To get his golf glove on his left hand, Scott Geroux has to cut a hole to slip his curled-stiff middle finger through.
What it means is he can’t flip anybody off.
“Down here it’s a good thing,” Geroux said. “Vegas is a tough town.”
Geroux, 47, is well-remembered in these parts as a fine ball-striker and tournament player. The 1980 Washington state junior amateur champion and 1982 Big Sky Conference champion at Weber State turned pro in 1984. He has played in two U.S. Opens.
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These days, he’s scuffling to make a living in the game. He doesn’t hesitate to say times are tough for a teaching pro in and around Las Vegas.
“I’m trying to stay alive,” he said last week, “trying to stay in the golf business.”
He works with members at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, including the state’s No. 2-ranked amateur.
Every 10 days or so, he drives the 70 miles northeast on I-15 to Mesquite, where he teaches a handful of steady customers at The Oasis Golf Club.
He takes loops as a caddie at Shadow Creek, an upscale Vegas course where Michael Jordan has an annual celebrity benefit tournament. When retired NFL running back Jerome Bettis comes to town, he asks for Geroux on his bag.
Geroux also loops for professional poker players, among them Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson.
He doesn’t play much golf any more.
That middle finger on his left hand and the ring and pinky fingers on his right hand are curled almost shut. The culprit is Dupuytren’s contracture, or palmar fibromatosis.
Pause here for our disease-of-the-week tutorial:
Dupuytren’s, popularly known as the Viking Disease because it disproportionately affects people of Scandinavian descent (Geroux is Norwegian on his mother’s side), causes the tough connective tissue in the hand to become abnormally thick, which causes fingers to curl and can impair their function.
He’s also got arthritis in his hip and back. The last tournament golf he played was in 2003, at the Nevada Open, where he finished 12th.
As a kid, he played all the time, haunting the practice range and fairways of Capitol City Golf Club, where his family had a house by the 8th hole (now the 17th).
“First to the golf course, last to leave,” he said. “I don’t think there was anybody practiced more than me.”
He played for Don Parsons at Timberline High School. In 1980, the year he won the state junior championship at Fairwood Golf & Country Club, he also helped the Washington team win the Junior Americas Cup at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. His teammates were Radd Lukas, also of Olympia, Rick Fehr of Seattle and Mark Wurtz of Port Ludlow.
He went on to Weber State in Ogden, Utah, where Mac Madsen created a Big Sky golf dynasty in his long tenure as coach.
As a pro, and still making his home in near Lake St. Clair in Olympia, drinking and staying out late (not precisely his words) “got me in a little trouble,” he said.
“I was kind of a wild man up there for a few years,” he said. “I grew out of it in the mid-90s.”
He played in the U.S. Open in 1986 at Shinnecock Hills and 1996 at Oakland Hills. He hit all the mini-tours, including on-and-off stays on the Canadian Tour. By the late ’90s, “guys were blowing it by me by 50 yards. And I got the yips with the putter.”
Geroux, who moved to the desert in 2002, first to Mesquite and later to Las Vegas, was in Olympia last fall for a couple of weeks. When he was here, he worked with local amateur Jon McCaslin on his game (The Olympian, Oct. 26, 2010). He hopes to help McCaslin hustle some sponsorships to put together upfront money for a season on the professional Gateway Tour.
He keeps close ties to Olympia, where he figures people remember ol’ “Tin Cup” Geroux. He wants to get his e-mail address out there – firstname.lastname@example.org – so friends can be in touch.
He’s alive and well, scrambling in a tough economy, and he’s not flipping anybody off.
“Tell everybody up there I said hello,” he said. “A lot of those old guys at Cap City remember me.”
Too mechanical, too technical: Scott Geroux sees it in a lot of players, especially good young players. “Paralysis by overanalysis,” he calls it.
With elite players, Geroux might revisit the fundamentals of posture and swing plane: “Get your lines right.”
He finds that many younger players, even very good players, don’t know how to work the ball, so he’ll work on engineering ball flight to hit a draw or fade on demand.
With higher handicappers, who have more basic concerns, he finds they are almost always off balance. So he keeps it simple: turn your back to the target at the top of the backswing, face your stomach to the target at the finish, hold your finish until the ball lands, and keep your head as still as possible.
“I see too many teachers, ‘Get your left elbow here, get your right elbow there,’ ” he says. “That’s too many things.”
Olympia freelance writer Bart Potter can be reached at email@example.com