I’m a member of a small business group that meets once a month to discuss trends and happenings in Jacksonville. We get together for dinner and usually have a speaker from a charity, a business or a portion of government. And sometimes we step away from our “mission” to have some fun. This was one of those months as one of our members brought Jim Furyk as our guest for the evening.
Furyk is currently the #2 player in the world and just returned from Hawaii when he played the opening two events of the year on the PGA Tour. Our group is pretty informal, with everybody sitting around the table chatting up the speaker while dinner is served. Furyk fit in perfectly with the group with his easy-going manner and his honest, forthright storytelling.
While attendance at our monthly meeting us usually solid and sometimes spotty, this one was packed. Most of the members are golfers, and a chance to hear a former US Open Champion and one of the top players in the world talk about the game, his fellow competitors and life on tour.
Furyk’s an interesting guy because he has a story. Raised in Pennsylvania, his father became an assistant golf pro the year he was born. Furyk always had a passion for the game, but his father pushed him toward other sports instead. “If it had a ball or a glove, I was involved with it,” Furyk said while recapping his youth.
He played football and baseball, but was mainly interested in golf, as early as 8 years old. “My Dad said I wasn’t old enough to play yet, so I asked him to give me an age. He said 12, so when I turned 12, I held him to it and made him let me play.”
Furyk was passionate about the game, in the summer. That’s when he’d play all day during the week at the local muni, taking lessons from his father, “Standing in the kitchen,” at night and on the weekends. He played football early in high school and baseball a little longer until golf took over. “I played in 8 tournaments one summer in high school and won 6 of them, so I figured golf was the sport,” he explained.
Furyk was competitive and a winner in Pennsylvania, but that’s not considered a hotbed of golf. “So I started to play in some junior tournaments around the country and Arizona was the best college situation for me, so that’s where I ended up,” Jim said matter of factly.
“Of course I was interested in getting far away from Pennsylvania at the time,” he added with a laugh.
He might be #2 in the world now, but Furyk has played on just about every mini-tour and shared a social life with other players of his era on the road. So he knows those guys, and they know him. He didn’t hide at a country club or just show up at the US Amateur. Furyk played, and made himself an elite player.
“If there’s one thing about my job that I don’t like, and I’m not really complaining, it’s the travel,” he said when I asked him about “life on tour.” His earnings are in the millions, but Jim isn’t all about luxury. He flies commercially when it makes sense (Hawaii and Europe) and uses the PGA Tour’s personal trainer as opposed to importing his own.
In other words, he’s normal. He’s a pro’s pro, a big sports fan, plays golf with friends and honest with the people he deals with. He’s easy to root for.