is the world’s best hard course. I had seven guys with me that week, including my dad, and we played nine rounds in seven days in Scotland and Ireland before the week of the championship – trip of a lifetime, for sure.
What do you consider the best parts of your game, and what should fans look out for?
My iron play – particularly medium/long irons – is definitely my strength. If I’m going to succeed, I need to hit a handful of iron shots close in each round for easy birdies. I probably don’t make as many medium-length putts as my competitors, so I better hit it closer. If I’m contending, you can rest assured I’m hitting the irons well.
What do you enjoy at the Boeing Classic?
I came to Seattle for the first time last year. As a golfer, I go where the game takes me and heretofore had not been to Seattle. Needless to say, I had heard plenty, and it was all good. The scenery is stunning, as advertised, and the golf course is wonderful – I’ve always had a pretty good record on Jack Nicklaus-designed courses. The weather that time of year is perfect, so when you throw all that into the mix, I was in a pretty good place last year. This time, there will be some added pressure as I’ll be defending the title, but let’s hope all those good feelings from last year reappear and override any negatives.
Five Players to Watch
There is a definite theme among the players on our list – rhythm and tempo. We urge you to take note of how effortlessly these guys swing the club yet still, in their mid-50s, hit the ball considerably further and more consistently than any of us. Instructors in magazines often tell us that, if we are going to copy any of our favorite players, we need to pick someone of a similar height and build. That might make it tricky to copy Ian Woosnam’s style as the wee Welshman is just 5’4½” tall (don’t forget the half). But we can at least observe, and try to replicate, the fluidity of his motion.
Same with the other four. There are no jerks, no hurried snatches or lurches. Just even, balanced, fluid speed that repeats shot after shot after shot.
Growing up in England, I used to attend the British PGA Championship (now BMW Championship) and World Matchplay at Wentworth every year, as well as the European Open at Sunningdale and Walton Heath, and British Masters at Woburn. My favorite player to watch was always Seve Ballesteros (everyone’s favorite), but I also spent a lot of time in Ian Woosnam’s gallery. The 1991 Masters champion and an eight-time Ryder Cupper (he also captained the Europeans in 2006), ‘Woosie’ generated incredible power despite not being much longer than his driver. His graceful, simple swing endures 25-30 years later, and acts as a stark reminder that speed is much better generated with soft hands, coil, balance and rhythm than it is with forced aggression.
He won five times on the PGA Tour, four times on the Champions Tour, once in Japan and four other professional tournaments. It’s not a bad record certainly, but how much better it could/should have been.
Last year, short game instructor Dave Pelz told me Purtzer was perhaps the most talented player he had ever worked with (not Phil Mickelson surprisingly), and that the Iowa native was one of the biggest underachievers in the game’s history.
“I think Tom had more athletic ability than Phil, and would have excelled at whichever sport he played,” said Pelz. “He was so talented as a youngster he never really needed to develop the techniques or work ethic needed to become a superstar. I think if he had genuinely loved practicing and committed to it, he could have been among the greatest players of all time.”
Even at 63, Purtzer owns one of the most beautiful swings you’ll ever see. Just watch his poise and note the lack of superfluous movement. Talk about making it look easy.
The first time many people saw Larry Mize swing a golf club was during the 1987 Masters which the Georgian won in a playoff against Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros. Everyone remembers the winning chip-in at the 11th – the second extra hole, but almost as memorable was Mize’s long, languid swing which, when he timed it right, sent the ball a surprising distance.
With a swing like that, timing was always an issue. When he was on, it was mesmerizing. But if he wasn’t feeling it, Mize could look a little awkward. Tellingly, before the Masters that year, Mize had played eight events. He finished in the top six three times, but also missed four cuts. And his approach to the 11th in the Masters playoff, the shot before the chip, was an almighty block in which his eager body got well in front of the clubhead, pushing the ball way right of the green.
The 57-year-old has had only one top ten finish in five Boeing Classic starts. But his syrupy swing is always a joy to watch.
We’re assuming, if you’re reading this, you must be on a computer or tablet. In that case, open up another tab and simply google ‘Carlos Franco double-eagle’. Watch the youtube video from the Paraguayan’s 2000 Presidents Cup singles match against Hal Sutton (Franco won 6&5) and just enjoy his incredibly long but serene, and superbly-balanced, swing. Franco was one of those fortunate players for whom the game came entirely naturally. Like Purtzer, he was never a compulsive range rat, but sheer talent alone saw him collect four wins on the PGA Tour, five in Japan, and 13 in South America.
Even young readers may not be able to maintain such perfect balance while turning back as far as Franco who turned 50 in May and still enjoys enviable flexibility. Just focus on his balance and tempo which you would do very well to copy.
Fifty nine-year-old Funk is averaging 268 yards off the tee this year. He’s not the longest player in the world clearly, but 268 yards down the middle is better than 290 in the water. Funk has found the middle of an awful lot of fairways during his career – 74.7% so far this year, 81.6% last year, 80% in 2013. And he hit over 75% of the fairways on the PGA Tour 16 times between 1985 and 2005 (the Tour average this season is 62.5%). Funk’s amazing accuracy stems from his tempo which very rarely changes regardless of the club he’s hitting. He swings within himself, and never seems to move outside the narrow parameters of his optimum tempo. It could be said, Funk has come as close as anyone to perfecting the sort of golf the average golfer is capable of.
“We have a great time every year. It’s so much fun.”
