Armour hopes to tame tigers one day

By Jason Stahl, Contributor

AKRON, Ohio - Ryan Armour can say he stared at a tiger and didn't flinch.

The tiger referred to is, of course, Tiger Woods. The event was the 1993 U.S. Junior Championship. Armour had Tiger down by two holes with two to play, but Woods birdied the last two holes and beat Armour in sudden death.

As disappointing as the loss was, Armour calls the experience his biggest thrill in golf. "It taught me that I belonged in an elite category at that age," he says.

And although the 28-year-old Armour hasn't yet earned the opportunity to go mano a mano on the PGA Tour with the world's No. 1 golfer, he may soon get his chance. After earning his Nationwide Tour card last year with a 65th-place finish at Q-School, he has continued his stellar play with a third place showing at the BellSouth Panama Championship and currently sits 29th on the money list with $74,222. He'll have to finish in the top 20 if he wants to regain his eye for the Tiger.

Armour, who is not related to PGA tour player Tommy Armour, said he learned golf from his father, a single-digit handicapper who Ryan Armour says was his biggest influence. In fact, golf was a family affair ever since Ryan Armour was a 5-year-old kid growing up in the Rubber City. Dad, Mom, Ryan and his older brother played endless rounds at Silver Lake Country Club.

The family fun on the golf course paid off as Ryan's brother turned out to be a star golfer, too, playing on the Ohio University team. But it was Ryan's star that shone brightly enough to attract national attention. After his classic duel with Tiger, every college was pounding on the door. Ryan ultimately chose Ohio State, a decision he says that many people second-guessed.

"They said it snowed too much," Armour says of the second-guessers. "But to me, the winter provided a nice break to get away from golf. We competed nationally with everybody and never used weather as an excuse. We never went into a tournament without feeling we could win."

Armour certainly didn't get frozen out of the 1998 Big Ten Championships, where he earned medalist honors. He didn't let Ohio's golfer-unfriendly weather bother him in high school, either, because he was too busy playing guard for the Walsh Jesuit Warrior basketball team, which made it to the district finals one season. "I never even thought about playing golf in the winter," he says.

It's safe to say those carefree days are over now that Armour is grinding it out week after week on the Nationwide Tour. After a good start to the season, Armour has only made the cut six out of his last 13 tournaments.

"I kind of struggled for a month and wasn't hitting the ball really solid or making any putts. But I'm starting to come back," Armour says. "Each week is a new week. I try to tell everyone that if you play well, the money will take care of itself."

Armour says his primary goal is to finish in the top 20 on the money list to earn his PGA Tour card. His other focus is to become a better and more consistent player.

"I've had runs where I play well two, three or four weeks at a time, but I want to be able to sustain that over 10 weeks or a summer," he says. "I need to work hard on my driving and putting. I'm think I'm fairly consistent, and I don't ever shoot myself in the foot with a round. I also think I have the ability to battle back if something goes wrong."

Armour hopes to accomplish enough in golf to join the ranks of other famous Ohio golfers such as Jack Nicklaus, John Cook and Ben Curtis, who Armour has known for 15 years. "Ben winning the British Open was awesome, and it gave everyone he competed against the feeling that they might have a chance to do the same thing," he says.

But Armour admits his favorite golfer growing up was Fred Couples because "he made it look so easy but you knew inside that it wasn't."

Armour's own track record allows him to have an optimistic view of the future. He envisions himself winning golf tournaments, settling down and possibly calling a new place home.

"Hopefully I'll be living in South Florida," he said, "and not seeing snow until I come home for Christmas."

What's in the bag?

Titleist 983k driver, Ping I-3 irons, Titleist wedges, Titleist Scott Cameron putter, Pro V1x balls.

Jason StahlJason Stahl, Contributor

Jason Stahl currently works for Medquest Communications in Cleveland, Ohio, as Editorial Manager. Prior to joining Medquest, he spent five years with Advanstar Communications as Managing Editor of Landscape Management, a trade magazine covering the professional landscaping business. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1989 and John Carroll University in 1993.

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