2001: Lancaster always good for a laugh
You cheer for Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or the latest Spanish wizard with the buggy-whip swing and boyish charm. Me, I pull for Neal Lancaster.
You are thrilled by the golf of Woods-Mickelson-Buggy-whip. Me, I am thrilled anytime Neal Lancaster is around and I have a notebook in my hand or a beer on the next spot at the bar.
Redneck Lancaster goes by Cuz, which is short for Cousin. He is called Cuz because he calls just about everyone else Cuz. It fits someone from rural North Carolina who makes Jeff Foxworthy seem vanilla.
You know him as the guy who shot not one but two 29s in the U.S. Open. I know him as the funniest man on the PGA Tour.
I am partial to characters, and Neal Lancaster is a 24-karat character. He is the fast-talking, comedic hillbilly from far out in the country. He is the second best quote on the PGA Tour, and he’s only second because salty Fulton (Cuzzy) Allem happens to play the PGA Tour.
Cuz is the guy who once hit on a woman in a bar, danced with her often that night and ended up marrying her daughter. That is believed to be an unofficial PGA Tour record.
Any minute spent with Cuz is a 60-second laugh track. The recent Advil Western Open provided more of the same. The Western, of course, was a British Open qualifying site this year. Before the tournament, I bumped into Lancaster and asked, “Are you going to the British if you finish high enough here?”
“Yeah, man,” Cuz shot back in that quick drawl. “That’s my kind of tournament. Everybody gets drunk and don’t eat. I’d do pretty good there.”
Cuz says his favorite movie is “Slapshot” because the Hanson brothers are “kinda like me.”
Cuz says he once told his mama he wanted to be a garbage man when he grew up “because they only work on Tuesday and Thursday. That’s the only days they pick up our trash.”
Cuz fired his caddie this year at Hilton Head because the caddie called him a “Tour bottom feeder.” Cuz told the caddie, “I know that’s true, but you can’t say it to me. So you’re fired.”
On his way to the Canadian Open as a Tour rookie in 1990, Cuz got on an airplane headed for Ontario, Calif., instead of Ontario, Canada. He realized something was wrong when people boarding the plane were wearing warm-weather clothes and the guy next to him was talking about going to the beach.
“We going to Canada, ain’t we?” Cuz asked the man.
“No, California,” the man answered.
“Shoot, I’m on the wrong plane,” Cuz said before getting off the plane.
In the first round of this year’s Western, Cuz “cold-shanked” a 2-iron into the right trees and made a bogey 6 on the 15th. He finished with 74 and already was thinking about having another weekend off. You think that way when you’re 135th on the money list.
“At least I get to watch the race (Pepsi 400) this weekend,” Cuz said, smiling.
Not everyone is in a good mood when they stand nine strokes back after 18 holes en route to missing the cut. But Cuz was unfazed. He laughed it off and told some stories and talked of how he’s perceived. After more than 11 Tour seasons, in which he has finished between 58th and 142nd in earnings, he knows how other players view him.
“They all think I’m wacko because I like to have a good time,” he said. “But I figure if you’re going to do it bad, you might as well do it bad and have fun.”
In late June at the Buick Classic, Cuz decided to have some fun Tommy Bolt-style. On the third hole of the second round, Cuz was 9 over par and certain to miss the 36-hole cutoff. So he told his caddie, “You better start taking the clubs from me because I’m going to start breakin’ ’em. I’m not mad, but I just want to get rid of them and get some different clubs to try to change my luck.’ ”
So after hitting his approach to the third green, Cuz broke his 9-iron over his knee. “Just snapped it,” he recalled, smiling.
After chipping out of trouble on the fourth hole, Cuz broke his pitching wedge over his knee. “Just snapped it,” he recalled, smiling.
After topping a 5-wood second shot from the left rough on the fifth hole, Cuz broke the shaft over his knee. “Just snapped it,” he recalled, smiling.
Finally, Cuz turned to his caddie and said, “Look, why don’t you break one. It might change your luck, too."