Former Pitcher Tries Another Profession


WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Concentration is critical for major league pitchers and professional golfers. Humility also is essential. A short memory is a must.
Rick Rhoden also sees a glaring difference.
'In baseball when you're playing bad, they take you out,' the former pitcher said Wednesday. 'In golf, you've got to stay out there for four hours. It's not a lot of fun when you're playing bad.'
Rhoden, who spent 16 years in the big leagues, is trying to make it on the Champions Tour. He'll play in his second event with the 50-and-over set when he tees up Friday in the first round of the Allianz Championship.
'I'm not trying to do this as a lark,' the lanky right-hander said. 'This is what I'd like to do.'
Rhoden has made a comfortable living off celebrity tournaments, earning some $2 million in the last 12 or 13 years. He recently picked up $100,000 by winning the American Celebrity Tournament at Lake Tahoe for the sixth time.
But competing against the likes of Johnny Bench, Steve Bartkowski and Ivan Lendl is one thing. Going against Bruce Lietzke, Tom Watson and Hale Irwin -- and on tougher courses -- is quite another.
Rhoden found that out when he played in the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness this summer, his first appearance in a senior tournament. He struggled to a 78 in the first round but recovered with a 74 the next day and missed the cut by only one stroke.
'I hit the ball really good there,' Rhoden said. 'I just had a hard time when I got around the greens. I never played in rough like that.
'I wish I would have played in a regular event before that just to get my feet wet. I was kind of nervous the first couple of holes. After that, it was just playing golf.'
So what's more nerve-racking? That or pitching to Mike Schmidt with the bases loaded?
'They're both hard,' Rhoden said. 'But in golf, you have a direct link to what happens. In baseball, you don't always have that. You might throw one down the middle and he might pop it up. And he might not. Golf is a direct result of what you do.'
Rhoden went 151-125 with the Dodgers, Pirates, Yankees and Astros from 1974-89. He didn't get serious about golf until after retiring from baseball and has never had a formal lesson.
Actor Randy Quaid got Rhoden interested in the celebrity tour and he won the first major tournament he entered, the Lake Tahoe event in 1991.
'It's just been a nice thing,' Rhoden said. 'Not only can you make a little money at it, I think the best part of it is you get a chance to meet guys you admired in other sports.
'Michael Jordan. He's still Michael Jordan, but on the golf course, he's just another one of our golfers. Golf is a very humbling game.'
Rhoden failed in his first attempt at qualifying for the Champions Tour last November. He was done in by a 75 in the final round after shooting 70, 68 and 70.
This week he's playing on a sponsor's exemptions, and hopes to get a couple more before the year is out. If not, he'll play in some Monday qualifiers.
'My goal is to play out here as much as I can,' he said. 'If I had to choose between a celebrity tournament and this, I'm playing here.'
And now the key question. Could Jordan make money playing golf?
'If he played with Charles Barkley,' Rhoden replied.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Allianz Championship
  • More Champions Tour Preview Information
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