Interview with Rainey Statum
27 Jun 2018 at 16:59 | Published by: PatPenguin | Views: 2016 | News search
Rainey Statum at the WAGM (Photo by Steve Lovell)
Most of us who have ever picked up a putter have made a journey that has made them the person they are today. Rainey Statum is not only no exception to that rule but an incredible example of how not to let life get you down. At the World Adventure Golf Masters in the Czech Republic, Minigolfnews' Steve Lovell took time to chat with Rainey, 56, from Humble, TX, about his life in minigolf and the most remarkable year that you could experience.
Minigolfnews (MGN): Iím here with Rainey Statum, one of the standout performers from the American team. Tell me about your golf background, do you see yourself as a golfer or a minigolfer?
Rainey Statum (RS): I started playing minigolf since 1984 but I started playing golf since I was twelve. I played on the school teams, starting in junior high, continuing through. I still play golf to this day to about a two handicap. Going further back when I first started, a lot of the kids would hit range balls, but I wouldnít. I would just putt and chip. I never hit the ball a long way, so I learned the short game. I guess thatís how I came to be a pretty good putter.
MGN: With yourself being a low handicap golfer, were there any thoughts of progressing to the PGA tour?
RS: Oh sure, whenever youíre young and you donít see how good they really are. We had a really good team at high school, our best team was one year ahead of me and they won it in their senior year. I could have maybe got a scholarship to a smaller college. I was good but not Ďrealí good. At the regionals one year when I was a sophomore, the other guys on the team would say, ďman, he shot 36 on the front nine and hit zero greens, he had nine puttsĒ. Of course, itís not all putting, itís chipping. My short game was the best part for me.
MGN: You had a steady build up until 1988, when you won the first of your five Texas state championships and well as winning the Tennessee Open (RS Ė wow, the internet really does say a lot). When did you feel you were starting to become competitive enough to start winning?
RS: When I first started, it was funny. I saw on TV when I was just 20, visiting a buddy of mine in college and I happened to catch the last three minutes of the Putt-Putt Show because they never showed it in Houston as there wasnít enough courses to get a bang for their buck. So we looked it up and made a few calls to see if there was a Putt-Putt in Houston. Sure enough, there was one 35 miles away from my house, so I drove in the middle of winter and played and met a lot of my friends from today there. It was 32 degrees Fahrenheit and misting, so it was cold. I went down there and met the owner of the course, who is right now my roommate. He said ďhey, you can start off in the third flight.Ē I said ďno, I donít start off in the third flight. I want to play with the best and make TV someday.Ē He tried to talk me out of it and I knew I was going to come in last and thatís fine, but I wanted to learn from the best. I came last but that was ok, I just kept playing and playing. I won the course championship in my first year, but it took a while to win, it was very frustrating because in minigolf, being a golfer, you see all kinds of things they donít teach you in golf. I have a different stroke in Putt-Putt as I do in golf. My stance and everything is different, itís almost two different sports.
MGN: Youíve been one of the standouts professionals on the tour for a number of years and you were given the honour of being Texas Putting Legend in 2000. Is it strange to be granted a legend status?
RS: It means youíre getting respect from your peers, basically. I ran the tour from 1991-1993 and I said why donít we start the putting legends for the really good players, a little like a hall of fame. That was an honour, it was cool, I donít think of it much now but it was a nice honour. People that I play against respect what I do.
MGN: Youíve now been playing 34 years. What keeps you coming back motivated?
RS: One of the motivations was to win a major in the States. Iíd come second in every major, made TV twice but the major was elusive. People said I was the best player never to win a major. I won a few smaller events and at last, about a month ago, I finally won the US Open. That was a huge deal for me.
MGN: Letís move forward to last year, which was a year of such conflicting emotions for you, with Hurricane Harvey to the Major Series Of Putting (MSOP). Whatís your take on last year? (SL Ė I would like to thank Rainey for his recollections through what was a difficult time).
RS: Well, being a Houston native all my life, I grew up along the river where it flood in our neighbourhood but I never was affected. Harvey was really the first time it reached us. Funny thing was is that we knew it was going to come in the house, because a buddy of mine said it had reached him the year before. That night we prepared as we had a few inches before. I remember waking up in the middle and thinking my rear end was wet. I thought I had whizzed myself but I looked across and said ďcrap, Iím in the water,Ē and it was up to thirty inches at the time in the house. We had to get rescued, we werenít sure how we were going to get out of there. I wasnít nervous with me knowing what I know about Houston, I knew it wasnít going to come up and choke us. I knew we could get out but it was more of an anxious ďhey, is it ever going to stop.Ē It happened fast, once we got out of there. We were flooded on the first day. Earlier that day, we were riding the streets thinking that the hurricane might be nothing, another false alarm. We lived right next to the bayou, which just rises, so now they are widening that bayou so in future they can eliminate that. I had a float thrown to me and got lifted up onto an amphibious raft. There were vehicle dying right there under the water and that was kind of what are we going to do now but I donít get too anxious. It was horrible but I feel bad for the people that lost everything. I lost a bunch of stuff but I still have my family and I was cool with that.
