Interview With 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion Steve Wilson
An interview with:
CRAIG SMITH: Let me start by introducing the 2008 mid‑amateur champion, Steve Wilson. You played spectacularly, and I imagine earlier in the week when you won a match for the couple over par and then the second match with a little more over par, then you really started going. What was it like today? You played some of your best golf today, especially chipping, putting, and short game.
STEVE WILSON: I did. It felt a lot more solid today. Hit a few wayward shots, but my caddie kept me in line and he kept making great read after great read. I don't even lookat the line. He reads it, and then I just get over and hit it where he says.
He was incredible today. I don't know how much the percentage is, but a lot of the credit goes to him.
Q. What's his name?
STEVE WILSON: Gary Martin.
Q. Is he from Mississippi?
STEVE WILSON: He is. We're business partners. We own two gas stations together.
CRAIG SMITH: How about the irony of ironies. You were talking before that you were a part‑time professional golfer for almost ten years. One of the things you dreamed about as a professional golfer is playing in the U.S. Open, playing in the Masters, and all of a sudden you go back to being a working man like the rest of us and here comes the Masters invitation probably.
STEVE WILSON: Yeah, it's unbelievable. I didn't expect ‑‑ as a professional, I never dreamed of getting to the Masters, of course. But just making, you know, a decent living or getting to the PGA Tour would have been plenty.
But my first PGA being the Masters, I can't even fathom it.
Q. I assume Gary is going to be carrying the bag.
STEVE WILSON: Definitely.
Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE WILSON: I told him he looked girly. He gets mad at me.
Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE WILSON: I did. I told him it was a lot easier. Your shoulders don't hurt. Why hurt your shoulders if you don't have to?
Q. Do you putt like that very often? I mean, that was super putting. I know you had help from Gary, but you had to make the putt.
STEVE WILSON: If you talk to people I play golf with a lot, they'll tell you I'm the worst putter they've ever seen. Normally to the green I'm fairly strong, I'm fairly long and hit a lot of greens in regulation.
Everybody tells me, If you could just putt…
Q. Got to get you on the bent grass tomorrow.
STEVE WILSON: I'm telling you. This stuff is perfect. You start it on the line and it goes in.
Q. Where did you feel like you were comfortable with it? You only let him win four holes, but I think in the last hole of the morning ‑ or one of those right around here in the clubhouse ‑ nine, when you had the hole or the other one when you were in the trash and get a par on the par 5. Where did to feel like it's your day?
STEVE WILSON: When I got to 4‑up, 4‑up feels really comfortable. I don't remember where it happened. It might have been the par 3 right after the par 5, No. 4.
When I got to 4 up, I thought‑‑ I hate to say I couldn't mess this up. I could, but I thought that was a good lead.
Q. You had a number of really key up and downs late in the morning match and early in the afternoon. Talk about two or three of those that really helped keep you going.
STEVE WILSON: 17 I had, yeah, in the morning round, I had the really tough bunker shot. I hit to up to about probably about 15 feet. I really just have so much confidence in Gary, that if I can get it anywhere up there he's going to give me a read and I feel like I can make it. He's been right probably 95% of the time.
Q. What about the one right out here on 9 in the afternoon round? You looked like you were dead after...
STEVE WILSON: That's‑‑ as we progressed, we started classifying those putts as the no consequence putts when you can't do anything but tie or lose. He gives me a little bit less break on those and I hit them firmer, and that was one of those. He was just exactly right again.
Q. Describe your short game, the way you played it today, because it was phenomenal. The up and downs and putts that you made, I mean, how do you feel about the way your short game was today?
STEVE WILSON: I wish I could have it all the time. I normally don't. Like I say, I hit a lot of greens normally, and my short game, definitely everybody points out my weakness. But just today seemed like my day.
Q. Can you talk about hole 3 after you hit it into the bushes?
STEVE WILSON: Yeah, I hit my second shot unplayableinto the ‑‑ it was in the bushes. Took a two‑club drop for my unplayable. I didn't have much of a backswing. I had to just sort of hinge and was just swinging and hoping.
Somehow it came out and stopped, what, 10, 12 feet. Gary, again, perfect read and made it.
That's‑‑ just hitting it to 10 or 12 feet, I think that let Todd know he had to get that up and down. And 40 or 50 feet on these greens, I mean, it's just tough. It's tough to get up and down.
