June 10, 2021

Hal Sutton, Part 1

Hal Sutton, Part 1

We cover the early career of PGA and 2-time Tournament Players Championship winner, Hal Sutton and reminisce about his superb amateur career that included two Western Amateur wins, two Walker Cup team victories and the 1980 U.S. Amateur. Listen as Hal describes three significant influences in his life as a young man; Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Jackie Burke, Jr. and the role his father played in supporting his dream. Turning professional at age 23 he begins to form his “team” including his long-time caddie and friend Freddie Burns. Hal Sutton relives his early days in golf, “FORE the Good of the Game.”

Transcript

Music playing:

Intro music

Mike Gonzalez:

Bruce Devlin. I think this guest today Not only is a major champion winner, but he's also a podcaster.

Bruce Devlin:

He is yes. We're glad to have him on board. A PGA champion. Two time Tournament Players winner. Hal Sutton. I was talking to a guy today that played some golf with you when he was 18 years old. And he informed me that even wrote a contract for you to use some golf equipment at some point in time. Will you have any idea who that might be?

Hal Sutton:

I don't have any idea who that might be.

Bruce Devlin:

His name is Kel Devlin.

Hal Sutton:

Oh, there you go.

Bruce Devlin:

Yes. And he said to behave yourself today.

Hal Sutton:

Well, tell Kell I said, Hello. Yeah, you know, that's what happens. As we age

Bruce Devlin:

You got it. And listen, I can assure you this. in this game, Bruce, we have all these friends that we see You're not nearly as old as what I am. The older you get, the because we're in the golf world all the time. And then we retire and we move on to doing something else. And we don't see fewer times you happen to see him. our friends nearly as much as we did.

Hal Sutton:

Well, you know what, you're probably right. I know. I'm not as old as you are. But I tell you, I feel like one of the horses at Belmont just last week where I've turned the the last corner. Is this really what the finish line is going to be?

Mike Gonzalez:

Well, and it's unlikely you're still playing that Spalding equipment that Kel signed you up for years ago.

Hal Sutton:

No, I'm not. I hardly use any equipment now.

Mike Gonzalez:

Hal just to get started, what's your first recollection of when you might have run into Bruce Devlin?

Hal Sutton:

That's a great question. You know, sometime after I turned pro, I don't think I ever met Bruce, when I was an amateur. I'm not sure. But sometime after I turned pro I got acquainted with the Devlin family.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, that's right, "The Devil"

Mike Gonzalez:

Because you would have overlapped just briefly, I guess, right? I mean, your first win in 82 years you'd just come on the tour. And Bruce, you were just winding up about 83 or so weren't you?

Bruce Devlin:

I just I finished. I actually finished in 82. So we, you know, I obviously knew who how certain was because of his wonderful amateur record. And I'm not sure that he hasn't exceeded that with his professional record as well. All the wins.

Hal Sutton:

A lot of let down into professional you know, I was I didn't have any expectations, I was still getting better and, and didn't know what to look forward to and the world wasn't necessarily laying their expectations on me as an amateur, once you turn professional. Everybody's got an opinion that that has to be fulfilled, or else they're not pleased with you.

Bruce Devlin:

Well, that's true.

Mike Gonzalez:

We've got so much we can cover today with you Hal and because as Bruce said, not only did you have an outstanding amateur career, but a very wonderful, credible professional career as well. And we're going to get to all that. But let's just go back to the beginning. And I've heard you relate this before but just thinking back as a youngster. I mean, you grew up in, or at least were born in Louisiana, but at some point your came to the family came to Texas, right?

Hal Sutton:

Well, no, I just came to Texas when I was 56 years old. I lived in Shreveport basically for the first 56 years of my life.

Mike Gonzalez:

Okay, alright. I thought there was a Shady Oaks stretch in there maybe as a youngster where you were able to play a littl bit

Hal Sutton:

There was my dad joined as a non resident member so that I could go over there and I went over there a lot. But you know, we still lived in Shreveport.

Mike Gonzalez:

So tell us a little bit about growing up in Shreveport and learning the game of golf.

