HOWARD WARD: 'Howie Hex' Bites Azzarelli In Pit Pro-Am
John Azzarelli is the latest victim of the "Howie Hex."
Azzarelli is a nice young man from a nice family. He has a nice job as an assistant professional at Pinehurst Resort's Centennial Course, No. 8.
He has a nice golf swing and a nice game that can produce some nice scores. And it appeared last Wednesday that he was going to pick up a nice check for winning his first Carolinas PGA Section tournament -- until he made a really dumb decision.
Azzarelli decided to be a nice guy and talk to this writer about his round. After all, this writer pointed out, that 69 you posted is two shots better than anything else on the board, and there were only two pros left on the course.
So, naturally, Azzarelli doomed himself to a tie for second.
Azzarelli was rightfully proud of the 3-under-par 69 he had posted at The Pit Golf Links in the 20th annual Southern Pines Rotary Club Foundation Ellis Maples Pro-Am Golf Tournament in memory of Ed Seay.
OK, I know that's a little long, so for brevity's sake we'll just call it the SPRCFEMGTIMOES from now on. Yeah, that's better.
But back to Azzarelli, a nice young man that may never grant another interview.
"This is a little better than last year when I shot 77 here," he said. "I'm playing better now because I'm practicing more. Last year, I was commuting from Cumberland County, and there wasn't time. Now I live only five minutes from work and I'm practicing and playing in the afternoons."
Hey, I'd practice if I could cut my score eight shots.
But this is about Azzarelli and his improved game.
"The course was playing a little short," he explained. "I was hitting a lot of mid-irons off the tees and trusting my 8-iron for the approach shots."
The result? Two birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole when he reached the green with a 6-iron and made a 25-foot putt.
The course may have seemed short to Azzarelli, who will get his Class A card for PGA membership in August. But he doesn't play out of an arthritic body that serves as the vessel for about 30 extra pounds of ugly fat.
But back to the Howie Hex. Just about the time John finished the mini-interview, another 69 hit the board, this one by Simon McGreal.
I gave Azzarelli a sheepish look and mouthed "I'm sorry."
He smiled, briefly, and turned back to the scoreboard just in time to see Rob Pilewski's 68 going up.
I began looking for a place to hide. The Howie Hex had taken another victim.
Pilewski, the former professional at Woodlake, Mid Pines and Pine Needles, is now at King's Grant in Fayetteville, a course recently purchased by his alma mater, Methodist University.
Pilewski is one of those Methodist legends who was an All-American every year on a team that won the NCAA Division III championship every year. He's a proud father now, but he can still play some solid golf as attested by the six birdies he posted on a windy day at The Pit.
Here's another guy who proves that working on your game can pay dividends. He's scheduled to compete in the Nationwide event being held at TPC Wakefield in Raleigh June 2-8 and he's rightfully excited about that.
"I came here feeling that I needed to play more," he replied when asked how he felt about his game. "Actually, I do feel pretty good about the way I'm playing. I'm just trying to keep it simple."
The Howie Hex couldn't bite Rob. There wasn't anyone left on the course. So he could keep smiling.
Another pro doing some serious smiling was Danny Barrett, who not only shot a 71 but led his team of Graham Cooper, Wiley Barrett and Roger Parrimore to victory in the pro-am with a score of 126.
Stuart Taylor was feeling pretty good, too, as his team of Jon Giles, Rich Wrazen and Gary McGahey took second place with 129. Taylor shot a 72 and picked up skin wins with birdies on holes 1 and 9.
No Howie Hex for those guys. Neither of them talk to me anymore.
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