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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Furyk returns to UA golf roots

    Jim Furyk pitches his third shot on the 19th hole, where his par did not match opponent Chad Campbells birdie in Campbells 1-up victory in the second round of the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana on Feb. 22.
    Jim Furyk pitches his third shot on the 19th hole, where his par did not match opponent Chad Campbell’s birdie in Campbell’s 1-up victory in the second round of the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana on Feb. 22.

    It’s the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championships in Tucson and Jim Furyk is matched up against the second lowest seed in the tournament.

    It should be a simple 5 and 4 win against Brett Quigley, but Furyk steps to the 12th tee box only 1 up.

    With his brand new Taylor Made Superquad R7 driver in hand, Furyk attempts to drive the green on the 12th hole, a 334-yard par-4. His drive comes up short of the green, but an easy chip is upcoming for his birdie.

    Furyk steps up to the ball and launches it through the green into the rough right behind the pin. He puts his hands on his knees, disgusted with his shot.

    As he walks toward his shot, someone in the gallery shouts, “”You got this one Jim. Quigley doesn’t stand a chance because you went to the U of A!””

    A slight smile appears across the face of the Arizona alumnus as he looks at his 8-foot birdie putt, a treacherous downhiller out of the rough, surely one of his most difficult shots of the day.

    Furyk stabs at it with his putter and leaks the ball onto the green. As it gains momentum down the hill, the crowd rises to its feet. The ball hits the pin and falls into the cup.

    About 3,000 people surrounding the green erupt in madness as Furyk gives an emphatic fist pump.

    He has just won the hole to go 2-up on Quigley, and as he walks toward the 13th tee box, chants of “”U of A! U of A!”” echo throughout the golf course.

    “”I enjoyed going to school here, and if I had to do it all over again, U of A would be my choice,”” Furyk said. “”I’ve missed being here and it’s a pleasure to be back.””

    Furyk, a two-time All-American, graduated from Arizona in 1992 after helping his team win the school’s only men’s golf national championship that year.

    His success didn’t stop there either. Furyk won 12 times since on the PGA tour, including the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields in Chicago.

    Furyk’s success has qualified him to represent America in the Ryder Cup since 1997, the bi-annual tournament between American-born golfers and European-born golfers.

    Every player playing in the cup gets $100,000 to donate to a university of his choice, along with $100,000 to donate to charity. Since 2000, Furyk has been giving his $100,000 to Arizona, and with that money came the start of the ever-popular business golf class.

    Physical education 219 is a class available to junior and senior business majors and is of high demand among students. It has become so popular that the physical education department will begin offering summer sessions this year.

    “”I’m glad to hear that it is going well for the school,”” Furyk said. “”I think it’s a good program and the PGA of America does a good job of generating revenue and putting it back into the game.””

    Furyk, who graduated with a business degree from the Eller College of Management, said attending business school helps in becoming a PGA Professional.

    (PGA Professional jobs include head golf professional, director of golf, golf course development, tournament director, rules official and numerous other PGA-sanctioned professions.)

    “”Most golf professionals, the last thing on their mind if playing golf,”” Furyk said. “”It’s running a business. That’s probably why (the business golf program) feeds through the business school.””

    While life as a touring golf professional requires lot of travel, Furyk never forgot his Wildcat roots. He says that he talks about the basketball team with fellow Arizona golf alumnus and PGA pro Rory Sabbatini every now and then.

    “”We always keep an eye on Arizona and how they’re doing,”” Furyk said. “”Once you go to a school, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Arizona or anyone else, there’s always a pride and you’ll always be a part of that tradition.””

    Furyk was born and raised in West Chester, Pa., but he came to Tucson because the Wildcats were the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and had just lost four seniors.

    “”It was a great opportunity to play at a very good program and to play against the best competition, but it was a place that I knew that immediately I was going to probably come in a play.””

    Furyk has one of the tour’s most unorthodox swings, and coming into college, he wanted to work with a coach who wasn’t going to change his swing or playing style. That’s exactly why Furyk chose to work with LaRose.

    “”He wanted me to learn by my own mistakes, and he never dictated the way we needed to play holes on the course,”” Furyk said. “”I don’t think he cared as long as we were working hard, and I needed that a little bit.””

    Said LaRose: “”The name of the game is golf, not swing. I’m interested in the guys who write the lowest scores down, not the people with the good looking swings.””

    LaRose said that he was drawn to Furyk initially because “”he had a lot of heart and he was a winner.””

    Furyk gave the world a preview of his winning ways in the NCAA championships in 1992.

    His first tee shot in the final round sailed into the desert and landed in a bush. With his ball sitting in the bush, Furyk called LaRose over and said, “”Should I take an unplayable, or what should I do?””

    “”We didn’t come here to lay up,”” LaRose told him. “”Take out your eight iron and put it on the green.””

    Furyk proceeded to do just that, sticking it next to the pin. LaRose called it “”one of the best shots I’ve ever seen.””

    Another plus for Furyk coming to Arizona was the weather. During the months of the fall golf season, it’s 13 degrees warmer on average in Tucson, at 67 degrees, than it is in his hometown of West Chester.

    “”I can remember shoveling snow my first Christmas break and coming back to Tucson and it was 80 degrees,”” Furyk said. “”And I decided at that point I wasn’t shoveling snow ever again once college was over.””

    Now that college is over, Furyk made his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where the average temperature for September, October and November hovers just above 70 degrees.

    As for the Match Play tournament, Furyk lost in the second round to Chad Campbell. The Match Play Championships are scheduled to be played in nearby Marana through 2010, and if Furyk can remain in the top 64 of the rankings each year, he will be coming back.

    “”I’ve missed Tucson. I’ve missed some of the restaurants and some of the people,”” he said. “”I’d love to get to Tucson more often and this tournament gives me that chance.””

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