Lessons From A Slowpoke
The last man to receive a one-stroke penalty for slow play at a regular PGA Tour event has become synonymous with taking 'all Day'.
Glen Day has never minded the nickname.
For one thing, "All Day" is an all-timer, possessing the pitch-perfect caddie-yard pith that puts it in the class of Avis and Radar and Halimony and Carnac. Speaking of whom, the name was hung on him by Jack Nicklaus, providing added distinction.
Lately, Day has been a tangential but fairly regular figure in golf news as the last man to receive a one-stroke penalty for slow play at a regular PGA Tour event (non-major championship). It happened during a third-round 72 at the 1995 Honda Classic, so long ago that Day says he has no memory of the particulars. Shortly after, Jim Nantz heard about the nickname and mentioned it during a telecast. No longer a largely anonymous grinder, Day began putting "All Day" on his golf balls. These days, his license plate carries the handle, as do those of his wife and two daughters, except theirs also add the number "1", "2" or "3."
Unlike some, Day never had a problem admitting he was a slow player. "I knew I had to change," he says. "Hell, I would stand over it forever." He also has a good idea why. Day "came from nothing" in rural Mississippi, where he was raised by his mother and maternal grandfather, Glyndol Bass, after Glen's father died when he was 8. Although he was an All-American at Oklahoma, the straight-but-very-short hitter was never pegged for stardom and was insecure about his place.
"Once I got on tour, it was so important to me to stay out there," he says. "I worked with Bob Rotella, and we came up with a pre-shot routine and some thoughts. My problem was, when I got over the ball, I would go over everything in my head, and then go over it again. I was trying to make sure everything was perfect, trying to make the shot or the putt before I ever hit it. And it just compounded and compounded."
To break the cycle, Day went back to one of his grand-father's favorite sayings: "The harder you try, the behinder you get." Day started to let go a bit, and he not only got faster and fell less behind but became a winner at Hilton Head in 1999, beating Payne Stewart and Jeff Sluman in a playoff. Though he never won again, and now at 47 is only a part-time player, his official career earnings are nearly $9 million.
With reasonable justification, Day considers himself an expert on pace of play.
"First of all, most slow players don't know they are slow, and if you tell them they are, they get very upset, like you cussed their first born," he says. "They don't think they're slow, because they might hit the ball pretty fast once they are over it. But before that, they've wasted a whole bunch of time.
"The young players are the worst offenders," he continues. "They pull out the yardage book, walk yardage with their caddie, then they confer. After they finally get the right number, then they have to decide what club it is. I'm normally the first guy to play, so a lot of times I'll hit my shot and start walking in the trees, and I'll be almost to the green by the time they hit. I mean, c'mon."
Such players are the opposite of Nicklaus, who might be the godfather of slow play to many, but for Day was a useful model. The two played several practice rounds together in the 1990s after Day had became friends with Gary Nicklaus when both were playing the European Tour.
"Mr. Nicklaus can needle you, and he gave me my nickname," Day says, "but he also showed me how to speed up. He might have been slow over the ball, but he was fast getting to it. That's the key."
Day gave the theory the acid test a few years ago when he and Ben (The Anchor) Crane were in the first group off for a weekend round at Warwick Hills G&CC outside Flint, Mich., in the now defunct Buick Open. "Everybody was saying, 'Well, golly, they'll never finish,' " remembers Day, "but I called Ben and told him, 'We're going to prove them wrong today.' We just played ready golf, not worrying about who had honors or who was away, and we were fine."
As a godfather of sorts himself, now it's Day who imparts slow-play lessons. "If a guy will listen, I tell him real simple: 'Get your happy ass up to your ball, get the yardage and hit it, and you'll never have a problem.' "
Although you'll lessen your chances for a cool nickname.