Fuzzy’s spirits are up this week

PARKER, Colo. – If Fuzzy Zoeller makes the cut at the 71st Senior PGA Championship that begins Thursday, he’ll be concerned about his driving. But Ed Carpenter’s driving also will be on his mind.

Carpenter will be behind the wheel of the No. 20 car that starts in the middle of the third row in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. It’s a car that was without a primary sponsor as recently as three weeks ago, when a deal was struck with Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka. Zoeller, a former Masters, U.S. Open and Senior PGA champion, is less than a year into the spirits business.

“I was excited when I got the phone call,” Zoeller said Wednesday while practicing at Colorado Golf Club. “I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s something different.’ What better way to get exposure for a new product than at the Indy 500? It’s a hell of an idea.”

photo

Fuzzy Zoeller (left) and driver Ed Carpenter.

While Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka is available in only about a dozen states, it is gaining market share and has been an award-winning spirit. There is no question that American race fans have a devoted brand loyalty to the sponsors of their favorite drivers. And Carpenter has had his moments; he had six top-10 finishes last year and he’s been fifth and eighth, respectively, in the last two Indy 500s.

“The avid, diehard race fans know what sponsors are on that car and they are devoted to those brands,” said Zoeller. “There’s no question about that.”

As all native Hoosiers do, Zoeller counts basketball and open-wheel racing as a way of life. His life as a touring professional made it difficult to take in the spectacle as often as he would have liked.

“I’ve been to five or six,” he said. “I’m always on the road, chasing golf balls, and never had a lot of time in my younger years to go there, but I was there all last week, at the time trials, and it’s absolutely amazing, the talent that these young men have driving those machines. You really don’t get the feel for it until you’re there in person to see how fast these guys go in these cars. They’re unbelievable.”

Naturally, Zoeller can only imagine what he might be missing.

“They said, ‘Well, you need to be there on Sunday.’ But this championship is my first priority. I just hope Ed has a good, safe ride. He’s got a car that I think is very competitive. Can he win? Yes, because when he got done with qualifying, he said, ‘I have a lot more in the automobile.’ ”

Zoeller won in his first try at the Senior PGA Championship, in 2002, and tied for third the next year. He’s only been in the top 10 once since then, however, so playing well at Colorado GC would give him one reason to hoist a toast come Sunday evening.

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