15 time PGA tour winner, two time Player’s Champion, 1983 PGA Champion, four time Ryder Cup member and 2004 Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton joins us for episode #239 of the Golf Better Podcast.
In this episode, we discuss Hal’s life in the game of golf, challenges he’s faced, what he’s doing to give back to the youth at Big Easy Ranch in Columbus, Texas and wraps up with a round of 5 questions in 50 seconds.
Be the right club today.
Tom Brassell: Welcome to GolfBetter at World Wide Golf Shops. Episode 239. Hello everyone, Tom Brassell here, thanks so much for joining us. This is your first voyage or you’re a frequent flier on the Star ship GolfBetter. Either way, it doesn’t matter, we’re just glad you joined us. Especially so today, because we have a very extra special guest. He joins us from God’s country up in northwest Louisiana. 15 time winner on the PGA tour, he’s twice the winner of the player’s championship, winner of the 1983 PGA championship, and a member of four Ryder Cup teams and was captain of the Ryder Cup in 2004. He was also the Payne Stewart award winner in 2007, which says an awful lot about him. But most importantly, he’s a Gent from Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. Who else, but mister Hal Sutton. Hal thanks so much for joining us today. It’s great having you with us.
Hal Sutton: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to be on.
Tom Brassell: Before we get into the topic of the day, Hal. I wanted to ask you about that. When you were a junior golfer and high school golfer, you could have gone anywhere, but you chose to stay home. Talk about that for a minute.
Hal Sutton: Well, that was a big decision. At the time, Houston had one of the best teams in the country and they really wanted me bad. I really kind of wanted to go to Houston. My dad kind of talked me into staying at home and going to school. It was a good decision. It wasn’t bad and he stayed involved. He was protective over me as many parents are. And, he didn’t want anybody to spoil the walk, so to speak. Sometimes, I think, parents get too protective in that way. And, kids feel the pressure of that protection basically. That’s what’s motivated me to move on, but, you know, I live in Houston now. There’re many ways that I feel like, if I had come to Houston, it would have been different, but it turned out really good. So, I’m not complaining.
Tom Brassell: You’re doing something now. You’ve got something going on that’s just so special. I don’t even want to attempt to do it justice, cause I’ll fumble the ball on the five yard line. Why don’t you talk about what you’ve go going on from the beginning stages, from the dream to where you are right now cause it is really special.
Hal Sutton: Thank you Tom, for thinking it special, but it’s ah. To be great at anything, you’ve got to be selfish. I’ve spent the first part of my life being selfish. Chasing my own personal dreams. A lot of heartache because I was involved with some people that weren’t chasing the same dream. And, it cost family life a lot, but I still love my dad, my mom, my kids. Family means a great deal to me. When I finally settled down, you know. Part of what cause me to settle down was, I started having hip problems and I ended up consequently having both hips replaced and then shortly thereafter I had a heart attack.
I felt like God was trying to tell me, hey slow down and do something else. So, I started chasing the second dream that I had, which was to help junior golf and to help families. A friend of mine here in Houston, Billy Brown, we had kind of run across each other and got reacquainted. He said, Hal I’ve got this dream of building the finest sporting club in America. And, he said, I want golf to be inclusive in it. So, let’s join forces and let’s do this. So, we did, two years ago. I think we’ve built one of the finest places to be honest with you. It’s called, Big Easy Ranch. It’s just west of Houston. I call it the ultimate man cave, but women are allowed and encouraged, because it’s really really that nice.
We do every kind of hunting you can do. World class fishing. We’re seasonal trout fisherman. We just built a red fish lake behind the lodge. The first of it’s kind. It’s an experiment to see if we can do it, but getting on what I’m trying to do here. We built an incredible golf course and it’s a Par 3 course, but it’s almost 1750 yards long from the tips. So, it’s very challenging. We built a world class driving range and a world class academy. I hired probably, what I think is one of the best technicians in the country, as far as golf data is concerned. His name is Chase Cooper. He was formerly with MySwings. We’ve teamed up and I think we make the most unique team in the country as far as teaching golf because he can do everything in a world class level from technical. And, I can do everything as far as teaching kids how to play golf.
So few kids know how to play golf anymore. They know how to swing at the ball, but they don’t know what is entailed in playing golf. They’re all learning on the practice tee. They’re hitting the same shot, from the same place, with the same wedge, and that’s not golf. I learned how to play golf on the golf course, not on the driving range. When you and I grew up Tom, we had red striped balls that came out the lake. The best balls were in our bag. So, we didn’t spend a lot of time on the practice tee. I spent time on the practice tee after I got in college. More so than before I got into college. I was playing all the time. I’m sure you were too. Anyway, what were really doing, what I’m really excited about is parent/child teaching schools together.
