O'Hair adjusts to success

Quail Hollow's defending champion recalls simpler times on tour

Staff WriterApril 25, 2010 

  • Where: Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte

    When: Thursday-Sunday

    TV: Thursday-Friday 3-6 p.m., The Golf Channel.

    Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m., WRAL, WNCT.

There are moments when Sean O'Hair thinks back to how it used to be and smiles.

O'Hair remembers piloting the 40-foot, three-slide Fleetwood Discovery his grandparents bought him and his wife, Jackie, when they were driving golf's backroads to mini-tour events, sometimes parking in Wal-Mart lots to spend the night.

This was after O'Hair had broken away from his father's demanding ways, essentially terminating one life and beginning another before his 20th birthday with his wife as his caddie while he played minor-league golf.

It was when O'Hair wasn't sure he had enough money to play the next week but still went to sleep dreaming of moments like the one last May, when he won the Quail Hollow Championship by outplaying Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover on Sunday afternoon.

He remembers being in the RV in Arkansas, watching the radar as a tornado approached, feeling his home on wheels shake and wondering where he would be in an hour.

He remembers being in North Carolina a week later, waiting out a lightning storm that shook a boy from Texas, who thought he knew what lightning was.

He remembers slamming on the RV's brakes to avoid an 18-wheeler, snapping the tow bar attached to the car he was pulling. O'Hair remembers looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing his car swinging out from behind the RV, held on only by a cord.

He remembers needing to finish in the top 25 of a Nationwide Tour event to be eligible the next week. O'Hair finished 28th, missing the exemption by one stroke, then driving 900 miles essentially nonstop to make a Monday qualifier for the next event. He missed qualifying by one stroke again.

"Anybody who plays at those [mini-tour] levels and travels with $100 to their name, if they're able to make it to where Sean is, it's a success story," said Steve Lucas, O'Hair's father-in-law and former caddie.

The important thing is Sean O'Hair remembers.

"I think some of those days are more fun than what we do now," O'Hair said. "We have so many great memories and stories that we look back and laugh about.

"There are bits and pieces of those days we miss. They were simpler days than today."

O'Hair's victory at Quail Hollow last year was the biggest of his still-evolving PGA Tour career. It came against a powerful field on a strong golf course and helped cement his arrival among the game's top young players.

He's just 27 years old, but he seems older, perhaps because of the familiar story about turning pro at age 17, pushed by his father to the point it fractured their relationship. O'Hair has moved on, building his own life and career.

His story brings to mind the Mary Chapin Carpenter lyric, "We've got two lives, one we're given and the other one we make ...

"Everything we got, we got the hard way."

As a member of the U.S. Presidents Cup team last fall, O'Hair struck up a bond with assistant captain Michael Jordan. The Bobcats owner pushed O'Hair to be tough.

"In our sport when you struggle, it's easy to whine," O'Hair said. "With MJ, you have to man up a little.

"I'm one of the best at what I do, and there comes a time when it's just competition. That's what he was trying to get across to me - you have to be tough. Tiger, Phil, Anthony Kim, they're fearless. They don't care about failure or screwing up things. They just care about winning.

"I've always tried to be passive out there. But it's all about being competitive and wanting it more than everyone else."

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