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Ultimate Golf Amateur: Marvin "Vinny" Giles

You were one of the most dominant amateurs of your time. Why did you choose law school over Q-School?

When I finished college in 1966, the total purse on the PGA Tour was $3.7 million. The leading money winner would take home $100,000 if he had a big year. Now, I love to compete, and I will always regret that I never proved to myself how good I might have been. But I also got married right out of college, and my wife and I really just weren’t sure we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in hotel rooms.

Now that you’ve retired, what’s next?

I’ve had a couple of inquiries in course design, but I’m only looking to get involved on a consulting basis, if it’s the right project with the right people. It would be a collaboration with an architect a heck of a lot more capable than I am.

You partnered with architect Lester George in the design of Kinloch Golf Club near Richmond, Virginia, which has been extremely well received. What did you learn?

Kinloch was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. The objective was to build a traditional golf course, taking the land that God has given us and improving it without changing it beyond recognition. We moved only about 160,000 cubic yards of earth—that’s nothing these days. It should be a relatively inexpensive proposition to build a golf course.

Which architects and courses have made the greatest impression on you?

Donald Ross at Pinehurst No. 2 and Seminole; William Flynn at the Cascades course at The Homestead, working on a mountainside with mules and horses. They took advantage of what they had, but having said that, I have a lot of sympathy for architects who don’t get a great piece of land.

Besides the increase in prize money on Tour, what’s been the biggest change you’ve seen in the pro game?

The difference is that so many of the players today—not all of them—aren’t really having a whole lot of fun. You don’t see characters anymore. You don’t see guys smile or laugh, and if they’re asked about it they’ll say, "Well, I’m in my office." That’s kind of sad. Guys like Don January, Miller Barber, David Marr: They had fun. They liked each other, traveled together, sat around and had drinks over a card game. You don’t see much of that kind of camaraderie anymore.

What is your take on the FedEx Cup?

It’s a sham. I don’t think Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or any of those guys could care less about the FedEx Cup. I hate to say it, because I want to be supportive of the Tour, but I don’t think FedEx is getting a whole lot for its money. The top players aren’t motivated by money; if they were, they’d play more than fifteen events a year. For years, I had to be a proponent of the player as an independent contractor, because we were paid by them. But at some point the Tour will have to establish rules with some teeth. If a guy wins a tournament, he should be at Kapalua the next January unless he has a legitimate excuse. With the FedEx Cup, how many top players are going to show up at six events in a row?Maybe Vijay—he loves to play. Adam Scott won’t play six in a row, and he’s still in his twenties.

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