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Yale ’92, current PGA Tour Professional Player
Interviewed on December 21, 2006
Interview (98 mins)
Bob has just regained his PGA Tour card for the third time. He talked to us by phone from his home in Florida.
He was born on Long Island, where his parents had taken their first teaching jobs. However, their jobs were eliminated when student enrollment fell, and at age 4 Bob moved to Clearwater Florida, where his parents taught physical education. That was the “best thing that could have happened to him.” He learned to play golf by tagging along when his father and grandmother played at Coral Gables. He was more interested in baseball and basketball than golf in high school. He was not the best on his high school golf team, but in his senior year he led the county in scoring average.
Because he visited his grandparents on L.I. every summer, he wanted to return to the northeast for college. He applied to Yale after he was ‘lightly” recruited for basketball.” He was skeptical of his chances of being admitted, until he went for his alumni interview near his home in Florida. Luckily the interviewer “was very happy to meet the young man”, whose athletic career he “had been following in the papers” and whose father he had taught with on Long Island. He came to play basketball, but after seeing the course and the scores that were posted by college players the summer before he entered, he decided to try out for the golf team. “I thought I was a scratch player…these guys are posting 78, 82 etc…I can compete here easily…I was wrong of course …I didn’t know how hard the course was.”
“I first met Dave Paterson in a classroom along with 25 other guys who were also responding to a flyer announcing tryouts for the golf team. We filled out a questionnaire and I said I was a 4 handicap. At the course the first time I was completely intimidated and didn’t break 80. But, Dave saw something I guess, because he let me practice with the team that fall and then invited me on the spring trip to the West Coast.” In retrospect, the highlight of that trip for Bob was not being allowed to play the 18th at Pebble Beach because of darkness. Now, when he plays there in the National Pro-Am as a professional, he can really appreciate where he is [and for free]. He had become discouraged with the basketball program, so he decided to concentrate on being “ two sided”, a student and a golfer for the next 3 years.
He scheduled all his classes before 11 AM. Then it was lunch and the afternoon at the course. Then back to the college for dinner and studying in bed until he fell asleep. The people at the course became his family. He was not always comfortable with the other highly academically motivated students. But Peter Pulaski, Toni Corvi, Mike “Big Mow” Moran and Brad Saunders made a “nice family.” And then there was the course, “my sanctuary.” “Always the question is asked, ‘if you could only play one more round, where would it be’.” For Bob it would be at Yale. Because of the difficulty of the course, the huge greens, the bunkers, and never having a level lie his game improved. “My game blossomed at Yale.” And then there was the influence of Coach Dave Paterson.
“Without Dave Paterson, you wouldn’t be including me in this project.” Coach Paterson had told him, at the beginning of his junior year, that he should consider being a professional golfer. Bob thought that was a joke. But, the “turning point” came that spring at the Wofford Invitational tournament at the Country Club of South Carolina. Bob came in 4th with a 68 on the last day. He beat Chris Patton, then the US Amateur champion, and many other southern collegiate golfers who hadn’t spent the winter in New Haven. He won the Ivy League individual championship 3 years in a row at Bethpage Black [by 13 strokes as a senior]. Also as a senior, he made the Academic All-American Team with a 3.20 GPA. “The NCAA called to make sure the GPA hadn’t been rounded-up to meet the minimum requirement of 3.2.”
Just before graduation Bob was working on job applications when Dave Paterson told him, “you have the rest of your life to ‘get a job’, you’re going to try professional golf.” His parents had always supported him and now they did again, as well as his soon to be wife, Nancy. The financial support he needed came from Dave’s network of friends and from Bob’s friends and family. $30,000 per year for 1992-94 allowed him to play the mini tours around Orlando Florida. But, even when he won a couple of events the prize money gave his investors less than a 50% return. He went to the PGA “Q School in the desert in 1994.” By making it to the final stage he qualified for the Nike [now Nationwide] Tour. Coach Paterson had told him in 1992 that to succeed as a Pro he would “have to cure his hook and learn to play a fade.” He did that, without instruction, by “pretending he was Freddie Couples.” But, in the final stage of qualifying in 1994, “pretending broke down.” This continued on the Nike Tour where he was “out of his element and a complete failure.” By 1996 his investors were losing interest in losing money, and Nancy was pregnant. He quite professional golf.