Hal Sutton:

I grew up on a little nine hole golf course that you know, I didn't know that it wasn't the greatest place in the world, you know, it's what I had. And, you know, I drive by now. And still it's an 18 hole course now and it's still going. But you know, hard to believe that that's where I got started playing golf. And anyway, my dad joined Shreveport Country Club whenever I got to be about 13 or 14, and I spent the remainder of my years actually playing Shreveport Country Club. And he realized, you know, while I was in college that I needed to get on some bent grass green, so the closest place with bent grass was Shady Oaks. So he joined Shady Oaks. And just so happens that Mr. Hogan was hanging out there in his latter years in his life, and I got to meet him. And I spent quite a bit of time with Mr. Nelson, because of the similar things my dad doing business in Dallas. And, and, you know, I got to be along those same timeline, I got to be closely acquainted with Jackie Burke, because Houston was trying to recruit me to play golf. And so I had, you know, three great influences in my life as far as professional golf is concerned. And I was all ears, you know, that we had, we didn't have technology to learn from I had to take the wisdom of others, and try to figure out how that might apply to myself. And dig it out of the dirt.

Bruce Devlin:

That's a good point. It brings up a point for me. I understand, too, that at some point in time, you were struggling a little bit with your putting. And obviously the right guy to go to was Jackie Burke, and you went to the Champions Golf Club to get a little putting Listen, is what I understand. And he showed you what the pain was for missing 10 footers.

Hal Sutton:

Well, I've gotten a lot of lessons from Mr. Burke, that just being one of them. You know, every time I was in Mr. Burke's presence, there was a life lesson to be learned. And if you weren't listening, he'd make sure you were listening before it was over with, which is what you're referring to?

Bruce Devlin:

That's right.

Hal Sutton:

You know, he's, he's, uh, you know, the parables of Jackie Burke, you know, he tells everything in life lessons, you know, and I've gravitated to people like that my dad was a whole lot like that. And, you know, it seemed like those have been the influencers in my life, you know?

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah. Good influences.

Mike Gonzalez:

Were you a self starter Hal learning the game picking it up through the, you know, the golf magazines you and I would have been looking at back in the 60s, or how'd that all come about?

Hal Sutton:

Well, I was just, yeah, a self starter. Friend of my dad's gave me a set of golf clubs. In fact, he just passed away three weeks ago. The man that gave me the set of clubs, and he was a really good friend of my dad's and he said, Look, Hal's a good athlete, and he's gonna, you know, he needs to play golf here set of golf clubs, give him a set of clubs. And that's how it all started I played 54 holes a day, I went to the golf course for the first time. I love the game so much, I just it was on a nine hole course. And I just kept going around the course. And I was walking wasn't riding. And, you know, I fell in love with the game. And it's, you know, I fell in love with playing golf, I didn't fall in love with swinging a golf club. You know, I fell in love with the the joy of producing a result. And, and being able to see what that result was in real time. And I think I know, Bruce is this way, I'm certainly he's this way Didn't we didn't have all this stuff. When you and I were learning how to play the game of golf Bruce. You know, we had to fall in love with just the joy of a stick and a ball and a hole and trying to make it all work.

Bruce Devlin:

And you think it's changed a little?

Hal Sutton:

We didn't know what it looked like, we nor I'm not sure I even cared what it looked like. You know, now we have to care what it looks like. You know, I'll teach somebody and they'll say does it look good? And I'm thinking,

Bruce Devlin:

What the hell does it matter?

Hal Sutton:

goin' in the hole, is that good enough for you? Or what?

Bruce Devlin:

Good point. Well, it's changed. changed a little today, though, hasn't it Hal, you know, we've got the boys have got trainers and they've got managers and they got coaches and they got gophers. I mean, it's a little bit different to when we grew up.

Hal Sutton:

For sure, yeah. I mean, there's so much money involved, that they got a team of people, that are working towards the same goal. You know, in our day, we had a caddy and we had a family. And that's who our team was comprised of, you know, and, and we would occasionally go see somebody when we ran aground, you know, and needed some help we'd seek one person out whoever that might be for a day, and they give us their opinion on what we needed to work on. And then we went and worked on it ourselves. We didn't have them standing there 24 hours a day watching us and telling us when we did it, right, and when we didn't do it, right.

Mike Gonzalez:

And you had your eyeballs for feedback. I remember David Graham talking to us in an earlier episode about you know, no Trackman, none of this technology and launch angle and spin and all this. He said, we just had to watch that golf ball in the air and learn that ball flight.

Hal Sutton:

Yeah, well, we didn't have any of that. You know, when I first started teaching and we had Trackman and everything and video, you know, the kids that would come in, they would hit the shot the balls in the air and they would immediately turn to the monitor. See what Trackman said. And I'm screaming at him watch the ball, watch the ball because it's telling you the same thing that this is and now you'll have something to relate to. Watch it till it hits the ground. And I mean, kids don't want to do that. You know, they want to they're looking for technology looking for data.

