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Monday, May 2, 2016

Mr. Tommy big in golfing Circles

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The name Circle is synonymous with winning golf in the Natural State.

After all, the brothers Circle have been teeing it up and driving it long for quite awhile now.

Aaron Circle finished 24th at the prestigious Arkansas State Golf Association's Stroke Play Championship this past June at RidgePointe in Jonesboro.

Brother Nathan helped the Arkansas State Golf Association knock off a group of the top golfers from Mississippi in the third annual Governor's Cup in May.

So the Circles certainly know their way around the golf course at some of the most competitive levels.

And they also know a little bit about how it feels to have a legend on your side.

Growing up in the hills of Sharp County as young children, the Circles were taken under the wing of one Tommy Bolt. And whether or not they realized it at the time, their lives would be changed forever more because of that experience.

"I was probably in fifth grade and wasn't playing golf at the time, but I'd go with him and my brother when they golfed," said Nathan. "I'd just help them out ... get the ball out of the hole and things like that ... and then he showed me how to hold a club."

"He was one of those kind of guys that not everyone has in their lives," Aaron said. "He took up with me when I was a kid and just basically took care of me as far as the golf course goes. He taught me a lot and helped me out however he could. He was always around and supporting anyone he could -- his loss is a big one for the golfing community. I was just real fortunate and lucky that I got to know him so well and that he took up with me."

And Bolt did more than just "take up" with the golfing Circles, he also treated the young siblings like members of his own family, inviting them to his house on many occasions.

"We stayed at his house and Mary Lou cooked dinner for us," Nathan said. "He took care of me like I was his son. He gave me shoes ... just anything I needed. He gave me and my brother lessons. All because he just wanted to."

"And that wasn't something he needed to do -- that was just the way he was," said Aaron. "He came from not much when he was a kid and when he had the chance to help out later on, he just did it. Without being asked. For as many bad stories as you hear about him (on the Tour), you sure wouldn't know it being around him. I played a lot of golf with him and he was not like what you'd hear."

As most golfers know, the approach to the game from a mental standpoint is every bit as important as the physical ability to strike a ball. The Circles learned this valuable bit of information firsthand from Bolt.

"The mental part of the game is so big and he showed me that attitude is so important on the golf course," Aaron said. "That not only helped me as a young golfer, but also while playing golf at Arkansas State, and even today. He just had such a calm attitude."

"Confidence, in golf, is such a huge thing. And he gave me that on and off the course," said Nathan. "And off the course, he kept us pretty straight. But just the confidence he gave me carried with me off the course and even into other sports like basketball. And the confidence he instilled in us still carries on."

Being as close to Bolt as the Circles were had privileges other than the most efficient way to grip a club -- Aaron and Nathan also got a first-person account of some of the most famous players to ever grace the golf course.

"Staying at his house around the holidays and going through all the Christmas cards with him from all the current players was unbelievable," said Nathan. "And then hearing him tell stories about the players ... and I was with him when he did several Golf Digest interviews. Those are some of my favorite memories of him. Just going back in time with him talking about Arnold Palmer and Gary Player and all the great players."

Memories cherished by Aaron, as well.

"Yeah, listening to him tell stories from when he was playing golf full-time," said Aaron. "Just hearing the stories about Palmer and all the legends of the game. How they would ride to tournaments together. He was right there with them all."

Especially entertaining, said Nathan, were the stories involving another master of the game -- Ben "The Hawk" Hogan.

"He'd talk about what Ben thought about this, or how Ben always gave short answers to questions, and the time Ben told him he needed to cut his hair or something," he said. "And they were in a playoff in Memphis (1960 Memphis Open) and Tommy beat Ben with a 2-iron on a par-3 in a playoff hole. An incredible shot. And the only thing Ben said, was, 'Good shot.' And that was all he said."

The current legends of the game, too, are fully aware of Bolt's place among the golfing elite, as evidenced by a certain Eldrick Woods, who though he was up to his elbows in work at the time, took time out for a couple of quick chats with Mr. Tommy.

"During the last U.S. Open, Tiger Woods took the time to call Tommy after the Sunday round, even though he had to play the next day," Nathan said. "Then, he called back Monday to check and see how Tommy was doing. That's pretty significant, right there."


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