Former UNLV Rebel and current Las Vegas resident Charley Hoffman won the PGA Tour's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic to earn his first PGA Tour victory. Two other Las Vegas golfers, Butch Harmon School of Golf Pro Sean Callahan and UNLV Rebel head golf coach Dwaine Knight, helped the colorful Hoffman find the winner's circle. Read the story here, and also the complete transcript of his post-round news conference.
By Brian Hurlburt, GolfLasVegasNow.com Founding Editor
Charley Hoffman was a member of UNLV's 1998-99 National Championship team, and was always known as a funny character who hit the driver as crooked as he hit it long. Over the last few years he worked hard at his game management, and last year finished number 82 on the PGA Tour money list, and challenged for the FRYS.com Open championship, Las Vegas' PGA Tour event.
Hoffman beat John Rollins on the first playoff hole at the Chrysler Classic played in Palm Desert, Calif. Hoffman, who became the second-straight Rebel to win the event, went birdie, eagle, birdie on the final three holes, including the playoff hole. Fellow Rebel Chad Campbell won the event in 2006.
At the end of the windy, 90-hole tournament (91 for Hoffman and Rollins), Charley was tired and felt, if not like a winner, then like someting else.
"Definitely the survivor," Hoffman said in the press room following the event. "I didn't really think I had a chance with two holes to play, and somehow got it done. But it was brutal out there. Probably the hardest conditions I've played in, for sure."
Hoffman also credited Callahan and Knight for getting him to this point, after several hard years of survival on golf's mini-tours.
"When my game started turning (around) the most is when I started working with Shawn Callahan; he works under Butch Harmon at the Butch Harmon School of Golf," Hoffman said. "We retooled my swing, no major changes, but just got my swing a little bit better. It's still a work‑in‑progress and we still work on it. I'll see him tomorrow and we'll work on my game tomorrow.
"Once I started to see him, he turned my game around. And putting, Coach (Dwaine) Knight has helped me a lot at UNLV. He still works with my putting and there's been some great putters on TOUR that have gone through Coach Knight; Chad Campbell, Chris Riley, and I guess he trained me to sort of putt pretty good."
The Butch Harmon School of Golf is located at Rio Secco Golf Club, a Rees Jones design, and one of the many great Las Vegas golf courses.
These days, Charley is known as much for his crazy blonde surfer hair as his terrific play, but with his win at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, his game will be the talk of the golf world.
"I really wasn't thinking ‑‑ all week I wasn't thinking about winning," Hoffman said. "I came with the attitude, it's just a warm‑up for the year. I haven't been playing too much and just taking it easy."
OFFICIAL CHARLEY HOFFMAN POST-ROUND NEWS TRANSCRIPT BELOW
JOAN T ALEXANDER (PGA TOUR Press): Thank you, Charley, our 2007 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic champion, that sounds pretty good.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Yeah, I can get used to that, Joan.
JOAN T ALEXANDER: I know it's fun win close to home and be with your family, talk about that and we'll go into questions.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Being born in California, it's nice that friends can come up and watch. Got some calls last night for some friend to get some tickets and it's nice to show up and see some familiar faces when you're playing golf.
Q. Somebody asked me, do you go to the same hairdresser as Craig T. Nelson.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: If there's no hairdresser that he goes to, then I'm going to the same one he's going to. (Laughter).
Q. Do you feel like the winner or the survivor today?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Definitely the survivor. I didn't really think I had a chance with two holes to play, and somehow got it done. But it was brutal out there. Probably the hardest conditions I've played in, for sure.
Q. And in terms of the clubs, were you ‑‑ how far did you hit that drive on 18, for instance?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I have no clue. I had 170 yards and I guess you guys can do the math there.
All day, it's just pretty much a guessing game. If you don't hit it solid ‑‑ a couple of my shots came up 40 yards short of the green because I came up a hill high on the face and others came up ten yards short, to 40 yards short.
Q. Who were all the fans up in San Diego here? They were up in that corner up in that grandstands, they were like the only people up there. How many people did you have up here?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: First off, parents were there, girlfriend, girlfriend's parents, and a lot of my dad's friends. He plays golf at Stoneridge Country Club in Poway and guys I grew up playing soccer with. In Poway soccer was pretty much what I did through high school and most of those guys made it up. My cousin also made it up.
Q. Could you just give us a little background. You're talking about Poway, and I know you went to UNLV, but when did you ‑‑ did you ever face some of these guys who are on TOUR now, Phil or Tiger or anyone when you were younger, and in the San Diego area, and some of the guys you played as a prep?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Growing up, obviously Phil was older than me and always looked up to him because San Diego guy. San Diego Junior Golf, he was always the guy winning all the tournaments. So you obviously knew who Phil was.