We teach the parent as well as the kid. The reason why we do that is, is that there’s so many parents that think they really know what they’re doing when it comes to golf. Honestly, they know very little. They need to become. Bob McNair is a friend of mine that owns the Texans and I use his analogy many times. He owns the Texans, he doesn’t coach the Texans. He hires capable people to coach the Texans. And, that’s the way parents need to look at their kids. I teach so many kids where the parents have strong opinions. I’m thinking, where does this come from? What knowledge do you have that enables you to have this sort of opinion? You know, sometimes it’s just allowing them to understand a little better. Taking the time. And, Tom, one of the things that I use in this is, I show them a picture of my dad and I together whenever I won the PGA.
We’re holding the Wanamaker Trophy together. To be honest, you wouldn’t know which one of the two of us won the tournament. If you looked at it because the smiles were so big on his face. I tell the kids each time that they see this. I said, look so what you don’t understand is that he won too. You’re trying to push your parents aside, but, you know, my dad was, I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of dollars he was into it at that point. Let’s not forget all of the anguish that was going on between the time we started to the time we got to there. He felt like he had won. So many kids say, no you didn’t win, I wan. Which you know, the joy in parents feeling that as well. There’s nothing wrong in feeling that. I try to help the kids see the parent’s side and the parents see the kid’s side. I was both. I am now a parent and I was that kid.
Tom Brassell: You know how, back in 83, when you won the PGA, when the media started calling you the heir apparent to Nicklaus and the Bear apparent. That probably didn’t help things.
Hal Sutton: No. It turned up the volume on everything. The minute I won the tournament. The positive side is daddy and I holding that trophy together, smiling. The negative side is as soon as he set it down, he said next. That’s not good. That’s not healthy. I mean, there has to be a little bit of a celebration time where you’re not claiming the next victim in the sling, so to speak. You’re stopping the fight for a little bit. I don’t mean, you stop it for a week. I mean you have a day or two where you celebrate.
Tom Brassell: Well, Hal, talk about when the father/son come to the Big Easy Ranch, what they will experience. Is it for a day, a weekend, a week? And, what you’re going to do with them. Cause I assume you’re not only going to talk to the fathers and the sons, you may talk to them both, right, at the same time?
Hal Sutton: Oh. Yeah. I’m going to talk to each of them individually and then I’m going to talk to them together, but my goal for this is these kids are chasing the dream of being the best. We’ll do some of these for father/daughters as well, or if it’s the mother that’s the really involved one. I want her to be part of this. We have several of the mothers coming to this event this coming weekend. What we’re going to try to do is create the life of a professional golfer for two days for them. So, when they come in, they’re going to get their clubs. They’re going to know all the lies and lost swing weights and everything else for their clubs. Any adjustments that need to be made. We’re going to give them all the data that is at each professional’s access each day on the tour. I’m going to give them some playing lessons. We’re going to have a competition between each other.
Then that night, we’re going to have a dinner together. We’re going to talk about golf, many thing I will come up with, but I’m going to encourage at the very opening of the school that they ask questions. To never be ashamed of any question that they may feel they may want to ask because someone else is sitting over there thinking about it. So, I want the person that it pops into their head, I want them to ask because if you leave here without something being answered that should have been answered, it’s your fault. It’s not going to be mine, I want to answer it. One of the things that we preach here is balance. So, we’ll knock everything off about three to three thirty the first day. We’re going to go out. Half the group is going to shoot sporting plays and half the group will go fishing. Depending on which one they want to do.
You know, there’s balance in life and there’s balance in the golf swing. Both are just as important as the other. There’s too many people out of balance. I mean, I hate to say this, I’m a big Tiger Woods fan. I think golf would be a lot better off if he could reinvent his golf game, but things got out of balance for Tiger. I mean, it’s easy to be an arm chair quarter back and everybody sit out here and say this is what’s wrong and that’s what’s wrong, but I did this for a long time. And, I also know Tiger Woods. He chased the dream as hard as anybody has ever chased it. And, was talented enough to make the world think he was fixin’ to break Jack Nicklaus’ records.
