There for Kite's agony, Satyshur shares his joy

John Steadman

June 23, 1992|By John Steadman

They're old school chums, a profound friendship forged via the shared experiences of endeavoring together to qualify for the Professional Golfers' Association Tour. Tom Kite made it; Dennis Satyshur didn't.

Kite reached the ultimate, winning more money than any man in the history of the game and now has gained possession of the 1992 U.S. Open championship.

Satyshur, to be sure, isn't exactly a woeful washout. He pursued golf, too, but headed in another direction and became one of the country's most renowned club professionals -- proficient as a player, a respected teacher and adept administrator.

The personal regard Kite and Satyshur hold for each other sustained and even engendered itself since they met in 1972 at the PGA School held that year at Silverado Country Club in Napa, Calif.

Kite had graduated from the University of Texas, Satyshur from Duke, where he was more prominent as a football quarterback than a golfer. Before Kite went to Pebble Beach, Calif., for the U.S. Open, he prepared himself relaxing with his family on a visit to Baltimore and worked his golf swing to machine-like perfection.

As the guest of Satyshur, he played the magnificent new Caves Valley course, enjoying the competitive seclusion it offered. There was a day on the practice tee when he turned to Jim Frey, the former Chicago Cubs manager/general manager, and quietly advised:

"I'm swinging the way I want. I'm good enough to win the Open and I believe I will."

It wasn't a boast because that's not characteristic of Kite. He fulfilled his quiet prophesy and, in the process, made Satyshur, for old and new times sake, feel enormously elated. "It's satisfying to say I am happier for him and what he achieved in the Open than if it could have happened to me."

That's no off-hand exaggeration but rather a chance to revel in the momentous accomplishment of his dear friend. When the cynics looked at Kite and arbitrarily claimed he couldn't win a major, the criticism cut Satyshur. He knew differently.

"It hurt me to read the criticism," admitted Satyshur. "And he would have had to be inhuman if it didn't bother him. I knew he was proficient enough to win any tournament in the world.

"Remember Ben Crenshaw holing out of a bunker in the Masters and then, another year, Jack Nicklaus shooting a 30 on the back nine? Most of the time, it was what someone else was doing, not what Tom wasn't doing."

Satyshur said he knew when the winds came up at Pebble Beach it was "Kite weather" and, realizing the way he knew how to play under such conditions, it gave him a natural advantage.

But Kite obviously didn't come in on a load of coal when golf talent was distributed. In 1973, he was PGA Rookie of the Year and has gone on to fashion the most profitable career the professional game has ever known with earnings in excess of $7 million.

"Tom is extremely focused," explained Satyshur when asked for a personal evaluation. "He's committed, never gives up on himself. I was with him at Doral this year and the first day he was 120th among the scores with a 73 but kept grinding and finished up sixth."

How much different is Kite now than in years gone by? "His distance has increased. When I had a chance to play with him, I was usually ahead of him off the tee. The same with my assistant, Charley Briggs. But now Kite is out in front of us most of the time.

"Tom is much more balanced in the swing. He's on-plane. He used to be inside out, but now he's straight back and straight through."

Satyshur's previous position was at the Baltimore Country Club and, while there, interceded to have Kite redesign the West Course. "When he was here 10 days ago, he went there to see if there was anything that needed to be done. He didn't have to do that. But Tom is that way. He wants people to be pleased."

While in Baltimore, the Kite family attended baseball games and the Olympic gymnastic trials, which meant he had a blend of work on the golf course by day and diversified enjoyment with his wife and three children in the evening. It resulted in a perfect mental approach as he got ready to win the Open.

Is there anything else about Satyshur's golfing partner and friend?

"Yes," Satyshur said, "he has made a career out of doing the right thing and showing consideration for others."

Tom Kite is where he truly deserves to be, with his name on the U.S. Open trophy. An illustrious attainment.

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