Now Bob took that real job, with Raymond James Financial, in the back office “counting peanuts” for $21,000 a year. Six months later he had gained 30 pounds, when Dave Paterson saved his golf career. “At Christmas 1996 Dave knocked on our door. When we opened the door, he didn’t say hello, he said ‘you look like shit, why are you not playing golf anymore?’” When Bob explained the situation to Dave, the only question Dave asked was, “how much money do you need?” Within 3 months Dave had raised the needed $35,000 from 18 investors [including 3 Catholic nuns who split 1 share between them]. That money was supplemented, as it had been in previous years, by Bob working as an assistant golf coach at the University of South Florida in Tampa. By 1998 he was on the Hooters Tour and his investors were getting a return on there now $50,000 annual investment. He was 2nd on the money list [$100,00 +] which earned him a $50,000 bonus [half to be paid in ’98 & half in ‘99].
Bob had “conditional status” on the Nike Tour in 1999, so he had to decide whether he would play there or stay on the Hooters Tour. His Hooters 1998 “bonus” was paid out at $1,200, if and when he entered a Hookers Tour event. His “practical” mother advised against his plan of playing the Nike [with no such guarantee]. Bob’s response to mother was, “I didn’t get a Yale degree and turn Pro to play the Hooters Tour, it was to play the PGA Tour and I can’t get there from the Hooters.” Two weeks later he won the Nike Tour event at Shreveport and $42,000. Later that year he won the Nike Tour Championship at Dothan Alabama in a play-off with Marco Dawson [he had played the Hogan Tour event played at Yale in the 1980’s]. He entered the tournament 16th on the money list, which would have gotten him directly to the final stage of PGA Q School. A good check would have moved him to 15th or higher and qualified him for the 2000 PGA Tour directly. Winning was even better.
Yale graduate and rookie on the 2000 PGA Tour attracted the attention of Sports Illustrated. Bob agreed to write an online weekly diary. It was immensely enjoyable, but he stopped the time-consuming series after 9 months. It was difficult, he admitted, to “relive his failures weekly,” and he also was surprised and discouragd by some “painful” negative feedback from critical fans amidst the overwhelmingly positive response. [The diary is still posted online, and complete archive is here.] He led the PGA Tour in putting in 2002, but that wasn’t a good thing, since it really meant that he was not hitting greens in regulation and missing 16 of 21 cuts. Since then he’s been on the Nationwide Tour in 2003, 2004, and 2006 and back on the PGA Tour in 2005. No more thoughts of a job at Raymond James.
Bob is very excited about returning to the PGA Tour for 2007 since he believes that this time he is ready with “the tools in place and his ducks in a row.” He now has an instructor [no more Freddie Couples pretend] and the same caddie for the past 2 years. That’s Jeff Dean a 52 year old country boy from “LA” [lower Alabama]–a bachelor who sold a few restaurants in 1999 to try the caddie life. He made $50,000 with Bob in 2005. His demeanor is of one who “could care less” which helps Bob’s to “de-stress.” And Bob has had a chance to study the focus of Tiger Woods and how he deals with the “circus of the tour.” Bob will be able to use the fitness trailer and trainers provided on the PGA, but not the other tours, to be ready to play no matter when his tee time. Finally he points to his wife Nancy as being a “huge” positive for his team. They now have 3 children. Never once in 14 years has she “told [him] he should be doing something else.” She is very “astute” in analyzing his swing and game plan. Together they work out a “plan of attach” and “set goals” for the smallest detail of that plan. It’s not just “one shot at a time, it’s even how do I breath over this putt.” They now live in Dunedin Florida. When at home he occasionally plays the Dunedin Country Club (which had been the first site of the PGA headquarters, but much more regularly plays at the Countryside Country Club in Clearwater, which he represents on tour, and where he is a member.
At the end of the interview, Bob Heintz speaks of his admiration for Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.