Yesterday, we introduced you to the members of Team Paradise, who will be competing in the Morgan Cup at Reunion Resort in Orlando, FL in August. Today, we are going to give you the chance to become familiar with their opponents, Team Hackers.
We asked the participants the same five questions as we asked Team Paradise. Hopefully you can get some insight about the lucky participants from Team Hackers today.
1. How long have you been playing golf and what is your competitive experience in the game?
2. What area of your game do you feel is your strength? Driving, irons and hybrids, short game, putting or something else? Do you rely more on distance or accuracy?
3. It’s the 18th hole and your match is tied. You are sitting in the fairway at 120 yards. Do you go for the pin or take the safe shot?
4. What has being sponsored by a company like TaylorMade for an event like The Morgan Cup meant for you?
5. What are your predictions for yourself and your team for the August tournament?
Lucas Calloway aka TC – Callaway Golf Staffer – Team Hackers Captain
Hometown: Asheville, North Carolina
Profession: E-Commerce Specialist
Interests: Golf, Reading, but most importantly, my family. I’ve never experienced so much joy in life as I have as a daddy. I also love being an active forum member of THP and an asset to that community.
1) I have been playing golf, properly, for about 7 years. I use to dabble with friends, but being a lefty and being into other sports at the time, golf just was not a priority. I really started enjoying the game in 2005 when I was working with my brother at a Country Club back home. We began playing on Sunday evenings there and we both began to realize that there was far too much to this game other than an excuse to have a few cold beers with friends. I was hooked, and I was obsessed with the short game. I liked that I could be creative and use natural terrains of the land to get desired results.
About 2 years ago I began playing in local amateur events. I started out playing in the C-Flight (handicaps 10-15) but quickly made my way into the B-Flights (handicaps 5-9) after a couple of back-to-back stroke play events. I also play in a once a week Match play event between 16 individuals in my handicap range. It’s a round robin format so you play every competitor once, and the person with the most points at the end of a 4 month period takes home the trophy. So far this year, I am 4-2-1, and am currently tied for 2nd in my division (1-4 handicap).
2) I have always felt that my strength is out of the fairway. I love hitting iron shots, in fact, I don’t know if there’s a better feeling in golf than getting a yardage, pulling an iron out that you know will cover that distance, then executing that shot. I work hard on all aspect of my game but I know that matches will be won from 160 yards and in, so I prepare and plan accordingly.
I use to rely more on accuracy but I realized that I was ignoring distance a bit too much. The amount of time I have put in on lengthening my swing, without sacrificing control, is too much to count. For the Morgan Cup, I will be relying on both, and I will trust in the hard work and dedication I have devoted to this event.
3) I’m assuming this is a Sunday singles predicament so I would probably assess the situation a bit more carefully. Depending on the flag location, the hazards involved, where my opponent was lying. All of these factors would dictate my shot selection. But because this is The Morgan Cup and my bio, that is either a knock down PW or a full GW, either of which I could stick tight.
4) Wow! I can’t begin to explain the amount of honor and pride I have being a Callaway staffer. I have respected them as an industry leader for a long time. I am a huge Phil Mickelson fan, so much so that I use to emulate his every move on the golf course. I did it with a bit more style of course! In all seriousness, the fact that Callaway is sponsoring me is simply beyond my wildest imagination. If I can represent them with the amount of class and professionalism that they exude, then I will be proud of my efforts.
The amount of incredible products they are putting out need to be experienced by far more consumers and I have been the biggest advocate of their brand since finding out I was one of their staffers. I often find myself in a silly daze when trying to comprehend the magnitude of this event and it wouldn’t be possible without Callaway’s participation. I will be forever grateful of their efforts!
5) I can promise one thing: my team will be ready. I wouldn’t want to be going into this event with anyone else other than who’s going to battle with me. I will lead by example, and part of that example is having fun, respecting the golf course and our fellow competitors, and giving 100% on the golf course. I don’t want to discount the efforts of the members of Team Paradise so I won’t make any predictions in that regard. We are all a part of something so much bigger than wins and losses and I will honor that in my behavior and through my play in August.
I plan on bringing my best game possible, and if I do, well, I like my chances against anyone. I am armed with the equipment from, and backed by, one of the best golf manufacturers in the world. Can it really get any better than that?
Ben Kember aka coolbreeze – TaylorMade Golf Staffer
Hometown: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Profession: Installation and Service Supervisor for a Corporate Security System Company
Interests: Golf, Basketball, Reading, Math, and playing with my wife Elissa and son Kingsley
1) I have been playing golf for about 2 years, and to date have played in 4 tournaments, placing T-1 in the most recent.