Mike Gonzalez:

Yeah, your your little nine hole experience sounds awfully familiar. I had to smile as you talked about it. I'm picturing my old course which might have been like yours. No bunkers. No watering system, no professional. You just went out and played.

Hal Sutton:

Pretty, pretty similar. We had to bunkers, we did have a watering system. And we did have a pro. We had a range that was only 125 yards long. So you didn't hit anything bigger than a pitching wedge? And you know, just my how that was good enough then. And what it takes to make a person happy today

Mike Gonzalez:

How about it. Yeah. If you were like me, I was very happy. Just out there by myself banging balls.

Hal Sutton:

Best part about playing golf to me, is going out either early in the morning or late in the evening by myself. Just me and the game. And you know, I realized how social golf is. But when I played the tour, when I went home, I didn't play with anybody. I played by myself late in the day, because it was a job to me at that point. But I still the only way I could try something and not have to tell everybody what I was trying was to play by myself. Because if if I tried something and it failed, and it it didn't look like me, well then I had to explain it to the people. You know, I'm trying something different here. You know, I might get a poor result out of this.

Mike Gonzalez:

You know, don't all worked up. Right.

Hal Sutton:

Right. Exactly. I like it when I'm just it's just me. I bet Bruce I bet you had the same thing didn't you Bruce?

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah I was, I was I like to get out by myself actually. You know, I started from with my dad too. And I started with him after he lost an arm in an automobile accident but you know I my first early playing was with him most of the time but once I you know once I got to playing a little bit you're exactly right, early morning or late evening is the correct time to play because you can be by yourself.

Mike Gonzalez:

And Bruce when you were not playing one week and maybe had some downtime maybe you just wanted to play I don't if you played much social golf Did you try to stick to yourself or were you bringing friends in on your game?

Bruce Devlin:

No, mostly I was mostly by myself and I was never a you know, a big heavy practicer are a little bit like Hal you know, I would much prefer to play the game rather than rather than work on it on the practice he get out there and you know, look at where look at the flag and work out the shot that you wanted to play and try to execute it.

Mike Gonzalez:

Hal I've heard you mentioned that jack Nicklaus was the guy he really looked up to as young kid. Again, I think back to what I was looking at was I was cutting out those one page illustrations in Golf Digest all through the 60s illustrating Palmer and Nicklaus and all the probably Bruce all these guys doing something and that was my little scrapbook to try to learn the game.

Hal Sutton:

It's really funny. I've never looked at Golf Digest or anything. I watched TV, when I wasn't playing golf, and I was always trying to tune in to what Jack Nicklaus would do. You know, and I'd watch him intently with everything that he did the way all of his pre shot routine and the way he went about getting ready to execute the golf shot. And in my estimation during our time Nobody did it better than Jack Nicklaus, he figured out a pre shot routine, he stuck to it. And it looked like he was completely committed to the shot before he hit it. And you know, my dad used to sit there and watch it with me. And he'd say, how if that's good enough for Jack Nicklaus, that's good enough for Hal Sutton too don't you think. That was a pretty overwhelming statement to me when my dad would say that it's like, oh, let's see all these major championships that he's won.

Bruce Devlin:

Maybe he's right. Yeah, well, you know, the other part about

Hal Sutton:

Maybe he's right! Nicklaus was and, you know, in my very early days, I was quite close to Jack. You could talk to Jack until he got to about 15 yards short of his ball. And then that then it was all over. It was absolutely what you just said, he goes into that zone of his, and, you know, you could you could let a bomb off next to me, wouldn't bother him. I I couldn't agree with you more. He was very personable. And while you're walking down the fairway, more than happy to talk to you on a variety of different subjects, anything until he got close to his golf ball. And then it was as if you didn't even exist, who you are, and who are you? And you know, I admired that about him he had, he was probably as good as it was at compartmentalizing what he was actually doing at the time.

Mike Gonzalez:

He did give Bruce one lesson and one lesson only.

Hal Sutton:

Oh, really?

Bruce Devlin:

Oh, yeah, he did. I was. In my very early days, we were in St. St. Petersburg was one of the early tournaments, we play the 1964. And I was driving the ball all over the place. And I said to him, Jack, come watch me hit some shots will you? So he made a couple of suggestions. And I ended up beating him by four shots. So he politely said to me, then that's the end of that there will be no more of those lessons on the practice tee, You've had it.

Hal Sutton:

So what did he tell you, Bruce?

Bruce Devlin:

I don't even remember what he told me. Now it didn't matter, it worked, you know what I mean? I'm not sure if you know Hal, but I I spent some time with he and his daddy and mum and his coach in 1960, prior to the US Amateur, stayed in Columbus for a week with him. And then we both drove down to St. Louis for the Amateur. And you would never guess who beat the both of us, both of us.

