Category Archives: Interviews

The Bill Parcels Interview

Recently I had the distinct privilege in asking some questions to NFL legend, and newly inducted NFL Hall of Fame member, Coach Bill Parcels.

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Coach Parcels is universally viewed as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. He was a head coach for 19 years, most notably with the New York Giants where he won two Super Bowls. He also coached the Patriots, Jets and Cowboys. He is the only coach in NFL history to take four different teams to the playoffs.

This year Coach Parcels was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame and just days before I conducted this interview he was honored at halftime of the Broncos v. Giants game (Manning Bowl 9/14/13) where he received his NFL Hall of Fame ring.

Here is how the Coach of Golf would assess Coach Parcel’s game: Coach Parcels hits a nice ball. He plays to about a 12 handicap. The thing that strikes me about Coach Parcels is how dedicated he is to practicing. I see him practicing or playing just about every day. Most days when practicing he usually spends a good one and a half to two hours hitting balls. That is pretty impressive for a man of 73 years old.

Our interview took place at Saratoga National Golf Course in Saratoga Springs, New York where he is a member.

CoG: Congratulations on a great year Coach.

Parcels: Thank you very much. It has been pretty special.

CoG: What is the best part of your game?

Parcels: Probably my wedge. I feel very pretty confident with wedges in general. The rest of my game stinks.

CoG: What do you like most about playing golf?

lip3s-1-webParcels: Well, I think it is wholesome. I think it tests you every way possible. It tests you physically, mentally and emotionally. I think it’s a good barometer for where you are in life.

CoG: You practice a great deal. What are you working on?

Parcels: Well, I like practice. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of the game and really almost all the games that I’ve played. I like practicing. I am trying to alter a few things. You know at my age now you have to make a few adjustments so most of the time I’m trying to take the club away with a little more width, that kind of thing. I would like to hit it a little farther. I keep losing distance. Also, I don’t want the ball to go left. I hate seeing the ball go left.

CoG: Do you find any parallels between golf and football?

Parcels: Well, I think there are a lot of mental comparisons you can make because in football, physical aspect of the game aside, mentally you have to be able to withstand disappointment. I think in golf you have to have that as well. If you can’t, or are not willing to move on the next play or the next shot you’re not going to do very well.

CoG: What is your favorite course?

Parcels: I’m not an expert or anything but my favorite course is a private course in Richmond, Virginia. The Kinloch Golf Club.

CoG: Who is your favorite golfer?

IMG_2161Parcels: I tend to like the older guys. I really like Ray Floyd and Lee Trevino. More recently I really liked Payne Stewart. Now I guess Tiger Woods. I don’t think there is much not to like about him.

CoG: Have you ever had a hole-in-one?

Parcels: No I haven’t. I’ve been close. I’ve had a few on the edge. I had one over the edge once but it just wouldn’t drop.
I’ve had a lot of eagles on par 4’s though.

CoG: What is your best round ever?

Parcels: I’ve shot some 73’s and 72’s. I’ve never been under par though.

CoG: If you coached golf what would you focus on teaching your golfers?

Parcels: Hmmm. I guess I would like to see my golfers focus on control- control in every aspect of the game. I would like them to hit it far but in the end I would teach them to keep the ball in play. I would also teach them to control they’re emotions. Like I said earlier, you have to be able to leave mistakes behind and move on. You always have to be looking forward to the next shot.

Thanks, Coach.

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The Dottie Pepper Interview

I recently had the honor of sitting down with the LPGA legend and NBC Sports golf commentator, Dottie Pepper.

UnknownThroughout her career she has been known as a intense, fiery competitor. Few athletes have a more fitting name.
Her passion has kept her at the the top of her profession(s) her entire life. Dottie had an impressive amateur career and in college Pepper was a 3 time All-America at Furman University. During her LPGA career, Dottie went on to win 17 times, including two major championships. Her nineteen under par performance at the 1999 Kraft Nabisco Championship is still a record. Dottie played on six Solheim Cup teams amassing a career record of 13-5-2, winning 70% of her matches.

