An Interview WIth Louis Lee


By USGA
September 15, 2011

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming, Jim and Andrew. Welcome, Louis. We have our 2011 USGA Senior Amateur champion here, Louis Lee. Tell us about your week, Louis. I know you haven't played competitively in 26 years. Way to come back.

LOUIS LEE: Yeah. Like I told many people this week, Christina, I'm probably the most surprised person here because I came here with no expectations, and probably in a roundabout way that took a lot of pressure off, because I came in here, nobody knew who I was. Everybody thought I was a caddie. And I went out there as an unknown, and I just kind of freewheeled it, and I qualified. I kind of stumbled to the finish, didn't play very well.

But the first match I played a really good player from Bellevue, Washington, named Tom Brandes, who played extremely well. And you usually rise to the level of your competition, and I was just able to do that and I kind of found something in my swing that just kind of clicked. Shot two or three under par that day. I don't remember, it's been too many rounds ago. But from there on, until this final round, I played some of the best golf in my life.

Now, today I didn't play very well. I was fortunate to get by because I just didn't have it today. Call it fatigue, call it pressure, whatever. I'm not sure what it was. I just didn't have it today. And I was fortunate enough to win. Phil helped me a couple of times. But that's the name of the game. You know, when you're playing competitive golf at this level, usually somebody loses more often than somebody wins, and I was afraid I was on the fast track to giving it away. But I kind of reached deep down in my soul on 16, 17 and 18, which are really difficult holes, and I was just able to make swings and get it in. And that four foot putt on the last hole was sweet when it went in. It was digging for that left lip, and it went in, I let off a deep sigh of relief.

THE MODERATOR: Feel free to jump in with any questions, guys, but your brother, been with you all week, played against him, had him on your bag the last two rounds. What has that experience been like, sharing that with him and your wife and his wife?

LOUIS LEE: I don't know that I can put that into words, Christina. You know, we are brothers, but we are best friends and we are each other's biggest fan. And he has been the great player in our family. I've done my deal, but he's been a great player, nationally known, all American, TOUR player, successful TOUR player, 2007 U. S. Men's Amateur Senior Champion. He's the guy that everybody knows. I've always been the little brother.

And when we came here, we just kind of laughed it off. When we saw the pairings and the brackets, we said, ha, ha, ha, in three matches we're going to play each other. Well, we kept winning and we kept winning, and lo and behold, yesterday morning we're faced off. And that was a range of emotions that I was unprepared to handle, and he would tell you the same thing because every hole we would play we would say how are we going to finish this. You know, who's going to win, who's going to lose it, and how's that going to happen. And it couldn't have been scripted better because he birdied 18 to send it to sudden death, and I birdied 1. And he told me all week, he said, I would rather you win than me. He said, I've had my time in the sun.

So I just think God was in there. I just think He blessed us and smiled on us and said, this is your time and this is the way this match is going to end, and it was just -- it was one of the best days of golf we've ever had as brothers.

And then to win the last two matches was just, you know, was just kind of gravy. But it is  I don't know how to put it into words. I'm way out of my element and comfort zone here, but it really is a pleasure to be here. It's been a great week. It's been an excruciating week. It's been a long week, a hard week, and I am exhausted, but boy, it's been terrific. I'll never forget Kinloch and all these great people here. They have taken me in like family. I will never forget them.

Q. You had talked in the awards ceremony that your brother helped you sort of believe in yourself, that if your belief runs deep enough, as you said in the awards ceremony, good things happen. 

LOUIS LEE: Yeah. Andrew, that's right. I've never been one to have a lot of self confidence. You know, for whatever reason. You know, I can't explain it, but I have never had a lot of self confidence in my playing ability, and I've won a lot of stuff. You know, I've done a lot of things. Not to Stan's caliber, but I've won a lot of tournaments. 

But I've just never had that innate sense of confidence that somebody like Vinny Giles has and Chip Lutz and Paul Simson. Those guys have just got it. I've always just kind of been in the background just kind of hanging on, but this week Stan has pounded into me, he said, "you're as good as anybody out here." He said, "You just need to believe that." And every match I played I got a little more confidence and a little more confidence, and having him on the bag made all the difference.

The last two rounds, especially today when I kind of lost it out there, had he not been there, you'd be talking to Phil. You wouldn't be talking to Louis Lee because I would not have been able to put it together those last three holes. He was talking me through the shots. He was giving me good numbers, and I just -- I give the credit  you know, I give the credit to God, but I give the credit to Stan, because he brought me in. I truly do. It was that important to me.

Q. How was it when you started making your little run there when you won three holes in a row? Tell us about what happened.

LOUIS LEE: The par I made on 8 really energized me. I made a great par on 7 out of the bunker, best bunker shot I've hit in a while. And then on 8 I hit it in the thatch to the left and we were between a 6 and 7 iron and I hit probably the best shot, maybe one of the best shots of the week out of that thatch looking at the water. More than likely you're going to hit that ball in the water, but I hit it perfect, it came out perfect. And I got out of there with a half, and I turned around and I hit some good shots on 9 coming in, made a great bunker shot on 9. That might have been better than 7, I don't know, but it was a great bunker shot. He three putted and handed it back to me and I'm 3 up -- no, I'm 2 up. And we go to 10, and I make a great putt on 10 to go 3 up and then I hit just an incredible hybrid into 11. I thought I made it and made birdie there, and I go 4 up, and I walk off the green and we're standing on 12 tee and Stan says, "what are you going to do?" And I said I'm going to bury it.

