Eaks gets back to living the good life
HE'S eating Frosted Flakes for breakfast. He's looking for Monk seals on the beach.
"My first chip-in in five years" is falling in the cup.
He's shooting a 65 on the second day of the Turtle Bay Championship. That's the course record on the Arnold Palmer Course.
"I had no idea," R.W. Eaks says, in a voice that oozes easygoing. Like a guy who has traded stress for slight bemusement, even as he plays this bedeviling game called golf.
Yes, Eaks is definitely living like a new man.
"I worried about this game for 53 years," he says. Not this year. No more. No longer. Not now.
Yesterday, Eaks, who shot a 31 on the back nine, played like a man who knows enough to appreciate the moment. Like a guy not only living the dream, but smelling the roses, too. Like a guy who has played enough to know he should play like he knows nothing at all.
He is the way you swear you would be when you someday work on your game enough to make your way onto the Senior (make that Champions) Tour.
He is that guy.
He three-putted on No. 8, yesterday. "See what happens when you play it real safe?" he says.
No, now he's just going to let go. Just going to go out and have fun, let it fly. Just going to know no matter what happens, the sun will come again tomorrow. Another great day for golf.
He was not always this way, of course. He was pretty much what you would expect from a guy named "R.W." with a big, bushy mustache. He was a motorcycle rider, a high school basketball All-American (they won the Colorado state prep championship), a golfer who came up the hard way, as a caddie. A tough guy.
And his game was tough on him, right back.
"I would live and die with every shot," he says.
He was a journeyman pro, up on the PGA Tour for a short time, 1980, '81. "Then they asked me to leave for a little while," he says. Too low on the money list. Bounced back down to the bushes. The then-Hogan Tour.
He fought his way back to the big time; it took years. He was on the PGA Tour again in 1998-99. (His best finish was a tie for seventh at the Hawaiian Open.) Then back again to the Nationwide Tour.
"Then I took a couple of years off," he says, "and waited for this."
He says it the way someone would, who had waited for this. This moment. This time. This chance.
He waited for this.
So it was no surprise last season when he did what he did when he was at No. 34 on the Champions Tour money list -- the top 30 earn exempt status -- heading into 2005's final weeks. He'd Monday qualified in the year's last full-field event, was perched near the leaderboard's peak. But then, "all of a sudden," he had to grab an official.
"I got some -- something going on here," he said, tapping his chest. His blood pressure was 198/90 (that's bad). They brought a doctor right up onto the green.
"They monitored me every three holes," he says.
He kept playing. He shot a 66, five birdies on the back nine. He'd done it. He was exempt. He was in. He was here.
He was home.
For the second straight season, he was exempt. After all of those years, a knockaround guy no more.
He'd waited for this.
They're not quite sure what his condition is, just that he has to watch it, these days. He's taken all kinds of pills, for the first time in his life. He has to eat well, but he cheats sometimes, with snacks.
Doesn't matter. He's having a heck of a time, just like you would, if you were in his place, living life up on the Champions Tour. This season, he's made up his mind.
"I'm just going to go play," he says, not a hint of stress in his voice.
He's looking for seals. He has his son on the bag.
He's tied for third at the Turtle Bay Championship headed into today's final round.
"I think it was the Frosted Flakes I had," he says.
He's told that's Shaq's lucky meal. "Maybe it's mine, too," he says. Unless his wife eats breakfast with him today.
"She would have had me eating oatmeal," he says.