'Haul' of Fame
            Interview
      with 'Fluff' Cowan

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This 'Haul' of Fame interview is now punctuated with a great win Sunday by Jim Furyk at the 2003 U.S. Open in Chicago with Mike 'Fluff' Cowan on the bag.   I have to defer a bit here to mention that last week's performance by Tom Watson, with a 65 in the first round with Bruce Edwards on the bag, and the wonderful coverage by NBC of Bruce's battle with ALS  and their caddy/player relationship over the year's, as the Biggest and most important Winner there last week at the U.S. Open.  I'm sure that Fluff and Jim would both defer as well that when it comes to life and death, golf itself, is just a game folks -a Great game at that, but just a Game -None-the-less.   Thanks, NBC for reminding us all how fragile and precious human life is, and how life and sport may, sometimes painfully,  when cast in the correct 'light' -transcend one another.

Though, Fluff lost the job to the top player in golf,  Tiger Woods,  just a few years back,  he makes a significant comeback this week with his work on the bag for the always capable and somewhat under-rated Jim Furyk.  Fluff 'won' in '97' when he caddied for a young and aggressive Tiger Woods who set the all time low score there at Augusta, and now the U.S. Open with the straight hitting strategic and great putting Jim Furyk who tied the low 72 hole record in that championship.  Now all he needs is to win the British Open with a great bad weather player, (how about his boss of 17 years previous Peter J?), and the PGA Championship with say, a club pro from Wisconsin, and he'll have the all time caddy grand slam -a win in every Major caddying for four different players!  (Steve Williams holds the only current 'Caddy Grand Slam' in history, with all four major championship wins caddying for Tiger Woods)

Here is the interview we did with Fluff at the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's after he and Jim had missed the cut there.    It this interview you get some insight into his caddying career, first for many years with Peter Jacobsen, then with Tiger Woods, and now with his current employer Jim Furyk.  Sunday's U.S. Open victory was Fluff's fourth win caddying for Jim.

Q.) So how did you get into caddying on the PGA Tour?

A.)   "I was working in the business for a short time as an assistant pro at Martindale CC. In Auburn Maine, began in March and I got fired in July, -5 months I was in the business, I got turned loose, and a buddy of mine had just come back from California, and both of us were unemployed and doing nothing and the tour was coming to Hartford Conn., and so we said letís go see if we could get a job caddying on the PGA Tour."

"That was 1976, and had no idea Iíd be caddying in 2001."

Q.)   You were always a pretty good player and I recall your wins in the Caddy Classic at Endicott where we used to play each Monday in September after the B.C. Open finished up on Sunday before. And also witnessed your occasional impromptu Ďclinicsí on the range with amateurs in pro-ams and a few times while you were working for Tiger!?

A.)   "I could play some, as a 4 or a 2, "I won the caddy tournament in Endicott twice in my caddying career."

Q.)   I recall your first win in 1980 at the Buick Classic in Flint Michigan, caddying there myself that week. How many wins there in your career with Peter Jacobson, in the 17 or so years you worked for him?

A.)    "I went to work for Peter in the springtime of 1978, won that tournament in Flint, the first one in 1980. Then won twice in 1984, at Colonial in Ft. Worth, and also in Hartford, then the 1990 Bob Hope Desert Classic, and then in 1995 won, at Pebble and San Diego, won a total of 6 times with Peter."

Q.)    I remember being at PGA at Valhalla in Louisville in 1996; I was waiting outside with some other caddies for our players when you happened on the scene. Someone said, "Fluff, where you been?!" You said you were back home in Columbus playing golf for a period of time and you kind of jokingly, semi-serious said something about that it might be time to do something else!   You were working for Peter Jacobsen that week, but heíd been injured and wasnít playing much. Then a couple of weeks later I hear that Tiger Woods is going to turn pro after he tries to win his third consecutive U.S. Amateur, and will get 7 sponsors exemptions, the maximum allowed for a non tour member in one calendar year, to try and get enough money to get his tour card. And then I hear that youíre going to caddy for him!   Howíd that whole thing come about?