Tiger chased it as hard as anybody in the world and he chased it so hard, but he got out of balance. He was so into chasing the dream, that he didn’t get to celebrate and live life a little bit. Then he went the opposite way as hard as he could go. I just think, if he’d of had a little more balance as he was growing up. This all started with his dad. To be honest with you, his dad worked him as hard as anybody can work anybody. That’s no offense. We’ve got a lot of dads that do that. My dad did that to me, as a matter of fact, but you know, my dad, at least, took me fishing sometimes and things like that that allowed me to feel a little balance in my life.
Tom Brassell: Well you’re open now. It’s just getting started, bigeasyranch.com, just out west of Houston. And, you’ve got, I’ve guess, you’ve got Golf Channel doing a piece on it, coming up, right?
Hal Sutton: Yeah. They’re going to be here at the school next weekend. You know, what I want them to do is just be a fly on the wall. This is not a made for TV viewing basically. This is more of a, “this is what we do and this is what we’re going to do in the future”. It’s not a reality TV show. I hate reality TV shows because they’re not really reality. They’re made for TV. What I really want to do is make a difference in people’s lives. You know, not everybody is going to make it to the ultimate goal of fulfilling their total dream. Let’s not lose any family time along the way because we got sideways with each other because one wanted it more than the other.
Tom Brassell: You said earlier, there is nothing more important than family. You don’t want that to be a blown tire on the road of life down the highway, down I-10, you know.
Hal Sutton: Well, I tell you. When a kid is 23 or 24, they think they’re going to live forever and they think everybody around them is going to live forever. I am now 59 years old and my dad is 84. Any minute I spent sideways along the way, I am really ashamed of and disappointed in. My dad’s been my greatest fan and I couldn’t have made it without him. That’s also the case for most kids. Somehow we get resentful as a kid that our parents want it so much. What’s wrong with someone that loves you wanting what you want for you? What’s wrong with that? I’m just curious?
Tom Brassell: Great stuff, Hal Sutton. Hey, before we go, I want, we do this with everybody, Dustin Johnson, David Abeles from Taylormade. I got to put you on the clock. Five questions, 50 seconds. Five irrelevant questions and see if you come up with some good answers. Now, you ready to go on the clock, Hal? Here we go. First question for Hal Sutton, first question, greatest athlete to ever come out of Shreveport Bossier City?
Hal Sutton: Terry Bradshaw.
Tom Brassell: Question number two for Hal Sutton, you’ve got one round of golf left to play in your life, who do you play it with and where do you play?
Hal Sutton: Jack Nicklaus, Pebble Beach.
Tom Brassell: Question number three, it’s probably the same answer. Who was your golf idol growing up?
Hal Sutton: Jack Nicklaus
Tom Brassell: Question number four for Hal Sutton. God has come down and granted you one Mulligan. You can either use it on the course or in life or whatever. Would you use it and where would you use it.
Hal Sutton: I’d go back and spend more time with my mother and dad, more quality time.
Tom Brassell: And question number five for Hal Sutton, repeat and finish this sentence from the 2000 Player Championship. Be the right club …
Hal Sutton: Today.
Tom Brassell: Oh, man. Hal Sutton. One of the great ones. It’s been great catching up with you. Going back in time to a great time in our lives and finding out what great things you’re doing. Hey, before we close, Hal. We’ve got listeners really all over the country, our Golfer’s Warehouse stores in New England. Edwin Watt’s Golf in the Southeast. Van’s Golf in New Mexico, Arizona. You went to Utah. Roger Dunn, The Golf Mart in California and Hawaii. How about some final words from Hal Sutton to all the golfers out there who are listening in.
Hal Sutton: Enjoy the game. Try to do your best on every shot. Try to do something rather than try not to do something. As we age, I think every player is trying not to three putt instead of trying to make the putt. If you three putt, you three putt trying to do something.
Tom Brassell: Great stuff from Hal Sutton. Hal thanks so much for joining us. It’s been fun catching up with you. Let’s do it again down the road.
Hal Sutton: All right. Sounds good Tom.
Tom Brassell: We’ve had 18 quality minutes with 1983 PGA champion, two time Player’s Champion, former Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton and what he is doing. And, the passion that lives in him to help young golfers and help families. Again, it’s Big Easy Ranch out there about one hour outside of Houston to the west. Make sure to check it out bigeasyranch.com. With special thanks to Hal Sutton for joining us. And to you are listeners, we’ll do it again next time. We’ll have another episode of GolfBetter at worldwidegolfshops.com. So long everyone.