Missouri Golf Post
Photo Apr 22, 9 20 37 AM

Pre Tournament Interview: Fred Funk

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PHIL STAMBAUGH: We welcome Fred Funk into the interview room this afternoon. Fred, obviously a special week for you last year here winning the first time we played at this facility. A few thoughts, you’re going to play with a different partner this year but a few thoughts on coming back for this event.

FRED FUNK: Yeah, it’s great coming back as the defending but it’s not so good not coming with my partner or being paired with my partner. I had to call him about a month or month and a half ago and tell him that more than likely I wasn’t going to be able to play. I didn’t think I’d even have a chance to play back then, I’ve been fighting tennis elbow really bad and couldn’t even pick up a cup of coffee back then when I called him. All of a sudden it started getting a little better and I played last week. It’s still really — it’s not where it needs to be, but wanted to come here and play. Too late to get the team back together, so I’m playing with Eduardo Romero who is a good friend of mine. Great guy, so I’m looking forward to that. It’s just kind of bizarre to come back as a defending champion as a team and not be the team. Called Slu the common denominator, the Sluminator I think we can call him now because he wins a lot in these team events. I look for them to do really well and hopefully Eduardo and I will play well. But it’s fun coming back, it’s such a unique event playing a par 3 golf course. It really worked well. We were worried about how logistically it was going to work just trying to get everybody around. Even though we had bad weather on Sunday last year and it rained really hard that last nine, we got it in and coming out on top was great. I think it was just Jay Haas and Peter were the only ones. It was kind of a two-team battle, I think, coming down the stretch from what I remember. Even though I hit, according to Lanny, the all-time worst putt ever that meant something on the 9th hole, it was fun that Slu held in there and made that six-footer for me to win it. I went back this morning and re-putted that putt. I had three balls and hit two of the three balls exactly where I hit them last year. If you just don’t hit it hard enough, you’re right on that razorback and it goes in the other direction, so it was a hard putt. But anyway, it’s great to be back.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Maybe just talk us through some of the stuff you were doing while the elbow was recuperating. I think you had some pretty neat things going on with that Perfect Golf Event?

FRED FUNK: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. We started this — the company this guy started, basically it’s a company where if you’re trying to start a pro-am or have a pro-am and you want to upgrade, and there’s thousands of the pro-ams around the country obviously for great causes, but if you really want to try to raise a lot of money and be as efficient and run a really nice event, they can tell you how to organize the event. They don’t do it for you, but they tell you how to do it, the step-by-step process to really get a tournament going. There’s a tremendous amount of work to put on a golf tournament, a pro-am. A little fundraiser is not a little fundraiser whether you’re raising $20,000 or you’re a million dollars in one day or more, it’s a big endeavor to put one of those things on, to get the volunteers, to get the golf course, get the teams together and the prizes together and everything else. So there’s a lot of different facets to it that people have no idea when they jump in, I’m going to do a fundraiser. So they’ll help you organize the organization to get it going. Then I added — I became a spokesman for it and I came up with this idea. We had a thing called — I said a corral, they said it’ll be Fred’s Corral where we would have guys that would be wanting — most of them would be Champions Tour guys and every guy I asked said that they would do it, but they can call up a guy and if you have a pro-am that you want to have one pro or you want to have one pro in every group or just one pro on a hole, so whether you have one pro or 36 pros, you can jump into Fred’s Corral and whatever guys that are available, you can go to them and ask them to play in the event. If they say no, no problem. If they say yes, you’ve got a pro. And then negotiate the price, whether they’re going to come in for nothing or $5,000, $10,000, whatever it is. I think it’s a real neat feature that you can really upgrade your tournament by having a tour pro come in and be part of your tournament, just raise a little more awareness for what you’re doing and it’s a pretty neat deal. And the guys that are participating can — you know, you can make a little extra money on the side by doing that and they’re all for great causes. And usually a pro will draw a little more attention, they raise a lot more money when you have tour pros involved. So, it’s pretty neat concept, I thought. That’s where we’re going with it. It’s just something I think hopefully will really catch on and we’ll have a big demand, see what happens.

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Q. I was going to ask when you told Sluman that you couldn’t do it, he was probably heartbroken, wasn’t he? He sobbed or how were you able to console him?

