I've got to admit, I am still surprised that Jason Gore, one of THE most engaging and popular personalities on the PGA Tour is STILL without an equipment sponsor?
I had the good fortune of happening to be on the same flight from Phoenix into Burbank a couple of years ago when Jason had won his third Nationwide Tour event, earning his "battlefield exemption" onto the PGA Tour...
I recognized the same red wristband that he had been wearing that season from his adventure at the 2005 U.S. Open, and the big grin on his face as he weaved his way down the aisle of the America West flight confirmed that it was indeed him...even though he finished the final round of the Open with an 84, the way that he captivated all of us golf fans continued to resonate with me far beyond the finish of that tournament, and I was THRILLED at the prospect of actually getting to meet him and talk to him.
I scurried down to the baggage claim carousels, and again encountered Jason as we both went to reclaim our golf clubs, swallowed hard and walked up to him, extending my hand as I congratulated him on his achievement.
He was genuinely nice, genuinely appreciative of being recognized, funny, pleasant - and I sesnsed a genuine warmth emanating from him that led me to conclude that this is a good man...a solid man, with his feet planted firmly on the ground. (A man that can drive a golf ball well over 300 yards, his feet are so firmly planted on the ground...)
A couple of months later, he won his first PGA Tournament at the 84 Lumber Classic, and I figured that his star was on the ascent. (The irony of his "blowup" 84 at the US Open, followed by his first PGA Tour win at the 84 Lumber Classic was NOT lost on me...)
However, golf is a fickle mistress, and she has turned her back on Jason for awhile, but this weekend, recently freed from his association with Nike (see below) , and pumped up from a meeting with HIS idol (Roger Clemens - more below) the magic is back, and he's in the hunt at the Shell Houston Open...wearing a Houston Astros baseball cap, and a blank golf bag...again, an "everyman" who we weekend warriors can admire and empathize with.
SO: Today''s question - what golf club equipment manufacturer can you see Jason Gore affiliating with???
Call me strange, but I sort of associate golf club manufacturers with certain personality types... Here's how I perceive certain manufacturers:
Titleist: Accomplished, aloof, somewhat arrogant, country clubbers..."David Simms", the cocky, self-assured pro who played against "Roy McAvoy" in "Tin Cup" probably played Titleist...
Callaway: Technical, friendly, approachable, fun-loving...Callaway is the Labrador Retriever of golf club manufacturers...
PING: Easy-going, casual, nice, friendly, approachable...PING is the GOLDEN Retriever of golf club manufacturers...
Mizuno: Quirky, exotic, aloof, moody...Catherine Trammell, played by Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct" would have played Mizuno...
Nike: Garrulous, frat-boy, gets by on reputation and who they hang around with...relies upon their reputation, not by their performance...in the corporate world, AKA "empty suit", in Texas, "all hat, no cattle"...sorry, I LOVE your shoes, your clothes, but your golf equipment just strikes me as somehow inferior, and not as well done as your OTHER product lines...
Cleveland: Who? Oh yeah, the golf club company that's owned by a surf-clothing company (ZQK) ...the lead designer and namesake now designs for CALLAWAY!!!
TaylorMade: Technical, brainy, a bit aloof...TaylorMade is the German Shepherd of golf club manufacturers...
Adams Golf: See PING
Cobra Golf: The class clown, can deliver when they need to, but jokes their way around...Cobra is the Jack Russell Terrier of golf club manufacturers...
MacGregor: Was good once upon a time...trying to get the magic back...
Wilson: See above
From that frame of reference, I can see the following companies affiliating with Jason, especially if he places well this weekend:
1) Adams - They've been making a push into the long-hitters, signing Brittany Lincicome - I could see them making a pitch for Jason if they have the budget.
2) TaylorMade - They seem to have EVERYONE under contract...
3) Cobra - Jason's a funny guy - I could see Cobra doing commercials with David Feherty and Jason VERY, VERY easily - Cobra's also playing up their bomber image, and Jason can bring it...
4) Callaway - My sentimental favorite, but they seem to have a thoroughbred mentality, where they only sign the top five players on any given Tour.
5) PING - The personalities are well-aligned, but PING doesn't do much sponsorship activity...the fit would be natural though...
Since newspapers often remove content after a brief period, I found these two articles to be really good representations of Jason, and where he's at right now.
The first one is by Richard Justice, courtesy of the Houston Chronicle:
Any group of duffers would welcome Gore
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Jason Gore represents just about everything we love about sports, and that may be why fans still cheer for him and care about him and let him know he's special.