And I get up on 12, because Stan's trying to keep me focused because you're 4 up with seven to play, you think you're in control. He says, "you gotta keep focused. This match is not over." So I don't hit a very good drive. I kind of wing it out there in the bunker, and Jim, you and I had this discussion, probably the best shot of the week was that 3 iron out of the fairway bunker on 12, I knocked it about 30, 35 feet past the hole. And I'm saying you're probably going to be 5 up and that's the end of the match.

He chips it up about 10 feet, and I don't know what the speed of that putt was, but I knocked it about 12 feet by. I mean I just breathed on it, and three putted it, and to Phil's credit he made par and the match was on, and I knew it.

He turns around and hits two great shots on 13, wins that hole with birdie, and then I made probably the worst swing of the week on 14, I tried to hit it too hard, just hit it right over the green right in the water, hand him that hole. And I'm bleeding oil pretty bad about then. 1 up, four to play and I hadn't played those four holes particularly well.

I made good 4 on 15. Phil makes a great two putt there to half me. I was sure hoping he would have missed that. But I kind of gathered myself on 16. 16's a real hard hole. It's an intimidating hole, and I'd been losing my driver left some, and that's not a good hole to lose it left on, but I found something and hit one of the best drives of the day; great 8 iron. And hit a good putt, it just didn't go in. Phil let me off the hook there, missed about a 10 footer.

We both hit great shots on 17, we both missed them. I made about a 3 footer there to hang on to a continuous 1 up lead. And then 18 was probably the swing of the week for me when I hit that fairway because I struggled on 18 this week. And when he hit that ball up there close on his second shot, I knew the game was on.
And I tried to hit 7 iron. It was 153, and I went over just a little bit, hit it really good, but it skipped through the green. Chipped it up about four feet, and I was trying to make it because I really figured I needed to, because I thought he made it. And he pulled it just a bit. That's the longest 4 footer I've ever had. It caught the ball. I appreciate that lower left lip. But it was quite a week.

Q. This is a strange question, but what does this do to you just as a person?

LOUIS LEE: That is a good question, Andrew. My father always told me to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat, and this is not going to change me. I'm going to go back to Heber Springs, Arkansas, population 6,500, and I'm going to run my little insurance agency for State Farm Insurance, and I'm going to First Baptist Church in Heber Springs and be a couples Sunday School teacher this coming Sunday. My life will go on. Now, what you people do in my life may change some things, but I'll always be the Louis Lee that I am. I don't want to change that. I'm a simple guy, and I live a good life in the heartland of America. I don't plan to make any changes.

Q. Will you be signing autographs for Sunday school?

LOUIS LEE: Well, I told somebody out there I'll give them $10 to ask for my autograph. If they do, it'll be my pleasure. That's a new thing for me. That's a new thing for me.

THE MODERATOR: Do you think this will open a new door getting you back into more competitive golf?

LOUIS LEE: Christina, I don't know. That's a good question. I don't have a lot of time to play golf, and to be honest, I don't have a real passion for the game like some people do. I've gotta really think about where I am because a lot of doors have just opened for me, and I just don't know where this is going to lead.

I've gotta think about it and pray about it and talk to my family about it, but I'm a home guy. I like to be home. These last eight or nine days out here at the Hilton have been long nights. I've not slept much. I'm ready to be home for a while. So don't be surprised. Whatever decision I make it may shock some people. I don't know. We'll see. We'll see.

Q. On the sixth hole how did your ball get over there in the right rough?

LOUIS LEE: It was called a bad swing. You talking about the dogleg left?

Q. No, sixth. Right after the par 3.

LOUIS LEE: That was a bad swing there, Jim. I tried to hit 3 wood, and I thought if I hit it well, I might hit it too far, might hit it through the fairway, so I came up and out of it a little bit and hung it right, and I'd been in there before.

Q. That stuff's thick.

LOUIS LEE: It's thick, but I'll tell you, I got lucky and caught a good lie. I caught a good lie there. And I was able -- that was one of my better shots today to hit it out of that thatch.

Q. I know it was a great shot.

LOUIS LEE: And to get it up there on the green like I did, that was a big shot. That was a big shot there.

Q. Do you think one of the liabilities of a long putter is distance control? You used a couple of them way by the hole.

LOUIS LEE: Distance control is a challenge with that club. I'd say five feet in I'm really good, but from 20 feet out it's a job. It's a job. It's so much heavier, and if your nerves are a little bit on edge, you've gotta really slow down. And that one on 12 just got away from me. I just kind of went to sleep for a minute, and I just didn't realize how fast that was. It was as fast as greased lightning.

Q. Just some of your scores here, 10, about 20 feet right to left?

LOUIS LEE: Yes. Boy, it was good to see that one go in, Andrew, because I hit a pretty good drive. I kind of hung a little about. Fortunately it stopped in the intermediate rough, and Stan gave me a good distance, and I hit a really good 7 iron that never left the hole, but it checked up about 20 feet or so short. And that was really fast, too. I knew I didn't want to get this one going too hard, and I hit a really good putt and that went in. It was a deep sigh of relief.

Q. What was that, 19 degree hybrid from 234?

LOUIS LEE: I was 234 or 5 or something like that. When I hit it, I thought I made it and then when I saw it gather speed across the green, I was telling it to get down because that hazard's right back there. But one of the best shots I hit this week was that hybrid shot, and thank goodness I got a big lead there because I needed it.

MODERATOR: Anything else from either of you guys? Thanks so much, Louis. Congratulations. It's been a fantastic week.

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