Hal Sutton:

I don't, who?

Bruce Devlin:

Dean Beman. Does that make you laugh? Well, but I mean, that wasn't his calling. At the end of the day. It was he was his calling was Commissioner. Absolutely. And he did a great job. But then he didn't do it.

Mike Gonzalez:

And by the way, I think he won it again, the following year, too. So he was a pretty good player wasn't he?

Bruce Devlin:

Oh yeah, he could play he didn't hit it very far. But he sure hit it straight.

Hal Sutton:

And he knew how to get it in the hole didn't he?

Bruce Devlin:

Very much. So. Yeah.

Mike Gonzalez:

So Hal what age were you when you started thinking that maybe you might like to really get into this game and try it perhaps at the collegiate level?

Hal Sutton:

I played football, baseball, and golf until I was 16. And I won the Louisiana State Junior golf when I really didn't think I was capable of winning it when I was 16. And I came back to Shreveport after winning it and I told my dad I said, You know, I might end up being pretty good at this game. If I could just focus my time on that. I think I'm gonna quit everything else and just play golf. So, you know, at 16 I started trying to devote myself to the game. And you know, by the time I was a senior in high school most, most, I had a lot of offers to go a lot of different places. So I felt like playing at a high level in college was a possibility at that point.

Mike Gonzalez:

And you pick the right one of the three because that's the only one you can play your whole life.

Hal Sutton:

That's right. And that was one of the reasons why I did because I knew that even if I didn't make it, golf would be beneficial in the business world where you know, playing linebacker in football is not beneficial in the business world and and you know, something in baseball either so you can't play those

Mike Gonzalez:

Other than Houston where there's some other big programs after you as well.

Hal Sutton:

Yeah, Wake Forest was after me. Yeah, there were LSU wanted me to come, Arkansas. Actually there were there were a lot I can't even recall most of 'em and I narrowed it down to Houston. And my dad kept wanting me to play a Centenary because that was at home. And never will forget, we came down here to Houston and that's when I first met Jackie Burke. And I played golf with Keith Furgus at Champions, you know, and then on Saturday night, I went to hofheinz pavilion and that's back when slama JAMA, you know, the basketball team was, you know, unbelievable. And so after the game that night, Coach Williams came up to me and he said, how he said, I want to take in Houston library tomorrow morning, I got something in there, I want to show you and I thought to myself, I looked over at him. I said, Coach Williams, I said, I really had no intentions of going to the University of Houston's library while I was down here. He said, No, but he said, You need to see what I'm going to show you. So he picked me up the next morning, and we went into the library, and we start walking around and all the portraits of all the first team, all Americans at The University of Houston, was on the wall. And we walked around and looked at all of them. There was 42 at the time. And he looked up there and he said, look at that Hal, he said, there is where number 43 is going to be. He said you could be number 43. I'll never forget that as long as I live. Coach Williams was a great recruiter he recruited, you know that he really didn't know a whole lot about golf. He just recruited people that did know a whole lot about golf. And I got in the car, my dad said, so what do you think I said, Well, I really liked it until we just made that trip into the library. My dad is like, you know, I was pretty decent student. You know, my dad was like, Well, what was wrong with going in the library? I said, Well, so let me ask you a question Dad I said, Do you think anybody is going to remember number 43? And my dad said, What do you mean? I said, Well, he showed me all the all Americans and I said there's a place for the 43rd First Team all American, which he said I could be that guy. I said, you know, do you think anybody's going to remember that? And my dad said, No, I don't think anybody's going to remember number 43. But he said, I think you'd be the first first team all American ever. at Centennary and everybody always remembers the guy that did it first. So there it was decided where I live. He sucked me right then. That was music to his ears. You know, he that's what he wanted me to do.

Mike Gonzalez:

So that's, that's a great story. And Bruce, you may recall, I think it was Lanny Wadkins, perhaps sharing with us his experience of getting recruited at Houston. And same thing, they're wining and dining him, show him all the big things. And back then when they brought him down, it was the Elvin Hayes, Lew Alcindor game and the Astrodome. And he came away from that and decided to do something else.

Hal Sutton:

Well, the show doesn't always produce the results, you know, when you show off, I mean, some people look for something deeper than that. I was always the person that looked for the depth.

Mike Gonzalez:

It worked out you had a great collegiate career, and you guys did was that the best finish ever as a team in the NCAA, at least to that point for Centennary?

