Jim Furyk nervous, but excited, about Furyk and Friends tour debut
JACKSONVILLE, Fla – When Jim Furyk was a young puppy on the PGA Tour, he marveled at the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Chi Chi Rodriguez featured on the senior tour. But he never imagined that one day he would play in the PGA Tour Champions.
“When I was 35, I was 40 and people were like, ‘Are you going to play the Champions Tour?’ Most of my peers would say, “I don’t know, like I don’t know. Then, as we get to 45, you say to yourself, “Well, you know, maybe”. And then we started to like our late 40s, and we were like, “Hey, who are we kidding? What the hell else are we going to do? ‘ It’s what we know how to do, it’s what we love to do, but there was always that, like at 42, ‘Hmm, I don’t know,’ ”said Furyk.
The 51-year-old has made a smooth transition to 50-plus golf, winning his first two starts and vying for Rookie of the Year and the Charles Schwab Cup, the season-long competition. He hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since May and noted he could play a few old favorites over the next few years, but “95 percent of his golf will be on the Champions Tour.”
Furyk may have started quickly to find the winner’s circle, but he said it wasn’t a piece of cake. These guys are still good and they are still working on their game.
“There’s this idea that we’re all sitting in the locker room and having a beer and a glass of wine,” Furyk said. “I went to my first event in Flint and the lineup was packed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I mean packed. On the green it was difficult to find a place or a hole to putter. The chipping green, they have these three little chipping greens in Warwick Hills and it was hard to find a place to go.
“We are blessed and the guys get it,” Furyk added. “They understand it’s a second life and I’m not sure there is another sport, maybe bowling, we have professional bowlers over 50 who can still compete.”
“I kind of fell in love with the tour,” Furyk said. “I didn’t know if I would like the three rounds; it’s a bit of an athletics competition. You better get out quick and make some birdies. You have to lower the pedal. I get aggressive, I make more birdies. Golf is more fun this way.
“I enjoyed putting myself in the heat a bit more and winning a few events and I also suffered heartbreaking losses. Every competitor wants to wake up on Sunday with a chance and I had more opportunities on the Champions Tour and I really enjoyed them. Guys are just as nervous and you throw up on your shoes at 18. “
This week, Furyk may have an upset stomach for another reason. His name appears for the first time on the marquee of the tournament – the Constellation Furyk & Friends – is played at the Timuquana Country Club.
“Monday morning maybe it felt like a major championship where I was so excited to get things done, but also nervous, wasn’t it?” said Furyk.
For a decade, Furyk & Friends existed as a one-day pro-am before the Players’ Championship, raising around $ 500,000 each year for charity. Darius Rucker performed at the opening night of the tournament.
“We had a good niche and we were making money, but we also didn’t have a formula for growth,” Furyk said.
As he approached his 50se birthday, he started seeing his friends Davis Love III (RSM Classic) and Steve Stricker (American Family Insurance Open) organize tournaments in their local community. When the Korn Ferry Finals moved from Atlantic Beach, Florida to Indiana, Furyk seized the opportunity to create a tournament that would showcase downtown Jacksonville and the St. Johns River.
With the buy-in from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, Furyk landed his longtime sponsor Constellation Energy to secure the title and Circle K as the main sponsor. (There’s a Slushie machine in the locker room this week.)
“At the time, I had not yet taken part in a Champions Tour event. We’re trying to build an event on a tour that I’ve never played an event on, ”Furyk said. “It went on for over three years, so I felt like this day or this week would never get here, and then the last few months kind of went by.”
It turns out that Furyk has a lot of friends. The field includes players like Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker and losing European captain Padraig Harrington, who is making his senior tour debut. Furyk, who has said he doesn’t need to bend his arms to secure engagements, shared a funny story of his recruiting Stricker. Furyk was paired with tournament host in Wisconsin and Fred Couples in the first round.
“Freddie jumped off the first tee and said, ‘Dude, I love you having an event. Strick, happy to be here. Jimmy, I can’t wait to come to your event. Then he looked at Strick and said, “You’re going, aren’t you?” It was awesome. I couldn’t have said it better. I told Strick, “Hunting season isn’t until Thanksgiving in Wisconsin, I checked.” He laughed and said he would be there.
Rucker was there Tuesday night to come full circle as a talent at the pro-am night with former American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, and even John Daly took the stage to sing “Knockin ‘on Heaven’s Door.”
“We used to have a concert for 400 people for our sponsors, now it’s a hall that can accommodate 5,000 people, it’s amazing,” said Furyk. “I kind of pinch myself.”