Laughter and Tears from the HP Byron Nelson

Andy Reistetter@GolfWriter59Analyst IMay 25, 2009

IRVING TX - MAY 24: Rory Sabbatini is congratulated by his wife Amy on the 18th hole during the fourth and final round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship held at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas on May 24, 2009 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Marc Feldman/ Getty Images)

Golf is a serious game. Golf is also a humbling game in that to play it effectively over a period of time, you have to incorporate humor in order to survive its hardships on one’s body, mind and spirit.

Laughter as a result of player comments about most everything was evident around the TPC Four Seasons Resort golf course last week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Here are some of the more notable humorous comments captured in player interviews throughout the week.

Though at the end of the week it was an unusual champion’s media interview.

“I'm absolutely delighted to be here in Dallas again. I've enjoyed my visits over the years,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said while telling a story in his remarks at the opening ceremony for the 2009 HP Byron Nelson Open.

“My first one as commissioner I was invited to speak to the luncheon of the Salesmanship Club. I got to the luncheon, it was my first one, and about 300 members were assembled for lunch, and I said, boy, that's really flattering that all these people would come out to see me speak. Byron Nelson came over, and I said to the then-current president, I'm really flattered. He said, 'Tim, this is the way it is at all our luncheons. Get over it.'"

Mr. Michael Mendenhall, the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at HP, wghile introducing a video about the remarkable things the Salesmanship Club of Dallas has done to raise over $110 million for charity since 1968:

“I want to thank the commissioner (Tim Finchem), and I want to thank the PGA (Tour). I want to thank Peggy (Nelson's widow) and the club for putting on such a great event. But at HP we like to say, "A pixel paints a thousand words."

Dallas philanthropist, the "Oracle of Oil" and now known as the "King of Wind," T. Boone Pickens. “I'm proud to be sponsoring the Byron Nelson Prize. This we know underwrites the Byron Nelson legacy and in his own way his commitment to sportsmanship. So it's a big day for me, and I look forward to this every year. I bumped into Arnold in the lobby. I don't know what he's doing here.”

Arnold Palmer the first recipient of the Byron Nelson Prize in his acceptance speech. “To all of you, to the Salesmanship Club, which I have worked with before over the years, and those of you who are old enough to know that—I don't think there are people here that are old enough.”

Babe Laufenberg, the local Dallas/Fort Worth CBS 11 sports anchor noting Arnold said earlier that he was sorry he was not playing in the HP Byron Nelson. “Mr. Palmer, you said the one thing you're sorry about is you're not playing this week. Can we get a sponsor's exemption? If you want to play, I think they will arrange this.”

Scott Verplank, recalling his emotional win in 2007 at the HP Byron Nelson. “I still have never been so nervous over a two-foot putt as I was on the last hole here, just because I had done a great job of not thinking about it and then all of a sudden it hit me, holy crap, you're going to win the tournament, which had obviously been a dream of mine since I was a little kid. That was probably the wrong thought at that time.”

Ian Poulter, now age 33, was stranded working in a pro shop and didn’t play for two years from age 16 to 18 when asked at what age did he realize he could be pretty good at the game of golf. “A couple years ago.”

Chad Campbell, who’s swing is compared to legend Ben Hogan a lot when a reporter noted he doesn’t smoke as much as Hogan did. “No, I don't smoke, either. But if I could hit it like him, I might pick up smoking.”

Mike Weir, talking about the 255-yard forced carry on No. 10 at Bethpage Black in the 2002 U.S. Open and watching Nick Price tee off in front of him on Friday morning. It was playing into the wind and Price didn’t make the 280-yard carry into the wind.

“It was kind of laughable. You think you see everything in this game, and that was something I hadn't seen before. I remember him muttering under his breath walking off the tee.”

James Nitties, a PGA Tour rookie who birdied his last four holes to open with a five-under par 65 on Thursday. “The greens are beautiful. If you hit a good putt, they go in. I don't know, for tomorrow, I'm off at 7:25, which is so early. I'm a 9:00 o'clock, 10:00 o'clock get-up type of guy.”

Nitties on Friday after starting with a six on the par-four 10th hole when asked by a reporter to take him through the double on 10. “Well, I missed the putt for five.”

Brian Davis after a second round 65 left him tied for third place described his double bogey on No. 12. Hit it left in the rough, behind the trees, hacked it out, short right bunker, played it out to about five feet and three-putted. “No, another good day, and as you said, a bumpy start. My caddie made a mistake.”

John Mallinger who’s tennis buddy Mark Knowles delayed his fight to Paris for the French open to see him play Saturday and Sunday. If Knowles gets into the finals then Mallinger has to go over to watch him play. When asked by a reporter how that would affect his golf playing schedule malinger replied: “If we get a win tomorrow, it doesn't matter.”

Scott McCarron, who shot 62 early on Sunday to set the mark in the clubhouse for Rory Sabbatini to beat, when asked if he was more relaxed chasing down the leaders like he did:

“No, I'm more relaxed when I'm ten shots clear of everybody.”

Brian Davis after finishing second to Rory Sabbatini’s new tournament record, when asked what he knows of Rory:

“He's a quiet, laid-back guy, (who) doesn't say too much.”

There was no laughter in Sabbatini’s post-victory media interview.

Only thoughts of Byron Nelson not being here for his win, one of his best friends he saw at the Masters who has cancer and Phil Mickelson’s disclosure earlier this week that his wife Amy has breast cancer.

Though maybe that is the sweetness to victory, whether it is in golf or in life. Play your best, do your best and be a good friend who really cares to someone.

And try to laugh when you feel like crying.  

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering for the tournaments and working part time for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and The Golf Channel. He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website or by e-mailing him to


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