Rhoden Gets Rare Chance at Champions

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2005 Constellation Energy ClassicRick Rhoden has hopes of becoming the third to do it. And if by chance he should somehow win the Constellation Energy Classic this week in Baltimore, you can consider it done.
 
John Brodie and Ralph Terry are the other two. They both started their careers in other sports - Brodie a NFL quarterback and Terry a major-league pitcher ' and finished on the Champions Tour. Rhoden, a former pitcher with four major-league teams, says he will give it one more shot before his dream is dead.
 
Yeah, I'm going to give it one more try, I think, said Rhoden, who is now 52. It's a hard thing. I've got to go through both stages, and then the second stage, they take seven guys.
 
You can play well and not get in. Somebody's going to play really good. That's the way it is. There's going to be some good players there.
 
A non-exempt player, he's appeared in a handful of Champions events this year, claiming a Monday qualifying spot for the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla., making enough money in that outing to advance to the Senior PGA Championship, qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open, where he made the cut and sank a hole-in-one. He played in the Greater Seattle Champions Classic last month.
 
'I had no intention of doing this,' said Rhoden, who spent 16 seasons in the big leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees and Houston Astros. 'But the closer I got to 50, the better I got.'
 
That is, until he was in a collision with a cement truck in 2004. That accident left him with an ailing back.
 
I went through like six months where I couldn't sit, couldn't sleep, couldn't ride in a car, he said. I got some epidural shots through the summer. They didn't seem to help, but the week that I was supposed to get it operated on, it dissipated some. When I went to see the doctor, they did an MRI and it was still messed up with the herniation that got up the nerve, so I didn't get it done.
 
Rhoden says that though he is still not 100 percent, he is better than he was last year. The wreck was a big factor in his failing at the Champions Tour qualifying tournament last year.

Yeah, it's pretty much screwed my swing up a lot, he said. I'm just now starting to play pretty good again the last month or so. I just got into some really bad habits, I think favoring it. A lot of swings were belt high instead of getting through the ball. I couldn't get behind the ball good.
 
Rhoden was a casual golfer as a baseball player and had his game steadily improve once he retired after the 1989 season with the Astros. Growing up in Boynton Beach, Fla., he learned to play in junior high. But golf took a backseat to basketball and baseball.
 
During his five years with Los Angeles, Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. ' the clubs spring training complex ' had a course where Rhoden honed his skills.
 
'I really started playing when I was in pro ball,' he said. 'I became a 2 handicap.'

Rhoden was invited to play on the Celebrity Players Tour in 1991. And on that circuit composed primarily of former non-golf pro athletes, Rhoden has earned more than $2 million on the tour. He has membership at Pablo Creek Club in Jacksonville, Fla., where PGA Tour member Fred Funk also claims membership.
 
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