A.)    "Peter withdrew midway through the round he was hurting so bad, on Friday, and we picked it up and went in, in the context of the conversation, Peter told me he didnít know when he was going to play again, but that he was tired of trying to play hurt, and that he wasnít going to play again until he was healthy, and he didnít know if that was 'gonna' take two weeks, or months or the rest of the year, but that he was done trying to play hurt. So I went home decided that I was going to wait it out for as long as I could, and if it turned out that he was going to be sidelined for an indefinite period of time, that then I would come back out and see if I could get something lined up with somebody. So I was at home when we got this phone call and it was Tiger Woods, he was on his way home from the Amateur heíd just won in Portland, Oregon.  And through whatever grapevine he knew that Peter was planning on taking some time off, he asked me if Iíd be interested in working some weeks for him, and I said ĎYeah, thatíd be great" So I called Peter and told him about it, and he said yeah thatís great, go for it!"

Q.)    But you were originally just planning to work for Woods and most likely still caddy for Pete when he healed up though, right?

A.)    "Yes. Pete told me "Iíll let you know when Iím gonna play again", and one thing I did say to Tiger that yes, Iíd be happy to work these weeks for him, that as long as there wasnít conflict with Peter that I could probably work all of these weeks for him, but that there was an outside chance that if something happened to pop up, if Peter decided to play somewhere, that I was going to have to work for Peter, and that he, (Tiger), would have to do something else that week, (Get another caddy). So, I had no intentions of leaving Peter when I agreed to go to work for Tiger."

Q.)    I remember the atmosphere at Milwaukee when Tiger came out and they held that big press conference. We all didnít really know what he was going to do, and I donít think you or even Tiger himself was sure of how heíd perform. (Other than knowing he was going to give it his best.) But in seven weeks, if youíre not playing well for any reason then heíd have to go to the school that winter. At what point did you begin to think you'd have to keep caddying for this guy?

A.)    "It was a few weeks into that stint that I kind of realized just how talented a player Tiger Woods was and was going to become, that I kind of thought ĎMy Godí, loyalty is a wonderful thing and I do believe in it, but I think that Ya know, I gotta kind of put that on the back burners and watch this kid play for a while, so I kinda decided it was time to make a move."

Q.)    So how many years had you been with Pete at that time?

A.)    "Oh, weíd been together for 18 plus years."

Q.)    So that then was not an easy thing to do.  You had the longest current stint with a player and one of the longest caddy/player relationships ever at that and for a really great guy, Peter Jacobsen -a very good journeyman player and all around good guy!

A.)    "Oh, that was very hard! We not only we were great friends but I was great friends with the whole family, I was with him through the birth of all his children, his whole family adopted me, I saw them all when they were very very young, his parents were like second parents to me, his father became a great friend to me, before he passed away. It was a hard decision to make, but we all get faced with hard decisions and you make the best of what youíve decide to do."

Q.)    We all thought the job was a very political and high-pressure caddy job and that it was going to have a beginning and an ending. This was a case of an up and coming great player and a pretty smart kid going after a veteran caddy, at a time when he really needed to maximize his chances, to get his card in those 7 weeks in 1996.   But we all felt that there was a time limitation on how long this opportunity might last for you.

A.)    "Heís a very intelligent young man and heís surrounded in the golf world, with some very intelligent people, and between himself and his father, and the others associated with him, theyíve made some very sound decisions about him, his business, and his golf.
 
        "Yeah, obviously whenever a caddy takes a job he hopes it will last for a long time, but I basically believed that I was not going to be with Tiger Woods until I quit caddying, and I felt that there would come a time.   I didnít think I would be his only caddy in the first ten years, and I thought It wasnít going to last for ever.   Although it came a little sooner than I expected."

