Interview: Dennis Miller

Monday, June 11, 2012

BETH MAJOR:  Welcome to the 112th U.S. Open Championship.  The 2012 U.S. Open is being played this week at the Olympic Club here in San Francisco, California.  The 5th time the U.S. Open will be played at Olympic.  Happy to be here and welcome you here this week.  We're happy to welcome Dennis Miller.  A week ago he qualified for the U.S. Open in remarkable fashion.

(Video played.)

BETH MAJOR:  Dennis, congratulations, we're happy to have you here with us this week.  Can you talk about the events of last Monday and what the last week has been like for you?

DENNIS MILLER:  It was incredible last week.  We were actually debating going, my caddie, about going to the qualifier, because I was an alternate.  We didn't play a practice round.  We went down.  I never played the course before.

One of the reasons I did want to go, and compete is the fact that I wanted to see that golf course.  And I didn't play Sunday.  Actually, I took my son and my wife, we went to the Cleveland Indians game.  And they lost.

But it was ‑‑ I could never have dreamed of qualifying for the U.S. Open in this fashion, that's for sure.

BETH MAJOR:  What has the reaction been from your friends, family, colleagues.

DENNIS MILLER:  A tremendous outpouring of love and support back from my community, my family, my friends.  Received over a thousand text messages, emails, I'm trying to get back to everybody.  If I haven't, I apologize.  But it's been a whirlwind since last Monday.  But, you know, the community really embraced me.  They stepped up.  Some of my sponsors and things of that nature.  And it's been fantastic.  Quite a journey so far.

 Q.  How old were you when you first tried to qualify for The Open?

DENNIS MILLER:  29 or 30.

Q.  Were you reaching a stage where you thought it was beyond you?

DENNIS MILLER:  Pretty much this year.  In fact, in the playoff when we found out ‑‑ I was in the playoff with the other three players, I knew who all of them were and how good they were, I told my caddie, "We're running out of years here."  I'm 42, he's 45, and I had to take this opportunity and see what we could do.

Q.  Lastly, the way the ball hung on the lip like that there was comparisons to Augusta.  Did you think you would ever be compared to Tiger Woods?

DENNIS MILLER:  No, you could not script this story.  If I birdied one of the final holes in regulation, which I had really good opportunities on the 35th hole, No. 8, at Scarlet, I missed about an 8 foot birdie putt.

And 39, I missed about a 30 foot birdie putt.

When we finished, they informed me like it looked like it was going to be 1‑under, which is absolutely the worst news that any player can receive, that you're going to miss ‑‑ possibly miss by one.  And I'd rather miss by three or four, because I can figure one shot out, three or four is like, okay, I needed to play a little better.

But that was the best game ‑‑ best I played all year.  And I was really solid off the tee.  I may have missed three or four fairways all day.  I haven't gone over my round, it's been a whirlwind.  If I birdie one of the last two holes in regulation, I'm probably the same story, it's a great story, 42 year old Mill Creek Metro golf professional, made it to the U.S. Open.

But to do it with the cameras rolling, the ball hanging on the lip.  I can't tell you how excited my family is.

BETH MAJOR:  Can you talk about coming to San Francisco, being at Olympic and your thoughts at being at the Open and what you expect for the week.

DENNIS MILLER:  It was so exciting, the fact that ‑‑ I think it's everyone's dream if you're a golfer that one day you might have an opportunity to play at U.S. Open.  And then reality sets in Tuesday morning when you figure out you have to make all your arrangements.  I still have a job to do back in Mill Creek.  And we actually had a Chamber of Commerce golf outing Wednesday, had 300 golfers out there, I worked about 14 hours that day.  That was my preparation up to this week (laughter).

It's been a whirlwind.  We're trying to enjoy it.

Q.  Just a couple, you've been a 49ers fan for how long?

DENNIS MILLER:  Since I can remember.  Five minutes, no.  The DeBartolo family are from Youngstown and Denise and John York, their headquarters are in Youngstown, Ohio.  They wanted to support me in coming out here.  It's a great honor to wear this hat and support the 49ers and the people back in Youngstown.

Q.  Can you give us an idea of what you do at Mill Creek and kind of your career path as a teaching pro.  Where you started.  What a day's work like at the club?

DENNIS MILLER:  Sure.  I started my professional career at the Trumbull Country Club, I worked for a gentleman named Bob Woodfin who was my first mentor and really a true friend of mine.  Then from there I worked seasonally at Fiddlesticks Country Club in the wintertime.  I met a lot of nice people there.

In 1998 I became the head professional at Mill Creek.  And then three or four years after that I became the golf director.  I've been there 14 years.

A typical day, we have 36 holes, two Donald Ross golf courses.  And we have an 18‑hole lighted par‑3.  Between the two we do over a hundred thousand rounds a year, very active.  We have a great junior program.  Our head professional, Andy Santor, does a nice job, and we try to promote golf and family golf and all that good stuff.

We have six or seven high schools that play there.  Both the university, Youngstown State University men and ladies golf team call Mill Creek their home.

Q.  What's the closest you ever came to qualifying?

DENNIS MILLER:  You know, about four or five years ago I played with J.D. Holmes and Geoff Ogilvy and I missed about by four there, that was the closest.

Q.  Joe give you any golf tips?

DENNIS MILLER:  Joe?  I wish.

Q.  Just usually first time guys try to lineup a few games for the week.  Wonder who you might have talked to or arranged a game with in the next few days, probably have some fun before you start the tournament?

DENNIS MILLER:  One of my high school friends, we competed against each other in high school is Henry Diana, he caddies for Charles Howell.  I reached out to him.  And we didn't know Charles schedule and unfortunately it didn't work out this week that I could play a practice round with him.

Tomorrow I did sign up with Retief Goosen tomorrow morning.

Q.  Who is the most interesting or fun person that you've heard from since you qualified?  Have you gotten an interesting phone call or text from somebody that you would never have expected?

DENNIS MILLER:  You know, the people back in Youngstown will appreciate this.  I reached out to a lot of my friends who either played in the U.S. Open or have a lot of experience, Bob Lewis was the Walker Cup captain, he and I have been acquaintances for quite a while.

Jerry McGee, the former touring professional.  Rick Jones is my instructor, he played in the '55 or '54 U.S. Open at Oakmont.  So they all tried to tell me what to expect.  Gary Robison said don't let all the hype get to you.

And really, you know, stick to your routine, get used to hitting some balls in the particular rough and things of that nature.

But the most comical one is George Bellino at Tippecanoe Country Club.  If you know him, you'd really appreciate this.  I asked George, do you have any advice?  He said, yeah, stay home.  I said thanks (laughter).

BETH MAJOR:  Dennis, thanks so much for joining us this morning, we're happy to have you here and wish you all the best this week.

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