It doesn't take much to get Joe Inman talking. Sometimes the former PGA Tour player doesn't even need a question to take off on a monologue.
Part way through a recent conversation, he offered, "I tell people I turned more guys pro, because they'd see me and they'd think, 'Hey, if he can make it, I can make it.' "
Inman made it well enough to earn some $750,000 during a 14-year career that ended after the 1986 season. "I was almost 40, had no job and no rich relatives. I had to go to work," he says.
Today, that nomadic tour life behind him, Inman enjoys being with his family at their Georgia home practically every night. His job as a sales representative for Ping keeps him on the move during daylight hours, but days of living out of a suit case are a thing of the past.
That's why this will be a special weekend for him, as he will be in town for the second annual Chesapeake Golf & Travel Show at the Convention Center.
Inman (Friday-Sunday) and PGA Senior Tour member Don Massengale (Friday-Saturday) will greet attendees, conduct clinics and, probably without prompting, Inman will be delighted to tell some of the stories that kept his friends and fellow pros relaxed for years.
Or, as one of them once said, "If you ever had to pick someone to be a goodwill ambassador to the world, Joe could be your man." Considered one of the most enthusiastic people around the game of golf, he doesn't hesitate to show his feelings, and he has good words for everyone. Usually a lot of them.
Even though it means being away from home for two successive weekends, Inman showed his enthusiasm for the game when he exuded the same excitement about the show and his role in it, as he did talking about his Thanksgiving weekend plans that called for him and another parent to take their teen-aged sons to a junior tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. And, by the way, the trip began with a round of golf at Augusta National.
It probably meant more to the other three than to Joe, but he probably got more enjoyment out of watching them than anything else.
Inman played in seven Masters tournaments and won a Kemper Open when it was played in his then-hometown of Charlotte, N.C.
After leaving the tour, Inman lived in Myrtle Beach for a couple years while putting together a course project. It wasn't too long after the partnership lost the option on the land that a member of the Solheim family called and asked if he'd be interested in taking a job with Ping.
"That turned out to be one of the great calls of my life. My wife said, 'Take it.' And I did."
During those sometimes-less-than-glamorous years as a tour pro, Inman remembers more than once leaving a tournament site for another city and another of those Monday pro-ams with a celebrity pro, and waking up the next morning and thinking, "Where am I?"
Still, at age 46, he sees the dilemma of play/not play in his future. "I have four years to go to be eligible for the Senior Tour, and it will be the same as before.
"I'll be playing against the same guys. I wasn't good enough in those years to win a lot of money in 10 or 12 events; I had to play 30. So, as a Senior, I'll have to play 30-some again. It's hard to conjure up the feeling of what that would be like."
Inman plays often enough to know he can be competitive. He takes care of himself, he's in good shape, and, according to him, there are no bad bones. But, as he says, "I can't imagine leaving home.
"I used to leave home all the time, but now it's hard to make me leave. Our children are 16, 10, and 7, and they need mom and dad," Inman said. "Still, doing trade shows, camps, clinics, it gives me a chance to teach, a chance to be a pro, or at least to feel and act like one."
And, as far as this weekend is concerned, a chance to talk golf with anybody who'll listen.
GOLF SHOW FACTS
What: Chesapeake Golf & Travel Show
Where: Baltimore Convention Center
When: Show hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday; 10-5 on Saturday, and 10-4 on Sunday
Who: The event has drawn 125 exhibitors, and will have, among other things, computerized swing analysis, hitting nets, long drive, chipping and putting contests, and numerous prize giveaways.
Parking: Available at Camden Yards Lot C ($3 a day), with free shuttle service.