Derek Lamely is playing in just his second major this week at the PGA Championship in Whistling Straits. In March, the 29-year-old former Florida Gulf Coast University star won the Puerto Rico Open for his first PGA Tour title. I caught up with the PGA Tour rookie by phone last Friday as he was playing 18 holes at Whistling Straits.
Where are you?
I’m in the 12th fairway. There is nobody out here. At the turn I stopped for lunch for about an hour. The course is absolutely beautiful. It’s definitely not like being on a lake. It feels more like you’re playing golf next to an ocean. Right now the rough isn’t too bad and the wind is only blowing about 5 to 6 mph. But I’m sure that will change by next Thursday. There is a 50-percent chance of rain in the forecast for all next week. I forgot my umbrella so I’ll have to get one on Monday.
What are you working on?
I’m trying to figure out the right lines to take off the tees and how far you want to hit it. I pulled up on the Internet all the pin positions that were used here in 2004.
Did you watch the tournament back in 2004?
Not really, but now I wish I had.
Will you make any equipment changes for the week?
I’m putting new shafts into my irons and 3-wood. A buddy of mine has a new shaft company called Pure Stix. Today I’ve got some of the new and old shafts in my set to learn the difference between the two. The new ones are definitely better. I’m really excited.
You were mostly on the mini tours for five years before breaking through last year with your first win on the Nationwide Tour at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational, helping you earn your PGA Tour card for 2010.
I don’t miss those years. Pick a mini tour and I played it. I played the Dakotas Tour, the Tar Heel Tour, The Hooters, The Moonlight Tour and wherever I could find a tournament.
Have you gotten better every year?
I think I’ve made some big strides the last three years. It’s about constantly learning and evolving.
At Pebble Beach in June, you played in your first major championship. What did you take from that experience?
At that point my game hadn’t quite come together. I probably hit three or four bad shots each round, and it killed me. That’s all it takes in the majors. I shot 78-81 and missed the cut.
Dr. Jim Suttie, a Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher and your instructor and coach at Florida Gulf Coast, says that you are a serious, if not obsessive student of the golf swing.
Growing up I always hit hooks and they drove me crazy. So my whole thing was I wanted to be able to go ahead and hit one hard and not have the fear of it going left. I’m trying to make my swing functional, not necessarily perfect.
But didn’t you wear out a video camera using it on the range?
Dr. Suttie had one and he showed the team how to use it. Sony was trying to get rid of some of its old cameras and I bought one when I graduated in ’03. I took it everywhere with me for five years until it broke. Even now I use a camera a lot.
In the February 18, 2010, issue of Men’s Journal you made your modeling debut along with six other PGA Tour rookies. You looked really snazzy showcasing some of the spring staples for men.
Men’s Journal wanted to do a deal on PGA Tour rookies. So out of the top 25 off the Nationwide that were pure rookies, who had never had regular tour status, there were 10 of us. The Tour sent the magazine headshots of all 10 guys and they picked me as one of the seven. Whatever they were looking for, I guess I had it.
What was the most interesting thing about the photo shoot?
The clothes were skintight. All my friends were giving me a hard time about it, but it turned out fine.
Did you keep the clothes?
No, I gave them back.
Tennis was your first love.
It was the first sport I played and the first dislike that I had. When I was 12, I figured out how much I didn’t like running back and forth across a court. That’s when I starting playing golf. I was about 13 or 14. I got a late start in the game.
At Puerto Rico, you had a 19-under finish that included a third-round 63. But you haven’t played very consistently since then. You’ve missed 11 cuts out of 22 events. What’s been the problem with your game?
I got hurt toward the end of last year and I didn’t get to practice much at all during the winter. I pulled a muscle in my back. Consequently, I formed some bad habits just trying to play golf. I’ve had to make some changes to just get back to where things used to be in my swing. It’s made my year a lot more up and down than it should have been.
When you first played in a PGA Tour event at the Western Open in 2004, you were star struck by seeing Tiger Woods in the dining room. You said you felt out of place. With the win, do you feel like you belong out there?
I’ve always felt like I could hit all the shots. It’s just a matter of finding the consistency and the belief that you can compete out here.
What are your goals now and for this week? You have a two-year exemption on tour with the win at Puerto Rico.
I want what everybody wants, which is to give myself a chance to win more consistently. I just want to give myself a chance this week.