Hal Sutton:

Yes, it was, you know, the, we had an unfortunate we were on probation, because a Robert Parish the first first two years that I was there, so we couldn't go and then the third year, it was really an unfortunate situation, I made the Walker Cup team. And the Walker Cup was going to play at the same time as the NCAA. And I had to make a decision as to whether I was going to play the NCAA or the Walker Cup. And, you know, the Walker Cup at the time, everybody got into Masters. And, you know, we all never will forget this. We all got together as a team. And we talked about it. And I said, You know, I want to know what everybody thinks. And it was unanimous. everybody on the team said, you know, who in here is going to get an opportunity to play in the Masters. You know, and how do you turn down an opportunity to play in the Masters? So I ended up going and playing the Walker Cup so I could play in the Masters The next year, so we didn't get to go. So the next year we went to the NCAA, and I think we finished ninth and I got beat in a four hole playoff for the individual honors with Jay Don Blake.

Mike Gonzalez:

So can you even fathom that sort of a conflict coming up today in collegiate golf?

Hal Sutton:

No, that would never happen today. But you know, I don't think everything was thought through as thoroughly as it is today.

Mike Gonzalez:

But what of what a record you posted as an amateur. I'll just tick through a few things for our listeners, in addition to winning probably everything in college, including 14 events for the Centeneary team. Hal won the Western Am in in 1979 and 1980, a great, a great tournament run by the Western Golf Association and part of the Evans Scholar Program. He was the 1980 North and South Amateur champion 1980. Northeast Amateur champion. You'd already mentioned Walker Cup appearances both in 1979 1981 and, and two other things I'll mention. One is participating in the Eisenhower trophy in 1980. And this is something that you may not know but for our listeners, I'll mention that, that Hal was was paired on that team with Jim Holtgrieve, good St. Louis fella, Jay Sigel, one of the outstanding amateurs that ever lived. And and Bob Tway Of course, we know Bob as a PGA winner and he was also not just a team winner 1980 but the individual winner at 12 under they were at Pinehurst number two for that event. And Bruce will share a little bit with you about his experience with the Eisenhower Trophy.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah well, I got there a little earlier than you Hal I went to the inaugural one in 1958 at St. Andrews. And then then when Like I said before, I come over here in fortunately, after geting on the team in 60. And I come over a couple of weeks early and went to the Nicklaus's and then went to the amateur and then we went to Merion for the 1960 Eisenhower Cup the second one so yeah, it's uh, it was, it was quite a feeling. You know, one of the things I got a great kick out of it. You know, you always think about, would you ever get to go to that place? And after we won in 58, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the current president in 1960, invited us to come to the White House, which was, you know, I mean, that's pretty special deal. And it was, yeah, I actually am looking right now in my office at a picture of the 1960 Aussie team with the President. So we'll have that around until we go to greener pastures.

Mike Gonzalez:

Yet another special memory from the 1958 one at the Old Course in addition to Bruce's first extensive travel away from home a 52 hour sojourn to get to get to St. Andrews, Scotland. Bobby Jones was there. And Bobby Jones gave a speech at that dinner. And as we visited with Ben Crenshaw a few weeks ago who wasn't aware until we talked that Bruce was there. Ben actually knew that speech he started reciting that speech to us that he gave that night that Bruce was there.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, it was quite quite a remarkable time.

Mike Gonzalez:

I saved the best for last, which is the 1980 U.S. Amateur win tell us a little bit about that experience.

Hal Sutton:

Well, you mentioned Pinehurst was good to me that year. I wanted the North-South there, I won the US amateur there and then turn around and won the Eisenhower Cup. So 1980 in the Pinehurst area was really good area for me. You know, we played part of the medal round at Pinehurst number two and then the USA ever was played at Country Club of North Carolina. And I was playing really good. And you know, this is a story I'm almost ashamed to share now at this particular point. But, you know, I became really everything Jack Nicklaus did I loved. I watched him, you know, my dad would take me to a tournament and I'd watch everything that he did. And one of the things that I used to watch him do was he take his glove off when he finished the round. And he'd put his solid gold Rolex on. And back in those days, you know, it was that Bruce understands what I'm talking about. That was a big deal. That was that was almost like, you know, your fraternity pin or something of that nature where you had really arrived at professional golf, if you had a solid gold Rolex. So my dad knew I was pretty, you know, keen on that. And my dad said to me before I ever went to the US Amateur he said, let me ask you a question how he said, you know, you you watch Nicklaus, put that Rolex on all the time and you always mention it. He said, If you went to US amateur, he said, I tell you what I'll do I'll buy you a gold Rolex.

