Brushes with sports greatness, Vol. 2: Tiger Woods, Bay Hill and the origin of the Steve Lowery Fan Club

This is a tale of two, beautiful, March afternoons that took place only a few years apart… back when Tiger Woods was still playing golf.  At the time, I was living in Orlando, home of the Bay Hill Club & Lodge which hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the PGA’s premier tour stops.

My uncle still resides in the plush Central Florida neighborhood which puts on the tournament.  Every year, he’d graciously, yet reluctantly, invite me and my drinking buddies to walk the course to see how golf is supposed to be played.  The fun thing about Bay Hill is that it coincides with both St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness, so the course is generally full of drunken sports fans griping about their brackets being busted.

I’d frequent Bay Hill as often as possible but two years in particular stand out in vivid detail, despite the unhealthy amount of bourbon consumed.

If you’ve ever attended a PGA Tour event, you know that you generally plan your day around the pairings, the layout of the golf course and the time you stumble out of bed.  The first time Brotha E and I attended Bay Hill together, Tiger Woods was at the top of his game.  He’s won this event six times, including four in a row from 2000-2003.  A devout Tiger fan, E’s plan was simple.  Forget the pairings; follow Tiger all day.

His plan paid off.  Tiger was putting on a clinic, on fire from start to finish.  In fact, he just missed shooting a 29 (7 under par) on the front when his putt on the ninth hole lipped out.

That Saturday, Tiger happened to be paired with Steve Lowery.  That’s when the Steve Lowery Fan Club was officially born.

Now if Steve Lowery were playing golf with either you or me, he’d make a mockery of us.  After all, he’s a professional and has been so for over twenty years.  He’s amassed over $15 million in career earnings, far more than you or I will ever see in our lifetimes.  But compared to the golfers on tour, Lowery is barely above average.  He’s won only three PGA Tour events.  His best finish in a major was third place in the 2001 PGA Championship.

Lowery was playing well that day, however, keeping up with Tiger approach for approach.  In fact, on nearly every green in regulation, Lowery was actually closer to the pin than Tiger!  The problem is that putting is not exactly Lowery’s strong suit.*  Tiger would routinely putt first, sink his from farther out, leaving Lowery to putt next… and miss.  It eventually became comical, to everyone on the course except Lowery.

It got to the point that Brotha E was actually betting people in the crowd exactly how and in which direction Lowery would miss his next putt.  Long and to the left.  Short and right.  E, a good golfer in his own right, was nailing each prediction to a tee and earning a few bucks from the gallery in the process.

Fast forward a few years later to find E and I once again wandering around Bay Hill, mini-bottles of Jack Daniels clanging in our pockets.  Also in attendance this time was the Don Calvino and E’s youngest son, Sterling.

As usual, we followed Tiger for most of the day but somehow stumbled on to a green where, you guessed it, Lowery was once again lining up for a putt.  Now, the interesting thing about the PGA Tour is that literally 80% of the fans in attendance follow Tiger Woods, when he’s playing that is.  That means you can pretty much get up close and personal with anyone else on tour not named Phil, Sergio or Ernie.

Such was the case when we saw Lowery putting on this particular hole.  There were maybe twenty to thirty people around the green, if that.

Channeling his putting prediction prowess from years earlier, Brotha E once again whispered that Lowery would miss his putt long and left.  I chuckled, remembering how much fun we had last time but thinking there was no way E could possibly be right once again.

I’ll be damned if Lowery didn’t miss that putt long and left!

Again, etiquette is king at a PGA Tour event.  This isn’t the set of Happy Gilmore. There are tour personnel everywhere holding up “Quiet, Please” signs to ensure nobody talks, shouts or snaps pictures during any golfers’ backswing.  Silence is golden.  That was until Lowery missed that putt.

After watching that miss, I couldn’t help myself, letting out a guffaw heard course-wide.  Like a deer reacting to a gunshot, Sterling sprinted to hide behind the nearest tree he could find.  Don Calvino did the same although his somewhat larger frame is harder to hide behind your average pine.  Not only did everyone in the gallery turn and look in our direction, so did Lowery.  Let’s just say he wasn’t amused.

At that point, I’m not sure even explaining that we were the founding members of the Lowery fan club would have done any good.  He’s an Alabama boy who takes his golf seriously.  I shamefully yet comically broke the rules of etiquette, although I’d like to think both E and Jack Daniels share the blame.

So, Mr. Lowery, if you’re out there, please accept my most humble apologies.  Being from Birmingham, you should understand the effects that bourbon and a long day on the golf course can have on a person.  Please consider keeping me on as a full-time member of the Steve Lowery fan club once again.  After all, with Tiger gone, there’s plenty of room on tour for fans.

For Vol. 1 of Brushes with Sports Greatness: Doc Rivers, click here

28 thoughts on “Brushes with sports greatness, Vol. 2: Tiger Woods, Bay Hill and the origin of the Steve Lowery Fan Club

  1. * Steve Lowery putting average statistics

    2010 – 1.815 – 149th
    2009 – 1.787 – 127th
    2008 – 1.793 – 112th
    2007 – 1.786 – 90th
    2006 – 1.782 – 109th

  2. Chris

    The excitement is winding up but does that mean Lowery will be on your radar for the Bay Hill as well as The Masters ?