Q.)    Did you think youíre experience maximized those seven weeks, you won two of them, and he finished, remarkably, got his card and in seven weeks he finished in the top 30 money winners qualifying him for the year ending Tour Championship. And you had him for his first major championship win, at Augusta the next April, where you guys set the new tournament scoring record.  I had to think that your experience caddying there over the years was a big plus.

A.)    "I feel like I helped Tiger, but I also thought he was a very talented player. I donít know that another caddy wouldnít have done just as well with him."

Q.)    How many wins did you have with Tiger?

A.)    " 7 Wins all together, now he has what 22?"

Q.)   
This all vaulted you into the limelight with the TV commercials and all. But caddying wasnít always being on top in the old days of the late Ď70s, and 1980ís. I remember one of our compatriots saying in conversation about you while you had Tiger, "I remember when he was just a broke caddy!"

A.)    "I remember one time pulling into Columbus Georgia, and I just about had enough gas to get there, and borrowed some money from Big Arty, so I could go and get something to eat."

Q.)    Not a very good year eh, as that was the site of the old Southern Open, Green Island CC. In September or October?!

A.)    "There werenít a whole lot of good yearís back then!"

Q.)  
  I remember when ESPN first did those caddy commercials; they were like 15 to 30 second spots as fillers mostly during their Senior Tour Golf coverage. One of those people involved in the producing and filming of those spots once told me they had you guys all together and then asked you to individually do different golf related things. They said everyone else was choking pretty badly when they got in front of the camera, but that you were a Ďnaturalí at it?!

A.)    "Thatís what everybody says to me in that business, that Iím very natural at it. I donít know. One of those things he asked us was to think about how weíd throw grass up into the air to check the wind direction. He wanted us all to think about that, and I thought about it for about 15 seconds, and off I went.   It was one take and the reason was it was off the cuff, ĎYa know when youíre throwing grass, (with a piece of grass tossing into the air), ya canít take it and throw it that way and you, canít let just throw it backwards, youíve just got to hold it up like this and just let it go, itís just like life, youíve just got to let it go!"

Q.)
    Werenít you paired with Tiger one time in the British Open back when you were working for Peter in the 1990ís?

A.)     "Paired in 1995 Thursday and Friday, and Peter says to me, "You know were looking right here at the future of golf!"

Q.
)     Would you say the money you made with Tiger, would you say youíre financially set by this time?

A.)      "Heck no!  If I were set I wouldnít still be caddying."

Q.)     
Youíve always been a Grateful Dead fan. Are you still a part of that?
Are you still into that? Any analogy of a personal philosophy of life that you derive from that?

A.) 
     "I still have a reasonable collection of live tapes, but I still listen a lot, and Iíd have to say Iíd always be a dead head. Saying I remember the most from them just to go with the flow!"

Q.)     How about your current employer, Jim Furyk?

A.)  
   "I certainly enjoy working for Jim a lot, heís fun to watch play. He plays a great game of golf, ya know, itís a little different than Tiger, as you know Tiger can flat out overpower a golf course, Jim kind of plays his way around a golf course, Jim hits it far enough, and has been very successful in his career, and I feel Iím very fortunate to have a player that I consider to be one of the ten best players in the world. Jim just goes about it a little differently than Tiger Woods."

Q.)     How would you describe the change in caddying say 20 + years ago when we first met, and caddying today on tour?

A.)     "The actual job hasnít changed. I dare say the biggest difference between, is just that caddies today can actually make a living at it. It still is for the love of the game back then because you didnít make any money, the majority of the guys working back in the late 70ís and early 80ís, if you made enough to get you through the week, they werenít banking any real money, itís become more of a business today, like lotís of things, a dedicated caddy with a top notch player can make serious money. Thatís the biggest change. Still a free spirited person, that it takes to enjoy all the travel, and everything it takes to be a caddy, but today a free spirit with more Ďtiesí than there used to be overall."
                                       

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