Injuries ended Dottie’s playing career prematurely at age 38. In 2004 Dottie joined NBC Sports and went on to become one of the most respected on-course commentators ever to walk the fairways. In December of 2012, Dottie decided to retire from broadcasting to move on to new projects both personal and with the PGA of America. And, oh yea, she’s an assistant captain on this years Solheim Cup Team.

As we stood in her kitchen I asked her some questions about her childhood.

CoG: You were raised on a farm. What are some of the chores that you had to do?

Pepper : Our family had a turkey farm in Saratoga Springs, New York. Each year we had about 45,000 turkeys. One thing that most people don’t know is that turkeys are terrified of thunder storms. They freak out and they’ll all try and pile on top of each other. They’ll suffocate each other! So every time there was a thunder storm we would have to go out into the barns with brooms and chase around 45,000 turkeys and to try and keep them away from the corners, piling on and killing each other.

As we moved to her office we shifted the conversation to golf.

CoG: What did being an on-course commentator teach you about the playing and competing that you wish you knew while you on tour?

images-6Pepper : That it’s not rocket-science. It really isn’t.
I think as a player you over-think situations. Where when you take a half a step back, it becomes a lot clearer. Part of the reason why is that because when you are observing the game emotions aren’t so involved and so over driven. All of the sudden the light seems a lot cleared and the options seem a lot bigger and much more obvious. It’s just not as difficult as we think it is.

CoG: Name someone you have seen that we don’t yet know about who you think will be the next big thing on the PGA and the LPGA.

Pepper : On the PGA Tour, as an analyst you’re not suppose to be a fan, but I really am a fan of Bud Cauley. I really think this kid is going to be a rock star. There’s a mentality passed along from his dad who was a NAVY Seal. This kid goes out there—no excuses—and gets the job done. He’s one of only seven players to ever to earn his card through a few sponsors exemptions. That alone puts him in elevated territory. Mechanically his swing is great and he’s found a veteran caddie. Now he’s learning how difficult it is to play that many weeks. Because in college it’s a pretty scripted fall, pretty scripted spring, then in the summer you’re of on your own to figure out where you want to be to make sure you’re prepared for the next season. Well guess what? This IS the season. It’s all the time. I think that has been his biggest adjustment.

On the female side, I would look out for another Alabama product, Brooke Pancake. Terrific kid. Great story. Her dad passed away early so she’s been on her own and had to mature faster than most kids have had too. She was a top-notch student, plus a great player as well. She’s got the qualities to in her first few years to make a Solheim Cup. She’s that good.

CoG: For a high school golfer, male or female, what single piece of advice would you give them to be a successful collegiate golfer?

photoPepper : I would tell them to not just play golf. I would tell them to take advantage of the other sports, individual or team, and use them not only to keep their high-school experience complete, but for cross-training. It benefits golfers in so many ways. Golfers can get bogged down with the psychological aspects of the game, because it is slow. Where if you’re on the ski team, or football team or baseball, whatever, there is an instant reaction that ends up helping in golf. A break from golf is healthy. Myself and other professional golfers that came from up north did other things in the winter—we skied, bowled, played hockey, whatever. We played other sports in the winter and that probably helped our longevity.

CoG: Same question about college golfers wanting to go pro—what advice would you give?

Pepper : I would stay in college as long as possible. I really would. It’s not just about where your golf might be. It’s where you are as a whole person. In learning how to get around the country or how to interact with other people. Whether it’s your roommate, your teammates, whether it’s alumni, whatever it might be, I would take that time not only to enjoy the college golf experience but the college education and social experience as well. I see so many players who are in such a rush to get out on tour. I think that is a mistake.

CoG: If you could change anything about your playing career, would you?

Pepper : I’d be more sensitive about playing so many events. When I was at my best I played thirty-five weeks a year counting the LPGA and the “silly season” stuff. I developed some nagging injuries because of that, that later turned into chronic injuries that ultimately led to my playing career being cut short.

