(May 2004) When you say The Fuz around Louisville
or Southern Indiana, locals here know it has nothing to do with police.
The Fuz is, of course, Fuzzy Zoeller, their beloved hometown
touring pro who first made a name for himself 25 years ago by winning
the PGA Tours Masters golf championship in his first try. No
first-time player has won that tournament since, further adding to
the magic of that golfing feat.
courtesy PGA of America
Zoeller pitches out of the sand during
the 2003 Senior PGA Championship.
In all, Zoeller captured 10 total PGA Tour events through 1986.
He has made three U.S. Ryder Cup appearances and shares the tour record
for most consecutive birdies, at eight.
As a former Masters winner and now in his third year on the Champions
Tour (formerly the Senior Tour) for players 50 and older, Zoeller
revisited golfs hallowed grounds at Augusta National in April
but played poorly, missing the cut by 12 strokes.
But dont think for a minute the 52-year-old golfer from Floyds
Knobs, Ind., is washed up by any means. On the contrary, he was just
having a bad week in this crazy old game, as he calls
it. In fact, Zoeller is coming off a strong start in 2004, having
won the Champions Tour opening event, the MasterCard Championship
in January in Hawaii and following with a third-place finish in Februarys
Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Tampa, Fla.
Zoeller will no doubt be the hometown favorite May 29-30 at Jack Nicklaus-designed
Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville when the Champions Tour arrives to
stage its PGA Senior Championship. The major championship, with a
purse of $2 million, will be televised on NBC and feature such golfing
legends as Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Craig Stadler, Gary
Player, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite and many others.
Zoeller crossed over that great divide from the PGA to
the Champions Tour in 2002 and hasnt regretted it one bit. In
his first year, Zoeller broke a 16-year winless streak by capturing
the 2002 Senior PGA Championship. He finished the year 20th on the
tours money list. Last year, he finished 26th.
courtesy PGA of America
Zoeller reacts upon winning the 2004 Mastercard.
He appeared at last months Masters as a past winner. He has
no plans to compete in other PGA Tour events this year. Im
committed to the Champions Tour and to help promote it to be bigger
and better than what it is, Zoeller said during a mid-April
telephone interview from his office at Covered Bridge Golf Course
in Sellersburg, Ind.
Zoeller and golf course architect Clyde Johnston built Covered Bridge
Golf Club in 1994. They teamed again in 1999 to build Timbergate Golf
Club in Edinburgh, Ind., near Seymour. Both are public courses with
residential developments. It is at Covered Bridge that Zoeller plans
to host several of his Champions Tour friends when they arrive in
May for the tours major championship.
Zoeller, using his own popularity as a drawing card, is even working
on bringing a Champions Tour tournament to Covered Bridge. The last
Champions Tour event to be held in the region took place in Lexington,
Ky., but it ended in 1997.
Im sure we will be full around here with golfers and friends
during tournament week, Zoeller said. It will be quite
Indeed, Zoeller likes to have fun on the golf course, whether hes
playing for dough or just practicing.
But dont misunderstand: Despite the jokes, pranks and frequent
interactions with the gallery, Fuzzy Zoeller still wants to win. And
when his game is off, as it has been in recent weeks, he tells people
that just having the opportunity to play the game he loves as
a profession makes me a winner every day. Over the years, he
has become one of the most beloved and enjoyable professionals on
tour, and not just here in Southern Indiana and Louisville.
Zoeller says the on-course antics and jokes for which he is known
are par for the course on the Champions Tour. He says fans at the
upcoming Senior PGA Championship may even be surprised at how much
fun the Champions golfers have while competing. Were not
nearly as serious as the PGA Tour; we like to have fun, he said.
Dont be surprised if Zoeller drops his cigarette in the fairway
and walks over the gallery to hold court while waiting to play; or
if you hear him wisecracking after a fellow golfers chunks one into
the drink. Although its not quite the hysterics of Tim Conways
Dorf on Golf videos, youll find that Zoeller
Golf comes with a few laughs.
People all over the country love to watch Fuzzy because hes
so entertaining, said Dave Lobeck, 40, a former investment broker
from Washington, Ind., who heads Fuzzy Zoeller Productions Inc.
courtesy PGA of America
Zoeller will be the
fan favorite in Louisville.
A 7-handicapper himself, Lobeck was selling stock for Edward Jones
Investments when in 1996 he came up with the idea of creating a sports
marketing company to manage Zoellers charity golf tournament,
the Kraft Wolf Challenge. Proceeds from the event benefit
Zoellers Charity Inc. for Kids. Held each year in August at
Covered Bridge, it features golf pros, non-pros and non-golf celebrities
in a day of fun at the course. Money is raised from fans tickets
sales and from a dinner and charity auction. This years Kraft
Wolf Challenge is Aug. 15-16.
Years ago, Zoeller was a regular at the annual Foster Brooks charity
pro-am golf tournament in Louisville. When that ended in the mid-90s,
Zoeller wanted an event over which he could control and attach his
name, Lobeck said. Lobeck had worked the tournament and eventually
talked Zoeller into hiring him to manage the event.
The Wolf Challenge was conceived similar to the PGA Tours Skins
Game, where players tease each other while wearing microphones
so the crowd can listen to the banter. The event was televised in
1999 on Fox Sports Net, and Lobeck is trying to land a TV contract
for future events.