Bruce Devlin:

Thank you Dad.

Hal Sutton:

And I said, okay, I said, I'll tell you what, that I said, I'm gonna do that. I'm gonna hold you to that. This is the kind of Dad I had. He said, Well, then let's go get it right now. Because that's how much I believe in you.

Bruce Devlin:

Oh boy, what a statement. That's great.

Hal Sutton:

And he took me that night and bought me a solid gold Rolex. And I said, Well, I'm not even gonna wear it until I went in. He said, Now I want you to wear it, because I want you to remember the commitment that you've made. And my dad taught me about commitment at that point right there. And, you know, you know, we talk to kids around here all the time, Bruce is gonna understand what I'm about to say right now, the best players in the world never hit an uncommitted shot. And if they did, it was not what they wanted it to be.

Bruce Devlin:

Absolutely.

Hal Sutton:

And, you know, I can't think of why a professional golfer would ever not be committed to something before he ever hit it. And that, you know, as I used to say, if that's good enough for Jack Nicklaus, then that's good enough for me. And so for all the listeners out there, I don't care, young, old, whatever, don't hit any more golf shots, that you're not committed to doing something.

Bruce Devlin:

Because you can't learn anything from it if you're not committed.

Hal Sutton:

That's exactly right. That's exactly right.

Mike Gonzalez:

I know my experience, when when you do have that indecision in your mind, you haven't committed to one swing or another, you generally don't get the outcome you're looking for

Bruce Devlin:

You mess it up dont' you?

Hal Sutton:

It doesn't happen by accident.

Mike Gonzalez:

So you know, this is a young age, Hal you're, you're probably about 20 years old back in 1980, you're having a heck of a year, you're thinking about turning professional. Tell us a little bit about the mindset, the mentality you had at that point. Because Bruce and I have talked with other guests about the mentality of the kids coming out of college today. And there seems to be no fear. They just think they're world beaters, they feel they're world beaters. And, and there's no intimidation, it doesn't seem like what was in your mind back then as a player?

Hal Sutton:

Well, you know, I didn't turn pro immediately. We played a lot of golf when I was in college, and I was like nine hours graduating from college, and I thought I didn't spend four years of my life to not get a degree. So I told my dad, I said, I'm gonna go back and get my degree before I ever turned pro. And my dad said, I've got a better idea. So why don't you just remain an amateur, my dad had a pretty successful company. He said, Why don't you just play amateur golf for a year. And maybe you'll just decid that that's the way you want to approach the game, you'll be an amateur and play at the highest level as an amateur. Well, that didn't take me but about a year worth of doing that you played one golf tournament every month and a half or two months. You can't be competitive with the best players at the time doing that, you know, back when Bobby Jones did that. You know, I don't know. I mean, I don't know if I'm 100% correct about this, but no one was playing golf tournaments every week back in those days. Am I right, Bruce?

Bruce Devlin:

No, you're absolutely right.

Hal Sutton:

But at 1980 there was a golf tournament to play in every week. And there is knowledge and wisdom and everything that goes along with that by playing every week. And you know, you just can't beat plot guys that are playing every week when you play once every six weeks. So I did that for a year worked for my dad got my degree, and finally walked in one day and said this isn't gonna work. I've got to switch gears here. That's when I decided to turn pro.

Mike Gonzalez:

So did you come in the tour school route? Is that what happened?

Hal Sutton:

Yeah, I went in, went in through the Tour school. Right here at Waterwood National right here north to Houston. And got my card the first time. I never will forget this. Bruce, you know the golf course don't you Bruce?

Bruce Devlin:

Yes. Oh, sure I do, Yeah, absolutely.

Hal Sutton:

So, the 14th hole is a long par three over water with a bunker on the right side and a vertical wall on the right side of the bunker. It's about a three iron shot. And I got there and I was two shots under the cut and there was five groups on the tee and it was pouring down rain. Lovely. And I never will forget it. I thought my whole next year lies on this one shot. So stay focused on what you're trying to do stay loose as you can stay. And somehow I hit a shot about 12 feet from the hole and made the cut by two shots to get my card and got through the first time.

Mike Gonzalez:

So what kind of schedule did you have lined up

Hal Sutton:

I can't remember exactly how many I played but I think I played 26 or seven events that year. I played like 15 or 16 in a row because I kept making the cut finishing about for yourself that first year on tour? last. And if I didn't make the cut, I had to go back and Monday qualify, because that was, you know, just top 60 money earners. So, you know, the kids today don't have any idea what that's like. And I only caught it I'm one year of my life, the rest of the next year became the top 125. You know, I played a lot of weeks in a row, just because I was making the cut. And I didn't want to have to Monday qualify

Mike Gonzalez:

Remind us, Bruce and, and Hal remind us what was going on equipment wise at that time, both with the transition to the bigger ball and also driver heads and things.

