Sterling Advice From a Football Great


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.”