It’s a rare occasion when someone gets an opportunity to walk nine holes with Tiger Woods.
But for a pair of Red Deer businessmen that was exactly the case.
Red Deer Discount Golf Centre owner/manager Dave Hoppe and Todd Fiske, who is the head professional and club house manager at the River Bend Golf Course, got just that opportunity in late June.
The pair received an invitation from their Nike golf sales representative to attend the Nike Golf Invitational at the Fox Harb’r Golf Resort and Spa in Wallace, N.S., which was used as a fundraiser that benefitted Canadian junior golf and the Tiger Woods Foundation.
The two-day event included a nine-hole exhibition with Woods playing against his swing coach Hank Haney and NBA legend Charles Barkley and an 18-hole best-ball scramble that saw Woods play his own ball from the tips.
He registered a 63 over the 18 holes while the winning group was at 56.
“It was a great experience,” said Hoppe, who was one group ahead of Woods during the 18-hole event.
“I was real lucky to be that close. It was the luck of the draw. When things backed up we got a chance to talk with him.
“Not often, but about four times. I also caught myself watching his shots a lot of the time. He hits amazing shots. On one par 4 he missed his approach by quite a bit, then holed out.
“I got a chance to be that close and not pay a cent. The guys playing with him paid up to $125,000 each to be there.”
While Hoppe got his chance to see several of Woods shots during the regular 18-hole event, it was the nine-hole exhibition that allowed the close to 100 guests a chance to be up close and personal to the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world.
Woods played his own ball against Haney and Barkley and the Red Deer pair were within several feet of Woods during the nine holes.
“Being able to be that close and watching him hit the ball was incredible,” said Fiske. “On the first hole I never did see his drive as I wasn’t ready for it.”
“It was a chance in a lifetime as there’s no ropes and unlike the PGA events where it’s 10 deep, you’re right there beside him the whole way and get a chance to see every shot. You didn’t have to run around and hope to get a chance to see the shot,” added Hoppe.
“The course was wet, but his shots were unbelievable. He’d hit a 60-yard approach closer than I’d hit a 15-foot putt.
“Plus it was fun just to be there and listen to the banter between Woods and Barkley.
“There was some trash talk,” Hoppe said with a laugh.
Fiske even got involved in the round.
“There were some of us by the green and Tiger asked us about the putt.
“I said left edge and some said right edge and he joked about being Canadian and hockey players and hitting left-handed.
“He played right edge and it stayed right and he never asked us again,” laughed Fiske.
One aspect of Woods’ game that both Hoppe and Fiske noticed was that he used a shorter driver than they expected.
“Around 43 and a half inches,” said Fiske. “He’s going more for accuracy than distance. I’m sure he could add another 20 yards if he wanted.”
The Nike event was first class.
“I’ve been to the Oven in Fort Worth, Tex., where Nike makes their clubs, but this was special,” said Fiske.
“With Tiger being there along with Barkley and Haney made it that way. It would have been good, but not the same. But they took care of us . . . first class all the way”
The fact Barkley was there added to Hoppe and Fiske’s experience.
The two joined Sir Charles and comedian and actor Shaun Majumder for a “few cold ones” on their first night at the event.
“We stayed up until about 2 a.m. Charles told us a bunch of stories and we had some laughs. He’s a funny guy and likes Canada and is a good ambassador for the game of golf,” said Fiske.
“He is funny and just one of the guys,” added Hoppe, who met Majumder at a prior event which led to the evening with Barkley.
Woods spent less than a day in Wallace as he flew in on his jet and was gone after his good byes following the 18-hole event.
“He’s like a rock star, everyone wants a piece of his time,” said Fiske. “He wasn’t there long, but it was something to remember.”
The Red Deer pair will have memories forever of the June 25-26 event, along with a picture with Woods.
“When it gets here,” laughed Hoppe.