Every time I hear of some middle-aged hot shot talk about maybe giving the Senior Tour a whirl, I think of Mark McGwire.
McGwire, I think, is just about the most accomplished amateur that Ive seen. But he will be the first to admit that he is far from adroit enough to try out for the Champions Tour.
McGwire competed in the ADT Skills Challenge which will be aired starting on Christmas Day. Last year, he got hot and won the whole flippin thing! Greg Norman, Peter Jacobsen they all praised McGwire long and loud. McGwire took their praise in stride, said, Thank you very much, and ducked back into his home in California. Mark McGwire has been around athletics long enough to know that every dog ' and every athlete ' has his day occasionally.
I had a really great time. These guys are great and they make me feel welcome, McGwire said. I had another great time with professional golfers.
These days, he is a father to two infant children, which has cut his playing time on the Irvine, Cal., course on which he lives to 18 holes a week. However, he confesses that he handles his clubs much more than once a week. Ill go down and hit balls, mess around, do something pretty much every day, he said.
Nick Faldo was sitting nearby and overheard the remark. Youre playing more than me! he said in mock disbelief.
He spent his pro career, of course, slugging home runs, not chasing errant drives. Throughout his young life, though, he played golf. I had a golf club in my hand at five years old, he said. I played baseball in high school and played on the golf team. Ended up winning a tournament, too.
But when my baseball career first started, I touched a club probably for five years, played a little bit on the road. But basically, the last seven years of my (baseball) career, I didnt touch a club because of my back.
Jacobsen is convinced McGwire could have become a tour player if he had decided to go into golf professionally instead of baseball.
Technically, hes got an excellent golf swing. Hes got a great short game, great touch. And I told him last year when he won this thing, if he put three or four years into it, played a lot of tournaments, he could play professional golf and do well, said Jake.
McGwire isnt so sure that he would have had the same success in golf. He always believed that hitting a baseball, and particularly hitting a home run, was most difficult single skill in sports. But now he wonders if golf isnt a tougher sport.
Being competitive in golf last summer, just playing the amateur stuff, I think the sport of golf is more difficult ' just because golf can expose you in a heartbeat, whereas baseball you can get away with something. If you hit a baseball right or left ' base hit. In golf, youre in trouble.
One thing about these guys ' they know how to keep their misses in front of them and they know how to get up and down. Baseball is hard itself, but I think golf is just a little bit tougher.
In other words, the gents who think they are tailor-made for the older tour had better think long and hard about their chance of success. If Mark McGwire doesnt think he could make it, nobody can. But its a sport he can enjoy the rest of his life. You think Hank Aaron sits around in retirement and hits baseballs for a few laughs?
Its just something you can play at any age, agreed McGwire, who now plays to scratch. Theres always something to work on, and the great thing about is, you dont have to have anybody else to work on your game. If you want to, you can go down to a park and hit balls.
McGwire hits a lot of them. But he keeps the pleasure of seeing them rocket out of sight to himself. The Champions Tour will have to be left to those who have already been champions in golf.
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