CHICAGO, Ill. - Graig Kinzler is absolutely sure he can beat Tiger Woods. And you know what? He probably can.
Kinz, as he is affectionately nicknamed, is a golf phenom. Forget 59. Kinz has carded a 39. Forget wishing, hoping and praying for a hole-in-one. This guy thinks he should get one during nearly every round. He should feel that way considering the guy has had 1,067 aces.
Yes sir, and he's only been playing the game for four years. If my basic math is correct, that's 22 aces every month and more than five every single week.
To borrow from the great Dave Barry - I'm not making this up!
So, how come you haven't heard of Graig Kinzler? How come he's not out there challenging Tiger? Well, Graig is not a golf professional, yet. He plans to go to the PGA Qualifying School, but for now he's defending his world title. Graig Kinzler is the World Champion of Golden Tee Golf.
Yep, that coin-operated golf video game you find in grillrooms and bars all over America and the world. That's Graig's game right now, and right now, he 's the best player on the planet.
"I played golf in college and so when I saw Golden Tee I started playing," says the 23-year old Kinzler, who spent big pockets of his life at Rookies Sports Bar and Officials Time Out sports bar in the suburbs of Chicago. "It took a lot of money to get good, I'll tell ya. I played thousands and thousands of games."
As incredibly crazy as it sounds, last year Graig says he made close to $70,000 playing Golden Tee. That's more than enough, he says, to subsidize his attempts at really getting a chance to beat Tiger. Not at Golden Tee, but on the fairways of the PGA Tour.
"In my mind I'm really close to getting my tour card," says Graig. "I'm ready for Q-School. But I know it's a tough grind."
Graig plans on toughing his way through PGA Q-School this summer. But for now he's shattering records on the Golden Tee Tour. On any given day at an event, Graig can be expected to shoot somewhere around 50 for around of golf by slapping those buttons and rolling that attached ball that makes the video game work. He's making bridies and eagles on nearly every hole, knocking in 40-foot putts like they're tap-ins, and accomplishing this, quite simply and confidently, on every one of the wacky, fantasy golf courses designed by sinister computer wizards at Incredible Technologies. Downloaded courses that become larger than life on the digital screen of the most popular coin-operated video game in the world.
"There certainly are a lot of pool tables and dart games in bars, but they don't generate the revenue Golden Tee does," says Gary Colabuono, the Marketing Director for Incredible Technologies, the maker of Golden Tee. "In one year Golden Tee will generate nearly $1.2 billion in game play, food and beverage sales in the U.S."
The game, since its inception seven years ago, has become popular enough around the world to gather players from all over the globe for a Ryder Cup style event in Orlando, Florida. This past November, 16 players from the U.S. competed against a 16-man international team. Team USA defeated the World Team by a score of 35-13.
The day after the Ryder Cup event, Golden Tee staged its single elimination competition to crown a Golden Tee World Champion. It came down to Ryan Fehrens of Oakville, Ontario against Graig in a best-of-three finale for $15,000. It wasn't even a contest. Graig took the competition 2-0.
"What Tiger has done for real golf has a lot to do with what's happening to this game. Everyone loves golf," says Graig.
"It's the best game there is."
March 22, 2003