I pressed stop on my Iphone’s voice recorder and looked down to make sure the interview had been captured in its entirety. It had. As I plugged my headphones in to listen back, I heard a voice from over my shoulder, “You goin’ to the clubhouse?” It was Corey Conners. He had just finished up his Tuesday practice round at Harbour Town, the site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage, and after granting me an interview Corey and his caddy hopped into a cart to ride back to the clubhouse. Usually people just walk back, but at this event it’s about a 15-minute stroll from the 18th green back so the players are shuttled. Having made the walk countless times that day and even finding a shortcut to scratch out a minute or two, I prepared to retrace my footsteps yet again. Corey wasn’t having it.
“Hop on the back” he said with a wry smile and a gentle waving gesture. So I did. The three of us chatted all the way back to the clubhouse and the experience left quite an impression on me. That was Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday he greeted me by name, even during his rounds, and went out of his way to give me time for questions post-round.
By Friday afternoon as he was hovering around the cut line, I was fully invested in his success. It’s not really in the best interest of the media to have a bias towards a certain player or team, but I couldn’t help it. As Corey made the turn I noticed I was far from his biggest fan in the crowd that day. A young lady wearing a black Ping hat was living and dying with each shot; jumping with excitement for the good ones and slouching in disappointment with the bad. It became evident pretty quickly that this was Corey’s wife (Fiancée at the time). I didn’t want to annoy her or have her think I was hitting on her, but I wanted to introduce myself and tell her how much I appreciated the way Corey had treated me throughout the week. The moment I asked if she was with Corey, her face lit up. You could see her love and enthusiasm for Corey beaming. And to take it one step further, she asked my Mom and I to walk with her the rest of the round because it was nice to have some fellow Canadians to talk with. We of course obliged. Seeing Malory living and dying with each shot is something I will never forget.
After the round they went out of their way to take a picture with me and despite Corey missing the cut they hung around to chat for quite some time. That afternoon is an experience that has stuck with me, especially as I’ve been able to cover more events and meet more pro golfers. Every time I see Corey’s name on the leaderboard I remember how inclusive and down to earth both Corey and Malory were, and just how much passion for the sport they both share.
So yesterday when I saw Corey mounting his way up the leaderboard en route to his first PGA Tour win, shots of Malory’s intense body language and emotions on her sleeve, it brought me right back to how they made me feel last April in Hilton Head.
Shoutout to Mackenzie Hughes for being there right to the end yesterday too.
It was only a matter of time until Corey broke through with a win on the PGA Tour. And now that he has, the clock will start ticking down to his second. In the meantime, Corey and Malory were scheduled to fly back to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and relax at home during Masters week. Instead, they will make the trip down Magnolia Lane. It will be Corey’s second time competing in the event, missing the cut in 2015. This time around, whether Corey makes the cut, contends, wins, or finishes in dead last, it will all be gravy. Just another experience to add to a lifetime of love and success for the Conners. You bet I’ll be there again next week in Hilton Head to congratulate them and root for win number two.
Here are my notes and interviews involving Corey from last years RBC Heritage:
Corey Conners was the first to tee off, so he’s the first I followed:
Sidenote: I said “Good Luck this week, Corey!” after he hit this shot, and he said thank you. Salt of the earth.
A couple hours later as he walked off the 18th green, I asked him for two minutes. He obliged. We talked about his season, growing up in Canada, how old he was when he first broke par, being in contention with Tiger at the Valspar, camaraderie on Tour with other Canadians, his thoughts on the Masters, and finished up talking some playoff hockey. Have a listen:
After that I was quite cold, as the temperature had dropped significantly. I started walking back to the clubhouse to grab my jacket, which is about a 10-15 minute walk, when a cart zoomed up behind me and asked if I wanted a ride. It was Corey and his caddie. I hopped in and talked him and his caddies ears off the whole way back. Great guys. They predict the winning score will be right around 16-under for the week.
Speaking of Corey Conners; he is not only Canadian, which makes him instantly likeable, but he is SO down to earth and kind with his time. He granted me an interview on Monday, acknowledged me a few times throughout the week, and then today while I followed his attempt to make the cut, I came across his fiancee. She was just as nice! Life goals for sure. She walked with us the last nine holes and after the round they even took a picture with me. Just the best people. Certainly gained a lifelong fan.
The rest of the guys were nice too, but Corey and Malory (apologies if I heard your name wrong!) stood out and made a great impression.