CoG: What is your craziest, favorite story you have about your playing career?

Pepper : It was in Japan at the end of the year. I made a 3 week trip over to play in a week of pro-ams and two events that we played that were on the LPGA schedule. We had what we called an “R. I. rule,” meaning “readily identifiable,” when it came to food in Japan. The last night of our trip me and two other girls went to this fabulous restaurant in Tokyo and we toasted the fact that we made it the entire three weeks without breaking the “R. I. rule.” As soon as we did, the shrimp in the basket sitting on the grill moved. They were alive! We all screamed! On cue they started jumping around in that basket. It was so gross!

CoG: Same question about your announcing career. What’s your craziest, favorite story?

Pepper : It was at the 2008 U.S Senior Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado. In the 2nd round during a couple of commercial breaks we hear rumblings that a bear is loose on the course. I ask the guys, “Where is he?” They say he is a couple of holes away, no big deal. Well don’t you know, about five minutes later we have just come back from a commercial break and I see this thing and he is going so fast coming across this hill, down underneath through a bunker and then up over a rise and then directly at me! (See photo.) He was so big and so fast and so gorgeous. The next week a guy from the USGA presented me with a bear that was made at a local shop. Roger Malbie’s comment to me was, “Kid, that was a bad day to wear white.”

dottie and the bear

Coach of golf commentary: What I like most about this image is that Bernhard Langer (yellow shirt) is just standing casually observing with hands on hips as Dottie Pepper is about to be eaten by a bear!

CoG: Are there any rules in golf you would change if you could?

Pepper : I really don’t like the anchored putter ban, to be honest with you. I really don’t. And here’s why — (the argument) is being used as a “practice round” for (the future argument about) the golf ball—the ball that many believe goes too straight and too far. I think the they (USGA and the R&A) picked their easier fight to see what the reaction was going to be.  Knowing that there was a stretch that we are currently in where three of five major champions have won with a putter using the anchor-style method, so dramatically changed what was coming out of the USGA. In May of 2011 Mike Davis is on record, on video saying, “I’m not worried about it,” when there are no demonstrable numbers coming out saying that this method makes golf so much easier. Why, less than a year later, it is now so bad that the R&A is involved and looking at a ban? Just draw back the golf ball! They let that issue with the golf ball get so far ahead of them and so far gone, that I think they had to pick this fight to see how hard that fight would be. I think that’s essentially why I’m against it. I don’t like the way (the anchored putter) looks, but if it was that easy, if it made that big a difference, everyone would be doing it. It takes a different skill set to be able to operate that thing. It has to be fit properly, it takes a lot of practice to make it even work okay. I didn’t like the smell of it (this fight when it started), and I still don’t.

CoG: What is one thing that no one knows about Dottie Pepper that they should?

Pepper : Wow, hmmm…That I have a very green thumb. I love my gardens. I volunteer at the local florist. I work in the back room. I love it. That’s my thing that nobody knows. If I had to have a business to stay home all the time, that’s what it would be. It totally captivates me.

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Dottie now lives in her home town of Saratoga Springs, New York with her husband, David and their dog J.P.

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Bogey Tees OffWith  co-author Scott Fuller, Dottie wrote Bogey Tees Off (Volume 1, A Lesson About Being Truthful) in 2012. The children’s picture book, illustrated by Kenneth Templeton, is available at amazon.com in both hardcover and paperback. If you order the book through the New York State Golf Association website NYSGA.org $5 of each sale goes to the New York State Golf Foundation.

The Webb Simpson Interview

This week I had the awesome experience of spending a few hours with the 9th ranked player in the world, Webb Simpson.

It was a great experience. Getting to know one of the worlds best golfers as a person, golfer and man of faith. He was very generous with his time and not in a hurry to go anywhere. Myself and the team I coach spent hours with him and we all asked dozens of questions covering all topics golf.