    What’s this about Mike Holmgren possibly appraoching Jim Brown about coming out of retirement to come and back and play for the Browns ? Are things that bad after Derek Anderson ripped the organization ? I mean look who he had to face for the starter’s job. Brady ‘I’m So Pretty’ Quinn. That duo along with JaMarcus Russell were the three worst rated QB’s in the league last year weren’t they ? Another reason why they’re ought to be a rookie salary cap in the NFL.

    Alan Parkins

  3. Nice post although I don’t think Stevie boy is up for granting forgiveness after you dissed his less than stellar putting skills AND post his putting average for the past 5 years.. NICE!! I’d also like to add that this was the last time that E fit into anything less than a waist size 36. I’d like to see a Bay Hill post for the year that Beave attended and the trip out to Pat O’Brien’s afterward. QUIET PLEASE!!

  4. Al… as President and founding member of the Steve Lowery fan club, my radar is always on the man when he’s on the leaderboard…. which is rarely.

    Not sure the players union would agree to a rookie cap but it’s done well so far in the NBA.

  5. Donny C… that was a stellar weekend.

    I remember holding up those quiet please signs in that piano bar when they were playing Rocky Top.

    Anything else about that evening is probably not fit for this site’s consumption.

  6. Good article. Remember it well except for the part where I was reluctant. I’ll chalk it up to writer’s embellishment. You are always welcome at my place. The Uncle 🙂

  7. Chris, I remember those times at Bay Hill as if it happen a few minutes ago. Those trips to Bay Hill will go down as some of the most memorable times I’ve had in a while. My Son, a now jr in college still recalls this as one of his best time ever. I am proud to be a memeber of the Steve Lowry fan club. For the record, I pulled down a whopping $15 on the bets that were made. Thanks Steve, but of course that money was contributed to the next bottle of Jack.Great post Chris, think I got a buzz just reading this. Good times..

  8. The last time that I spent anytime on a golfcourse after drinking J.D. there was after hours gun play and a distinct discoloration of several greens.

    Have a good weekend Rev.

  9. E… The only time you made more wagering off of drunks was that one time against Partykiller when the Pats came back against the Bears.

    Of course, that’s the night he stormed back into the house to get HIS whiskey.

    Ahhhh…. good times, man.

  10. Aer… Was Charlton Heston there?

    ‘Cause that sounds like a fun time.

    Which begs the question, Aer.

    Would you rather someone yell “FORE!!” during gunplay or “GUN!!” during foreplay?

  11. When was the year that you were standing in the middle of the bar with the “Quiet Please” sign right in front of the live band?

  12. Chris

    That may well be one of the obstacles that the NFLPA and the NFL will have to deal. Even baseball agent Scott Boras says now that there’s a need for one within the game of baseball. I almost fell out of my chair laughing when I read that. As he’s done more to hike up the salaries of the players than anyone else.

    Did you see that phenomenal last minute shot by Evan Turner ? The kid has mocksy and it may well lead to him winning College Player of The Year as the likes John Wall , Previs Vasquez and Luke Harangody slip somewhat down the standings.

    Alan Parkins

  13. Chris

    Apparently Jim Brown has agreed in principle to come out of retirement and play for the Browns ? LOL,LOL,LOL !!! He’s made the request of Mike Holmgren who’s the Browns’ President and de-facto GM that he wants members of the Cripps and Bloods to be his O line to protect him when he’s back on the field in the NFL.

    Alan Parkins

  14. Beaver… that’s what the Don was referencing in his earlier comments?

    That was a Top Ten night.

    I remember that guitar player kept looking at me holding up that Quiet Please sign. I kept having to reassure him I wasn’t talking about him.

    Props are always handy.

  15. Al… while we’re still waiting on when, where and how Tiger will return, do you think Boras will be first in line into sports hell?

    ‘Cause that’s a long ass line.

  16. I think Brown might want to stick to acting and activism.

    While he demands a ton of respect as likely the greatest football player ever, you’d have to think there are tons of modern players who would like to knock his block off.

  17. Chris

    Boras will be there in line with the whole ‘hierarchy’ of baseball along with several other players as well. But I think before that a fitting punishment also would be public castration for each of the individuals in question. We talk about Arabic customs being arhaic and barbaric. But to me if that were the act that would deter me from from committing crime then I’d definitely be abiding by the law.

    One of the guys who sometimes comments on some of my pieces is trying to tell me that we’re publicly condemning Roethlisberger when there’s no proof that he’s done nothing wrong. First he decries me for saying that Roethlisberger is as close to a rapist and repeat sex offender as there is. And then he tries to chastize me when I post a video of Swizz Beats. Because he’s trying to equate that Swizz walked out of his marriage to Alicia Keys to be with other women. I state to him that infidelity isn’t against the law but bigamy and sex assault are. And the moron still doesn’t get it. Neither will be admit to the fact that Roethlisber lied to the Steelers’ organization about the motor cycle accident that almost cost him his life. If Ben does testify, should he be indicted. Then that as a prior act of bad faith could very well be brought in front of a jury to show his character.

    As to Evan Turner I think he may well now be a lock for College Play of The Year.

    Alan Parkins

  18. Al… I think you’ll likely see Turner and Wall split some of those awards. You can’t go wrong either way. Turner certainly did more with less.

    Regarding Big Ben, I was bartending last night and this guy that the spitting image of Roethlisberger was one of my customers. As I work in a hotel bar, I was joking that he needed to stay the hell away from me.

    Two other guys sitting at the bar were Steelers fans and got a good chuckle out of it, until they realized they might no longer have their franchise quarterback.

    They both agreed that Big Ben was in Big Trouble.

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