Sterling Sharpe sees it. The man knows talent, be it on a football field or a golf course.
For two days in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Sharpe, a former wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, played alongside Tim Hegarty in an eGolf Professional Tour event.
Both players missed the cut, but Sharpe, now an analyst for the NFL Network, saw enough over 36 holes to be convinced Hegarty has the talent to play this game at a high level.
“I’ve been around a lot of professional golfers, and he can play with those guys, he has that kind of game,” Sharpe said. “He definitely has the length, long and straight, can move the ball both ways.
“But if there is one thing I noticed, from a competitor’s standpoint, he’s too hard on himself. Go lighter on yourself, man.”
When told of Sharpe’s assessment, Hegarty paused and said, “Yeah, that pretty much sounds about right.”
During the second round of the event in Hilton Head, Hegarty was even par for the day until an errant shot led to double bogey on the par-5 11th. That begat bogey on 12, which begat bogey on 13, which begat bogey on 14.
“Obviously, I have to get better in that area,” Hegarty said of the emotional aspect of the game. “I once heard, I believe it was (former PGA Tour professional) Cliff Kresge say, ‘The guys who make it out here are the guys who don’t beat themselves up.’
“I just know what I’m capable of doing – that’s the frustrating part. It would be one thing if I didn’t think I could win a tournament at this level or at least put myself into contention, but I know I can. My expectations are high.”
Sharpe understands. His competitive drive led to five Pro Bowl appearances in seven years, 65 career touchdowns and the receiving Triple Crown in 1992 (league leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns).
He was blazing a path to Canton, Ohio before a neck injury prematurely ended his career in 1994. Nowadays, he uses golf to fill that competitive void. While other retired athletes are playing the sport with buddies for beer money (or slightly more), Sharpe is a regular in pro-ams and occasionally tees it up in mini-tour events.
“I want to know if everything I’m working on, on the range, translates during competition, under the gun,” said Sharpe, a University of South Carolina football legend who currently works with former Georgia Tech and South Carolina golf coach Puggy Blackmon.
“I want to learn how to play golf inside the ropes. It can’t do anything but make me a better player.”
Sharpe retains his amateur status. This allows him to play in the pro-am portion of the Bob Hope Classic each year, as well as the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am on the Champions Tour and the BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Nationwide Tour. And, as he said with a hearty laugh, “Man, I don’t need that kind of stress (playing for money). I’ve got a job. Let them worry with that stuff.”
For the record, Sharpe shot 86-75 in his home state event.
“I’ve been going through some swing changes. In the first round I wasn’t really sure where things were going, but I got more comfortable with it (in Round 2),” Sharpe said. “That was more like it.”
It’s not unusual to play alongside someone with a well credentialed past on the mini-tour trail – perhaps a recent All-American; maybe a former PGA Tour member, even a past winner.
But legitimate Hall of Fame candidates – whether for golf or another sport – are rarer than red diamonds.
Hegarty, a New York Jets fan to the nth degree, delighted in the luck of the draw. He and the third member of their group, Tim Cantwell, spent two days talking shop with Sharpe, while Sharpe did the same.
“We had a great time,” Sharpe said. “I kept asking them questions about golf and they wanted to talk to me about football.”
“We talked about everything, from (current Green Bay quarterback Aaron) Rodgers vs. (former Green Bay quarterback Brett) Favre to his chances of making the Hall of Fame,” Hegarty said.
“I also congratulated him on an awesome week. The tournament was right after the Packers had won the Super Bowl and his brother (former tight end Shannon Sharpe) had just been inducted into the Hall of Fame. You could tell by his reaction that he was really appreciative that someone took notice of such a big week for his family.”
The same can be said of Hegarty when it was relayed to him that Sharpe learned something from their grouping.
“The one thing I picked up, is that they (Hegarty and Cantwell) are very committed when they get over a shot. They may talk and have fun in between shots, but it’s all business when it’s time to hit. That’s something I need to be able to do,” Sharpe said.
Responded Hegarty, with great sincerity: “ That’s pretty cool.”
“You know,” he added, “this is something that I’ll have for the rest of my life (playing alongside Sharpe). It was a great opportunity. I mean, it’s Sterling Sharpe – my best friend used to have his jersey.”
Up next for Hegarty is a pre-qualifier for the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship in Tampa, Fla. For those not in the know, some players have to qualify just to get into a Tour’s Monday qualifier.
If that doesn’t work out, he’ll compete in the Ocala Open, in Ocala, Fla., March 16-18, and then some Moonlight tour events before picking back up with the eGolf Tour at the end of April.
Hegarty played a one-day Moonlight event last week and shot 69. After his $100 entry fee, his net profit was 15 bucks.
“You’re not going to make much money doing those things, but it’s a good way to make a little bit of extra cash, if you play well, and play competitively,” he said. “I want the practice. I want to be able to work on my problem areas.”
“This is a big summer for me. I’ve got some Tarheel (former name of the eGolf Professional Tour) events, some qualifiers in New York (such as for the U.S. Open). I have to practice harder, prepare the best I can,” Hegarty said.
“I've got to stop doing the things I've been doing and play the way I'm capable of playing.”
Sterling Advice From a Football Great
Sterling Sharpe sees it. The man knows talent, be it on a football field or a golf course.
Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda
Tiger Woods looks in complete control of his iron play at PGA National.
Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first Saturday birdie with via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:
Woods' hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.
The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.
One hole later, Woods would added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.
Traj talk— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) February 24, 2018
And now, the putter raise pic.twitter.com/gW5HDorWSr
O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters
DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.
The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.
David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.
Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.
Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.
''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.
''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''
Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.
But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.
''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.
The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.
Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.
In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.
Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.
The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.
“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”
Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.
“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.
ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.
“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”
ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.
“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”