April 14, 2010
There is something generically addicting about golf to any and all athletes who have played it. Chances are, if you didn't start playing as a kid, you took up the game while in college or right when you got out. You played a few times, hit a couple of solid shots, made a putt here or there, and were addicted.
It's isn't far off to say golf is as addicting as any substance in the world. The need for more golf is the thing that gets husbands in trouble all across our land. The thing about golf that is brilliant is that it is painstakingly relaxing. It soothes you to sleep while it makes you want to toss the entire bag in the water.
The only other thing golf does that no other sport does is it makes you think you can master it. It makes you think you can beat it. That's why people like Jerry Rice and Michael Jordan, competitive to the core, think they're good enough to compete.
Here is a news flash to anyone with this thought -- you're not. I'm sorry, but you're not.
Rice is going to try and play as a pro, competing in this week's Nationwide Tour Fresh Express Classic. He will fail. Probably by a lot.
See, tournament golf and golf seem like they're very similar. It is basically the same sport being played, but it isn't the same sport. Not at all.
For full disclosure, I must tell you that before I started writing for a living, I played mini tour golf.
I thought I was good enough to play on a higher level. I had collegiate opportunities to play at solid Division I schools, which I declined to go be a college kid, but I played in some events in college where I competed with people at elite schools around the nation. I had some game. So I forked over the cash to play on a tour after I got out of college and fine-tuned my game. I have always been able to produce scores around par. A 71 here, a 69 there, the occasional 67 when a putt or two drops. I thought that was good enough. It isn't.
Playing tournament golf takes a lot more than skill. It takes years and years of experience being in that same moment over and over and over again, having a putt to win and missing, having a putt to win and missing and then having a putt to win and making! It is something that a lot of guys you have never heard of are so good at. Being comfortable, stringing a few good rounds together and pulling in a check.
I chatted with ESPN's Scott Van Pelt last year and he brought up a great point that I have recited to a few people that wanted to pursue the professional golf dream. He said there are probably 20,000 people in this world that can shoot a 68. There are 7,000 that can shoot 68 two days in a row. Maybe 2,000 that can do it three days in a row but there are only a select few that can do it consistently enough to play on tour.
This Thursday Jerry Rice will find out what Michael Jordan did when he wanted to be a pro golfer years ago. Those three-footers aren't good in this game. That crappy tee shot you hit on the first hole counts. Every shot you hit, or lose, will be another blemish on your scorecard.
Back in 1991, Jordan said the following about his future in the golfing world:
"After basketball, I want to be a professional golfer. I want to play in the NBA five more years, that will be 12. At that point I think I'll still be able to do things I'm doing now. But then I'll start going down, and I can't play when I start to go down. I'll be done when I'm 33. Then I want to play a couple of years in Europe. And then I want to start my golf challenge.
"I should be 35 then. That's about when Calvin Peete started."
It didn't take MJ long after basketball to realize it isn't so easy. Take it from someone who has been out there, pro golfers are pro for a reason, and switching over just isn't an option. If this game was easy for everyone, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.