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Last One In Is The U.S. Open Champ!
Barry McDermott
August 06, 1984
Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, a down-home boy from Indiana, made a big splash by not throwing in the towel in the U.S. Open
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August 06, 1984

Last One In Is The U.s. Open Champ!

Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, a down-home boy from Indiana, made a big splash by not throwing in the towel in the U.S. Open

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Later, Zoeller spoke to the press corps on the White House lawn. "It was a great honor," he said. "It was only five or six minutes, but it was more than I ever thought a guy from a small town in Indiana could expect." He didn't mention that he had also been taken to Vice-President Bush's office. When Zoeller walked in, Bush had his feet up on his desk. "Perfect!" yelled Zoeller. "Don't move!"

Upon leaving the White House the Zoellers were hungry, so they instructed their limousine driver to take them to a burger joint, where Fuzzy had to borrow money to buy his food. Then the two of them flew home in a private plane, sipping champagne en route. When they landed, they climbed into Fuzzy's four-wheel-drive wagon, the one with all the dust and dirt and outdoors magazines and overflowing ashtrays, and headed home. But first they stopped at a White Castle, a chain that dispenses 240 hamburgers. Fuzzy and Dianne love eating "Whiteys"—their new Tudor home even resembles the architectural style of a White Castle restaurant. The Zoellers picked up their Whiteys and pointed up the hill toward home. It had been quite a day.

Fuzzy Zoeller has lived all of his 32 years in New Albany. Nowadays, few people, and fewer stars, stay in their piddling hometowns after the money gets easy and they've seen the world. But even a big wheel needs spokes, and Zoeller gets a lot of support from his family and his friends and that covers just about everyone in New Albany.

He's their favorite son. At the New Albany Country Club, where he often plays with "the ants," the high handicappers who swarm the fairways chasing after errant shots, there are two plaques noting his achievements. And at the Fuzzy Zoeller Par 3, the little nine-hole course he and his father operate at a loss because they want the kids and the senior golfers to have a place to play, there's a monument to him, a granite block that carries his likeness and lists the tournaments he has won. "Not a bad deal," says Zoeller, looking at it. "And I'm still alive. They got a button at the front desk. They push that, the stone tips forward and they just flip me down in there for burial. I always tell 'em, 'Don't push the button!' "

Ironically for a guy who drinks beer and likes the outdoors and the sarcastic repartee of male companionship, Zoeller is surrounded by females. He and Dianne have three girls, Sunnye, 5, Heidi, 2, and Gretchen, four months. There are also a pregnant beagle named Pepper and two springer spaniels, Molly and J.B. "But J.B. is castrated," says Fuzzy, sounding disgusted. "It's a houseful of hens."

Zoeller spends his days quietly when he's home. The new house sits on 76 acres and is surrounded by hayfields, which are mowed by neighboring farmers, and by dense woods. Zoeller pulls ticks off the dogs, or sits by the pool, or shoots clay pigeons, or makes several trips down to the pond on his property, where he putters around in his boat, trying to outsmart the bass. "They know ol' dad's in town," he chirps, casting. Zoeller's nickname comes from his initials: FUZ, for Frank Urban Zoeller. His father, Frank Sr., is a German-American with all the spunk and diligence stereotypically ascribed to that ethnic group. Last year he suffered a heart attack at a tournament in Orlando, Fla. A few weeks later he went to the Masters to cheer his son on from the clubhouse.

A lot of people thought Frank spoiled Fuzzy when he was a boy. He was a rambunctious kid, not like Frank and his wife Alma's first two children, Eddie and Beverly, or Tommy, Fuzzy's younger brother. Says Frank, "They were perfect, but when he came along, the stuff hit the fan." Women would coo over the little boy. Fuzzy would pinch them, or throw something at them.

"We have a phrase around these parts, 'bore ass,' " says Eddie. "It means getting into trouble, being mean, stuff like that. At Fuzzy's first confession, at age seven, we were all sitting in the church when he went into the booth. Father Quinn asked him what his sins were. We could hear him. 'I bore ass,' said Fuzzy. Father Quinn said, That's not a sin.' Fuzzy said, 'It is the way I do it.'

"Fuzzy was a 12-year man at Holy Family [elementary school]. He couldn't get out of that first grade. He kept running into the same nun."

Later, in high school, between swiping watermelons, siphoning gas out of cars and similiar mischief, Fuzzy occasionally attended class. His buddies were Don Zipp and Ben Snyder. One day Fuzzy and Ben walked into the dean of boys' office to ask to be let out of class. Fuzzy took a novel approach. "I got too much starch in my underwear," he said. "I have to go home and change." The dean didn't even look up. Drily he said, "And I guess they're stiff enough that Ben has to go and help you."

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