Q. How good of a player is Gary?
STEVE WILSON: Gary was a lot better than I was, a lot better than was at one time. He actually won two state Amateurs in Mississippi and he has a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in the '86 Hattiesburg Classic. The year Nicklaus was winning in Augusta, he was shooting the low score for the weekend and finishing ninth at Hattiesburg.
He actually hurt his knee. I don't know exactly how he hurt it, but that ended his career for the most part. But he was fabulous.
Q. Do you have a favorite Masters moment growing up? I guess you've never been to Augusta.
STEVE WILSON: I've never been there. My favorite Master's moment is ‑‑ I've got two of them, and they're equal. Freddy winning in '92. He's always been my favorite player. And Tiger in '97 when he blew everybody out.
Q. Any guys you’d like to play a practice round with at the Masters?
STEVE WILSON: Tiger and Freddy. If I could get either one of those guys that would be great. I'm actually good friends with Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum. Used to play with him when I played my mini tours and stuff. Bubba Watson actually, too.
But I'm sure I'll hook up with those guys, but I'd like to get Freddy and Tiger, if possible.
Q. Does this kind of surprise you? I mean, 264 guys start, and six days later there's one guy standing. What kind of expectations did you have coming in here?
STEVE WILSON: It's like hitting the lottery for me. I didn't. I knew I had some game. I never believed I could win anything this big.
At the same time, I knew it was possible. I just didn't think it would ever happen. I make a lot of mistakes. I play very aggressive usually and I make a lot of mistakes. They were minimized this week for some reason.
Q. You were at Southern Miss the same time Brett (Favre) was?
STEVE WILSON: Yes.
Q. How well do you know him?
STEVE WILSON: I know him well enough where I could say hello. We played rounds of golf together. I think we played twice.
A good friend of mine was his roommate in college. Scott Jackson is his name. He brought me up to play with him one time.
I also play in his tournament, Brett Favre's tournament. I played in it several times, his scramble or whatever it is. Actually played with Tony Romo last time I played. Great guy. Great golfer. Good looking girlfriend. (Laughter.)
Q. You come to a place where obviously Brett Favre is a God here. Does winning in Wisconsin...
STEVE WILSON: Maybe. I'm good friends with his brother, Scott. I need to call him and at least tell him how many questions I got about Brett.
CRAIG SMITH: And the boys back home, when they read: Great short game, 14 putts in 32 holes, they're going to think, Who is this guy?
STEVE WILSON: I don't know how to explain it.
Q. You said you don't know how to explain it, and you said you're not a good putter or don't have a good short game. This week for some reason it's been minimized. Is it just sort of fate that this is your week?
STEVE WILSON: I guess so. I guess it was.
Q. You won some other stuff, correct?
STEVE WILSON: Yes. I won the state‑am last year. I won the state mid‑am this year. On the coast, I live on the coast, and we got a championship down there. I've won it seven or eight times. We have a Coast Open and a Coast‑Am, and I won it a bunch of times.
Q. How many USGA events have you played in?
STEVE WILSON: This is my third one. I played in the '06 Mid‑Am in Arizona, in Flagstaff. Missed the cut.
And then I played in the '07 Publinks last year in Wheaton, Illinois.
Q. Are you a public course player?
STEVE WILSON: Yes, absolutely.
Q. Will you play the APL next year?
STEVE WILSON: Yeah. I probably will.
Q. What is your home course?
STEVE WILSON: I'm not a member anywhere. I play and practice more than often at Shell Landing in Gautier.
Q. Oh, yeah, I know the course.
STEVE WILSON: It's incredible. And the pro out there is a buddy of mine that will take care of anybody out there.
Q. How about a couple of Katrina questions. I know you said at least you had something to go back to, but it looked like you had over four feet of water.
STEVE WILSON: That's right.
Q. Did you lose things like your golf clubs?
STEVE WILSON: No. My golf clubs were in my trunk. I thought I was going on vacation when the hurricane hit in Destin, Florida, but found out I wasn't going to be on vacation for long.
Came back and everything was ruined in the house: floors, cabinets, appliances, sheet rock, insulation. My dad and my brother, who's a heck of a carpenter, they jumped in and in two months we had to back livable and ready to go.
Q. Wow. How valuable was Gary? Let's say you had a club caddie. Do you think you would be sitting here right now?
STEVE WILSON: No, I don't think so. I liken it to a guy that's really good at billiards. He can see the angles. He can and I can't, so I don't think so.