Regular attendees tell us their favorite memories and what they enjoy most about the Boeing Classic
My favorite memory of the Boeing Classic was relaxing at the infamous Canyon Club in 2011. This vantage point provided the excitement of watching players go for broke taking on the canyon and trying to drive the green. The layout of the club also allowed us to be close to the players as they came off the green. I will never forget how exciting it was to watch players go for the green and make it.
My favorite non-golf experience is watching the Boeing jet flyover. Seeing the massive jet so close and watching it soar over the course is awesome. My favorite place to watch the tournament is at the Canyon Club on the 14th. There is always a lively group in the grandstands, the vista of the gorge is amazing, plus it’s exciting to see who can make it over the canyon. My kids love the family day and enjoy the chance to visit the Kids Zone putting green. They enjoy walking through the sponsorship booths and collecting all the giveaways – especially the ANA fans (which are very useful to beat the heat). The memory that stands out the most is on family day, my son said “Fight On” to Craig Stadler, who went to USC (my husband and I are alumni as well) and he gave the victory sign back. His wife came over and handed my son a player card, and he was thrilled. It was fun to see the players up close and have that interaction. We can’t wait to go again this year.
My favorite memory was being the official score keeper for the group of Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, and Nick Price during the first round in 2010. Langer, the eventual winner, shot 66. Price shot 63, and Couples shot 68.
What an exciting finish it was in 2007. The drama unfolding on the final back-nine was incredible. The lead changed just about every hole. At the end of 54 holes, seven players were tied. After they all played the 18th for the second time, only Denis Watson, RW Eaks, and Craig Stadler were left. The three-some played the hole again, with Denis Watson sinking a 20-foot putt to win. I recall standing behind where Watson was on the green, and I was able to see his putt had a significant left-to-right break. He hit it perfectly and it dropped into the cup for an amazing win. The drama of the playoff could not have been better.
I played in the 2011 pro-am alongside Hall-of-Famer Nick Price, Boeing Classic Chief Executive Larry Dickenson, TPC member Michael Marthaller, and golf club designer Roger Cleveland. I recall a young lad, about ten, and his father standing close to the tee box. The youngster was all decked out in his best golf attire and carrying a set of clubs. Nick Price autographed a sleeve of balls for him, and then we all hit our tee shots. Of course, Nick’s ball was the closest to the hole – about 10-12 feet. As we started walking to the green, the young man calls out, “Mr. Price, may I hit a tee shot?” Price turns around and says, “Well, sure, son, come on over here.” The boy steps to the forward (red) tee and knocks his ball six feet from the hole. Nick says to him, “Young man, if you sink this putt I will give you another sleeve of autographed golf balls.” The kid addresses his ball and calmly knocks the putt into the center of the cup for a birdie two. And Price followed through and gave the boy another sleeve of autographed balls. The rest of us were fairly embarrassed to walk away with either a par or bogey.
It makes me smile just thinking about the Boeing Classic. It is always such a wonderful way to spend a weekend – the course is so beautiful with the mountains as the backdrop, the players are so close you can almost touch them, and it’s great to watch these great golfers enjoying the game so much.
I guess my greatest memory would be the first time we went (4/5 years ago?) and we were watching the golfers on the range. A player came up to Craig Stadler and asked him how he was playing. Craig’s response was “like shit!” He went on to talk about the great restaurant he had been to the night before and they just chatted away. I loved it – just normal guys who happen to play really good golf.
I have had the privilege of being part of the golf course maintenance team. My favorite memory is the same every year – the satisfaction of watching the last member of our agronomy crew drive off the 18th hole on Sunday morning and having nothing left to do but admire the results of our hard work and see the players enjoy the conditions. It’s moments like that that make it completely worth the stress, long hours and headaches that come with maintaining the golf course.
My father and I love going every year. It is a very special tradition. A specific memory that stands out is when a large group of us parked ourselves in the grandstand by the 14th hole one year. As Fuzzy Zoeller came down the hill from the tee box, we started chanting “Fuzzy, Fuzzy”, and soon the entire crowd in the bleachers joined in. I know golf is typically a subdued sport, but I think Fuzzy really enjoyed the rioting on his behalf. The other players in his group? I am not sure they shared in our excitement.
My favorite fan memory of the Boeing Classic was when Rocco Mediate hit into the water on the 8th during the final round one year. His caddy got him a new ball and a pitching wedge, assuming Rocco would take a penalty drop. But Rocco located his ball in the water, took his shoes and socks off and rolled up his pants. He then played the ball out of the water, and hit a very good chip onto the green. The best part of the entire thing for me was that he walked onto the green and putted in his bare feet. He was in contention, but did not end up winning. However, his fighting spirit was there to see, and it was really cool to watch.
If you eat it, drink it or are cooled by it, chances are the Water Boys delivered it to you. With a fleet of three golf carts, our teenage kids (two of whom are in their 70s) deliver soft drinks, water, ice and food to fans and players.
Our best time of the day is just before dawn when we prepare the course. It is often dark when we arrive, loads our carts with ice and cases of water, and deliver them to the tee boxes, caddy tent and first aid stations. We see elk and bears and fog blanketing the valleys below Mt. Si, and we are tethered to reality only by the radios we carry with us. It’s so peaceful before the crowds arrive.
We’ve rescued lost and dehydrated fans, and taken salmon sandwiches to hungry players in the middle of their rounds.
*images courtesy Boeing Classic
For tickets or more information, please visit www.boeingclassic.com
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