NAPA, Calif. – Rarely does a day go by when Kevin Tway is not reminded of his father, Bob, an eight-time TOUR winner who won the 1986 PGA Championship.
Kevin, who made them the 10th father-son duo to win on TOUR with his playoff victory over Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker at the Safeway Open on Sunday, takes it in stride. He speaks to his father daily about the family profession, and clearly remembers the spring break in Scottsdale, Ariz., when he was 16, when he beat Dad for the first time.
“I remember it because leading up to that, when we were pretty close, he’d look over and be like, ‘You know I’m going to birdie the last two holes to beat you,’” said Kevin Tway, 30. “And he would, every single time. I’d go home pissed, crying, going, ‘Mom, Dad did it again.’”
This time it was Bob Tway who wiped away tears as he watched the Safeway on TV back home in Oklahoma. He did not dispute Kevin’s account, but made no apologies for making it hard on the kid.
“I told him, I said, ‘I’m not going to lose just for you to win,’” Bob Tway said by phone Sunday night. “‘You’re going to work for it.’ So, a couple times I actually did do that and it upset him. You know how it is, kids want to beat their dads. I said, ‘Unfortunately, it’s going to be a little harder to beat your dad.’”
Kevin Tway has now done more than that, punching his ticket to the Masters and the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua with his victory at Silverado. All week he stressed the need for patience, and he relied heavily on that quality in the wind, as gusts forced him to turn his cap around backward as he warmed up on the driving range.
“It was blowing like 40,” Tway said. “My hat was flying off.”
This looked like Brandt Snedeker’s tournament for most of the day as he made the turn with a four-stroke lead, but Tway, playing with him in the final threesome, hung around long enough to execute a three-shot swing on the last two holes of regulation, going birdie-birdie as Snedeker went bogey-par.
Tway’s third straight birdie in the playoff, and fifth straight overall, was enough to outlast first Snedeker and then Moore.
“I can’t say that I held it back very good with the tears,” he said, “but I did okay.”
Bob Tway’s best season was 1986, when he reeled off four wins including the PGA Championship. He is 59 and mostly retired, but he can still be found many weeks on TOUR, following on foot as he follows Kevin, who bears a striking resemblance to the old man.
Kevin Tway was born two years after Bob’s signature victory, and smiles and nods at all the well-meaning fans who tell him about the PGA and/or his dad’s other wins.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I watched your dad in ’86,’” Kevin Tway said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I wasn’t born yet, but yeah, cool.’ Yeah, I hear about it all my life.”
Last week, their club back home was set up to play as hard as it can, the greenskeeping staff forcing everyone to play from the tips, and with tucked pins. (Fittingly, it’s called the Tip-and-Tuck tournament.) Bob thought he was doing pretty well to shoot 72. Kevin shot 67.
But if Kevin rarely loses to his dad anymore, Bob still had him beat in one regard: closing. Bob, after all, had those eight TOUR wins; Kevin didn’t have any. When he worked his way into contention at the RBC Canadian Open in late July, only to shoot a final-round 76, it was emblematic of a trend that had seen him falter on Sundays.
As he always has, though, he worked through it. His has been a slow, steady progression on TOUR as he leans on not just Dad but also friends of Bob’s like fellow TOUR pros Willie Wood and Scott Verplank. Bob Tway stressed the importance of hitting fairways and greens, and patience, and Kevin also learned to monitor his food intake, eating every two or three holes.
Now he’s a TOUR winner, which means someday someone is going to tell Bob Tway about being in attendance that time that Kevin won in the wind.
Is there a downside, Kevin was asked, to having a famous TOUR pro father?
“You could look at it that way,” he said. “Maybe a little (high) expectations, but I think it’s almost a plus. He played right where I’m playing for 30 years, so he kind of knows what I’m feeling at any point in time, so he’s a good person to talk to.”
Especially on Sunday night, after you’ve just hoisted your first PGA TOUR trophy.