KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Winning a PGA Tour event doesn't necessarily initiate a higher degree of acclaim, even among devoted golf fans.
Just ask George McNeill, shuttle driver.
Twice a tour winner, including last year's Puerto Rico Open, McNeill is one of the 30 contestants in this week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the ill-fated, weather-plagued season opener that has yet to open.
On Friday, the 37-year-old tour veteran and his girlfriend were preparing to make the short drive from the Ritz-Carlton to the Plantation Course for what was supposed to be the first round of the 2013 season. Their courtesy car was brought around, and McNeill got in the driver's side, his girlfriend in the passenger seat. As McNeill buckled up, the back passenger side door opened and an elderly gentleman sat down.
"He wanted to know if this was a shuttle to the golf course. I told him no, but I was going in that direction," McNeill said with a laugh. "He was really embarrassed, but I told him it was no problem, I was going to the course anyway."
The man, who introduced himself as Steve, was from Seattle and had traveled to Maui to watch the tournament. McNeill said the man asked him if he had played in the pro-am. McNeill said he had, but in a manner that apparently tipped the man off that McNeill was a pro and not an amateur.
"Then he was really embarrassed," said McNeill, who has earned $7.5 million in his career. "He kept apologizing, but I said that it was really no big deal. I mean, he seemed nice enough."
McNeill taxied him to the Plantation Course clubhouse and to valet parking. A first-class ride all the way. When he got out of the car, the man said he couldn't wait to call his wife. "In fact," McNeill said he heard the man say, "I'm going to call everyone I know."
(Getty Images photo)