When a professional sports team is eliminated from their playoffs, the usual joke is that the team is “going fishing.” But it turns out, a lot of them end up going golfing. Some athletes are so into golf that they don’t even wait for the off-season to hit the links.
Consider the case of Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, who recently played a round of golf on an off-day while nursing an injury. When news of his golf outing hit the media, Beckett was pretty angry, saying he could do whatever he wanted in his downtime. With all the stress from the media, it’s easy to see why Beckett would want to grab his gear and head to links away from everything.
Similarly, Michael Jordan was so obsessed with golf in his prime that he scheduled his workouts around his tee times – and this was during a time when he was winning MVPs and NBA Championships every year. He even hosts his own tournaments for charities. Neither Beckett nor Jordan, however, compare to Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr, who once played 36 holes of golf during an off-day in the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals. When asked why, he replied, “Because there wasn’t time to play 54.”
It’s no secret that many professional athletes are passionate about golf. From an early age, these athletes have been told what to eat, how to act, how to dress and what to say. For athletes, golf can represent a break from the trappings of their celebrity lifestyles. They can relax on the course, let down their guards and be themselves around friends. Some professional athletes also get the ultimate departure from their team sports – an emphasis on individual excellence.
Jordan was one of the most competitive athletes ever to play professional sports; his tenacity is what made him so great on the basketball court, and it’s what keeps him coming back to the golf course—even to the detriment to the NBA team he owns, the Charlotte Bobcats. Jordan has reportedly lost over a million dollars betting on golf in his day, yet he still continues to play.
While athletes have the best facilities for physical workouts, there isn’t much that can match the mental trial of a sports contest. Golf can be used to keep a mind sharp without putting too much physical strain on the body. The mental dexterity required to last 18 holes in the sun is perhaps even greater than the capacity to get through a sporting event played largely on adrenaline and emotion. Athletes who play golf regularly get a chance to exercise their minds, which directly helps them in their respective sports.
However, for all of the love athletes have shown for golf, very few have broken through to the professional ranks. Today’s most notable athlete-golfer, Tony Romo, has tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the US Open many times. Jerry Rice was given entry into two Nationwide Tour tournaments, only to miss the cut each time.
While these athletes have all the physical tools in the world, that they can’t crack the professional golf ranks is a testament to the athleticism and mental toughness of golfers. It also speaks highly of Fuhr, Jordan, Beckett and the rest. Even if they can’t be as good at golf as they are at their respective sports, at least they’re willing to let golf humble them and teach them a few things they didn’t already know.
With that mindset, it’s no wonder these athletes find a way to excel at both sports.