The interview took place in a church in Savannah, Georgia– the day after the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Here are some of the questions asked and the answers he gave.

COG: Who are your closest friends on tour?

Simpson: My closest friends on tour are Ben Crane and Johnathan Byrd. I’ve gotten to know Scott Stallings well over the last year and I’m pretty close with Bubba.

COG: Aside from travel, etc. what was the biggest adjustment you had to make when you went from college golf to the PGA tour?

Simpson: Pretty much just learning just to be myself. For a long time I was thinking I had to be doing what everyone else was doing. If I saw someone doing a certain putting drill, I thought I had to do it too. If I saw someone like Vijay working for 10 hours a day hitting balls I thought I had to do that too. I tried that and it hurt my game. After a while I realized I had to just figure out what worked for me.

COG: What is the biggest difference between the guys who get on tour and stay there and those who don’t?

Simpson: Self-belief. You can really learn a lot by looking at a players body language and demeanor on the course. You can also tell a lot by the way they speak to themselves or their caddy.

COG: Could you please discuss your workout routine?

Simpson: Mostly I do a lot of work with bands. I don’t do any free weights. A few years ago I hired a trainer. We did a lot of testing to find out where my strengths and weaknesses were. We found out that I tend to swing with my arms. I did that because my lower body couldn’t support my swing. So over the last couple of years we’ve been focusing on mostly my thighs, hamstrings and butt to get my lower body more involved in my swing. I do a lot of squats and core work. One thing that has really helped is massages and stretching. For cardio work I’ll get on the sprint bike for 6 to 8 minutes and go really hard for 30 second intervals. Everything I do is to get my body to be explosive during the swing.

COG: What about guys like Tiger and Camillo?

Simpson: I really like Camillo. He’s a really great guy. But he’s so much of a gym rat that it’s affecting his golf game. Sometimes he’ll cycle for over a hundred miles a day. That’s like 6 hours. It’s given him some lower back issues. Think about it, you can’t be in that position on a bike for that long without it putting a lot of stress on your lower back.

As far as Tiger goes, I think he’s a dummy. I don’t know why he’s doing the stuff he’s doing.

COG: What are you working on now?

Simpson: I’m doing everything pretty well now. I started out this year pretty solid but for some reason lately I’m just not scoring like I think I should. I don’t need to change anything I just need to be patient. One thing I am working on is my putting. I have a tendency when I putt to move my head up and back during the stroke. I do a drill where I have my caddie Paul hold my head still when I putt on the practice green. It might take a few months to correct it but little by little it’s getting better. It’s something I only think about when I’m practicing. When I play I just try and focus on making the putt.

COG: What mental things do you work on?

Simpson: I don’t have a mental coach. I just try to keep things simple. I think many tour players have a tendency to over complicate that stuff. That’s not to say that I won’t have a mental coach someday. I just try and remember that golf is just a game and if I get too technical I try to remember the way that Webb as a kid would play the game.

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There were many more questions and answers but one story he told has to be repeated. It’s awesome and it’s a story from this year’s Masters:

Simpson: My caddie Paul’s wife Michele has been wanting him to buy her a pretty expensive ring. It’s about $9000. Not many people know this Masters trivia but at Augusta there is one palm tree. It’s on the par 3, 4th hole. So she’s been bugging him about this ring for weeks and he told her that if she can find the lone palm tree at Augusta National he’ll buy it for her. So I’m playing a practice round with Bubba and I’m telling him this story about Paul and his wife. So we get to the 4th hole and Bubba screams,”Hey Michele! It’s over here!” Paul gets really mad and Bubba and I are laughing and Paul’s getting madder and madder. Bubba finally says, “Listen, if I win this week, I’ll buy it for her.” I texted him after the Masters and asked him if he was going to make good on his promise. He texted back, “I think I’ll find her something even better.”

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It was an awesome afternoon for myself and my golf team. An experience that none of the guys will ever forget. He was a true gentleman and a lot of fun to be around.