Hal Sutton:

Driver was whatever, great McGregor old McGregor driver, you could find and the ball, you know, you can play the little ball over overseas, but we had the bigger ball over here. So I mean, I don't know if there's anything other than that you're referring to.

Mike Gonzalez:

So there wasn't a transition, you had to go through as a player from the small ball to the big ball, you were playing the big ball the whole time pretty much.

Hal Sutton:

I was playing the big ball the whole time.

Bruce Devlin:

Us, you know, who played in other parts of the world, we we use the six two ball for, you know, pretty much I did you know, growing up with the six two ball, it was a, it was quite a transition for me when I when I got hold of that six, eight that sort of spun a little bit more. And every time I hit a bad shot it really told me how bad it really was, it was a lot worse than when the when you hit the same shot with this, you know, six two ball, the small ball. And that you know you in those days, you could play the British, which is now The Open excuse me with the little ball. And then then you come back across the pond, you'd have to play with the big ball. So it was I guess it was I guess it had just changed to Hal, right about the time that you came along? Probably it must have been seventy eight I think it was where it became mandatory to play the big ball everywhere.

Hal Sutton:

Yeah, the transition with us was there got to be some guys that would hit the solid ball for a while into the long par threes and things like that. And then they went to the rule where you had to play the same ball throughout the round. You know, to me, I was I guess maybe I was either really weak mentally or really strong mentally. I don't know which one I'm I prefer to say strong mentally. But I didn't want to confuse myself. And when you start vacillating between things, as Bruce just said, they produce different shots and different results. And I just wasn't smart enough to jockey all of that stuff. I wanted to depend on whatever I knew and make decisions, committed decisions based on what I knew.

Mike Gonzalez:

Sure. Did you have a as you started your pro career? Did you have a caddy at that time? Or do you pick your caddy up along the way? How'd that happen?

Hal Sutton:

No, I had a caddy. There was a guy in Shreveport that caddied for me in a lot of the amateur tournaments. And he and I were, you know, he kept it for me often over all 25 years that I played out there. And, you know, we had some times where we had to reevaluate what was important to both of us. I think that's pretty much universal for every... I see ou laughing Bruce, I guess ou probably had some of those s me experiences where...

Bruce Devlin:

Things change, you know, and priorities changing.

Mike Gonzalez:

But to be with you for that long, you must have People change. had a pretty, pretty good relationship with, we're talking about Freddie Burns, by the way, for those who are listenin to the podcast, who's been with you an awful long time as he?

Hal Sutton:

Yes he has. He's a he's a great friend. And, you know, I always I got criticized pretty heavily. You know, I never I'll go back to this. You know, whenever I turned pro, I didn't realize how many people thought their opinions mattered, you know. And so I turned pro and the first thing that everybody said is he's made a bad decision right off the bat, because he should get a caddy that knows the golf courses, instead of somebody that he knows. Well, the truth of the matter is, is I thought it was more important that the caddy know me than know the golf course. And that's why I brought Freddy out there with me. He and I could both between the two of us we could figure out the golf course. And, you know, Freddie was, here's the one of the most important things golf is a very lonely sport. Lonely You're on your own, and they're going to criticize you for your mistakes and sometimes not even give you credit for what you did, right? And so the person carrying your bag is the closest person to you that can make you feel better about something that you were trying hard, but it didn't work. And that's why Freddie caddied for me so long, because it wasn't I knew that nobody within 50 miles cared more about the result that Hal Sutton had other than Freddie Burns.

Mike Gonzalez:

It's a bit like a marriage too, in a way in that, boy they need to be as supportive as they possibly can the whole time. You don't need any bad vibes out there.

Hal Sutton:

Yeah. You spend more time with them than you do your wife awake. True. And people don't realize that. And, you know, Freddie and I took us about a year to figure out, you know, we had a couple of things, I got a set of golf clubs right here and reaching over here. If I put my hand on one club, he knew to keep his mouth shut. If I put my hand on two clubs, he knew I was undecided. And that was an open invitation for him to say, Hal I like the five iron or I like whatever. And and here's what we had a standing rule that if I went with what he thought if he talked me into doing what he thought, and it didn't work out, let's just say I hit a really good shot. And he thought it was a five iron and I thought it was a six and I hit it over the green, he needed to take responsibility for that shot right then and say, Hey, boss, I was wrong. I should, you know, we should have gone with your six iron because what that did is that allowed me to leave that shot back there. And I could move on completely committed to the next shot. But if he didn't take responsibility for that, we're both sitting there thinking about it. And not really committing to anything other than anger because we pulled the wrong club. You know, you can't, you have to leave whatever shot that was back there. You agree with that? Bruce?