The venture, Fuzzy Zoeller Productions Inc., soon grew into more than
Today, Lobeck manages Zoellers appearance schedule, endorsements,
golf course design activity and markets his new putter aid products,
The Putting Peg and The Putting Pod, which the company introduced
last fall. Shaped like an oversized tee, the device is planted in
the green, and when the ball hits the tee, a computer sound chip emits
the sound of a ball dropping in the cup. The Putting Pod is an indoor
Fuzzy said he was always using a tee to practice with, but he
often became bored because when he hit the tee, nothing happened,
Lobeck explained. They searched the world for a company to provide
the sound device and build it.
These days, Zoeller makes about 25 public appearances a year as
a way of promoting himself and the Champions Tour, Lobeck said.
These include pro-ams and charity events all over the country.
Urban Zoeller, Jr.
Nov. 11, 1951 (age 52), New Albany, Ind.
Residence: Floyds Knobs, Ind.
Family: Wife, Diane; Children: Sunny Noel (5/5/79); Heidi
Leigh (8/23/81); Gretchen Marie (3/27/84); Miles Remington
College: Edison Junior College, Ft. Myers, Fla., and the University
Hobbies: All sports, golf course design, hunting, fishing.
Turned Pro: 1973
PGA Qualifying School: 1974
PGA Tour Career Earnings:
$5.8 million (92nd).
PGA Tour Victories (10): 1979 Wickes-Andy Williams
San Diego Open; 1979 Masters; 1981 Colonial NIT; 1983 Sea
Pines Heritage; 1983 Las Vegas Pro-Celebrity; 1984 U.S. Open;
1985 Hertz Bay Hill Classic; 1986 AT&T Pebble Beach
Pro-Am; 1986 Sea Pines Heritage; 1986 Anheuser-Busch Classic.
International Victories: (1) 2002 Senior Slam.
Champions Tour Earnings (1/1/02 - 4/18/04): $2.1 million
Champions Tour Victories (since 2002): (2) 2002 Senior
PGA Championship; 2004 MasterCard Championship.
Champions Tour 2004 Money List (as of 4/24/04): $477,540 (3rd).
Personal website: www.fuz.com
Lobeck accompanies Zoeller on many of his golf trips. On April 2,
Lobeck joined Zoeller in a political fund raiser for President George
W. Bush in Greensboro, Ga., as a favor to fellow golfer Ben Crenshaw.
Lobeck and Zoeller met President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney
Lobeck also attended the Masters a week later. Joining them for the
second year was Bob Kevoian, a well-known radio personality and co-host
with Tom Griswold of the Bob & Tom Show, which airs
on 140 stations nationwide from its Indianapolis studio.
For the second year during a practice round at Augusta National, Zoeller
pulled Kevoian from the gallery at the No. 12 tee and had him hit
an iron shot to the par-3 green, placing a $100 bet that he could
not land the ball on the green. Last year, Kevoian won the bet; this
year, the ball landed on the green but rolled back into the water.
The crowd roared its approval, anyway. Lobeck videotaped the shot
this year and it can be viewed at www.bobandtom.com.
Kevoian said hanging with The Fuz is absolutely
a pleasure. He adds that what you see on the golf course
is what you get in person; hes always got a smile on his face,
Kevoian said by telephone following his April 12 radio show.
Kevoian met Zoeller eight years ago after having been invited to play
in Zoellers Wolf Challenge. Kevoian, a 12-handicapper, has played
the event every year since.
Even for a professional comedian, Kevoian says Zoeller is a master
at entertaining the crowds. Its a tough challenge to keep
up with Fuzzy. Hes delightfully funny and a real joy to be around,
When hes not on the road, Zoeller spends much of his time enjoying
his second favorite passion, fishing. In fact, on the few days a year
that hes at home, hed rather be out on a lake with fishing
rod in hand than sneaking in a few practice rounds at nearby Valhalla
Golf Club in preparation for the Senior PGA Championship.
Zoeller said he will arrive at Valhalla in late May no more prepared
than the other competitors. Because of his travel schedule, he only
plays there once or twice a year. Its a wonderful course,
and I think the guys (on the Champions Tour) will find it to be a
Valhalla Golf Club pro Keith Reese said having Zoeller in the tournament
field is great because hes such a fan favorite and a fine
ambassador of the game, anyway. Hes the one guy who always looks
like hes having fun out there, and I think the fans appreciate
The tournaments sponsoring organization, the PGA of America,
owns the Louisville course, which was built in 1996 and designed by
Jack Nicklaus. The course played host to the PGA Championship in 1996
and 2000, and the national Club Pro Championship in 2002.
Its great having all these golfing legends in Louisville
because guys like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus wont be playing
for much longer, and this is probably the last time well see
them here, Reese said.
In the three weeks leading up to the event, Zoeller will have traveled
to the Florida Panhandle, Savannah, Ga., and Austin, Texas, to compete
in Champions Tour tournaments. Hell get in a couple of practice
rounds the week of the Senior PGA Championship, just like all the
rest of the players.
But when he arrives at the course, he will likely get a hometown welcome
unlike the rest of the players. Its going to be a lot
of fun, you can be sure of that, he said.
Whether its Louisville or Augusta, The Fuz wouldnt
have it any other way.