FRED FUNK: We’ll make a soap opera out of this thing. No, he already knew because I hadn’t been playing. He didn’t know how bad my elbow was at the time but he knew I hadn’t been playing. Finally it got to the point I think he was getting ready to call me, and when Bernhard wasn’t playing this year and Tom was available, I think they had already been talking to each other. I know for a fact they were already talking if I couldn’t play, they were going to team up. I happened to call him first and he said yeah, I had that suspicion, so Tom and I have already — would team up. That’s great. That’s the fair thing to do because Tom could be paired up and then Slu’s left in limbo, so you don’t want to leave a guy in limbo and not know who you want to get. So they’re going to be a great team. There’s a lot of great teams out here, one of them just sitting here’s a great team. It was something I think he expected the way it was. It’s really unexpected that I’m here. Obviously not where I want to be, but it’s better. I can pick up a cup of coffee now with no pain.

Q. Fred, it’s so good to have you back here in the Branson area for year two, and congratulations again on your year one win here at Top of the Rock. I’m just curious, your comments in year one were just really incredible, it was great to hear your impressions of Top of the Rock, what you thought of the area. Coming back into town for the first time and coming back to Top of the Rock, what do you think of the additions, what do you think of the changes so far?

FRED FUNK: Well, here at this golf course, I haven’t seen that many changes on this particular one. I heard there’s a lot of changes over on the other one.

Q. The Buffalo.

FRED FUNK: And I haven’t seen that yet. It doesn’t surprise me because Johnny’s going to do whatever it takes. You know, the biggest thing, they had a lot more time to prepare. Last year they had three months to get ready and they were working around the clock. Now you’ve got your new access road, you come in, you’ve got your circle and a real entrance. You know, that’s nice. I did see that — I went over to the parking lot at Buffalo Ridge yesterday and got a new entrance there and you go in there and it’s really nice. I heard they made a lot of mainly cosmetic changes to the golf course, a little more water, opened up some things. I guess they cut some trees down or something. I don’t know what they did. Again, nothing surprises. After what we saw last year what Johnny created, it’s ridiculous. I mean, nobody would spend the kind of time and energy and money to do what he did here. Just sitting in this facility here, this chapel is incredible.

Q. One of the things that’s a big thrill about this tournament is to get to see, we’ve seen the players list and everybody we’ve seen on TV, we’ve seen them win great tournaments over the years, but this is a two-tier tournaments with the legends. Do you as a player on the senior tour, on the Champions Tour, do you get a chance to see some of the older players that you don’t see every week like Jack and Gary?

FRED FUNK: I just saw Gary, who’s always unbelievable to see, he’s so high energy and such a great guy. Last night when I was over at Buffalo Ridge I ran into Butch Baird and Al Geiberger, haven’t seen them in a while, it’s great to see them. And numerous others, Chi Chi I saw when I was registering. Yeah, it’s always great to see those guys. They made the Tour what it is back in the day and even the guys before them. It’s just pretty cool. To this day the highlight of my golf career was playing a practice round with Arnie and Jack at Augusta in 1998. I just still pinch myself to think I was playing in the Masters, playing a practice round on Wednesday before the tournament started with Jack and Arnie, 18 holes. It was just like wow, that was really cool. That’s probably my most memorable thing in golf, more memorable than my individual achievements that I’ve done. That’s really neat. So whenever you have a chance to see them here, very unique event in that aspect that we can bring those guys back out and they have an opportunity to play and have some fun. Brings a lot of energy to the gallery, brings a lot of energy to the tournament. It’s kind of funny, you bring the oldest guys that are probably running out of energy that create all the energy, so it’s pretty neat.

Q. Don’t tell them Gary Player is running out of energy. Q. On Top of the Rock, do you have one hole that’s maybe your favorite or one that’s maybe the hardest?

FRED FUNK: I think 8’s the hardest. No. 9 with that green is hard. No. 8’s probably the toughest tee shot and No. 9 is the toughest green. No. 3’s a heck of a hole when you’ve got that pin in that back left corner, really good. So yeah, to designate just one hole, I don’t know. I would just have to go with probably 9 because of the green if the wind’s blowing at all. And 8’s a tough green. There’s a lot of tough greens out there. One of those two holes.

