UECKER JR.'S GOLF DREAM GOES TO THE FRONT ROW

UECKER JR.'S GOLF DREAM GOES TO THE FRONT ROW

From Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul The Second Round

Uecker Jr.’s Golf Dream

Goes to the Front Row

Two years ago, Bob Uecker Jr. was an upwardly mobile lawyer with a nice home, a loving wife and infant daughter and all the benefits of an upper-middle-class existence.

He was living the American dream. But it wasn’t his dream. So he chucked it all to tilt at windmills with a pitching wedge. Imagine what his wife thought when Uecker approached her in the fall of 1996 and said, “Cathy, what would you think if I quit my job and tried to become a professional golfer?”

Considering Uecker was your average, thirty-three-year-old weekend hacker who had only once broken 80, she probably wondered if he had been hit in the head by a stray Titleist.

“Obviously, there were a lot of things we had to iron out, ” he says. “But once we got the details ironed out, she was very, very supportive.”

The seed was planted when Uecker attended the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open.

He wondered how good he would be at golf if he committed to the game 100 percent.

His father-in-law knew Dennis Tiziani, the respected Madison teacher who works with PGA golfer Steve Stricker, and facilitated a meeting.

“Dennis said, as far as mechanics go, anybody can learn to swing a golf club, ” Uecker says. “Now, whether you can actually play the game and be successful at tournament golf, that’s a whole different question. He said the only way to find out was to quit my job and try to play golf full time.

“As long as I wasn’t committing financial suicide and as long as my wife was totally behind it, he said he’d help me.”

Uecker also had to get the blessing of his father, the Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster and celebrity of the same name.

“Dad said he wanted to check my medication, ” Uecker says, chuckling. “Once he realized I was serious about what I was doing, he supported me 100 percent.”

Uecker Jr. worked with Tiziani for several months, then moved to Tampa in the winter of 1996 to 1997, where he continued to revamp his swing under Brian Mogg, an instructor at the Leadbetter School of Golf.

At first, the progress was dramatic. In one year, Uecker’s handicap dropped from 14 to 7. He returned to Wisconsin and entered a handful of amateur tournaments, with no success. He spent the winter in Scottsdale, Arizona, working with instructor Mike LaBauve.

Soon Uecker’s handicap dropped to 3. He finished sixtieth in the State Amateur, shooting 76-81-88-76.

The difference between finishing sixtieth in the State Amateur and making it as a pro is huge. But as long as Uecker continues to make progress, he sees no reason to give up on his dream.

“Half the fun of what I’m doing is enjoying the journey to where I’m going, ” he says. “It would have driven me crazy sitting around ten, fifteen years from now and saying, I shoulda, coulda, woulda.”

As far as how he’s making ends meet, Uecker will say only that he receives help from family members. He hasn’t imposed a timetable on himself.

“I’m still not at the level I need to be at, but Dennis always reminds me that I’m in a marathon, ” he says.

This fall, Uecker plans to sell his house in Menomonee Falls, move permanently to the Phoenix area and turn professional.

“Believe me, ” he says with a grin, “this is as crazy to me as it is to you.”

Crazy or not, give him an “A” for effort.

Gary D’Amato

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