2) The strength of my game is driving and iron play. I rely on accuracy much more than distance, and just try and hit fairways and the middle of greens.
3) Easy question, I’m attacking the flag.
4) Honestly it has been amazing and has consumed a large portion of my life. For a company like TaylorMade to treat an amateur golfer the way that they have shows me what a great company they are, and has made me work even harder to do their equipment proud in August. As for the Morgan cup itself, it has made me work harder than ever on every portion of my golf game, but has also led me to get in better shape, quit smoking, and lose some weight. In many ways it has been life changing.
5) Well clearly Team Hackers is going to win. But I predict that it is a tough hard fought event that comes down to the final four matches on Sunday. Team Hackers just handles the pressure better and takes the close victory.
Kevin McNiel aka OEM Kevin – Callaway Golf Staffer
Hometown: Elkton, MD
Profession: Data Center Engineer
Interests: Spending time with family, Movies, Technology, Sports, Dallas Cowboys, Cars, History
1) Played golf on and off up until 1996 when I purchased my first set of no name clubs. Since then I’ve played consistently with one extended period of time away before coming back and finding THP. I have little to no experience playing competitive golf. While I’ve strived to improve my game through lessons and practice tournament golf is something new to me.
2) I feel my iron play and short game are my strengths. I’m consistent with my irons and feel very confident from 150 and in. I definitely do not hit the long ball so accuracy is important for a successful round and something I must have to score well.
3) I’m going to assume that going for the pin will bring some sort of trouble in play so I’m going to go for the middle of the green. If I can hit the green and make par that puts more than enough pressure on my opponent to do the same and I like my chances.
4) When I first started playing golf in 1996 I started with no name clubs. My first real set of clubs were Callaway Big Berthas that same year. And my first driver was the Big Bertha. I’ve been a huge fan of Callaway ever since and being sponsored by the same company that sponsors a player like Phil Mickelson is an honor. For me the letter I received from Callaway welcoming me to the staff was one of the coolest things ever. To say it’s an honor is an understatement. It’s almost hard to believe.
5) I predict a very successful Morgan Cup for myself and my team. It will be a new experience for me so I know I’ll be nervous at times but with proper preparation comes confidence and success. I know as a team we may not win every match but in the end we will be successful and have a great experience.
Ryan Staples aka Dirtydawg67 – TaylorMade Golf Staffer
Hometown: Colonial Beach, Virginia
Interests: Golf, Being on or around water, Watching TV, Hanging with family and friends, THP, Internet, My 2 Labs
1) I played golf with my grandfather when I was 7 or so. It was very short-lived and I picked it back up 4 years ago. I have played in the handicapped men’s league at my local course going on 3 years now, which I won in ’09. I am in the second year of a match play league that I happened to win last year. I wouldn’t really consider these competitive, but I play in local scrambles with some friends.
2) I think my best shots are from 125 and in with wedges. I think I have gotten pretty comfortable with distance control and don’t mind those half and three-quarter shots that some people fear. I try to be accurate, but it doesn’t always go that way. I don’t think I am long enough to rely on distance.
3) I think I would only not go for the pin if my opponent was in trouble. 120 yards seems like a good distance to trust the swing and fire away.
4) I am still having trouble believing this is happening. I am honored to be able to represent a company that I have supported as a consumer for the past four years. TaylorMade produces some of the best golf equipment out there, and for them to be sponsoring me for The Morgan Cup is an absolute dream come true. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I still grin from ear to ear every time I think about this entire experience. I will never be able to thank TaylorMade and The Hacker’s Paradise enough.
5) With the work that I will be putting into my golf game leading up to The Morgan Cup, I expect to play at the best of my ability. Sure nerves will be prevalent, but I expect to stay calm and just take it one hole at a time, ultimately adding to the point tally for Team Hacker’s. With the great group of guys involved on Team Hacker’s, I expect us all to be celebrating our victory Sunday afternoon. If the cards don’t fall our way, we will certainly shake the hands of the competitor’s and join them in their celebration.
Andrew Aurand aka AHA – Callaway Golf Staffer
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Profession: Patent Attorney
Interests: Golf, Skiing, Fishing, Camping, and of course THP
1) I grew up on a golf course so I’ve been playing golf for most of my life. I played in a few junior events growing up but my athletic focus quickly shifted to another sport so golf took a back seat until I was finished with school. In the last few years I have started playing golf more competitively and have recently played in a variety of local and state amateur events.
