SOTOGRANDE, Spain -- Ever since they met 25 years ago, Tom Kite has called Dennis Satyshur "Football." It is a reference to Satyshur's days as a quarterback at Duke and Kite's difficulty in pronouncing his new friend's name when they met on the Florida mini-tour circuit.
For most of those years, Kite also has called Satyshur one of his closest friends. It is a friendship that grew when Satyshur (pronounced Sat-is-sure) roomed with Kite at qualifying school for the PGA Tour in the fall of 1972 and that continued as Kite went on to become the tour's all-time leading money-winner.
"It's not that guys say that to each other a lot," said Satyshur, the head pro at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. "But his actions have said it. He's been there for advice. He's been there physically to make an appearance at various events. There isn't much a Dennis Satyshur can do for a Tom Kite."
But Satyshur has been there for Kite, too.
It meant picking him up at BWI Airport and spending the day with him at Pine Ridge for a previously scheduled one-day Skins event after Kite blew a lead in the final round of the 1989 U.S. Open.
It meant helping him relax in Baltimore the week before the 1992 Open at Pebble Beach, which became the site of Kite's first major championship.
And now it will mean playing the role of Kite's assistant in the 32nd Ryder Cup.
Yesterday, Satyshur and team captain Kite toured the course at Valderrama Golf Club, where the 12 playing members of the U.S. squad will be trying to avenge the Americans' heartbreaking, one-point defeat to the European team two years ago at Oak Hill.
Satyshur calls it the highlight of a career spent as a club pro, including the past seven years at Caves Valley and seven previous years at Baltimore Country Club.
"My position is unofficial. Tom wants to keep it low-key and I want to keep it low-key," said Satyshur, who like Kite is 47. "I'm a helper, an extra pair of hands, an extra pair of eyes. Anything that needs to get done, I'll do it." Earlier in the year, Kite said their long-standing friendship was only part of the reason for picking Satyshur.
"I wanted somebody to be my assistant that had a background in golf, but yet not necessarily on the tour," Kite said during the Kemper Open in June. "You really can't go with a teacher or a sports psychologist. Even though I might feel very good about them, somebody might not have the same views. Dennis does know a number of players and they feel very comfortable with him."
Satyshur is going into the Ryder Cup well-prepared, having familiarized himself with the personalities and playing styles of several team members during periodic visits with Kite on tour this past season. Satyshur went to six tournaments, including the three American majors.
"Being with Tom, I've gotten to know Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson, Tom Lehman, Brad Faxon and Scott Hoch," said Satyshur, who, along with his wife, Ellen, will share a two-bedroom suite with Faxon and his wife. "It helps to know the guys."
He has put together lists of players who have competed together in other team competitions, including the 1995 Ryder Cup and the first two President Cup events, and compiled their records. Beyond that, Satyshur believes he will have little input once the three-day competition begins tomorrow.
"He's committed to doing everything he can to prepare this team," Satyshur said of Kite. "He wants to make sure the players have as little interruption as possible."
There was a time when it looked as if Kite might become the first playing captain for the United States since Arnold Palmer in 1963, and Satyshur's role would have been expanded. But when Kite announced his two captain's picks last month, Satyshur breathed a little easier. Kite named Lee Janzen and Fred Couples.
Win or lose this week, Satyshur's respect will continue to grow for Kite, a player who has won 19 PGA Tour events and now ranks second to Greg Norman with more than $10 million in earnings.
"That's what makes this so special," Satyshur said. "I know how much this means to him. My challenge is to find a way to help him. I'm not sure what that entails."
One thing Satyshur is certain about.
"When he calls me on the walkie-talkie, people are going to be wondering who this guy 'Football' is," he said with a smile.
Pub Date: 9/25/97