Tiger is a couple years older than me, but it seems like he was always playing a division higher or something. Played a fair amount with him in college when he was there for a couple years, but never ever have played with Tiger in an actual foursome, obviously tournaments here and there. Chris Riley was a few years older than me also, and we went to school at UNLV together. Those are all of the guys from San Diego and Southern California.
Q. You're the first guy under 40 to win this year. Comment on carrying the flag for the 20‑somings.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Well, just turned 30, (laughter), so I wish I was a 20‑something still. It's a soft point, I guess.
I wish I could have got the win when I was in the 20s, but, hey, if it had to come when I was 30, that's all right. There's going to be plenty of young guys winning this year and probably a few of the older fellas, as well.
Q. I know Jeff Quinney is a friend of yours and he got that ace on 17. You seemed really excited. Did that jump start you at all? You went birdie, eagle.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: It definitely did. He jumps one shot in front of me there with that ace if I don't make my putt for birdie, so I knew I had to make that putt just to stay in pace with him.
I wasn't really watching too much of the leaderboard behind me, so I didn't know what they were doing. I knew they had a few tough holes coming up, but I knew what I had to do just in my group because he made a 1, and I thought I hit a pretty good shot in there but he ends up making 1. Our group ended up doing pretty well. We made two 2s and a 1 there.
Q. First PGA TOUR victory, first you've played this tournament; is that correct?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Correct.
Q. Do you think the format is hard?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I've had some success in this Pro‑Am format. I finished second in the Nationwide TOUR in the BMW Pro‑Am they have there at the Cliffs in South Carolina. Finished second there, almost won. I played good in Vegas last year.
I enjoy this format. I like getting to meet new people and you walk away with a bunch of new friends when you play in this format. A lot of guys don't like it, but obviously with my track record, I'm going to keep playing in all of them that I can.
Q. After you completed your round yesterday, you seemed really at ease and comfortable. What were your thoughts going into today's round after you finished yesterday? Did you think, well, I might be able to snatch this out and take it?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I really wasn't thinking ‑‑ all week I wasn't thinking about winning. I came with the attitude, it's just a warm‑up for the year. Haven't been playing too much and just taking it easy. To tell you the truth, I thought Justin was going to run away with it. He's been playing well all year, played well last year, won in Australia. I thought he was going to run away with it. I happened to be able to benefit from his misfortune of the day. Obviously it's a good misfortune.
Q. Is this the way you envisioned your first TOUR victory to be?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: A win's a win. (Smiles).
I think you'd obviously rather have a seven‑shot lead coming into the last hole, but you've got to take them any way you can get them.
Q. You look so calm over the first eagle putt. What was going through your mind? You know, you obviously had the big board up there in front of you, and I assume you were aware of everything, the situation; but you did look very calm. Did you feel as calm as you looked?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I didn't feel as bad as I thought I'd feel. Obviously there's some nerves going through your mind. I didn't know if I needed to make that putt or not because of the group behind us obviously. But I just tried to putt a good putt on it and hopefully win the hole. Good fortune it did.
Q. The other thing I would ask is on the playoff hole, you've got the eagle putt, what are you thinking on that, how close you want to get or just lagging it up there? So many guys talked today about how difficult the two‑foot putts were because of the wind. Is it almost better to have a little bit longer putt?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: No. (Laughter).
Actually I saw Justin on the final hole in regulation run it a little bit. I thought that putt was going to be a little quicker coming down that hill. I just thought ‑‑ I thought I hit a pretty good putt because it went a little closer than it did, but in the end I was able to knock it in.
Q. You're talking about survivor, and of course the wind was bad; how bad have you ever played in wind this severe? Maybe in the desert in Vegas you might have run into it, but usually in California, you don't get it.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I've seen wind this hard before. Usually I go inside after it's blowing this hard, though, and don't play too much. (Laughter).
I can't say I've really played a competitive round. Might have been out with some friends before playing. Usually go inside and seek shelter.
Q. What do you estimate the length of the eagle putt was?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I'd estimate 12 or 13 feet. ShotLink probably has that.
JOAN T ALEXANDER: 11 feet.
Q. Do you have many of these come‑from‑behind, come‑out‑of‑nowhere in your career?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Since it's my first win on the PGA TOUR, I don't have any come‑from‑behind wins.
In the Nationwide, I was leading that on the back nine and got in a playoff also, but this is the first come‑from‑behind win.
Q. Just a few years ago, you were nowhere, not really on the Nationwide TOUR. Can you talk about the progression from there to here. And obviously, you built on last year, too. But just talk about the progression, what this means now after where you were three or four years ago?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Well, I was fortunate enough right out of college to get my Nationwide TOUR card which is a good advantage to step right out there. But I'll be the first person to tell you I didn't know what I was doing and didn't have a clue out there. I just kept learning.