2) I would say my strength is my consistency and I rely more on accuracy than distance. I’m not overly long, but I hit it far enough and I usually keep it in play. I tend to stay out of trouble and strategically plot my way around the course.
3) With the match on the line, I’m firing at that pin!
4) This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for those of us lucky enough to be participating in The Morgan Cup. Callaway has exceeded my expectations in every way as my sponsor for this event. From following along in the forum to providing us with the best equipment on the market, they have been active, involved and supportive in every step of The Morgan Cup process. Personal touches like a letter welcoming us to the Callaway staff have made this experience even more special. Callaway has earned a loyal fan for life in this Morgan Cupper!
5) I hope to play well and be a solid contributor for my team, be a supportive teammate and, of course, be a tough competitor. While the teams are very evenly matched, I have to give a slight edge to Team Hackers. Most of all, I hope to represent myself with the same class and dignity that THP and Callaway Golf bring to the golf industry on a daily basis.
Matthew Buemi aka CG13 – TaylorMade Golf Staffer
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Interests: Golf, Cooking, Computers
1) I played for a few years in middle school, not much in high school (soccer), then played for 3 years after high school. Gave it up for 10 years while i went to school, and worked full time in the restaurant business. I took a serious interest about two years ago. As far as the competitive side, I have played in one tournament at the club, with two more scheduled for July. I know I don’t have a lot of experience in tournaments; however I am going in playing my game.
2) I think the strongest part of my game is my consistency. I am not a long ball hitter – but I practice accuracy off the tee. With the new R11 I really find it’s straighter than any other driver I’ve hit. This puts me in a good position to attack greens. I am consistent with my ball-striking, making nice easy tempo swings which gives me a solid repeatable shot with the irons. I have focused on my short game recently as my GIR is not that high. I am chipping and pitching quite a bit around the greens. I have seen my progress increase dramatically since the beginning of the season and it is really beginning to pay off. My new TaylorMade putter, the TM-880 Maranello, really has helped my confidence on the greens. I am not a big risk-taker and I usually avoid trouble if at all possible on the course.
3) Tough Question. I am usually not a big risk-taker but I love 120 yards. It’s a little less than a full PW which is one of my straightest wedges. It would depend where the flag is in relation to the green, and the greenside bunkers. If the pin is tucked to a corner of the green left or right, I will play it safe and aim for the middle.
4) I was absolutely ecstatic to be picked by TaylorMade for my sponsor. Being chosen as a participant in the Morgan Cup was the best feeling in the world. I felt honored to be chosen, and I have strived to stand up to the expectations of both THP and my sponsor TaylorMade. As a company, TaylorMade is second to none. They truly believe getting equipment in the hands of golfers to test and try, is the best way to convert non-believers. They take an approach to marketing that is unmatched by their competitors and they simply win over their fans. They give away equipment, they ask for participation, they come out with ground-breaking research and technology (white drivers), and they understand by listening to the consumers they will retain the number 1 ranking of equipment purveyors in golf. In my opinion, there is no other company I’d rather be sponsored by than by TaylorMade. They are truly a remarkable company and I am so proud and honored to represent them come August in the Inaugural year of the Morgan Cup.
5) Having only seen the first round pairings – I will say this. I have full confidence in our first round matchup. If you look at the handicap numbers, Ddec and Arydolphin (10 and 11) vs Coolbreeze and I (12 and 15) we are the underdogs. But I fully believe we will persevere. I have put a tremendous body of work into preparation for this event, and I believe I will be ready for anything thrown my way. As I said before, I believe Team Hackers has the stronger team. We have the best low handicap players, as well as the best player of them all, Captain TC. He is a natural leader, and will lead us to victory come August.
Jarrod Krug aka JRod – Callaway Golf Staffer
Hometown: Davenport, Iowa
Profession: Auto Repair Service Manager
Interests: Sports, Video Games, Family
1) I began playing seriously when I was 12 years old. By the time I was 16 I was down to a legitimate 2 handicap. I played competitively throughout High School in the amateur ranks. Around 21 I took about an 8 year break from the game while I sorted out life, such as a career and getting married to a wonderful wife. I have since been back for two years.
2) The strengths of my game are most definitely driving distance and iron play. I rely heavily on the accuracy of my irons as it is by far the strongest part of my game. The areas I need to work on the most is 100 yards and in. While my full wedge shots remain strong, touch shots and putting are my two glaring weaknesses.
3) If I was first I would take dead aim at the flag. I have perfect confidence in that distance and I play to win, not to have someone else give it to me. I would rather beat someone than have them lose the match. I love putting pressure on others while I thrive in it.
