Heintz goes from Q-School regular to Penn golf coach

By John FeinsteinNovember 7, 2012, 7:58 pm

Bob Heintz signed his scorecard, walked out of the scoring area at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club in Flordia and shook his head.

“Time to go scoreboard watch again,” he said with a wry smile. “I feel a little bit ghoulish standing there, hoping guys go backwards but I don’t have much choice.”

This was seven years ago at second stage of the 2005 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Heintz had played the PGA Tour that year, but lost his card. He wasn’t alone. Among those playing second stage that year were Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Steve Pate, Guy Boros and Mike Hulbert.

As it turned out, several players in the late groups went backwards on the back nine and Heintz survived on the number.           

“When you see those big numbers go up you have mixed emotions,” he said. “You know it’s good for you but a lot of the time it’s someone you know and you feel bad for him. But in the end, if you’re being honest with yourself, you’d rather feel bad for someone who isn’t you.”

Three weeks later, at Q-School finals, Heintz felt bad for himself. He walked off the course after the sixth and final round and headed back to the scoreboard. This time there weren’t quite enough high numbers in the late afternoon and Heintz knew he was headed back to what was then the Nationwide Tour.

“In a sense, those two weeks were a microcosm of my career,” he said earlier this week. “I spent a lot of time staring at Q-School scoreboards. I always made my share of birdies, so what it came down to was that I always made just enough mistakes that, instead of walking to my car and saying, ‘OK, let’s go get ready to play on Tour,’ I was standing around hoping. Just think how much of that time I could have spent practicing.”

Heintz is now 42 and his days of staring at scoreboards are over. He was hired in September as the golf coach at the University of Pennsylvania, a return to his Ivy League roots. He was a three-time Ivy League champion at Yale, which was pretty good for someone who thought his best sport in high school was baseball. That’s not surprising, considering that his younger brother, Chris, was good enough to play for the Minnesota Twins.

However, three years after graduating from Yale, in 1992, he honestly didn’t think he was good enough to play on the PGA Tour.

“The first time I played (Q-School) finals, I felt completely overwhelmed, like I didn’t belong,” he said. “I played a practice round with Jesper Parnevik, who was moving from the European Tour to the PGA Tour. He had won, I think, the Scottish Open that year. He was so good. I felt completely intimidated before I’d hit a shot.

“I struggled on the Nike Tour in ’94 and didn’t even make it back to finals that year. My wife and I were getting ready to have our first child. There was also that question in my mind about is this what I should be doing with a Yale degree.”

He decided to put the economics degree to use in 1996 by going to work for Edward Jones, the investment firm. He did fine as a money manager but wasn’t especially happy doing it. He put on weight and began to look unhealthy to some of his friends. Finally, the week before Christmas in 1997, Dave Paterson, who had been his coach at Yale, showed up on his doorstep.

“He was in town (Tampa) doing something and we invited him to the house to dinner,” Heintz remembered. “I opened the door and his first words were, ‘Bob, you look like s----. Why aren’t you playing golf anymore?’”

Heintz explained that he had a newborn daughter and that he had run out of money trying to play golf for a living.

“Do you remember where you went to college?” Paterson asked him. “I can raise sponsorship money for you. Just give me the word.”   

With help from Paterson and his father-in-law, Heintz headed off to Hooters Tour Q-School a couple of months later with a $40,000 head start.

“I wasn’t sure I could make it through their Q-School and then I ended up very high on their money list,” Heintz said. “That really helped my confidence. I learned how to play four-round tournaments week in and week out. I’d only been partially exempt on the Nike (Tour) in ’94 so I didn’t get to play that much. That was a big step for me.”

Heintz made it back to PGA Tour Q-School finals in 1998 and was fully exempt on the Nike Tour a year later. He won twice in ’99, including at the Nike Tour Championship, jumping him from 16th on the money list to sixth. In those days, only the top 15 automatically moved on to the PGA Tour.

“I went into that last tournament thinking I had two great chances to make the (PGA) Tour,” he said. “Even if I didn’t make the top 15, I was exempt into the finals (of Q-School) and I really believed I would make it. By then I knew I was good enough.”

Of course, good enough to make the Tour is different than good enough to stay on the Tour. Heintz was an exempt player on PGA Tour on five different occasions – once in 2000 and then four more times after surviving his Q-School scoreboard stare-downs. “Every time I made it, I made it close,” he said, laughing. “I never breezed.”

The last time he made it through the finals was in 2006. He played the last day with a very young and confident Anthony Kim and an older and very nervous Michael Bradley. “I’ll never forget the feeling being with those two guys that day,” he said. “Anthony hit driver every hole, just hit it and started walking to some place way past Michael and me. Michael wanted to make it back to the Tour so much I think he hit two drivers all day. I had to walk away from him a couple times because I could feel the tension dripping off him. Somehow, we all made it.”

Heintz came closest to winning on the primary circuit in 2010, when he got into the Reno-Tahoe Open as an alternate and had a 3 12-foot putt on 18 on Sunday to put himself into a playoff with Matt Bettencourt. “I tried to make sure I didn’t just wish the putt at the hole,” he said. “I got a little over-excited and pulled it.'

He admits that when he sees Bettencourt pop onto his TV screen nowadays, he still thinks back to what might have been. “He certainly made the most out of the win and good for him,” he said. “But every once in a while when I see him out there I think to myself, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But at least it gave me a teaching tool I can use with the kids I’m coaching now.”

Heintz began to look for his next chapter towards the end of 2011. He could feel himself running out of steam on the now Web.com Tour. With four kids at home, grinding it out, hoping to find something again, began to feel like too big a hill to climb. Then came the opportunity at Penn.

“It’s all new right now but so far I love it,” he said. “I’m learning as I go. In the fall tournaments this year I let my guys make mistakes on the golf course a few times because that’s how you learn. After they made a decision that went wrong I said, ‘Let’s talk about what went into that decision.’ It’s taken me a while to figure out how to best use my education. What I think I know now is the area where I have the most expertise is golf. So why not use that knowledge and be on a job that I really think I’m going to enjoy?”    

There’s one added benefit to his new life: He doesn’t need to drag himself over to watch scoreboards any more.

Getty Images

Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

 

A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

Getty Images

Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

Getty Images

5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.

3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

Getty Images

Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”