U.S. WOMEN'S MID-AMATEUR
Burke, Sutton Share Tour, Life Stories at Players' Reception
November 13, 2017 | Houston, Texas
By Lisa D. Mickey
There was a Texas-size helping of mutual respect Friday night at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship Players’ Dinner when longtime friends Jack Burke Jr. and Hal Sutton took the stage for some lively banter.
That compelling exchange between the two major champions with 30 combined PGA Tour victories was even more delicious than the crème brulee served for dessert in the packed Champions Golf Club dining room.
Sometimes, the two men were serious and sometimes Burke, 94 – and fit as a fiddle – was deadpan hilarious while sparring with his younger confidant.
Here’s how some of their musings and zingers went, along with a few nuggets of wisdom by World Golf Hall of Fame member Burke:
Hal Sutton, who eventually went to Centenary College, was a young standout being recruited by the University of Houston in 1976 when he came to Champions Golf Club for the first time. Sutton, who would later win the 1980 U.S. Amateur, already had big dreams and sought out Burke, the club co-owner, to pick his brain.
“I asked Mr. Burke what it’s like to play on the PGA Tour,” said Sutton. “He kind of grunted at me and pushed me off the porch. I said, ‘What was that for?’ and he said, “You wanted to know what it’s like to play the PGA Tour.’”
Sutton discussed his U.S. Amateur victory at The Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst:
“I have to give credit to this man here (Burke), because from that day forward, he never stopped helping me. He made things easier for me and put things in perspective for me. He was someone I looked up to and respected. In fact, when I was asked to be the [United States] Ryder Cup captain, he was the first person I called.”
Sutton: What if I told ya’ll I had the secret to golf? Jack, did you turn over every rock to find the secret?
Burke: I’m still looking for it.
Sutton: And if you were looking for the secret in golf, would you know what you’re looking for when you find it?
Burke: No, the only thing you can ever find is, can you do it again?
Sutton: What is perfect when it comes to a golf swing?
Burke: That you have a pocket full of money.
Sutton: They gave me a nice gold medal to keep when I won the 1980 U.S. Amateur. My friend Jerry Pate (winner of the 1974 U.S. Amateur and 1976 U.S. Open) called and told me he commissioned somebody to build a replica U.S. Amateur Trophy for us. It was going to be one-third the size of the real thing. I said to Jerry: “I think that trophy is gold. How much is this thing going to cost?” He told me I didn’t want to know that. So I have the U.S. Amateur Trophy in my office, but I actually paid for it.
Sutton to Burke: You have said you only get one chance in the golf swing to create speed. Many of us try to create the speed up here (pointing to his chest).
Burke: No, your hips are the only thing that create speed in the swing. They call it the follow-through because your hands and arms follow your hips. Everything on this planet is round. All the fruit, tops of trees, the moon, so many things. The golf swing is also round.
Sutton: So is my stomach.
Burke: We can put you on a diet.
Sutton: If you could find perfect swing, could you sustain it? When I was playing well, I thought I could do it for the rest of my life.
Burke: You were disappointed, weren’t you?
Burke: A man came here to Champions Golf Club once and asked if I still taught lessons. I told him I have three teaching pros now, so no, I don’t teach anymore. He said, “Well, would you just come out and watch me hit a few balls?” I went out there. He said, “If you had been here teaching today, what would you have charged me for a lesson?” I told him $7,000, and he said, “Isn’t that a lot of money?” And I said, “It is, but a lesson for this is a miracle, and miracles are expensive.”
Burke: I had another student one time and he said if I could cure him from shanking chip shots, he’d give me $500. He smoked a pipe, so I told him to hand me his pipe and I put it on the ground right beside the ball. He started chipping with that pipe lying there by his ball and he never hit another shank. I got $500. Well, he came into my pro shop later that day and showed me his crushed-up pipe, and I said, “What happened?” He told me, “This doesn’t work with long irons.” [Laughter]
Sutton: After I beat Tiger Woods in the 2000 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, I was asked to speak in front of my peers at the next year’s general meeting, so I talked about my first year on the PGA Tour in 1981.
My first tournament was the Bob Hope Desert Classic in Palm Springs. I called American Airlines to buy a ticket to go play the tournament. My peers were all laughing when I told this, so I said, “Eighty of you came in on private jets this week. Back in those days, only two people flew in private jets: Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
Anyway, I got off the airplane in Palm Springs in January, and there were snow-capped mountains and beautiful flowers. It was a lot different than Shreveport, Louisiana, at that time of year. I needed a car and walked over to Hertz and rented a car for the week. Then I got in my rental car and drove to Indian Wells Country Club and picked up a valet ticket when I dropped off my car. I was hungry, so I went into the clubhouse and they said I could get a half-price club sandwich. These days, players can get seven-course meals, three times a day, in the tournament clubhouse.
So then I went out on the range and needed some range balls and the attendant said they cost $3 for 50 balls. I hit balls, played and came back to the car valet. You know how you can tell when somebody really, really important walks in and you can just feel the spirit change? I looked around and said, “My God, that’s Jack Nicklaus!” I knew what I felt was respect. And yes, the valet got him his car a lot faster than I got mine.
Sutton: Jack Burke taught me how to respect the game and one thing he told me was, there’s no gray area in golf: you’re either in bounds or out of bounds. Sometimes you also had good luck or bad luck. One year at the PGA’s Greensboro (N.C.) tournament, I had a ball move on me and I had to call a penalty on myself. It cost me $30,000, but it was the right thing to do. The next year , I won the tournament.
Burke: When I played, we were never on television. We were on the radio and these radio guys asked us a bunch of questions every week. So, if I shot a 69, what am I going to tell the interviewer? That I prayed I wouldn’t three-putt?
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.