On five occasions at the US PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach Pro Am, Australia’s Jason Day has been partnered by amateur Jim Lentz – the CEO of Toyota North America. Lentz is also a handy golfer, playing off a three handicap. Australian Golf Digest’s PGA Tour editor, Evin Priest, caught up with Lentz after he and Day finished the third round at Pebble Beach.
Jim, how much fun has it been to play the Pebble Beach Pro Am alongside Jason?
“It has been a blast; this is our fifth year and we have made the cut three times. But sadly, not this year; I just didn’t perform around the greens enough for Jason! It was a blast, though. A lot of fun.”
What stands out about playing with a former world No.1 and major champion like Jason?
“He is amazing to watch play. Explosive tee shots, he is a great putter and those knockdown, 100-yard shots he hits with dead hands are pretty to watch. I also learned a lot about concentration from Jason. He doesn’t step in to a shot that he is not committed to. It is really amazing to see up close. We amateurs don’t do that in the pro am as we are trying to stay out of the way for someone like Jason, who has a good chance to win the tournament.”
How long have you been playing golf?
“I’m 63 and I started playing golf when I was about seven years of age. I was good in high school – off scratch. I played golf in college for the University of Denver. It’s known a little more for hockey than it is for golf! Now, I play at a golf club called Vaquero Club in Westlake, Texas. Golf is a great game; you can see so many parts of the world through golf.”
In your rise through the business ranks and Toyota, how important has playing golf been?
“There’s no question, it has been huge. When I was a young manager in the company, one of the senior (directors) at Toyota I got to know very well through playing golf. He was off six and I was off two, and our matches were competitive. I think it’s important to play golf in the business world. One of our car dealers always used to play golf with candidates before hiring a general manager. He wanted to see if they cheated, because if they cheated on the golf course, they’d cheat in business – that was his philosophy. You learn a lot about somebody by how they conduct themselves on a golf course.”
What are the top three courses you’ve ever played?
“Probably Turnberry would be No.1 … Augusta National has got to be in there, and then probably Spyglass Hill. I just love that golf course.”