Late in the long year of 2007 I was returning from the Vegas tournament, or maybe it was Scottsdale. Its easy to lose track. Id taken the red-eye home to Orlando, arriving with drawn face, stale breath and droopy pants. Not looking a whole lot better, Chopra sat near me in coach, just another schlep caught between time zones.
I remember thinking, so this is what its like to be a journeyman golfer. Hardly appealing at six in the morning.
Three months later Chopras the toast of Hawaii with two wins in four starts, sending bottles of wine to the European Ryder Cup captain in a world class restaurant and regaling me with tales of his golfing times with former President Bill Clinton. And hes completely modest and comfortable in his own skin, not showy in any way.
Suddenly, the journeyman golfer is the eminently cool golfer with the admirable world view.
A couple of years ago at Westchester my wife, Sam, went shopping in downtown Chappaqua, he explained to me. Chappaqua is the New York home for the Clintons, and Bill happened to be out for a stroll when Sam, a striking brunette, made her bold move.
So she went up to Mr. Clinton and said, Excuse me Mr. President but my husband is Daniel Chopra, a professional golfer, and hes a big fan of yours and hes always wanted to play golf with you.
I dont know what they call that where Clintons from in Arkansas or where Sams from in Australia or where Daniels from in India. Where Im from thats called chutzpah. Thats Yiddish for gumption.
No doubt youre wondering how Clinton responded. Well, hes since played twice with Daniel in South Florida. You never know unless you ask, right?
So the journeyman golfer stuck on a red eye with every other drone is now the politically connected mover and shaker who can drop 67s like Bird could drop foul shots.
And Chopras smart enough not to reveal too much of what the President said during their time together because that just wouldnt be cool.
All Chopra would say was, I enjoyed talking to him.
That Chopra, a Swedish citizen raised by grandparents in India with homes in those two countries plus the U.S., England and Australia, would be interested in an American president piqued my curiosity.
Walking towards Waialaes 17th green in the Wednesday Sony pro-am, the Pacific to our left and the sun overhead, I tossed out The Miss Universe question at the considerable risk of sounding very un-cool.
Is there one issue that youre most concerned about as you look at the world today? I asked, aware of how rare it is to be talking to a professional golfer about a subject other than green speeds.
We need to find a way to end hatred, he said. Fighting is not the way.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have fomented for years. I lived in a part of the world where there was a good bit of strife so I understand the nuances, he said.
Chopra pointed out that Clinton was able to get feuding parties in Ireland to forge some measure of peace. We need to get people to sit down and ask, why do you hate us? he said. Lets solve this.
Someone needs to swallow their pride.
We chatted some about golf, his aversion to playing too technically. He prides himself on an ability to hit different shots, to be able to self correct. As for that tense playoff at The Mercedes Benz Championship, he admitted that had he not won after holding a three shot lead he would have been devastated.
I was desperate to win, he admitted. And he did, with a fiery 2nd shot to the 9th and a putt that hung agonizingly on the lip. I was extremely determined not to let it go.
I finished jotting all this in my notebook and followed him to the 18th tee. He launched a high, sweeping draw around the bend at the par 5, a majestic drive beyond the realm of most amateurs.
We exchanged handshakes. As he walked off the tee box, he looked back at me. Peace baby, he said with a smile.
I resolved not to judge people at six in the morning struggling to get off a red eye.
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