I happened to lose my card a couple of years later and I knew I was always getting better when I was playing golf, and if I was never progressing, even though some of my stats looked like I was decreasing, personally I knew I was progressing the whole time.
Until this year, one of the best years I had in golf was the year I had to Monday qualify on the Nationwide TOUR just to get my stats and qualify that year. No one knows how hard it is to go to a different city on a Monday and try to qualify, and if you don't qualify, you go to the next site the next Monday morning, play a practice round and try to qualify again. That's the hardest year of golf I ever had. I just kept progressing and learning from my mistakes, and, fortunately, now I'm sitting and finally got a TOUR victory.
Q. You talked about how fresh you felt this week with it being your first tournament, and I know today must have been a real grind. Did you still kind of maintain that feel all through today or did it wane at all?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: No, I was fine all day. I was having fun out there. I don't know if it was me and Jeff talking, we were both playing pretty good. You're just trying to hang on out there and hit good shots. Even if the wind blows it into a bunker, just go there, find it and hit it again. You just try not to make double‑bogeys because you know people are going to make bogeys out there.
Q. What was the first year you played at Torrey?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Torrey, I was 16 years old. So 14 years ago.
Q. 14 years ago. So I would imagine the popularity that you have in San Diego, going back this week, what do you imagine it's going to be like this week?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: It's going to be fun and I can't wait to see all of my friends again there, and hopefully keep riding the wave down there in San Diego. I played all right down there last year, and it's going to be fun to see the local support.
Q. Talking about the struggles on the Nationwide TOUR and things coming together, was there one thing that triggered it or was it just a gradual progression figuring out how to play this game?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: You've got to figure out how to travel. You've got to figure out where you're at. You're going in different cities every week and there's a lot that goes into it.
When my game started turning out the most is when I started working with Shaun Callahan; he works under Butch Harmon at the Butch Harmon school. We retooled my swing, no major changes, but just got my swing a little bit better. It's still a work‑in‑progress and we still work on it. I'll see him tomorrow and we'll work on my game tomorrow.
Once I started to see him, he turned my game around. And putting, Coach Knight has helped me a lot at UNLV. He still works with my putting and there's been some great putters on TOUR that have gone through Coach Knight, Chad Campbell, Chris Riley, and I guess he trained me to sort of putt pretty good.
Q. What's his first name?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Dwaine.
Q. Todd was telling me you were the youngest qualifier ever for what is now the Buick Invitational and you did it twice. When you qualify at that age and you're an amateur, and then it takes you so long, you might say, to make a splash on TOUR, do you get disappointed and think you should be farther ahead since you did so well when you were younger?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I wouldn't say I had a stellar junior career or amateur career, college career. I think it was pretty steady. I don't think I was as focused as some other golfers at that age. I still like to go out and have fun and hang out with friends and do that stuff.
The Amateur qualifier, I guess I was 15, actually, when I qualified and played when I was 16. I was just having fun, sort of like today going out and playing golf. I think I play my best when I have fun and don't worry too much.
Q. Next year at this tournament, they are going to modernize a little bit the course, what's your thoughts on that?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I didn't know they were changing. I've heard it's been a work‑in‑progress, that they were trying to go over to Silver Rock, but I wasn't even aware that they are going over there, never played it. I think the golf courses in the rotation are great now. If they add a little bigger and better, more modern golf course, hopefully it fits my game just as well as these ones did.
Q. On the playoff can you talk about Rollins' tee shot and did you see that it went in the sand or anything?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Unfortunately I said, "Good shot." I thought it was going to be easily carrying that bunker and I did see it go in the sand. I actually felt kind of bad that it went in the sand after I said good shot.
I just tried to put a good swing on it. All week I hit the driver very average I'd say, and my misses had been right. I just tried to pick out a good target and put a good swing on it and hopefully it went in the fairway.
Q. This is George Lopez's first time hosting; any thoughts about that?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: It was awesome. I went to one of his parties on Tuesday night before the first round. Great time, good food, and it was nice to meet the celebrities and hang out with them in a little different atmosphere than all of the chaos usually at the golf course.
George did a great job. And I wasn't around for Bob, but I can't see Bob doing a much better job than George did this year.
Q. Given the tenor of sports conversation in San Diego the last week or so when what happened with the Chargers and everything, are you happy that maybe you can change the subject a little bit?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: Hopefully I can change it. I still wore my Chargers hat to dinner last night, hoping they somehow didn't lose that game.
Yeah, that was heartbreaking to watch that. Hopefully we've got something good to write about now.
JOAN T ALEXANDER: Thank you, Charley, and congratulations.