Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2023 Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, Rome, Italy

Long before he was a U.S. Open champion, a Ryder Cup USA Captain, or Mr. 59 and then Mr. 58, Jim Furyk was a PGA Tour rookie in 1994, trying to find his way.

In his fourth event as a member of the PGA Tour that season, Furyk was gearing up to play the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Like many young, Tour players, Furyk admits he practiced probably, "a whole lot more than I should have," as he tried to grind and get familiar with new courses.

With the AT&T being played over multiple courses, Furyk wanted to be sure he had adequate practice at each venue beforehand. 

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Early in the week, Furyk hopped in a courtesy van at Pebble Beach and shuttled over to Poppy Hills for what he planned to be a 9-hole practice round.

But things change.

When Furyk arrived at the first tee -- fully prepared to play as a single -- there was a group on the tee.

Seeing the men who were on the tee, for Furyk, was one of those "pinch-me" moments.

"I felt I had made it to the big leagues," he said.

The only Tour player in the group -- Peter Jacobsen -- had played with Furyk in the final round one week earlier in Phoenix.

"That's probably the only reason Peter knew who I was at that time," Furyk recalls now.

Jacobsen's longtime caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowen was there too. Little could Furyk have known at the time that the legendary caddie would become his own bagman just a few years later. 

The two have been together now for 20+ years.

But back to that first tee. 

Joining Jacobsen were actor Jack Lemmon (Jacobsen's longtime partner in the Pro-Am),  singer-songwriter John Denver and Admiral Alan Johnson.

"It's incredible the people we get to meet," said Furyk. "This was sort of my first experience with that. There's no other sport like golf. It seems every other athlete in the world plays, as do actors and entertainers. It puts us in a unique position, whether it's meeting a president, other world leaders, successful business people, people in the entertainment industry, or other athletes. I've met an amazing number of impressive folks."  

Jacobsen asked Furyk, "Are you by yourself?"

Furyk said he was.

Jacobsen then asked if he'd like to make the group a fivesome. 

He didn't have to ask Furyk twice.

As the group teed off, Furyk was sure to do something to mark the occasion. Remember, this was long before the time of smartphones, so it didn't involve taking a selfie to tweet out immediately. 

Even if Twitter did exist back then, there's a good chance Lemmon would have broken into his "Grumpy Old Men" character to ask what the heck the social media site was.

Instead, Furyk wrote the name of each man he was playing with in his yardage book.

"I kept that yardage book for eight years at that tournament," he said. "Every time I looked at it, I smiled." 

There it is, Furyk's first "I've made it" moment.

Now, some 20+ years later, he's a 17-time PGA Tour winner, a major champion, a member of nine Ryder Cup USA teams as a player and this year, a Ryder Cup Captain.

It's a career that's far from over for the 47-year-old, but it's been a darn good one to this point.

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