Q. Do you think it’s harder to score on a par 3 course or on a regular golf course?

FRED FUNK: I don’t know. What’s unique with this is that as a par 3, your tee shot is the shot — I mean, each shot is a tee shot that means everything. You know, it’s not like you’ve got it on a par 4 or par 5, the tee shot’s a free shot, just hit it, get it out there in play and whatever.

Q. You never really get a close approach shot because everything is set from the — so it’s not like you can have a long drive and have a short approach shot.

FRED FUNK: Yeah. Well, No. 2’s really short. A couple of them are wedges here, three or four of the holes are really short shots. But still it’s an all-or-nothing shot almost, especially — well, last year it was a true alternate shot and it was very difficult because the heat’s on. No. 3 is a really tough hole when that pin is in the back left corner because the hazard is right there just left of the pin. 15 feet left of the pin you’re in grass this deep, which I think is a hazard over there, so you don’t want to do that, but at the same time you don’t want to bail out over in the right bunker so you’ve got to just suck it up and hit a good shot. We actually made one bogey last year, which was our only bogey, and we won the tournament because that was the hole that won the tournament for us because we were on our way to making a triple and Slu holed it out of the bunker. He hit it in the water on three. He hit it in the water, then I went back to the drop area. I hit it in the back bunker. He hits it out of the bunker but he hit it too hard and it one-hopped into the hole for bogey. But if it missed the hole, it’s going down in front of the green and we’re probably making triple.

Q. That was on 4.

FRED FUNK: Fourth hole, yeah. Then that was the first round. And then the second time around on that hole he hit it, chunked it short of the green 20 yards over into the fairway and I chipped it up, I lipped out my chip. Basically we made a 4 and a 3 on that hole that could have been a 6 and a 4. A three-shot swing on that hole. But then he hit a great shot into the last, 9, and made birdie, so he made up for it there. But truly that was the hole that really was — that won it for us. We could have lost the tournament. We make triple on that hole, it’s all over the first day.

Q. And then the same question at Buffalo Ridge, that layout, is there a hole you remember that’s just extremely tough?

FRED FUNK: They have some good holes over there. I remember 13 being a very good hole. A lot of really good holes. 12 is a really good hole. Go through the round. I can’t remember the golf course as well. I only played it really twice, played a practice round. But a good golf course. I’m hoping it’s — I heard it’s really wet unfortunately again. I would love to catch that course when it’s a little firm. The greens are really good I heard.

Q. They’re really fast.

FRED FUNK: They’re really fast over there, yeah, that’s what I heard.

Q. Have you taken advantage of any of the fishing activities or anything?

FRED FUNK: When I’m done with you asking questions, I’m going to go fishing.

Q. Well, then I’ll quit.

FRED FUNK: Okay. I didn’t mean it in a bad way.

Q. Just real quick, we’ll get you out there to get some fishing in. What do you think, and obviously with the pro-am we talk about on our broadcasts about the fact that we’re bringing really the best in hunting, the best in golf, the best in fishing. Johnny has really paid a lot of attention to the youth, the amateurs, but also those various sports. Did you get a chance to go over to the shooting academy and see that in year one or so far since you’ve been in town?

FRED FUNK: No, I didn’t. In fact, my pro-am team, three of the four guys, one’s going fishing and three of them are going shooting. It was funny today that one guy on No. 3, he basically cold shanked it off the toe into the — and rolling on No. 3 and it hit the gallery stake about 50 yards short of the green and rolled up right towards the pin about 20 feet short of the hole, and he was closest to the hole at the time. And if he got closest to the hole, he gets a shotgun, a Beretta shotgun or whatever. I said, well, if you win the gun, it’s got to be a crooked barrel, that was a terrible shot.

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The Missouri Golf Post is a monthly digital magazine that “celebrates the people who play the game.” Each monthly issue contains several “feature” stories on golfers, golf courses, and/or major tournaments of interest statewide. Each issue contains a number of regular departments on topics such as Tournament Summaries, Fitness, “The Superintendent’s Corner,” Instruction, and Rules.

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