Milwaukee native Kendall eyes PGA Tour comeback
By JERRY SLASKE
KeyMilwaukee.com Golf Editor
STARTING 2012 with a win on the Nationwide Tour at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship presented by Samsung, Milwaukee native Jules I. (Skip) Kendall is a PGA Tour veteran hoping to regain full PGA Tour status after surgery to repair an injured thumb.
Kendall has won more than $9 million on the PGA and Nationwide tours since turning pro in 1987, including four PGA Tour runner-ups – the most recent to Phil Mickelson in the 2004 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic – and four Nationwide wins.
KeyMilwaukee.com recently caught up with Kendall while he was playing a Nationwide event in Chile.
KEY: When you were growing up and living in the Milwaukee area, what were your favorite courses to play?
Kendall: I grew up playing the county courses in Milwaukee. Lincoln Park was the first course I ever played, but growing up I spent the majority of time at Brown Deer Park. My favorite course in the Milwaukee area is Milwaukee Country Club.
KEY: What are your favorite types of courses?
Kendall: Old fashioned tree-lined courses fit my eye the best. (Editor’s note: Area courses that fit this description include Brown Deer Park, Nagawaukee, Whitnall Park, Johnson Park, and Petrifying Springs.)
KEY: After traveling across the country and around the world, how does Wisconsin stack up against other states or areas when it comes to golf?
Kendall: I would put Wisconsin up against any state for quality of golf courses. The only issue is you can only play realistically about half the year.
KEY: What has been your most memorable moment in golf?
Kendall: I'm not sure I could pick one, but hitting a hole in one in the Greater Milwaukee Open was a great thrill. (Editor’s note: The Greater Milwaukee Open, played at various courses, was an annual stop on the PGA Tour from 1968 through 2009. Beginning in 2004, it was called the U.S. Bank Championship and played at Brown Deer Park.)
KEY: Anything happening to bring a tour event back to Milwaukee?
Kendall: I haven't heard much about bringing a Tour event back to Milwaukee. Having big tournaments at Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run (both courses located about 50 miles north of Milwaukee) in coming years kind of hinders that. However, Joe Stadler, executive director of the PGA Wisconsin Section, helped start a pro-am last year, which was a total success. (Editor’s note: Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run are located about 50 miles north of Milwaukee in the Sheboygan area; the 2017 US Open will be held at Erin Hills in Erin about 40 northwest of Milwaukee. Also, the pro-am event Skip refers to was played at The Legend at Brandybrook and attracted such PGA players as Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly, Mark Wilson, J.P. Hayes and Kendall – all from Wisconsin; plus John Rollins, Steve Flesch, Woody Austin, Steve Pate, and Michael Allen. This year’s event will be held July 29-30 at the same course, will be open to the public, and will attract even more PGA Tour players.)
KEY: What’s the best part about being a PGA Tour player? And what’s the worst part?
Kendall: Best part of being a tour player is playing golf for a living. Worst part is traveling and being away from your family.
KEY: Who are some of the guys from the tour you chum around with?
Kendall: I usually hang around with guys that are close to my age. Steve Flesch, Dicky Pride, and Robert Gamez are some good buddies of mine.
KEY: In a couple of years you’ll be eligible to play on the Champions Tour. Are you looking forward to it?
Kendall: Yes, if I can stay healthy.
KEY: Who got you into golf?
Kendall: Golf was just in my family. My parents loved the game. They were definitely not scratch players, but they had a passion for the game that they instilled in me at a very young age.
KEY: You won the Wisconsin State Open in 1988 and 1989. Where were those played?
Kendall: Kenosha Country Club in 1988, Tripoli Country Club in 1989.
KEY: What’s the easiest part of playing golf? What’s the toughest?
Kendall: I think all the parts of golf are difficult and require time and practice.
KEY: How did the Skip Kendall Pro-Am for Kids benefiting Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin come about?
Kendall: The Pro-Am, which was played from 2000-2008 and raised $4.5 million, first came about in the fall of 1998 and took almost two years to put together before the first one was played. The Foundation at the hospital and handpicked people that I put on the board for the event were so helpful in making it happen. I was very hands-on and for about a month leading up to the event, I would speak to the Foundation head or someone else at least once a day. It was tough to do and time consuming, but it was by far the best thing I have ever done in my life. Just knowing that we had a hand in helping some kids was so rewarding and so worth it.
KEY: How did you get the nickname “Skip”?
Kendall: I don't know how Skip came about. The story is that when I came home from the hospital people started calling me Julie as a nickname. My real name is Jules. My wife and family today call me by my given name – even my friends. Skip seems to be my golf name now.
KEY: How did you injure your thumb and what’s the outlook for the rest of the season? Also, how much time will you spend on the Nationwide and how much on the PGATour?
Kendall: I injured my thumb holding a door open for a woman, but didn't see her child running up to the door which then snapped back my thumb when the child hit the door. It was a freak accident. I actually played for a year and a half with my left thumb off the grip until the pain got too great and knew I had to have surgery. So far my thumb is holding up pretty good. I don't think it will ever be 100% but certainly good enough to play some good golf. Since I won the first event of the Nationwide Tour, I probably will spend most of the year playing that Tour. The goal is to get my full status back on the PGA Tour.
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