"Maybe they feel sorry for me," he said.
It's impossible to feel sorry for someone who makes you feel so good, who represents so many of your hopes and dreams.
No matter what he accomplishes in his golf life, Gore always will be remembered for one improbable weekend at the 2005 U.S. Open.
That's the weekend he almost did the impossible. He was the everyman hacker who went head-to-head with the best golfers and one of the toughest courses and never flinched.
Well, almost. By Sunday afternoon, he was in a place he never expected to be. That he fell apart and shot 84 on that final day makes the story even sweeter on some level.
When the world finally began paying attention, when they hoped against hope that this guy would do what no one thought he could do, he blinked.
Don't feel sorry for Gore because his story didn't end there. He took that one amazing weekend and shaped a career from it. He won his first and only PGA Tour event a few weeks later. He won three times on the Nationwide Tour that summer.
Let's be clear about what Gore is and isn't. He's not a star. Probably won't ever be.
He has finished in the top 25 just 10 times. His $2 million career earnings is haircut money for some. He entered this week's Shell Houston Open ranked 201st in the world, having missed the cut in six of his seven tournaments this year.
He has changed clubs and coaches, changed his golf ball, too. And for a couple of days this week, it has again worked the way it's supposed to. He shot 68 on Friday for a two-day total of 138, good enough to get him in a six-way tie for first.
He saved his round on No. 11 by hitting a bunker shot into the hole. He sank long birdie putts on the next two holes and was off and running.
He finished the day with a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 18. Afterward, he was asked the usual questions about why he'd finally hit on something that had been working.
"Besides the fact I changed 14 clubs and a golf ball?" Gore said. "I finally just had a couple of weeks off to go home and play a lot of golf and get comfortable with my equipment again."
When someone asked about his putting stats, he smiled.
"It's sad, isn't it?" he said. "I know I'm a streaky putter, but when you're having 50-, 60-footers all day, it's tough to gauge yourself. I just haven't hit my irons close all year."
Another thing that might make him appealing to fans is the simplicity with which he approaches the game. He jokes that if he writes an instructional book, it'll be simple enough for anyone to understand.
"It's going to be a bestseller," he said.
For instance, how do you hit a hook?
"I don't know. Aim right."
Gore's career has had so many highs and lows and so few stretches of consistency that he said: "I think Magic Mountain is going to name a roller coaster after me."
He said that weekend at Pinehurst in 2005 changed more than the way people look at him. It changed the way he looked at himself.
He vaulted into contention with a third-round 67 and was paired with Retief Goosen for the final round. And then it all got away from him.
"This is the first time in my life I actually realized that I can play at this level," Gore said of that weekend. "You always have these doubts and stuff like that because I hadn't done anything. You never kind of get over that slope, and that's really what it was. I competed against the best players in the world on a great golf course and was beating them."
He says it seems surreal all these years later, but he remembers the feeling of people cheering his name and wishing him well as he went around the course.
What he never has lost is his love for the game. He was one of the few golfers wearing a shirt without a single logo. He won't be at the Masters next weekend.
That underdog status, that everyman quality, surely is part of his appeal.
"Maybe it's just because I actually do enjoy playing golf," Gore said, "and I struggle just like everybody else. Nothing was ever handed to me. I just love what I do. This is everything I dreamed of."
And this article from Mealnie Hauser at PGATOUR.com also captured Jason well:
HUMBLE, Texas -- He's so not technical.
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS|
|JASON GORE THRU 36 HOLES|
Knows what loft and lie are, but that's about it. Want specifics? See the guys in the equipment trucks. Thank goodness for them. They're lifesavers.
Want to know if he's playing the right club and ball? Just watch. Does it go straight?
And once you hit a shot? He's just a spectator like everyone else. Might as well have bought a ticket. Crazy crap -- his words -- happens.
Jason Gore doesn't reach. For answers. For great sound bites. Or for perfection.
He's comfy, thank you so much, in his own skin. And he's come to terms with the fact that, along with this so-not-technical thing, he's never going to be a perfect 10 like his old junior and college golf buddy Tiger either.
And that has nothing to do with his 52-inch chest or short arms.
More like his amazing highs and so-so lows, his streaky putting and his slow starts on the west coast. They're just part of his life.
His pro career started on a low note when, on the day he was to play in his first tournament, he woke up to his mother's screams. His dad had died of a heart attack. Fast forward to the U.S. Open at Pinehurst where he burst onto the scene, made it into Sunday's final pairing and closed with 84. Three months later, he won his lone PGA TOUR tournament -- the 84 Lumber Classic. Symmetry anyone?
