Most pros love playing in the Memorial Tournament because it's Jack Nicklaus's event, the course (Muirfield Village) is terrific, and the clubhouse has the best food on Tour. But the main reason I'll always show up in Dublin, Ohio, this time of year is a sentimental one: It's where I met my girlfriend, Tabitha Skartved.
We met two years ago this week. Tabitha was working in the marketing department at Muirfield Realty. Her boss was Ray Hustek, who in the Columbus area is also known as Mr. Golf, the moniker he uses on his weekly radio show on WTVN. Ray always takes time off from work to cover the Memorial, where he likes to interview players as they come off the 18th green.
At the end of a practice round, I was there signing autographs for some kids when I saw Tabitha out of the comer of my eye. She was standing back in the crowd, by Ray. I smiled and, feeling funny, said, "Hi." I went back to signing but kept looking up. I noticed that Tabitha was looking at me, too. Finally, she said, "Hi."
When I was ready to go to the locker room, I was wondering if I should talk to this girl, who was very pretty and had a great smile. Ray, who isn't the shyest person, came up and introduced us. He asked if I wanted to join Tabitha, him and his fiancée for dinner. That caught me off guard.
"Sure," I said.
I went out with them that night, and we hit it off great. Tabitha and I went out the next four nights too. We have a lot of the same values and interests, and Tabitha liked it that I got along so well with kids. She has a degree in education from Ohio State and always wanted to teach first grade.
We also have great families. I'm really tight with my parents, and so is Tabitha with hers. What's wonderful is how well our families get along At this year's Masters our parents came down and we rented a house together. I love being with her parents, and that's nice because, well, that's not always the case.
When Tabitha and I started dating, I didn't play well for more than a month. I missed a few cuts. Normally, when I'm playing poorly, I take it out on the people close to me because I feel they'll understand. My parents had been my main sounding board, but I couldn't do that with Tabitha. It was hard for me to explain what was wrong because she didn't know much about golf. More important, I was nervous about letting off steam and having her think, This guy's a jerk. Fortunately, my game came around, and she understood why I'd been so frustrated.
We look back at that time and laugh.