An Interview With:
2007 USGA Senior Amateur Champion Stan Lee
BETH MURRISON: Stan, congratulations. 2007 USGA Senior Amateur champion. Can I ask you to talk about your emotions right now.
STAN LEE: Stunned would be the best word. I felt honestly when I came up here that I was good enough to win it, but even with confidence you have to be a little bit lucky also. Things have to fall your way. And I played extremely well all week.
But I did get good breaks too. So if you couple being good with lucky, that's a hard thing to beat. And I had both going for me this week. And I'm very fortunate, anybody that's ever won one of these events will tell you that no matter how good they played, they had to be a little bit lucky too. And I was.
Q. Did you birdie 18 to square up one of those matches?
STAN LEE: I did. My yesterday morning match. Which would have been the quarterfinals I birdied it to square it up and then won the 19th hole with a par.
Q. You hit your second shot on the green.
STAN LEE: That was the best shot I ever hit in. It was 240 yard 3-wood in a 20 mile an hour wind that had to hook 20 yards. And I just got over the shot and for some reason I had a total peace about it. And as soon as I hit it, it was like a guided missile. It just went right to the hole.
I was the most stunned person on earth then. It was either that or lose, so. It worked out all right. I couldn't go back and do it again. I can tell you that.
Q. Are you typically a very emotional guy?
STAN LEE: Oh, yeah. I am too emotional. I had to kind of kick myself after that on the 8th hole there. I knew when that putt went in that I was going to be hard to beat because that ball was 10 feet by the hole. Just 10 feet by the hole. And I heard Sam say, "How can you beat that?" Referring to luck involved. And of course it was luck.
If you're playing well and you're getting things like that happen to you. And then conversely Sam hits a great shot on 14 that buries into the lip of that trap, so he gets a double dose of it, it's hard to beat a good player when the luck is running their way. So yeah, I was emotional because I was just stunned it went in.
Q. You were pretty calm, I saw you chasing a cricket?
STAN LEE: That was a frog. It was a little bitty frog. I started to pick him up and I thought he would get slime all over me. So I tried to chase him off the green. I was afraid I was going to step on him. He was small.
Q. Who were the couple guys that you had following you?
STAN LEE: Arkansas Golf Association guys. Great, great friends of mine who drove all night to come up here. I did not know they were coming. I pulled in the parking lot and there they were. And I saw Beth and I said I was really glad to see them because I love both of them, but also, I thought, oh my gosh, they're going to witness this calamity. And I'm going to have a complete come apart here and they're going to be here to see it and they drove all night. And thank goodness I played good.
Q. How long a drive?
STAN LEE: About seven and a half for them.
Q. What are their names?
STAN LEE: Jay Fox who is our Executive Director of the Arkansas State Golf Association and Max Stubbs, who is his assistant. They're both from Little Rock. But they're just great friends of mine. And I've had a long amateur career in Arkansas and they just thought it was pretty cool that we had one of their red neck friends in the finals up here.
Q. Do you prefer Heber Springs or Rosebud?
STAN LEE: Heber Springs is my home, I actually own a farm it's eight miles south of Heber. My mailing address says Rosebud. And that's a little bitty town out there. It's 300 people. But Heber Springs is where I live and work. And but my farm is in Rosebud. School district. That's why it's there. But I'll take either. I claim to be the King of Rosebud. Self professed.
Q. You going to be bigger than the cardboard boat races that they have?
STAN LEE: I'll never pass that, no. Y'all heard of that?
Q. I just brought it out. It's world championship?
STAN LEE: ESPN was there for an entire day last year and did Sal or whatever, he was there the whole day. It's a big deal. Thousands and thousands of people are there for that. No, I won't pass that. Don't want to.
Q. You have a really smooth swing, is that natural or did you pattern it after somebody?
STAN LEE: No, it's natural. Honestly. I've always had a real long and fluid swing and as I've gotten older it's gotten shorter, which is good. Because I used to be John Dalyesqe. I was real long and slow and I could hit it a long way, but it could go anywhere. And as I got older everything is restricted now, it's actually I've gotten better.
Q. What you did on 8 and 10 today after he had won holes, how important was that in the course of the match?
STAN LEE: That was huge. Any time you can stop somebody's momentum after one hole, you let them get on a run, they win two, then they start getting those juices flowing. That was huge. The putt on 8 there, even though I lost 9, I tell you what happened on 9. That gave me a shot of confidence as I made my par putt. And made him make his. Even though I lost the hole, when I made that putt, that was an up lift for me. If that makes any sense. I lost the hole, but made that putt. And I thought I'm going to make everything and darn if I didn't go birdie the next hole.
But if you keep the right attitude about golf you can find positive things out of negative situations. And I left 9 feeling great. I lost the hole. If that makes any sense.
Q. Did you settle down a little bit as the match went on? You had missed a bunch of fairways early on, but hit it much straighter and with more accuracy after that. Did you settle down?
