With the torrent of players blowing onto the PGA Tour with sculpted arms and exercise-video abs, Tim "Lumpy" Herron stands out like a Twinkie in a box of Yodels. He smokes a pack a day and eats what he pleases, and he recently decided that exercising is better left to those who are willing to trade in their free time for a hard body. In his spare time, Herron would rather turn in his golf slacks for snow pants and go ice fishing. It's not your usual pastime, but then, Herron isn't your usual golfer. He's soft and polite, a family man who treats the game like he treats people: with respect. He has a legion of fans, not because he's as talented as Tiger or as audacious as Daly, but because he reminds you of your beer-bellied neighbor flipping burgers on the grill, the one who waves you over for a cold brew. With just four wins in 11 years on Tour and a six-year winless stretch from 1999-2005, Herron's record doesn't inspire awe, but there's something in him fans want to cheer for, and last year they could. Herron ended his winless drought at the 2006 Colonial and played well enough to garner consideration as a Ryder Cup captain's pick, proving that nice guys don't always finish last, or even T42nd.
You're no doubt aware that you're immensely popular based on the fact that you're a good player, seem like you're having fun and don't have killer abs. Do you think if you looked more 'average,' like, say, David Toms, you'd be as popular?
Well, it's a good question. You know, I don't live like him, so I don't know. I'm not sponsored by Polo or Hilfinger or Hilfiger or whatever the heck the brand is. I guess guys can identify with me easier, like the fan who watches football on Saturdays and Sundays. He's more like me than David Toms.
The nickname 'Lumpy' how long have you had it?
Since I was 15 years old. I've grown into it more as an adult, you know? When I was a kid, it was more about the baby fat, but I think now I've, uh, grown into the name.
It had to bother you when people first started calling you that, right?
Sure, I mean how it came to be was at the first job I ever had, at a golf course, I came in the first day and they asked if I had a nickname and I said no, and they said, "All right, go do some work, pick up some golf balls and when you come back we'll have one for you." So I came back up and they said, "Hey, Lumpy, what's goin' on? Do you like your new nickname?" And I said, "Not really." And they said, "Well, perfect, it's gonna stick then!" [Laughs] I think with nicknames, you can't nickname yourself, somebody else has to do it. And when you have a nickname, you're kind of stuck with it, and you just kind of have to get used to it.
Is there a nickname you'd rather have? Like, say, The Rock, or Killer, or The Assassin?
Sure, I mean, why not! To have a nickname people are scared of, yeah! But I guess that's another reason why people identify with me. I'm the common guy, like on Leave it to Beaver, the kid next door.
Do your fans have a cool nickname, like Lumpy's Legions?
We've actually been trying to get the fan base going with a name, but we haven't come up with anything.
Do you want to try to come up with one now?
Lumpy's Legions is pretty good.
A few years back you lost about 35 pounds. Was that a mistake? (Herron went winless from 2000 to 2006.)
My focus was on losing weight instead of my game. I'm one of those guys where if I put my mind to something, I can do it. But you know, I was more into making sure I got on the treadmill instead of going out to hit balls and practice. But then I realized I needed to stay focused on my golf and I just learned that I need my relaxation time. And I didn't really have a lot of in-between time from working out to playing golf.
Did you work with a trainer?
Yeah, and he was on me all the time. We were working out five or six days a week, so it was less time for golf. But I don't think the actual weight loss had anything to do with [the faltering of my game].
Is it tiresome always being pegged as the heavy golfer? Is it something that feels as arbitrary and overplayed as, say, Sergio Garcia being pegged as a lady-killer?
Well, I'm married so I don't compare myself to Sergio. But, yeah, it does get tiresome, although it is something I have control over. You can't really feel sorry for me because I have a choice, in a way, of how I want to look. It's just time and effort, and I know I could put it in to get into better shape, but I just don't.
Has your dyslexia ever been a problem in golf?
Sometimes. I'm not the best with numbers and my caddie has to help me out. Like if he says, "You have 136 yards to the hole," I get a little confused and have to hear it again. It feels like a jumble.
Where does golf reside on the list of top-five priorities in your life?