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Scott Hoch: Former Wake Star The Rodney Dangerfield Of Professional Golf

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

September 17, 1999

    He's No. 13 on this year's money list, he's won more than $8 million in his career, he has eight PGA victories, he's represented the United States in international competitions, and he's one of the most consistent players in the world. Yet, more than 20 years after his college days with the Demon Deacons, Scott Hoch still is looking for a little respect.
    RALEIGH – At times, it seems Scott Hoch's golf career has been a riddle wrapped inside an enigma.


    There is no doubt Hoch is one of the world's best players. He has contended for major championships and won millions of dollars. He has represented his country in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup matches, and starred in both. He has been an exemplary professional, donating much money to charity.


    Despite all that, the sports media hasn't been very kind to the former Wake Forest All-America. In fact, the media often has reminded him that his name conveniently rhymes with "choke" and has chided him for perceived shortcomings.


    It is a riddle without a good answer. Thus, the enigma.


    <div align="center">
        <b>Bush-League Treatment</b>


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    &quot;When I do something good,&quot; Hoch said, &quot;it has hardly been acknowledged, unless it's a backhanded compliment. But if something bad happens ... the media cuts you down.


    &quot;Some people have said I'm the Rodney Dangerfield of golf. I'm tired of being the whipping boy.&quot;


    As Hoch sees it, he has been misquoted, mistreated and misunderstood.


    It's so bad, he said, that former president George Bush once stopped by at a tournament to commiserate.


    &quot;He said, 'I see you have a good relationship with the press, too,'&quot; Hoch said.


    But why?


    Hoch was No. 17 in the World Golf Rankings released in mid-June, ahead of Tom Watson among others. Hoch, 42, has banked more than $1 million on the PGA Tour each of the last two years. The former two-time ACC champion began this year 10th on the tour's career money list with $7.9 million, ahead of former Demon Deacon teammates Curtis Strange and Jay Haas, and had added more than $740,000 to his total through June 20, 1998.


    A year ago, Hoch won the Greater Milwaukee Open, was second in The Players Championship, tied for sixth in the PGA Championship and tied for 10th at the U.S. Open. He had 11 top-10 finishes, closing sixth on the money list at $1,393,788.


    He then made his first Ryder Cup appearance and was one of the few American stars at Valderrama, going 2-0-1 in his matches as the Europeans did the celebrating by keeping the Cup.


    <div align="center">
        <b>A Rising Star Of 1970s</b>


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    &quot;Scott is one of the toughest competitors you'll ever see,&quot; said Jess Haddock, who coached Hoch at Wake Forest in the 1970s.


    Haddock first spotted Hoch's competitiveness when Hoch was leading Raleigh (N.C.) Broughton High to three consecutive state championships. He came to admire it as Hoch captured medalist honors in the ACC Tournament in 1977 and '78. Hoch also was the runnerup in both the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur, establishing himself nationally as one of the more promising young players along with the likes of Mark O'Meara and John Cook.


    Since 1982, Hoch has been one of the tour's most consistent players, finishing in the top 40 in money every year but 1992, when shoulder surgery curtailed his season. He has eight career tour victories &#150; from the 1980 Quad Cities Open to the 1997 Greater Milwaukee Open &#150; and easily could have more. He also has won six tournaments in Europe and Asia.


    The media inevitably discusses golfers they consider the &quot;best never to win a major.&quot; It was a tag bestowed on O'Meara before his recent victory in the Masters. Yet Hoch's name rarely makes that list.


    Not only that, Hoch said, but he's often snubbed or insulted in other ways.


    <div align="center">
        <b>Trouble With The Media</b>


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    Hoch cited Golf Magazine's unflattering caricature of him on the cover and critical written coverage of him. Golf World magazine has had a frowning Hoch on the cover and the title &quot;What's wrong with Scott Hoch?&quot;


    In one Sports Illustrated article, writer Rick Reilly addressed Hoch's image and complaints about the media, and made a point of using a Hoch quote &quot;verbatim,&quot; as Reilly put it.


    Not so, Hoch said.


    &quot;We got a transcript of the interview from a stenographer,&quot; Hoch said. &quot;Words were added. Words were omitted.&quot;


    Reilly seemed dumbfounded when told of Hoch's complaint.


    &quot;I typed it right off the interview sheet,&quot; he said. &quot;That's why I used the sheet, so it would be right.


    &quot;It's unfortunate, because Scott Hoch always says interesting stuff. And he's a guy who has not gotten his due. For some reason, he is everyone's favorite doormat, and he's easy to kick.&quot;


    &quot;This has been going on for 17 years,&quot; said Hoch's wife, Sally, who also grew up in Raleigh. &quot;Enough is enough.&quot;


    <div align="center">
        <b>Some Charitable Donations</b>


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    Hoch maintained a vow of silence much of last year, turning down nearly all interview requests. Ironically, Hoch did agree to one request of the U.S. Golf Writers Association. He attended the group's annual banquet at the Masters to receive an award given for &quot;contributions to humanity.&quot;


    Hoch has supported several charities through the years, making sizable donations to the Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando after his son, Cameron, recovered from a rare bone disease.


    &quot;Scott has a large endowment at the hospital,&quot; said his father, Art Hoch, a longtime Raleigh resident. &quot;It's one of many things he's done that most people don't know about.&quot;


    Hoch appreciated the award even as it left him a bit perplexed.


    &quot;It was strange,&quot; he said. &quot;Some of the people in (the organization) spent a lot of time dragging me down. Then they give me this award. It is ironic.&quot;


    <div align="center">
        <b>The Unforgettable Putt</b>


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    Many in the media weren't very sympathetic to him in 1989, the year Hoch faced a downhill two-foot putt to win the Masters, to beat Nick Faldo in a sudden-death playoff.


    Hoch missed the putt. He lost the tournament and the lasting fame of being a major-championship winner, of donning the green blazer reserved for the Masters winner.


    The headline was a popular one: Hoch, As In Choke.


    Seven years later, Norman performed an 18-hole meltdown in the final round of the Masters. The media response? Norman's collapse was seen as a four-hour tragic play with 18 acts. He was pitied, then praised for handling defeat so well.


    &quot;I missed one putt all week,&quot; Hoch said of the '89 finish. &quot;Norman played poorly from the beginning of the last day and was handled with kid gloves. They gave me monikers and nicknames.&quot;


    At that time, Hoch went into the interview room and painstakingly answered every question.


    &quot;They called Greg a 'gracious loser.' I thought I was gracious, too, but what good did it do? I got it with both barrels.&quot;


    Had Hoch made that two-footer in '89, had he won the Masters, he believes all of it could have been avoided: the snide remarks, the perception of being a choker.


    &quot;Everything would be different,&quot; he said. &quot;It's too bad. The reputation you get, whether you earn it or not, people tend to believe it. I'm not sure it will ever change.&quot;


    <i>Chip Alexander is a sportswriter for the Raleigh (N.C.) News &amp; Observer.</i>


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