And then there's this year, which went from a T65 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic to five missed cuts and a W/D. And now?
A second-round 68 has him in contention at the Shell Houston Open where he was tied for the lead midway through Friday's round.
"Want to put these shoes on?'' he laughed when someone asked about his EKG strip of a career. "I think Magic Mountain is going to name a roller coaster after me.'' (Magic Mountain is a popular amusement park in Jason's hometown of Valencia, CA)
And as for those slow starts? "I'm the only guy who lives in Southern California who can't read poa anna greens,'' he chuckled. "... And, you know a man of my stature is what I'll say, shouldn't like the heat and humidity. For some reason I play better in it.''
Right now, he's playing just fine in the wind and humidity here in the Bayou City area. He's also doing just fine with his "clubs du jour" -- a mixed bag he's assembled since splitting with Nike a month ago. He's gone back to an old Titleist Pro V1-X, tossed in a Cobra driver, Cobra irons and a 3-wood and rescue club from TaylorMade.
How did he come up with that combination?
I threw every set to the bottom of the lake. Whichever one floated. '' he smiled. "...You know, being out here you have the opportunity to hit a lot of stuff and a lot of stuff is thrown in your face. I just picked a set that just visually looked good to me. And they happened to work pretty well.''
He paused. "I mean so far. It's been two days.''
Two days, we might add of birdies. And not 60 foot bombs. The close kind. Like his 7-iron to eight inches at the fifth hole. "I'm 6-for-10 from that range,'' he said.
The old/new golf ball is helping. When he was with Nike, he was playing the same ball Tiger does, but it wasn't for him. "The ball didn't fit me,'' he said. "I'm not saying it's a bad product or anything like that. It's a great product. The best player in the world uses it. It just didn't work for me.''
So is a change back to his old swing coach Mike Miller. "I wanted him to slap me pretty hard. It was just one of those things. I was trying to do something that I'm not physically able to do,'' he said. "This is the way I swing. This is it. Just get some of the bugs out of it... I think I'm a pretty good ball striker. When I try to be something I'm not, it just starts to throw another problem in the hole.''
This week, Gore is taking things as they come. His hero-turned-friend Roger Clemens dropped by and tucked an Astros cap and some shirts in his locker. He's sporting the cap this week and Clemens' motto -- Tough All Day or TAD. That's what Gore has written on his golf ball this week.
There's a signed Clemens jersey from his Boston days on Gore's wall and, well, when the two met two years ago at the ADT Skills challenge... "I don't get star-struck, but that was Roger Clemens. I was freaked out,'' he smiled. "I'm a pretty big guy, but he's a monster.''
The two email back and forth and Clemens dropped by this week with the cap and TAD shirts.
And no, Gore doesn't know what decision he'll make about one more season. "I don't think his wife knows.''
Gore is nothing, if not genuine. He can laugh at losing 20 pounds in the off-season, working hard and coming out and stinking up the early season. He's honest when he says that final round at Pinehurst was a blur. He admits there was a time when doubts crept in.
But Pinehurst changed all that. The media, the competition and being in the final group with former Open champ Retief Goosen.
"It was one of those things as a professional golfer, that's our drug. That's our addiction to get into that mode and be so nervous that you can't see straight and hit something and feel that... I can't even describe.''
This may not be the U.S. Open, but it's Gore's next chance to get that feeling. To jump into the weekend mix. To give himself a chance -- for the first time since last fall's Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
He's got the swing going. Now, if the putter will behave.
"My putter has got a mind of its own sometimes, but it doesn't mean I'm a bad putter," he said. "I didn't make a lot of putts yesterday, but I hit a lot of good ones. It's golf. It's outside. It's on the grass. These things aren't suitable for scoring, you know... If we're on a pool table, I can make putts all day.''
Not the best answer, he said. But all he had.
And now, after putting in the hard work for the last five weeks, he'll see if this week might just belong to him.
"We always have that glimmer of hope that this could be our week. One person is going to walk away being the 2007 Shell Houston Open winner and you sit in your room and lie in bed and think, 'Why can't that be me?'"
Maybe this week, it will be.
Copyright 2007 PGATOUR.com. All rights reserved.
We're pulling for ya, big guy! I hope that you play your very best golf today, and that you can move up big time on that leaderboard...maybe WIN this thing!
And hopefully, the golf equipment manufacturers will hitch their wagon to YOUR star, and BOTH of you will prosper together....