STAN LEE: Yeah, I was trying too hard. I kept letting myself realize where I was. And as we got in the flow, I was struggling with my swing. And as we got in the flow, and I finally hit a good shot that really felt good, I started gaining a little confidence and, yeah, as the round went by I got better, but I never reached the point where I was relaxed. I have been so nervous all week. I just can't describe it. I told you earlier, I lost 15 pounds, I can't eat. And so it's just a big deal for me to win this.
Q. All week or did it start later?
STAN LEE: I tell you when it started, when I qualified and August the 8th I shot the lowest score in the nation and qualified, 66. There was one or guy in California that shot 66. And I remember driving home from that qualifier and I thought, this is my year to win this thing. I'm going to win this thing. And since August the 8th I have just been -- and my wife will tell you, I have just been a patoot, because I thought, this is my shot, I'm going to win it, nobody is going to stand in my way. Blah, blah, blah. And my wife has told me, "Look if you get on your high horse you're going to get it knocked right out from under you."
And I'm sure this month is over. It's been a month now. But I have just been wound up tighter than a tick. And I can't describe it. But I told somebody in May and I was serious when I said this even though I know they laughed at me, I was playing in a four-ball tournament with my son, and somebody said, hey, you're going to be a senior this year and I said, "I'm winning the U.S. Senior in September, you be watching." And I thought, you know, I really believe that. And dadgum. First time I ever predicted anything that came right. But I really, when I said that, I really believed it. I really in my heart believed it.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk to anybody in your family yet?
STAN LEE: I called my wife. Neither one of us were able to speak. So I told her I would call her back. I was crying and she was too. She was just glad it's over with. Kathy with a K is her name.
Q. When do you think this will sink in?
STAN LEE: Some time tomorrow when I get home and I go back to work and everybody comes in and chews me out for their interest rate being too high. I think it will sink in about then. But this is the great thing about this is that if I live to be 88 or whatever, I'll I'm always going to be a USGA champion. And that is such an unbelievable feeling, I just, I can't believe it. There aren't many people that get to do that and I have dreamed of this since I was 12 or 13 years old. My dad was professional baseball player and I thought that he was such a great athlete that the only sport I had a chance to measure up on the big league level or to accomplish like he did in baseball was golf.
So I started dreaming of a USGA event. To me the biggest thing is a USGA event. It's bigger than anything. And I never was able to win anything until now. But dadgum, does it feel good.
Q. How far did your father go?
STAN LEE: He went to the Chicago White Sox, he was a short stop and they had a short stop and if I could say his name you would know who I was talking about, that was just fabulous. And when he got to spring training the year I was born, my mother was pregnant, he knew that he was going to make the roster, but he wasn't going to start, and he was making it 200 bucks a month and he quit and came home. He would have been a Major league baseball player and then he saw him play they used to have semi pro baseball back in those days and he was a fabulous athlete. Jeter reminds me of my dad so much. Just the natural way he moves and that. And I always thought he was my hero, my dad was.
Q. What's his name?
STAN LEE: Richie. And he's still living.
Q. How old is he now?
STAN LEE: He's 80.
Q. You haven't called him yet?
STAN LEE: No. I won't be able to speak when I call him. I'm going to have to wait awhile. He won't either.
Q. Is he still living in Arkansas?
STAN LEE: Yeah, he's in Heber Springs. I got a brother that lives there and my brother is honestly a better player than I am. But he's 51, he can't play in this thing. So heck with him.
Q. What's his name?
STAN LEE: Louis. And everybody in Heber Springs will tell you that he beats me eight times outs of ten. I just can't beat him.
Q. Does he have any state championships?
STAN LEE: No, I got eight and he's got three. I like competition and he doesn't. You can't get him to play anything. He just will not do it. He doesn't want to have his name on a scoreboard and there might be a bad figure. He thinks everybody will talk about him and say he's no good. And it doesn't bother me.
Q. You got eight what?
STAN LEE: State amateurs in Arkansas. If you're afraid of failure, golf's not a good thing for you to be doing because it will embarrass you.
Q. So your impressions of Andover and the Flint Hills and Kansas?
STAN LEE: Fabulous.
Q. Have they changed at all?
STAN LEE: Well, for the better. When I first got here, yeah, I was impressed, everything is beautiful. But as the week went by and I saw how gracious all the people were, and the more you play this golf course, the more you learn to appreciate it. And the fabulous condition it's in. So every day I've come out here my impression of Kansas has improved and it wasn't bad to start with.
How can people be nicer than the people are here? I don't know. They're the most gracious people I've ever seen. And I played in tournaments in almost every state in the union. And there have been some great tournaments I've played in. I've never seen nicer people than this. Never.
Q. Speaking of nice people, your match with Sam, you two really seemed to enjoy yourselves out there. Talk about the back and forth. You seemed to laugh a lot and talk a lot?
STAN LEE: Yeah. Well, Sam and I have a natural rivalry that goes back to the '70's. He's a University of Alabama guy and I'm an LSU guy. So we have an abiding dislike for each other, cordially. And to add to that and this is what I was really gave him grief about, they currently have our football coach. Nick Saban went from LSU to Miami to the evil empire, the enemy. And I've been giving Sam crap about that.
