Hunter vs. punter


ARLINGTON, Texas – Perhaps Cowboys Stadium would seem less than ideal for a golfer named Hunter to square off against a former NFL punter. But Golf Channel’s “Hunter vs. The Punter” challenge on Wednesday was not your ordinary event.

Hunter Mahan withstood the fancy footwork of Mike Saxon, punter for the last Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl-winning team. They may have been competing inside the spacious stadium without a crowd, but they did have to endure the barbs of David Feherty, who stood alongside the two and provided steady banter.

The issue at hand: Is a Super Bowl punter or a PGA Tour golfer more accurate at his trade?

The catalyst behind the exhibition was Golf Channel’s NFL-themed, four-program series “Playing Lessons,” where current and past NFL stars play golf with Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. The four-part series of 30-minute shows begins Tuesday.

After the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets open the season Sept. 11, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo appears the following Tuesday on “Playing Lessons.” The next Tuesday, following Eagles-Falcons on Sunday night, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is featured. On Sept. 25, it’s Steelers-Colts, followed on the 27th by Jerome Bettis and Lou Holtz joining Chamblee. In the final week, after Packers-Falcons on Oct. 9, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will appear on the Tuesday show.

And while the “Hunter vs. The Punter” event at Cowboys Stadium promoted “Playing Lessons,” it definitely had a unique, five-event format.

First, standing on the 40-yard line, Mahan chipped golf balls and Saxon booted footballs toward a corner of the end zone. Closest to the end zone without going into the end zone would win.  Hunter not only chipped closer, he traded one of his golf shots for a football and surprisingly kicked it dead inside the one-yard line.

“He’s at the peak of his career, and he just married a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader,” Feherty said of Mahan. “I hate him.”

Event 2 required Mahan to pop a golf ball off the face of an iron three times before trying to hit it into a tub 10 yards away without the ball touching the ground. Saxon had three shots at gently booting a football into a 10 tub also 10 yards away.         

“Well,” Feherty surmised, “the marks for technical merit were low, but artistic impressions . . . superb.”

In a third event Mahan opted to putt footballs while Saxon rolled footballs with his feet from the five points of the 50-yard line Cowboys star to the center of the star. The final two events involved trying to hit any part of the goal post’s crossbar or uprights from 10 yards out; and, trying to hit a pin flag from 10 yards away.

“It was fun to be out here,” Mahan said. “Something  different, crossing sports here. I don’t think many golfers can say they’ve played in Cowboys Stadium.”

Said  Saxon: “I haven’t swung my leg that many times in the last 15 years. It was fun. Good to be on the Golf Channel. Craziest event I’ve ever been involved in.”

- Hy Cotton contributed to this report