Tour stars' favorite holiday gifts weren't always golf
Thursday, December 12, 2013
They would seem to fit into the category of the “guy who has everything,” given that their great golf talents have brought them fame, fortune, and opportunities they perhaps never dreamed of.
Yet there was a time when they had simple wants and were thrilled when they arrived beneath the Christmas tree.
That ping-pong paddle, for instance.
“I was really hoping to get one for Christmas one year,” said Matt Kuchar. “It’s all I wanted.”
And sure enough, there it was. “My first proper, competitive style ping-pong paddle,” he said. “It really stands out.”
Kuchar had become infatuated with the game by playing it almost every night in the garage with his father, Pete. “When we moved to a house where we could have a ping-pong table all the time on the porch, we’d play in the afternoon,” he said.
Asked for his most memorable Christmas gift, Jason Dufner didn’t hesitate. “Mike Tyson’s Super Punch-Out,” he said. It was mid-1980s, back when Nintendo was the rage.
Mario makes an appearance in the game as the referee, which was OK with Dufner. He liked the Mario stuff, too.
Proof positive that there is an age difference between the two – Dufner was born in 1977, Jordan Spieth in 1993 – the kid from Texas remembers a Nintendo 64 as his favorite gift. “Played that thing all day long,” he said. “It was a shared gift for me and my brother and back in the day I loved it.”
Nintendo 64? Dufner laughed. That was way after his time.
Hunter Mahan’s most memorable gift was something he truly couldn’t use, “but it sure looked cool.” He was 11 when his father gave him a set of clubs “with a big golf bag that had my name on it.”
Mahan laughed, just thinking about it.
“I loved the game. Golf was something we did together. But it was a big staff bag. It was weird. I didn’t use it much. But was something to have. It kind of meant something.”
Jim Furyk thought long and hard when asked for his most memorable gift, conceding that he didn’t want to try and make it golf-related. But guess what? He couldn’t help it.
The metal woods his dad gave him still stand out in his mind.
“One year I remember opening all the gifts under the tree and when I was done I was playing with the things I had and (didn’t see that) my dad had hid a set of metal woods.
“It doesn’t seem like a big deal now,” said Furyk, but he had been introduced to the game when persimmon was still in vogue so the metal ones were quite the statement.
Like Furyk, Bill Haas was enamored with golf, but he had designs on another sport one Christmas.
“I remember when I was old enough, I really wanted to go skiing and I opened up a box and it had tickets to Utah,” he said. “It was a family ski trip and I’ll never forget that time.”
Though he had never been skiing, Haas got right out there with his mother – while his father, Jay, then in his prime as a PGA Tour player, stayed behind with some of the younger sisters. “He couldn’t afford to get hurt,” said Bill, who respects that sentiment now that he’s the one toiling on the PGA Tour.
“I loved it and I’d love to go again, but I don’t get to do it. I’m afraid I’ll get hurt.”
While Haas’ ski gift memory is a surprise, given his background, it’s not with Keegan Bradley.
“K2 skis,” he said without any hesitation when asked for his most memorable gift.
One of the first to pioneer the fiberglass ski technology, K2 were hugely popular and became even more so when the Mahre Brothers, Phil and Steve, used them to record Olympic glory.
As a young man in Vermont with a ski-racing passion, “to have K2s was to have the best,” Bradley said. “I can still remember getting them.”