Tuesday, May 17

A Comfortable Conversation with Stewart Cink




ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO I HAD the opportunity to interview Stewart Cink as part of the Dove® Men + Care™ media outreach. Called “Journey to Comfort,” the ad campaign features Cink, Davis Love (who I also interviewed) and other athletes such as Magic Johnson and Bobby Hurley. Cink has six PGA Tour wins, including one major, the 2009 British Open. He also has played on five consecutive U.S. Ryder Cup teams.

Even with editing, the conversation runs considerably longer than what I normally post here, so I have split it into two parts. Today you’ll read about why Stewart wants to let fans get to know him, how Twitter has surprised him, and the importance and inherent difficulty of his family life.

Coming on Wednesday: The state of Stewart Cink’s golf game, the Ryder Cup and his take on the changing landscape of tour golf.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: I saw on Twitter that you’ve had a lot of coffee today so you can’t practice your putting.

STEWART CINK: You’re right about that. A friend of mine who is a pastor just opened up a new church in the last couple of years. And their ministry is coffee. They get the coffee from all over the world. It’s really good stuff. He just brought me over to the place where they roast it. We roasted coffee, we ground coffee, we French pressed it, and we drank it. I’m pretty much finished practicing for the day now because as of about 11 o’clock this morning I was too buzzed on caffeine.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Is everyone from the Cink family and your extended family OK after all these tornadoes that hit the South?

STEWART CINK: Nobody from our family suffered any damage or injuries, thank goodness. Most of my family has moved out of Alabama. My wife’s brother and his family live between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. But they weren’t on the path of the tornado, luckily. It’s sad. It’s such an outburst of severe weather all at once that you just don’t really see on this kind of an unpredictable level.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Let’s talk a little bit about this campaign. I’ve seen the spots. They fit in well with the “journey to comfort” idea. People who look at you now and look at your success probably don’t think about what you went through in your college days. You talked about the challenges of being a husband, father, student and a college golfer, and how that forced you to mature. How do you see that maturing process continuing in your career and in your family life?

STEWART CINK: You’re right about how the Dove® Men + Care™ campaign really fits with me. There couldn’t be a better match as far as their campaign and the way my career and life have unfolded. My journey started back in college, like you said. I was a father, student, scholarship athlete. I was like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. I got out on the PGA Tour. Early on, it was about getting comfortable and figuring out who I was and what kind of golfer I needed to be and how I would be successful. Now I’ve been out there for 15 years and the journey’s become a lot more about … the journey to become comfortable in the heat of the battle. And different kinds of battles—Ryder Cup, major championships. I love talking about my journey. That’s what the campaign with Dove® Men + Care™ has enabled me to do, just share more of that with everybody and really let them know that I’ve gone through the same kind of struggles that everybody out there goes through. It’s part of my career that I really enjoy talking about, and my life, too. I like sharing it with people and I feel like I make a good connection with people when they understand that I’m comfortable with that.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: As a golf fan and someone who writes about golf, I appreciate that. I think that’s why you connect with fans. Obviously you’re a competitor, but you’re also real. You have a kind of transparency that we don’t often see in other professional golfers and athletes. That’s appealing.

STEWART CINK: I appreciate you mentioning that because that’s exactly my goal, to be transparent and to be a real person who’s more than statistics. I want to feel an emotional connection with fans more than just the kind of connection you get from a statistical rundown of a guy’s career. That’s what the campaign does. It’s all about being comfortable in your own skin. I don’t think I could be sharing all the information and private stuff that I do without being comfortable in my own skin.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: Your wife and family are a big part of things for you. They’re certainly visible in this campaign. I wondered if you’d talk about how Lisa and your sons support this very competitive and demanding livelihood of yours.

STEWART CINK: It is demanding and it is competitive, for sure. It’s also a great job. I love what I do. I still love playing. I love competing. The negative side of it is I have to be away from home a lot. But that’s not unusual today with the way people travel around for work. A lot of people have to say goodbye to their families. They’re gone for a week or two, and they come back. That part, I think a lot of people can identify with. I think it’s more difficult on my marriage then it is on the kids because the kids were born into it. They have known nothing other than me traveling on the road for chunks of time. Then I reenter their lives two weeks down the road. My wife, on the other hand, was not born into that. It’s difficult on her because when I’m on the road she’s basically a single parent. I help her make decisions as much as I can, but I’m not there. That part of the job is difficult. They do a great job of supporting me and they accept the difficulties that come along with it because they also know and respect that I love it and that I have a special opportunity that I want to take advantage of.

ARMCHAIR GOLF: You’re up over 8,000 tweets and were one of the first tour players to jump on and embrace Twitter. What has surprised you about that platform, and what do you get out of it?

STEWART CINK: Let me answer the second part of your question first: What do I get out of it? I started Twitter because I wanted to establish a connection with my fan base, a fan base that I didn’t know existed. I wanted to establish a connection that was more of an emotional kind of connection and a real connection than a statistical kind of environment. Also, I didn’t feel like television coverage of golf tournaments was doing a very good job of translating a personality that I have. It’s arguable, I guess, whether I have one or not [chuckling]. I wanted Twitter to be able to provide a direct, unfiltered contact to my fan base. Unless you’re Tiger Woods or a few other guys, it’s hard to get your emotional self across through the camera lens and into the living room of the fan because most of us figured out the best way to play successful golf is to be emotionless. That translates as boring. No one really knows much about you. So I got started Twitter to break down that barrier. One of the things I’ve really tried to do with Twitter is to maintain a respect between me and my followers, and try to answer a lot of questions so that the relationship has been sort of like an open-mic Q&A.

That leads me into the first part of your question, which is what surprised me the most about it. I think it’s pretty obvious. What surprised me is that I have 1.2 million followers. My son, who was with me when I started Twitter—he kind of showed me the ropes—he thought I would probably end up with maybe 500 or so followers. I thought, 500 fans—that’s 500 more than I thought I had. So I’ll take them. As you know and I know, it quickly jumped past 500. I think it owes a lot to the transparency you mentioned earlier. I think my fan base out there, my followers on Twitter, they appreciate my willingness and candor. They like to hear a guy they see on TV is willing to share stuff about his personal life.

(To be continued.)

−The Armchair Golfer

Related: A Comfortable Conversation with Davis Love III

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