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Fuzzy.

That’s all a golf fan needs to hear.

That nickname of Frank Urban Zoeller, Jr. identifies one of professional golf’s most memorable characters.

Fuzzy Zoeller current official PGA TOUR headshot(Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) *** Local Caption *** Fuzzy Zoeller

Fuzzy Zoeller current official PGA TOUR headshot(Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) *** Local Caption *** Fuzzy Zoeller

Fuzzy joined the PGA TOUR in 1975 after playing golf at the University of Houston with Bill Rogers and Bruce Lietzke. He brought with him a fluid, powerful swing and a deft putting stroke. He also brought something more important to all of us outside the ropes: he showed us how to enjoy the game.

Fuzzy would whistle his way down the fairways and around the greens—sunglasses hanging loosely around his neck—and display his unique, happy-go-lucky attitude. He also fashioned an enduring rapport with the galleries by having fun at his work and by winning their unreserved approval.

Fuzzy had 10 wins on TOUR. His first one in 1979 at the Andy Williams-San Diego Open set the stage for his first Masters and his scene-stealing, two-hole playoff victory against Tom Watson. Five years later Fuzzy won his second Major in the US Open at Winged Foot in an 18-hole playoff with Greg Norman, 67-75.

Fuzzy helped make the Skins Game a Thanksgiving weekend TV staple by winning it back to back in 1985-86. He won two events on the Champions Tour, including the 2002 Senior PGA. During his time on the big TOUR, Fuzzy was plagued with chronic back problems that required surgery, and he has limited his play on the Champions Tour this year to five or six events because the arthritis in his hands makes it difficult for him “to grip that old club properly anymore.”

But Fuzzy, now 64, keeps himself busy with his two favorite pastimes, hunting and fishing, and he has become an entrepreneur with his own liquor brand, “Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka.” He also likes to design golf courses and has 19 to his credit.

In 1985, the USGA bestowed its highest honor upon Fuzzy, the Bob Jones Award “in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship.” In 2015, Fuzzy received the Champions Tour Bruno Award for his “special and outstanding contributions” to the game and for “socializing with both sponsors and fans to create a unique experience.”

An Indiana native through and through, Fuzzy lives with his wife Diane in Floyds Knobs and has four grown-up children, Sunny, Heidi, Gretchen, and Miles.

NEGM: How did your charismatic personality evolve?

FZ: First, you’ve got to look at my gene pool, at my mother and dad. I was always blessed to have their support, and they taught me the right way to play golf—to enjoy it through the good times and the bad and to realize it was only a game. I think a lot of people and pros lose track of that fact. My attitude all along has been to have fun on the golf course, and I certainly take pleasure in entertaining the people who come out to watch us play. Golf is the greatest game ever, but it is still a game.

NEGM: What one victory had the most significance for you?

 Fuzzy holds the Bourne Trophy after defeating Hale Irwin in the 2002 PGA Senior Championship.


Fuzzy holds the Bourne Trophy after defeating Hale Irwin in the 2002 PGA Senior Championship.

FZ: You would expect me to say the Masters or the US Open, I bet. Both are certainly at the top of my list. However, the one that probably means the most to me is the 1985 Bay Hill Classic. When I won Arnold’s tournament, I had just come back after six months off the TOUR as a result of my first major back surgery. I had to teach myself how to walk in that hospital there for six weeks, and then I had to get my game back to compete at the highest level. So that victory kinda sits in my mind as the one I’ll always remember.

NEGM: Were the Skins Games as much fun to participate in as they appeared to be on TV?

FZ: Oh, yes! In my three years, I got to play with Arnold, Jack, Lee, and Tom. I loved how we all went at each other, Arnold and Jack especially, when there was money on the line. If I had the only putt left to tie Arnold, Jack would say to me, “Don’t you miss that.” Then Arnold would tell me the same thing a few holes later. We just had a lot of back-and-forth banter that made the camaraderie that much better. Winning the Skins Game twice was pretty terrific, too.

NEGM: Do you look forward to returning to Augusta National each April?

FZ: Absolutely. It’s always been such an honor to go there, and that Champions Dinner is so special to us all. I’ve taken over for Sam Snead, who used to have us falling off our chairs with the raunchiest jokes ever. Now I don’t tell the raunchy ones, but I’ve got a lot of good ones.

The Par-3 event is the showpiece for the past champions and the players before the tournament, and it’s our opportunity to show people just how important family is. Most of the players bring their kids as caddies, but my kids are older now. So I always pull one or two youngsters from the gallery to putt for me. We all just have a blast.

FuzzyVodka_1NEGM: How did you get into the vodka business?

FZ: Because I didn’t want my name on a private label wine! I had that opportunity, but I don’t drink wine. One of my buddies then said to me, “Why wouldn’t you invest in vodka? You certainly drink enough of it.” His idea had merit, and Fuzzy’s Vodka is the result. Now that’s something I believe in!

NEGM: You bet John Daly he wouldn’t live to be 50? You lost on April 28.

FZ: Yes, and I paid him off with something he could use, too. A 1.75 liter of my vodka! I wrote on it, “Happy 50th!” and signed it. I gave it to him on the first tee at his first Champions event in May at The Woodlands CC in Houston.

NEGM: You are a three-time Ryder Cup veteran. Can the US finally prevail this year at Hazeltine?

FZ: Yes, I think our boys can. But I can’t tell you why they can! What’s great about the Ryder Cup is that you’ve got 24 of the best golfers in the world. If one team gets hot—like the Euros did in 2014 at Gleneagles—that team’s gonna win. No reason why the US cannot get hot this fall and bring that cup back to this side of the Atlantic. It’s great golf, and it’s great theater, but that Ryder Cup format is very difficult, especially the alternate shot. But this is our year to regain the trophy—I hope!

 

(Photo credits: Fuzzy head shot courtesy of the PGA TOUR, with the Bourne Trophy courtesy of the PGA of America)

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