4) Dealing with both Callaway and THP has been a dream come true. We still have so far to go yet I feel as though I have been treated like a true pro. They have been fantastic to deal with on both a personal and professional level. It’s really opened my eyes to what an incredible company Callaway is, and the unequaled equipment they have to offer for both the professional and amateur golfer.
5) I feel as though I will thrive come August. I have played competitive sports all of my life including international level soccer. The more on the line the better I play. When so much is on the line I focus more and take everything more seriously. I expect the same out of my team and come August I have no doubt Team Hackers will be hoisting the first Morgan Cup. I have full confidence in everyone around me.
Donne Willingham aka Adwillingham – TaylorMade Golf Staffer
Hometown: Cleveland, Tennessee
Profession: Information Technology-SAP Module Resource
Interests: Computers, Politics, Family, Football, Soccer, Golf
1) My dad took me out to the course with him when I was young and I learned how to play from him. So I’ve been playing periodically since I was 5 or so. Really developed a passion for the game around 12 and took whatever opportunity I could to play. Once I got out of college, I was able to play more frequently (at least every couple of weeks) and have developed into the “bogey” golfer I am. So, I’ve been playing periodically for 20-25 years. I really don’t have a lot of competitive experience.
2) Putting is really the strength of my game. My speed control and green reading skills are pretty good, and I rarely 3 putt, even though I usually do not have real short first putts. My short game is generally a function of how much I’ve been playing, so in preparation for the Morgan Cup, it is in much better shape than normal. Really, the same can be said about my iron and hybrid game, which have both improved quite a bit over the past few months. I rely much more on accuracy than distance. I’m not a long hitter at all even though I have a bigger frame. However, I am typically in play and stay that way. My main goal is always fairways and greens.
3) It depends on the pin position and greenside trouble. Most likely, I’m going to take the safe shot and hopefully put myself on the green. I feel that I can get down in two putts from almost anywhere, so on the green usually means par. If my opponent makes birdie to win the hole and take the match, then at least my opponent had to hit a great shot to earn it.
4) TaylorMade has always been one of my preferred manufacturers due to their understanding of what every golfer needs to be successful. Year after year, TaylorMade continues to be trend setters with new technology and concepts to help the average golfer get the most out of their game.
I am constantly amazed at the dimensions of adjustability that they insert into their club lines. Instead of wondering “How would I hit a higher lofted driver?”, I can adjust the shaft. Instead of wondering “How would a different shaft play in this head?”, I can unscrew the existing shaft and insert a new one with nothing more than some tips and a wrench. Instead of buying a new wedge because the grooves may be worn, I can replace a club face at a third of the cost. This sponsorship has allowed me the opportunity to research and understand just how many choices and options that TaylorMade offers for customization to EVERY player…shafts, grips, lengths, lie angles, etc.
Being sponsored by TaylorMade for the Morgan Cup has been and continues to be an amazing experience. Every time we are contacted by our “Tour Rep”, it feels like we are being given the keys to the vault. From touches such as building all our clubs to whatever specification or combination we request, to stamping our initials in the putter soles, TaylorMade has treated us like their tour pros from the first day forward.
Even behind the scenes, we continually hear about TaylorMade taking the time to participate in such details as team selection and pairings. It would have been very easy for a manufacturer to send out off the rack equipment and called it a day. None of us could have imagined the degree of involvement and seriousness in which we have been treated as Staff Members, which is an experience for which there is absolutely no way to assess a value. I know that the exemplary way that we have been treated by TaylorMade has made me a customer for life.
The Morgan Cup would have been an amazing experience and competition without eight of us being sponsored by TaylorMade, but that component has pushed it to be easily the greatest golf experience I have ever or likely will ever have.
5) I have been practicing more than I ever have, and my round scores have been on the good end of my personal score range. The course layout and distance appears to be quite fair, and I typically play well in Florida conditions (hot, humid, windy weather on Bermuda grass). Realistically, I understand that I am one of the higher handicaps for Team Hackers at the Morgan Cup. My goal is to help out my partners in the team rounds however I can, be it hitting safe off the tee, reading putts, and/or putting first to show them the line.
Depending on the pairing, I could be quite an underdog in the singles match. Therefore, my goal is to make my opponent make plenty of great shots to beat me, and do everything I can to scratch out a win or draw. Team wise, I think Team Hackers has an excellent chance at bringing home the Morgan Cup, but I think the matches will be very competitive and the final team tally will be very close. Both sides appear to be very evenly matched and hopefully the performances will be top notch.