As an athletic trainer for Coach Paul W. Bryant at Kentucky and Texas A&M, Harper told his grandson of a time when the defense came off the football field and sought some strategic instructions from their leader to curtail the opponents scoring capabilities. Coach Bryant looked at the anxious group of young men and simply replied, "Stop'em."
Those few succinct words illuminating the significance of being results oriented has served Steve Lowery well through the years as he continues to contend on the ultra competitive PGA circuit. The former Alabama golf star had a chance to speak with him about the game of golf and other topics at the Travelers Championship held in Cromwell, Connecticut during the month of June.
Suffering a wrist injury about three months ago, Lowery has returned to play with a brace and is nearly healed. "I was out for about three months and then I came back about six weeks ago. I opted not to play in the US Open because of the roughs. I figured it wasn't too good for my wrist. I'm feeling good but still not quite 100 percent. Coming back from my injury I had to spend a lot more time on my short game because I couldn't hit any long shots. I have been working on my putting, sand game and short shots. I did that for about ten or twelve weeks. Then I got right back on my long game. I didn't retrain my swing. I didn't change a thing. I came right back and started playing."
When asked about his goals for this year Lowery replied, "I'd like to get back to where I've been in the past, winning again. Obviously, I want to play in the FedEx Cup Points playoff tournament. I'd like to do well in that. I'd like to get back into the Majors which are top fifty in the world ranking."
The inaugural FedEx Cup points system which determines seeding for the PGA Tour Playoffs is a subject of conversation among golfers. Consisting of four events between late-August and mid-September, the PGA Tour Playoffs is designed to create fan interest as the golf season dovetails into the fall. Featuring the top 144 players, the first three events will have a progressive cut of the field (120 and 70) which will dictate the final 30 for The Tour Championship (fourth event) where the winner will be named the FedEx Cup Champion.
Lowery made his feelings known about the new season long point accumulation qualifying format by saying, "I think it's going to be really exciting as it goes forward. You have the US Open, the British Open, the PGA Championship and it's going to go right into the playoffs. It's going to be in there right before the heart of the football season. I think that's big. We won't have to compete continuously with Alabama football and college football. We've got the Players Championship moved (mid-May) so we don't have to compete with the March madness in basketball."
Lowery spoke of the phase of his game that contributes to his success by stating, "I think if your short game is really sharp and if you're chipping and putting well then it opens up your long game. It's easier to hit at the pin because if you miss the green you can still get up and down and make a lot of birdies. Working on the short game always helps your long game. That's probably a big key."
Lowery has won over 13 million dollars since turning professional in 1983 and explains the reason for his longevity by saying, "Love of the game. I just love to play and I think my desire. I try to keep my game simple where I don't get all caught up in the mechanics of it all. It is a game and I try to enjoy it. I think that's why I've lasted so long."
His off season regiment involves playing the game he loves. "I play a lot of golf. My wife plays golf. I play with my father-in-law. I do rest but I like to get out and play golf. I don't go and overhaul my game. I end up playing a lot of golf and watching Alabama football."
The Champions Tour is a haven for golfers who reach the age of 50 and Lowery, who will be 47 in October, anticipates continuing his life's passion by competing in that forum. "The money is really big but it's more about the enjoyment of being able to play. I'm excited about having a place to play after I leave this tour (PGA). There are guys that are sixty something years old that are still playing on the Champions Tour. That's good for me because I enjoy playing and traveling around to play in tournaments."
The future of the game of golf was discussed and Lowery expressed his vision when he said, "Eventually they're going to have to do something. They are having 300 yard par three's in the US Open. They'll have to make some changes in the design of the course. I don't know if that means they're going to make the greens smaller or they're going to have to scale back the equipment advancement because it's just getting to where distance is such a factor. I don't know exactly what they're going to do."
Lowery had some fond memories of his grandfather and talked of his days with Coach Bryant. "When my grandfather retired at Texas A&M, Coach Bryant brought him to Tuscaloosa to be in charge of the film department and game film. He used to go to breakfast with him every morning down at the drug store there in Tuscaloosa. He would tell Coach Bryant how good a coach he was."
As an inaugural 2007 Hall of Fame member of the Southeast Athletic Trainers Association, the biographical listing of Lowery's grandfather reads, "Coach Bryant commented that he could read people better than anyone he ever had on his staff." Lowery spoke of one instance where his grandfather acted as a motivator for an injured player.
"He (Coach Bryant) relied on my grandfather a lot. Back then they didn't have all the NCAA rules and a player would come in to see my grandfather about taping up his hurt knee. My grandfather would say, Coach Bryant told me they're getting ready to run you off so I don't know if we need to waste any tape on you today. He'd motivate them like that to tell them you need to try harder and you need to do better because you're about ready to get run out of here."
Lowery believes competition is the best approach to learning the game of golf. "I would tell young golfers to play in a lot of tournaments and learn how to play the game from competing in those events. Don't take to many lessons. You have to learn golf on your own. It's easier to learn by an individual than it is taught. So I would recommend learning the game of golf on your own. Learn where your game is and what your tendencies are and to play in a lot of tournaments because that tells you how you're doing and what you need to improve on. Hitting balls on a golf range and working on the golf swing is not the way to get better. Learn how to play with your heart and your guts and not just play with swing mechanics and swing thoughts. Get the ball in the hole. You don't need to have a whole lot of thought. Just go out there and do the job. I used to get that type of wisdom from my grandfather. Dance with the one you brung. Coach Bryant would say that a lot. Take the talent you have and go play."
Lowery crosses paths with other former UA golfers on the PGA Tour such as Jason Bohn, Spike McRoy and Dicky Pride. "We talk Alabama football. I had a caddy say, its 110 days. And I said what and he said its 110 days until the Tennessee-Alabama game. You get a lot of that talk out here with all the former SEC golfers."
Lowery, a four year UA lettermen (1980-83) and a two time SEC Player of the year (1982-83) also was a twice honored 2nd team All-American in 1982 and 1983. The years at the capstone are treasured by Lowery as he recalls those days. "I had a lot of great memories wearing the crimson and white. Conrad Rehling who just passed away recently was my coach. We had a couple of guys, Lee Rinker and Tom Garner, who were my teammates at the university who ended up playing on the PGA Tour. Steve Hudson is playing amateur golf now and Tommy Brennan were also members of the team. I enjoyed being around the guys on the teams and the friendships. Those are special memories for me while at Alabama."
Lowery, a native of Birmingham and his wife Heather have three children, Kristen, 15, Lauren, 12 and Brent, 9.