And every time I would say something to him about Alabama not being any good he would throw something back at me well at least we got Saban, y'all weren't even good enough to keep him. That's what we were talking about.
And it was good natured and like I said earlier, I hate it for Sam, because I know he wanted to win this just as bad as me and he's very disappointed and I'm not. And I hate that for him. He's 60, he's five years ahead of me. So he was in the semifinals last year and the finals this year and maybe he'll win it next year.
Q. Pretty much guaranteed that there won't be a younger winner in the foreseeable future. You topped the record by more than three months, given that you're 55 and five days.
STAN LEE: That would be hard to beat that.
Q. Indeed. The only way is if the format of the championship got changed.
STAN LEE: Well, I looked it up in February and I just had this epiphany and I thought I'm going to play in the Senior Amateur this year I'm turning 55 and it was in February, I looked it up. And I remember distinctly looking at it and it said September 1st last day you can be 55. I thought, well, shoot, I'll just win it. I'm joshing, I didn't say that to myself. But ironically it ended up this way.
Q. They talked about the perks that you get to participate in. Do you plan on taking advantage of all those opportunities?
STAN LEE: I honestly don't know what they are. I have intentionally not looked at anything and I don't know anything and I had a friend call me last night and he says, "Do you realize" and I said, "Don't say it. I don't want to know. I said all I know is I'm playing at nine in the morning. Shut up." And he said, no, no. And I said, "Shut up. Shut up." I just didn't want to know. Because I didn't want to know what was on the line. I got enough problems. I can't eat and that. So honestly I don't know what they are. Couldn't tell you. But I'm sure they're good?
Q. I can tell you that you're exempt into the U.S. Amateur, the British Senior Open, the British Senior Amateur Open, U. S. Senior Open next year and U.S. Mid-Am this year I believe. So you have a lot of golf available.
STAN LEE: You got to be kidding?
Q. Colorado Springs next year.
STAN LEE: I can play in it or caddie? I can't believe that. That is fantastic. So I can play in the Mid-Am this year?
Q. I believe so. I'll check on that for you. But I'm pretty sure?
STAN LEE: I don't know if I can handle that.
Q. There's the Senior British Open, maybe a vacation.
STAN LEE: My wife will be all over that, I can see that. Well, I did not know any of that. I really didn't. I have intentionally not looked at any of that because I didn't want to add to the pressure that I already felt. I was struggling, I was having a hard time, I really was, with my emotions. And I'll tell you a little bit why. And I'll try to hope I can say this right.
But I played the Tour for five years and it was my dream to play the Tour and succeed. And the best I ever did is I finished second in the 1977 New Orleans Open. And I had some other good finishes. Maybe I had 12 top-10 finishes. The money wasn't as good back then.
But in 1980 I chose to quit. I didn't have to, but I chose to. I wasn't making a lot of money. And since 1980, that's 27 years ago, I have felt like there's been a monkey on my back, that I failed at something. And it has plagued me my entire life.
And this tournament, the reason I was emotional about it, is that I was able to extricate that. It's like it is okay now. I failed at the Tour, but I got something better. I would rather have this than the TOUR. Winning a USGA amateur event to me is the ultimate. And so I am exonerated and I can pass away in peace now.
(Laughter.) Does that make any sense? Okay.
Q. Who won that tournament?
STAN LEE: Jim Simons. He has since passed away. But I three-putted the last three holes. I had such a lump in my throat, I had birdied 12, 13, 14 and 15 to tie him. And I hit it about 15 feet on 16 and I remember walking up there and looking at the putt and all I can think about was Augusta. Because I said I'm going to Augusta. I'm going to make this putt. And I three-putted. And I just could not breathe after that. So I never really recovered from that I don't think.
Q. What did you do on 17 and 18?
STAN LEE: Then? I three-putted all three holes. Yeah, I lost by two. I three-putted all three holes and I can remember just being so nervous I couldn't stand it. And any TOUR player who tells you otherwise is a liar. Except for Tiger. It's a nerve wracking thing golf is.
Q. On the 10th green after you made that birdie putt I heard you say, "I can't breathe." Kind of a flash back to those days?
STAN LEE: Yeah. Yeah. I was struggling with some inner demons because I'm 3 up with eight holes to play, obviously if I just keep playing good I'm going to win it. And what I kept telling myself was, turn your brain off and trust your natural instincts. And thank the lord I was able to do that. That's what I was referring to.
You can think yourself -- in any sport -- you can think yourself into not being able to do it. And Sam came right back and hit -- that second shot he hit on 11 was an absolute phenomenal shot. That changed my perspective on life right there.
There's no way on that third shot of getting that ball on the green. I lost the hole anyway, but that was one of the better shots I hit right there.
Q. Across the side there?
STAN LEE: Yeah, it was over a cart path. To get that on the green was just an accident.
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