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Irwin opens up

NEWPORT BEACH — When Hale Irwin sank a 45-foot-putt as part of his remarkableU.S. Open win in 1990 he erupted with high-fives and high-stepping in celebration.

Many viewed that as a moment when Irwin was uncharacteristic. Irwin’s wife, Sally, contends it was her husband showing his true self.

These days, Irwin, at 66, is displaying himself more and more. After Irwin spoke to and entertained a packed banquet room at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, he admitted that his personality has changed. He is looser. He is more willing to give more of himself when discussing the game.

It’s almost like that day he won theU.S. Openin 1990.


“I was in love with everybody,” Irwin said, reminiscing when Toshiba Classic emeritus chair Hank Adler asked about Irwin’s third Open win.

Irwin at times poked fun of Adler. When Irwin discovered Adler was wearing a feminine-looking watch around his hand, the Hall of Famer gave a scared look to the crowd and positioned himself further away from Adler.

Irwin was comical and candid during his 30-minute interview for the Breakfast With A Champion, as part of the 18th annual Toshiba Classic.

Irwin can easily be described a champion, with 20 PGA Tour wins and a record 45 victories on the Champions Tour to his name. Two of them came at the Toshiba.


He shared that his golf game was self made and he has never received a lesson. In addition, with a background based in football, Irwin was generally viewed as intense and tightly wound.

Sally has never seen that to be the case. She knows the Hale who showed up to the breakfast Tuesday morning.

“He has always been like that,” Sally said from their home in Arizona (She said she’s coming to Newport Beach Wednesday). “When he ran around at theU.S. Openthat was really like Hale. He can definitely be a cutup. He is showing that to the public a little more. Maybe he’s relaxing more a bit. But he’s always been that way with me. He keeps me laughing. He is so funny. He might not think he’s funny, but he is.”

Sally also knows her husband to be charming.

They met at the University of Colorado during their junior year. Sally remembers getting over a breakup just before a backwards dance, when the girls asked the boys out. The pledge mom from Sally’s sorority tried to set her up with Hale, but he was already taken.

“My pledge mom fixed me up with a complete dud,” Sally said.

She and her date sat the same table with Hale and his date.

“We ended up meeting at the table,” Sally said. “We talked a lot and we hit it off. I got up to go to the bathroom and he followed me. He asked me out to go out the following week.”


They’ve been together ever since. They’ve been married for 43 years. They have a son and daughter and three grandchildren.

They all know Hale to be a loving man. On Tuesday, he showed some of that love.

Twitter: @SteveVirgen