June 19, 2007–You gotta love Chris Riley. If you polled PGA Tour players, he would be near the top of the list under the category of nicest player or most friendly. He has an infectious personality, and when you talk with him, it's tough to get a word in because he's too busy asking you questions. Recently, Mr.Nice Guy won the Rochester Area Charities Showdown at Somerby presented by Think, joining other Las Vegas golfers John Riegger and Skip Kendall as Nationwide Tour champions in 2007. The win was his first on a tour since capturing the PGA Tour's 2002 Reno-Tahoe Open. For Riley the win was great, but playing golf kept him away from his family.
"Playing golf is the easy part," Riley told the media following the event. "It's a lonely existence. It takes a lot of sacrifice to come out here and play week in and week out. I had contemplated whether I wanted to keep doing this or not. People don't realize how lonely it is out here when you have a family back home."
Riley and family live in Las Vegas, and he was the first four-time All-American in any sport at UNLV. While at UNLV, Riley and teammates played at UNLV's home Las Vegas golf course, Shadow Creek Golf Club, and practiced at many of Las Vegas' other golf courses including Las Vegas Country Club, TPC Summerlin and Spanish Trail Country Club.
Several years ago, I interviewed Riley at McCarran International Airport while he waited to board a plane en route to a tournament. At the time he was single and care free, but for every one question I asked him about golf or his career, he asked two or three about what it was like to be married and have kids. He must've thought I was the expert because I was married with three young children. It was clear that he had someone special in his life, and that he was about to make a big decision.
He must have liked some of the things we talked about, because it wasn't long before he went on to marry fellow golfer Michelle Louviere, and they now have two wonderful children, ages two and one. But while fatherhood was the best thing that ever happened to him, it was probably the worst thing to ever happen to his golf game. He hated leaving the kids, and all of the travel that went with it. It affected him emotionally and he went from the heights of the game–he was a member of the Ryder Cup team in 2004–to the depths, when he lost his exempt status after finishing 150th on the PGA Tour money list.
But now, with a symbolic win on Father's Day, the golf tide is turning, and Riley could be learning how to juggle life and golf. The win catapulted him up the Nationwide Tour money list, and he is now number 20. The top 25 earn full status on the PGA Tour for 2008. Riley does have conditional status on the PGA Tour, and through June 18, had played in six events in 2007, earning a little more than $80,000, good for 188th on the money list.
"This is so satisfying," Riley told the Star Tribune. "I made the Ryder Cup team in 2004, and that was the pinnacle of my golf career. But '05 was a terrible year for me. I was in a slump for probably a year and a half.
"It's a big win for me; I haven't won anything for five years. I just want to get back to where I know I can be."