Patrick Reusse: Deer-hunting guide Riegger prefers to play golf for living

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 3, 2013 - 11:26 PM
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John Riegger teed off on the first hole during the second round of the 3M Championship.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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The final group in the official second round of the 3M Championship was leaving the 11th tee when a roar came rolling in from the northeast. It was a facsimile of those “Arnie roars’’ that were once famous at Augusta National.

As it turned out, that’s exactly what it was: an Arnie Roar. The King was serving as the captain for Team LPGA, one of the three “Greats of Golf’’ groups that were dominating the galleries on Saturday at TPC Twin Cities.

The Greats were playing a scramble, and the captains were allowed to attempt shots or putts whenever they so decided. Palmer’s threesome of Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez and Pat Bradley all missed the birdie putt at No. 9, so Arnold lined it up and made the putt.

Roar.

Mark Wiebe, Kenny Perry and Corey Pavin were heading down the 11th fairway. Hal Sutton was coming in the opposite direction on the 12th, with a pair of strangers: Jeff Brehaut and John Riegger.

Brehaut and Riegger were among the five players who gained fully exempt status for 2013 through the Champions Tour’s qualifying school last November. The covenant with this is a player must reach his 50th birthday before he joins the senior competition.

Brehaut and Riegger both turned 50 on June 13. While they were waiting, Esteban Toledo and Chie-Hsiang Lin — the next two finishers in Q school — had exempt status. Toledo won the Houston event in the first week of May.

“Esteban took full advantage, that’s for sure,’’ Riegger said.

Riegger is hoping to duplicate that, now that his six-month wait to play with the Champions has ended. The 3M Championship is his third event as a senior. There were a couple of minutes during Saturday’s round when he was tied for the lead.

On the 12th, Riegger sent a birdie putt uphill, and the ball fell on its last rotation. That put Riegger at minus-11 and in a share with Wiebe and Tom Pernice Jr.

Riegger bogeyed the 13th, a difficult par-3, and came to the par-5 18th at 10-under. On Friday, he hit his second shot across the large pond to within a few inches and made eagle.

“You’re thinking 3 or 4 on that hole and make 6 … that’s not good," Riegger said. “I deserved a lot better with that bunker shot I hit."

The pin placement on the 18th was much tougher, on the green’s left ridge, Saturday. Riegger’s approach went in a back bunker, his sand shot kept crawling into a swale below the cup, and he three-putted for 6.

This put Riegger at 9-under and in a four-way tie for sixth, three shots behind leader Pernice.

Riegger looks taller than his 6-foot-3 on a golf course. He carries himself with an amble and takes advantage of the Champions’ cart privilege.

What made him intriguing, along with seeing an unknown name on the leaderboards, was the name on his golf bag: Southern Whitetails.

Turns out, that’s the name of a deer-hunting guide service that Riegger owns in his hometown of Metropolis, Ill.

Metropolis isn’t actually one. It’s a town of 6,500 across the Ohio River from Paducah, Ky.

“I was 7 years old when I shot my first buck, and the antlers measured at 170 points,’’ Riegger said. “We have hills, trees, swamps … great deer country. The big bucks love that river bottom.’’

Riegger bounced between the PGA Tour and the secondary tour (now the Web.com) from 1987 through 2011. He earned a total of $2,233,729 on the PGA Tour. He won twice on the secondary tour: in 2007 and 2010.

And in the fall, he would take friends bow hunting for big bucks.

“I had people tell me, ‘John, you should turn this into a business and charge people to guide,’ so that’s what I did,’ ” Riegger said.

He started Southern Whitetails a couple of years ago. And then he went to the Champions Tour’s Q school last fall and made it.

“I’m living in Las Vegas now,’’ Riegger said. “We have some other guys working the guide business. I love deer hunting, but it’s all golf for me for the next few years.’’

 

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500.

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