Minnesota golfer Tim Herron has four PGA Tour wins and a top-10 finish at the 1999 U.S. Open on his résumé. Recently, he also became a spokesperson to raise awareness about Dupuytren’s Contracture, a condition from which he suffers that limits the movement of his hands. Herron, 47, chatted recently with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q: How has Dupuytren’s Contracture impacted you as a golfer, where your hands and fingers are so essential?
A: I’ve been a professional golfer for 24 years, on the tour for 21 years. Of course I rely on my hands to make a living. My dad had this hand condition maybe 25 years ago. And I saw my younger sister, who is four years younger, about 15 years ago she started getting it. About seven years ago, I started seeing it in the palm of my hand. I talked to my father and sister about it, trying to get a treatment plan going on it. … It’s in my right hand. What can happen is the ring finger and pinkie bend down toward your palm to where you can’t straighten your fingers. Mine is at a percentage where they don’t recommend surgery. I get a lot of stiffness in my hand. With what I do for a living, it tends to become painful. I notice it especially when I hit from the rough. And if I notice it getting stiff, I’ll adjust my practice schedule.
Q: As a pro golfer, your income is directly tied to your immediate performance — unlike other pro athletes who sign contracts to play for teams and get paid regardless of what happens. Do you like that, and how much pressure does it create?
A: There are a lot of pros and cons. I get to control who coaches me. If I was playing for the Wild, I would be part of their system and do what they told me to do. That part has been great. I control my own destiny. On the other hand, when you’re struggling you don’t have any team to back you up or lean on. You have to stand up on the first tee and hit the ball. It’s all on you. You get all the benefits if you succeed, and the hard part is going about things when you fail.
Q: What does a week look like when you are playing a tour event?
A: It’s a lot. And early in my career, I would play four events in a row. I was the road warrior. You get to an event Monday, which is an off day. There’s a practice round Tuesday, then probably a pro-am Wednesday, which tend to be long. Then Thursday and Friday — and hopefully Saturday and Sunday. You fly out early Monday for the next spot. There’s a lot of practice and preparation.
Q: There have been rumblings that Minnesota could get a regular PGA tour stop. What are your thoughts on those prospects?
A: I mean, the Ryder Cup really showed the fan support. I know that was more of a world-level event. But even the 3M [PGA Tour Champions] has a great turnout. I think it would be a no-brainer, a home run. I think the fan base here would totally support it.
Q: What is the biggest change in golf since you started playing?
A: Tiger Woods and I came onto the tour in the same year. He made it a power game, which I think makes it more fun for the fans. I was a powerful player back in the 1990s, and there was a lot more precision to the game back then. The fairways have gotten wider, the courses are longer. It’s more of a bombers game. You reap benefits from hitting longer.