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Family memories mean everything as Hanging Rock pro Chip Sullivan takes one more shot at a PGA Championship.
Hanging Rock club pro Chip Sullivan on the 10th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship Wednesday in Pittsford, N.Y. “I have to walk like I belong,” Sullivan said.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
Chip Sullivan, director of golf at Hanging Rock, tees off today in his sixth PGA Championship.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Chip Sullivan will be making his sixth career start in the PGA Championship that tees off today at famed Oak Hill Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y.
Three months shy of his 49th birthday, the PGA director of golf at Hanging Rock Golf Club fully realizes this could be the last time he plays on such a major stage. For that reason, this one is for the ages. It’s all about family. With his wife Kari and three children — daughters Kalley (15) and Camryn (11) and son Colby (9) — in tow, Sullivan hopes to find some course magic like he did in 2004, when he became the first club pro to shoot under par in the event in 35 years, finishing at 1-under-par 287 and tied for 31st in the elite 156-player field, one shot behind Tiger Woods.
“The cool thing about it now is that my kids get to see Daddy in this setting,” Sullivan said. “They want to get the feel of the whole thing and see their daddy on a world stage. They’re pumped! And for that it’s really going to be a special memory.
“Colby is out here running around and playing golf all day,” added Sullivan, glancing out the window of his Hanging Rock office. “He loves it. My little daughter Camryn loves the game, too. Now, Kalley is a lost cause, but she loves to watch it. My girls are going to go after Adam Scott and Rickey Fowler, and the boy likes Justin Rose.”
Sullivan then broke into laughter.
“They’ll probably come see Daddy until I make a bogey or two,” Sullivan quipped.
Later confronted on the Hanging Rock putting green, where he was practicing his chipping, a busy Colby Sullivan replied: “Oh, we’re not going to leave Dad. We’re going to watch him some, don’t worry!”
The true meaning of the word has become paramount for the Sullivans since Aug. 28, 2011. That was the day when Kari’s father, Tom Hall, suffering from depression, took his life in the family’s Troutville home.
“We’ve been learning how to deal with the aftereffects of suicide since then,” Kari said in an interview that aired July 28 in the CBS Sports special “Road to the PGA Championship.”
“The word ‘suicide’ is hard to say, but it’s not a bad word. People need to know that the way that someone dies does not define their life’s legacy. My dad always said: ‘Walk like you belong!’
“Our story, hopefully, should go from being a story of trauma and loss and great tragedy in your own home to one thing … hey, guess what, we came out on the other side! There is a bright light … no matter how dark it seemed at the beginning. … Just keep walking like you belong!”
Hall, an established golfer who once shot 62 at the now-defunct Countryside Golf Club, caddied for his son-in-law on the PGA Tour in 1997 and carried the bag in all five of Sullivan’s previous PGA Championship appearances, not to mention the latter’s 2007 title in the PGA Pro National Championship in Sunriver, Ore.
“When Tom came into my life along with Kari, it helped me understand how important family was and is. I had it all wrong before I met them,” Sullivan said.
“We were a team, and I can remember things that we talked about on every hole at Sunriver [in 2007]. Going back there this year and not having him on my bag was tough. It took me 12 months to get any kind of game going after he passed. It took a toll. It put things in perspective. You want to love the people in your life while you’re there and put golf in its place, and that’s what I will be doing at the PGA. I’m not trying to make a living playing it anymore, but I enjoy doing it.
“Like Tom said: ‘Just enjoy the moment and walk like you belong!’”
Sullivan will be paired with PGA Tour regulars Kevin Stadler and Chris Stroud in the first two rounds. The trio will be the next-to-last group off the No. 1 tee at 2:15 today.
Sullivan qualified for the season’s final major by tying for fourth in the PGA Pro National Championship last month. He was tied for the lead before a final-round 76.
Now comes Oak Hill, a place that makes Sunriver Resort look like a layup.
“I expect it to be set up extremely difficult,” said Sullivan, who missed the cut in his first PGA at Oak Hill in 2003. “The rough is going to be very thick. It was very thick in ’03, you’d lose your ball and you can’t even sometimes see your ball looking straight down in the rough. In ’03, the first hole the spotter lost my ball. He had it, and he couldn’t find it, and he stepped on it, and I had to take a drop.
“It’s so thick that you’re going to see a lot of people wedging out of the rough if they hit it in there. So it’s going to test your patience, it’s the kind of golf that the average golfer will never get to experience in their lifetime — slick greens, rough they’ve never seen.
“You can’t have rough like that at an average golf course because you would slow up play — everybody would lose their balls. You would literally want to quit the game if you played a golf course like this. A guy who shoots 80 here won’t break a 100. It’s that hard!”
Blacksburg Country Club head pro Brad Ewing, who was an assistant pro for three years at Oak Hill , is caddying for Sullivan. Ewing and his former boss, Oak Hill PGA pro Craig Harmon, went around the 7,163-yard, par-70 course last Saturday for an update on how the track has changed since 2003.
“That will help us,” Sullivan said. “Brad knows the course inside and out. And that’s going to be huge, that’s going to put a little bit more of a confident thought in my head rather than an indecision thought in my head. But I’ve still got to pull the trigger, I’ve still got to hit the shot, but I feel like with him on the bag I will be able to choose clubs correctly, etc.”
“Brad doesn’t know my game, but I think he can figure it out pretty quickly. I’m a fader of the ball — I don’t draw a ball — so we’ve just got to work our way around with the move I have and the shot pattern I have, and do the best I can of hitting fairways and hitting greens.
“It’s just like a little chess game. If you start missing fairways, you’re going home after Friday. And that’s the weakest part of my game is getting that ball in the fairway enough times. And everything is magnified in a major.”
Nonetheless, Sullivan said he won’t be awed by the setting.
“Out of the 20 club pros in the field, I’m probably one of maybe only two guys who have played on the PGA Tour,” Sullivan said. “So I have to walk like I belong.”
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