With Twitter, Cink takes personality directly to fans

April, 27, 2009

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Stewart Cink owns five career PGA Tour victories, has competed on four U.S. Ryder Cup teams and ranks 10th on the all-time money list with more than $25 million in total earnings.

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And yet, to more than 111,000 fans -- sorry, followers -- he is better known by the single-moniker username of his Twitter account: stewartcink.

I sat Cink down on the Hot Seat recently at TPC-River Highlands, where the Travelers Championship defending champion discussed life as a Tweeter.

Q: So I just Tweeted that I'm going to be interviewing serial Twitter user Stewart Cink. Crazy world, huh?
A: Yeah, but I take that as a compliment, actually. I like being the guy who's out in front over the rest of the players. So many of the followers tell me, "You've gotta get Phil Mickelson; you've gotta get Tiger Woods." I'm like, "Why would I want them?" You know, I like being the guy who's sort of cornered the Twitter market on the PGA Tour and being able to interface with fans out there who I never, ever would have otherwise been able to communicate with, answering a couple of questions here and there. It's been fun.

Q: I recently wrote that if new media technology was a golf tournament, you'd have an 8-stroke lead.
A: I read that, actually. I saw that.

Q: How does it feel being ahead of the curve?
A: It's cool. I mean, I wish I could translate that into official earnings or wins, but so far it's just been fun getting out the phone and typing in a little piece of B.S. or whatever [laughs]. It's amazing what people want to read about.

Cink Is On Twitter

PGA Tour player Stewart Cink already has more than 111,000 followers on Twitter. What's all the fuss about? Follow him

Q: Are you surprised at how quickly this has all happened? I mean, if I had said to you six months ago, "I enjoy your Tweets," what would've been your response?
A: Well, I would have backed away from you quickly [laughs]. I had no idea what it was until my son told me when "PTI" did a little thing on Chris Bosh. I didn't know what Twitter was, so my son told me, and I thought, well, I've been thinking about doing a Web site, kind of been putting it off, didn't know how popular it would be or how much would be involved, time-wise.

And so when he described it as a bare-bones Facebook, I kind of thought, well, maybe that's a good way to sort of get my feet wet and see if there's a decent response out there, see if people want to know how I'm doing as a golfer. And sure enough, there has been.

Q: I feel like there isn't much I can ask you about that I don't already know. I mean, I've read about the iPod that became rain-soaked when you left the sunroof open; I'm aware that you're an Atlanta Thrashers fan but were rooting for the St. Louis Blues in the NHL playoffs; I even know your family loves watching "American Idol." Is there anything else you can be asked anymore that isn't already common knowledge?
A: Well, is there anything else that anybody in America does besides those things? I can tell you that the iPod had a very happy ending that was based on all of the responses I got from Twitter. A few people offered me solutions, and one of them was that I should put it in a bag of rice and seal the bag and leave it for a few days. I did that, went on a ski trip in Utah last week, came back from the ski trip and the iPod is playing music.

Yeah, it worked and -- I haven't put anything back there to that reader; I have to go back 10,000 messages to get to the guy -- but it worked. And I did put a picture of it on there, the iPod in a bag of rice.

Q: I don't even know what to ask after that.
A: I can show you the picture, because I took the picture just for that. [Cink shows the photo.]

Q: Yep, that's an iPod in a bag of rice.
A: I put that on Twitter and, as you can imagine, I got numerous responses.

Q: Other than that, what have been some of the advantages of being able to interact with fans?
A: Well, I think the biggest advantage is that I can get my personality out there, because it's not always easy if you're not Tiger Woods or Anthony Kim or Phil Mickelson to get a personality to show through the camera lens and into living rooms. That's difficult, because in golf -- depending on the kind of person you are -- most of the time, it's better to remain kind of even-keeled and not let your emotions come out. You just want to stay focused and you've got to bear down. It's so different from other sports.

So the best thing for me is that now I've got 100,000-plus people who are getting a glimpse of Stewart Cink the person and not just what they see on television. I think it's been great for me to build a little bit of a fan base out there among the group that may not be into golf too much.

Q: Once that curtain has been pulled back, it's difficult to close it again. Do you ever feel like you share too much with the public?
A: Not really. I don't feel like there's ever any danger because I never really say anything about the future -- like, I'm going to be at so-and-so at the time or I'm going to be on this flight or whatever. Nothing like that. I just stick to the present and talk about things that are going on in my life that really don't matter -- you know, the [Toyota] Tundra, the rain, all that stuff.

It's sort of become like a cult following among my group. But none of that stuff endangers me. I never put anything specific about anyone in my family, except maybe a general thing like one plays lacrosse or happy birthday to my wife. Stuff like that.

But I don't feel like there's any problem with the veil. I love the veil being lifted because I've struggled behind the veil out on tour for so many years that now people are starting to realize that, hey, this guy has some personality, too. And it's been great.

Q: I have an idea for you, but it might put me out of a job.
A: [Laughs] OK.

Q: If the PGA Tour ever encouraged players to use Twitter during tournament rounds, would you consider it?
A: If they encouraged us to, I might do it. But for now it's not a tour rule, it's a USGA rule -- no cell phones during play. You're not allowed to use them, obviously.

Q: Think about it, though: Rather than a TV analyst theorizing as to why you hit a 6-iron instead of a 7, you could inform everyone while walking to the next shot.
A: That would be pretty cool. That would be a new way to communicate and get the info out, because most of the time those guys get it wrong anyway when they talk about us [laughs]. I would consider doing it if they would allow it, but I don't see it happening.

Q: So I can keep my job?
A: Yes. You're safe.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

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