Bruce Devlin:

There's no question about it. And I look, you know, watch a little bit of television on the golf, you know, golf today, and it's I've never heard so much conversation between player and caddy. Sometimes it takes them a minute and a half to decide what club they're going to play.

Hal Sutton:

Yeah, that created indecision with me there was another thing you know, I hardly ever asked Freddie, what I what he thought about a breaking putt. And the reason is, how do you read a breaking putt if you don't know how hard somebody is going to hit it? And, you know, I just, it's totally feel. So how do you describe feel to someone? How does Freddie tell me what he's feeling on a 10 footer downhill breaking left to right six inches? How's he gonna tell me that? You can't? You can't? You can't. So, you know, I just didn't even involve him in that. You know, I mean, Jackie Burke had something he said, you know, show up, shut up. And whatever the other one was, you know, keep up, keep up. And he never he, he told his caddy one time, he said, Look, I'm gonna give you pay before we go out there. And the only way that you're going to get it is for you to promise me you'll never walk out on the green with me. I don't need anything you got to say on the green. Just confused us.

Mike Gonzalez:

Now, Bruce will relate one story that he had with his caddy one time where he's coming down the stretch. Maybe next the last hole o the tournament. And he looks down in his bag. And apparently the club selection had already been made for him by perhaps him and a friend. Remember that Bruce.

Bruce Devlin:

I do remember 17th hole at LaQuinta was paired with Trevino the last round and we get to 17. And I drove it a little bit past him. And I my yardage I had was you know, 137/157. And I walked over to the bag. I said to Emil Smith was my caddie the guy I had from Houston long time and I said to Smitty, we have got and he said, Well, you know 137 157 I look at the bag. And there was a seven iron. That's the only thing I saw there. I didn't take too much notice so I grabbed the seven I went to go to the ball and I look back and Trevino had been standing by Smitty. And I'm not sure whose hand was around that round the rest of the clubs, but all I saw was a seven iron. And you and I both know, you can't do this back in those days. you couldn't hit a seven iron, you know, over the back of a green. Right. And there was a, if you've ever played LaQuinta to the back of the 17 green was out of bounds. Yeah. So there was no way I could hit that seven out of bounds.

Mike Gonzalez:

That was the only way to lose the tournament. I think too, right Bruce?

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah. If you hit it out of bounds then you lose the tournament.

Mike Gonzalez:

Thank you for listening to another episode of "FORE the Good of the Game." and please, wherever you listen to your podcast on Apple and Spotify if you like what you hear, please subscribe. Spread the word and tell your friends. Until we tee it up again. FORE the Good of the Game, so long everybody

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Hal Sutton

Future World Golf Hall of Fame member, Hal Sutton, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and posted incredible Amateur and Professional records. Introduced to golf at a young age, Hal learned the game on his home 9-hole course and at Shady Oaks, CC while benefiting from the mentorship of all-time golf greats like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Jackie Burke, Jr. He played his collegiate golf at Centennary College and dominated college golf around 1980 winning 14 college events and significant Amateur events such as the Western Am in 1979 and 1980 and the 1980 U.S. Amateur. Hal also participated on winning Walker Cup teams in 1979 and 1981.

Hal turned professional in 1981 and recorded 15 wins as a pro including 14 on the PGA Tour. Highlights included winning the 1983 PGA Championship (beating Jack Nicklaus by one shot), The Tournament Players Championship in 1983 and 2000, and the 1998 Tour Championship. He is famous for his final 6-iron shot into the 18th green at the 2000 TPC with his iconic phrase, "Be the Right Club Today", besting Tiger Woods in this head-to-head match-up. He participated in four Ryder Cups as a player including the infamous 1999 "Battle at Brookline", and captained the 2004 Ryder Cup Team.

Hal has received several prestigious awards including the 2007 Payne Stewart Award recognizing his philanthropic efforts includes the establishment of the Christus Schumpert Sutton Children's Hospital in his hometown of Shreveport and his work in support of Hurricane Katrina victims.

Hal currently operates the Hal Sutton Golf Academy in Houston, Texas, where he makes his home. He has also teamed with his Director of Instruction, Chase Cooper, to create a golf-related podcast entitled, "Be the Right Club Today."