Fircrest’s Ken Still can still prowl a golf course, just not at the pace he once did as a three-time PGA Tour winner.
He’s 75 and no longer a tournament professional, but he is still active in the sport. Most days, he can be found racing up and down in a golf cart at Fircrest Golf Club in between private lessons on an isolated range on the northeast end of the property.
Still won’t be playing in the U.S. Senior Open, which starts Thursday at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish. He did play in eight of those events, with a career-best ninth-place finish in 1991 at Oakland Hills Country Club.
His last U.S. Senior Open appearance came at Canterbury Country Club in 1996.
The Clover Park High product, and Pierce County’s most accomplished professional golfer, did offer some insight to take in as the 50-and-over circuit’s most visible event comes to the area:
The News Tribune followed Still around a few holes at Fircrest Golf Club on Friday for a one-on-one interview:
Q: What characteristics define a U.S. Senior Open?
A: “The atmosphere is much better. When you play in a major championship, the adrenaline flows better – which is for the better. Your level goes up. On a scale from 1-to-10, you’re playing like a four (on a regular event), but at a major, it’s a seven or eight. That’s the beauty of the game, it happens naturally.”
Q: What was your best memory from a U.S. Senior Open?
A: “I’m on the 12th hole at Ridgewood in New Jersey (in 1990), and I’m in a divot hole on this par-3. I’ve got no shot. So I used an old shot Chi Chi Rodriguez taught me – close the face and hit it on the toe. I chipped it in, and the gallery went crazy. I got a little excited. I’ll never forget that.”
Q: The 50-and-over guys play in back-to-back major tournaments coming from the Senior British Open to the U.S. Senior Open. Is that a lot to ask from them to endure?
A: “My wife, Linda, and I were talking about it (Friday morning) and we both said, ‘That is not fair for the guys.’ They’re going to have to play over in (Scotland), then fly over here with an eight-hour time change. To be ready to go the following Thursday – the guys are 50-plus years old, they’re not spring chickens – it’s not going to be a Point Defiance picnic.”
Q: If there was one golfer in the field you would pay good money to see at Sahalee Country Club, who would it be, and why?
A: “There are two. No. 1 – Fred Couples. He’s from the area, and he’s on a roll right now. He’s a crowd pleaser, and a gentleman-deluxe. The other one would be Tom Watson. What he’s done at 50-plus … he’s another class act. I recommend if you don’t follow them on the golf course, at least go to the practice tee and watch the pace of their swings. They won’t be hitting at it, they’ll be swinging at it. It’s amazing how much clubhead speed they generate without barely swinging at it.”
Q: What golfer’s personality should the galleries pay attention to?
A: “Fred Funk, without a doubt. Fred and I used to a lot of corporate work together. The thing about him, he’s kind of got the Chi Chi (Rodriguez) background – he’s always talking to the gallery, he’s always got a smile on his face whether he makes a bogey or a birdie, and he’s a tremendous delight. You won’t be disappointed, trust me.”
Still then gave insight about four golfers in the field with whom he used to play on the PGA Tour in the 1970s and 1980s:
· Fuzzy Zoeller: “You looked to get paired with Fuzzy because, No. 1, you were going to be loose and hear a lot of jokes. He’s flamboyant. He loves the people. He was a tremendous asset to our sport at the time. Another thing I remember, he and I were cribbage partners. I remember one time in Grand Rapids (Mich.), and I don’t know what he was thinking about, because he threw two ’7s’ in the crib. I said, ‘Two 7s, I don’t understand.’ Anybody who plays cribbage knows not to throw those into the crib.”
· Tom Watson: “He came out on (the PGA Tour), and he was a proven star at the time. I got paired with him, and it was really enlightening. His nickname at the time was ‘Huck Finn,’ because he had the red hair and the nice smile. He was only a rookie, but being paired with him was a thrill. He is one of the classiest guys to walk down the fairways.”
· Tom Kite: “Even today, when I go to the practice tee at Snoqualmie Ridge at the Boeing Classic, or down at the Jeld-Wen, I go and watch Tom Kite because he’s so smooth. He has the most repetitive swing I’ve ever seen on tour, and he hits those irons as crisp as anyone I’ve seen. I’m happy to say he’s a friend of mine.”
· Ben Crenshaw: “A total classic act. I used to get paired with him quite a bit. He wasn’t the straightest driver in the world, and I was very accurate – I would average hitting 13 (of 14) fairways a round. Ben would go out and pushing it or pulling it and be in the trees. But every time, he’d have a straight shot at the green. The one fairway I’d miss, I was always behind a tree and had to chip out. Why he never had to – I never could figure that out.”