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Keeping up with the Jones: Back in the hood

By |  April 21, 2022 0 Comments
Photo: Seth Jones

Photo: Seth Jones

I thought I’d get a rise out of Russ Myers, Southern Hills superintendent, when I asked him about January 2021. You might remember, it was a few weeks after the events in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 when the PGA of America announced that they were no longer going to Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey for the 2022 PGA Championship. Almost lost in the ruckus was the new location: Tulsa, Okla., at Southern Hills.

It was the Midwesterner in me that made me jump at the news when I saw it. The PGA Championship in my part of the world, at a recent Gil Hanse restoration? This was as exciting as when the tournament visited Bellerive in St. Louis in 2018, or Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., in 2015. I started getting text messages from friends, asking if I was going (yes!), and of course, did I have an insider track on tickets? (no!)

I asked Myers what it was like to walk a mile in his Adidas when he learned that Southern Hills was the new home of the 2022 PGA Championship. Over chips and salsa, Myers didn’t bite; the only spice was in the salsa.

“From the minute I was leaving LA Country Club, I always assumed Southern Hills would host more majors, and I assumed the club wanted to host them. It was just a matter of … how do you get there?” Myers says. “For me, it was a sense of validation. We hadn’t hosted one since ’07. But I didn’t go celebrate. I knew it would get some buzz around here. But I wasn’t jumping up and down and going crazy because I expect us to do this.”

Myers — and his crew at Southern Hills — are very chill. They have an expectation for excellence, but they don’t grip so hard at it that they make it seem like what they are doing is difficult. As we in the industry know, it is.

As an example of how chill Russ and his crew are, look at their attire. What is Russ wearing on the cover? A hoodie. They were all in hoodies while I was there. There are four other staffers photographed in the story — all in hoodies. I remember when we assigned Tulsa, Okla.-based photographer John Amatucci to shoot this month’s cover. Golfdom Art Director Pete Seltzer sent John samples of previous Golfdom PGA Championship preview covers as a reference point. Amatucci nervously called Pete, and Pete called me. “Seth, John says that Russ is ready for the shoot, but he’s … wearing a hoodie.” I laughed. “Yup, he’s in the right place then.”

We went with ‘Southern charm’ as our cover headline this month, but I gave as much consideration to Southern Comfort, the smooth whiskey. “Comfortably different” is Southern Comfort’s motto. It could be Myers’ as well.

I’ve never used an emoji in my life (true!), but if I had to describe Russ Myers’ attitude and personality, it could be summed up by the thumbs-up emoji. It’s the most frequent reaction I get from him when I text him. When I hung out with him last fall, that was also his demeanor in general.

For this month’s cover story, I kept it as a straight-up question and answer with Russ. Myers has had an interesting life, especially over the past two years. He and his crew were preparing for the 2021 Senior PGA Championship when they learned they were also getting the 2022 PGA Championship. Then the area got blasted by Winter Storm Uri, killing acres and acres of turf.

“I still have trouble talking about it,” Myers told me in a rare moment of seriousness. But then, thankfully, he did talk about it. He was again lighthearted when he warned me: don’t quote him with any words longer than three syllables.

“Because if people read that, they’ll think it wasn’t really me,” he laughed.

Don’t let them fool you, they may be a bunch of boys in their hoods, but they’re ready for this PGA Championship.

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a 18-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.


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