I had heard about the MSOP earlier in the year but we werenít sure if it was going to happen. The weekend that the hurricane came was the qualifiers in Houston so they obviously got washed out so I had forgotten about it and it wasnít at the front of my head. Once we started getting everything cleaned up, a friend of mine who happened to live in Vegas, said they are really building this course, it really is going to happen. I offered me a place to stay in Vegas and told me just to get here. I didnít have a job at the time so financially, I didnít have what I wanted. He said that they would get me in one of the tournaments for sure, they all know me as the golfer of the minigolfers. My buddy let me borrow $500 and told me to worry about it later. I drove straight there, slept on the side of the road and took me a total of 26 hours to get there. I was excited to be going. I donít fly very often so I just drive. When I got there, I put $100 for the qualifying for the first turbo event, which I happened to do well and make it. I cashed at the first tournament. I didnít know to expect. I donít want this to sound bad but I have more respect on the golf course for good golfers than I do for good Putt-Putt players. A lot of Putt-Putt players donít even play golf so they donít read the greens well. Itís seeing with your eyes and feeling the breaks. I thought I could compete in putting against most people. A lot of my friends think highly of my putting game. It snowballed from there, I got in the next tournament and the next one and it turned out to be a very profitable week and made me think my friends werenít full of it. What was cool was when I met the PGA pros. Tim Petrovic was funny. They were even impressed by the whole set up of the MSOP, with the course and all that they did. It was the neatest experience that Iíve ever had.
Last year, I also won the state championship, which has got to be the biggest span in victories ever, but Iím sort of semi-retired now. I like to play the big ones, that gets my engine revving. I went to the Masters last year and I wanted to be on team America to come over to the Czech Republic and experience this. The others had said how much fun it was and that youíll meet a bunch of neat people. I went to Bob and told him I wanted to be on the team. I let them know how interested I was in wanting to go. I really wanted to come over and experience this.
MGN: Congratulations on the US Open, looking at the scores, that looked a heck of a tournament to take part in. Describe what it was like, fighting back to win.
RS: It was probably the hardest miniature golf course that Iíve ever played. Putt-Putters and the minigolf tour are like too separate for a long time. Some Putt-Putters have a strong head and think itís all luck. They canít grasp that itís not all luck, itís just a different game, understanding that youíre going to have to learn a bunch of other putts that arenít the ace shot. In my time, Iíve probably played in seven or eight minigolf tournaments and Iíve done well in all of them but I had that bad emblem I was carrying around where the first Masters I ever played in, I came in second. I knew I had the ability to play well, it was just the matter of doing it and having some luck. For minigolf, personally, it requires more skill. Not just the physical but the mental skill to put up with the bad breaks that you get. Some of the best players I know donít even give this a shot so thatís their loss. I just love to play golf.
MGN: Iíd like to finish off with the World Adventure Golf Masters (WAGM), your first overseas tournament. What are your impressions of the course itself and the set up, as well as the Czech culture?
RS: Itís my first time anywhere, period. I didnít realise people in the other parts of the world donít speak English. Iím kidding! Itís neat to see everyone in their team colours. It doesnít matter where youíre from but you can see the people who have been here before and created friendships and bonds from other parts of the world. I had heard all about that before. Iíve even seen out there where other teams help the other teams. Itís not just all out for yourself even though we came over here to kick butt, doesnít mean Iím not going to be disrespectful. Thatís what I like about our team and other teams that Iíve seen here. Iíve had more friend requests on Facebook than I could have ever imagined. It might sound bad and Iím looking and donít even know them but I know theyíre good people because they are here. They all have the same interests as me of growing the sport, as long as its fair. This is my first endeavour into the ĎEuro ballsí. When I first started Putt-Putt it was sorted of the same thing, the guys who had been playing a while had these different balls which would kick a certain way. My feeling is if I canít have it, nobody else can have it to be completely fair. On the Adventure Golf, I donít think its as big of a deal because I can get five balls. Iím not going to be able to come over and get thousands, which some of these guys have but this is fine. I couldnít come over here and compete in the felt or concrete. Iím going to invest that much money to play just one week. We see you guys over there playing for nothing which shows to me they truly love the game. Who doesnít like to win money but I go for titles more than money. Money goes away. My little trophy stays. I can spend money like crazy!