Sterling Advice From a Football Great

By Mercer BaggsMarch 8, 2011, 7:08 pm

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.”

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Garcia among notables to miss FedExCup playoffs

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 10:24 pm

For the first time in the 12-year history of the FedExCup, the PGA Tour's postseason will proceed without Sergio Garcia.

The former Masters champ has struggled mightily this summer, missing the cut in all four majors, and he entered the Wyndham Championship at No. 131 in the season-long points race with only the top 125 making the playoffs. Six years after winning at Sedgefield Country Club, Garcia again made a run up the leaderboard and was projected to reach No. 122 heading into the final round.

But on an afternoon where Brandt Snedeker shot 65 en route to victory and runner-up Webb Simpson carded a 62, Garcia shot an even-par 70 that included three back-nine bogeys to drop from a tie for eighth into a tie for 24th. As a result, he moved up only three spots to No. 128 in the final regular-season event and will not have a tee time next week at The Northern Trust.

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He will remain fully exempt next year by virtue of the five-year exemption he earned with his Masters win last spring.

Garcia was one of 13 players who had made the playoffs every year since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. Two other members of that select group also saw their streaks end this year, as former world No. 1 Luke Donald has missed most of the season with an injury while Bill Haas finished No. 152 after a T-45 finish at Wyndham.

Other notable players who failed to crack the top 125 include veterans Aaron Baddeley (No. 132), Shane Lowry (No. 140), David Lingmerth (No. 143) and Graeme McDowell (No. 144), all of whom saw multiple-year exemptions for victories in 2015 or 2016 expire this weekend in Greensboro.

Players who finish Nos. 126-200 in the season-long points will have an opportunity to retain their PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season at the Tour Finals, a four-event series that kicks off next week in Ohio. Players who finished Nos. 126-150 will retain at least conditional PGA Tour status for next year regardless of their Finals performance.

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Bryant wins Dick's Sporting Goods Open for second time

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 10:17 pm

ENDICOTT, N.Y. - Bart Bryant made a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to win the Dick's Sporting Goods Open for the second time in six years.

With playing partner Michael Bradley facing a 7-foot birdie putt that he would make, the 55-year-old Bryant rolled in the left-to-right breaking putt for a 7-under 65 and a one-stroke victory.

''It felt good. It really did,'' Bryant said. ''He hit a great shot in there. He went after the pin, which he had to do. ... I gave it a good run. But to make a putt like that to win a tournament, there's a little bit of luck involved and it was just kind of my day. ... I've had putts made on me on 18 to lose before, so it's nice to be on the other end of the stick this time.''

Bradley, the second-round leader, bogeyed the par-4 15th in a 68.

''It was fun. We had a good time,'' Bradley said. ''He shot 65-65 on the weekend, that's tough to beat. But I put a little pressure on, I hit a good shot into 18. He made a hell of a putt.''

Also the 2013 winner at En-Joie Golf Club, Bryant made six birdies in a nine-hole stretch from the third to the 11th and had six straight pars before the winning birdie putt on the par-4 18th.

Full-field scores from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open

''I played awfully well, I didn't hit a bad shot today,'' Bryant said. ''I played conservatively, a little bit conservative coming in, but smart. It got the job done. Very pleased with the way everything went.''

Bryant finished at 16-under 200. The three-time PGA Tour winner's only senior victories have come at En-Joie, the site of the PGA Tour's B.C. Open from 1972-2005.

The 52-year-old Bradley is winless on the 50-and-over tour after winning four times on the PGA Tour.

''I played solid, 65-68-68,'' Bradley said. ''I just got beat.''

Tom Gillis (67) and Marco Dawson (68) tied for third at 13 under, a stroke ahead of Paul Goydos (65), Kenny Perry (67) and Mark Calcavecchia (67).

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Snedeker goes wire-to-wire for first win since 2016

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 10:12 pm

Even after shooting a 59 in the opening round, Brandt Snedeker had to work to secure his ninth career victory at the Wyndham Championship.

Snedeker led at Sedgefield Country Club the entire week after becoming just the ninth player to break 60 on the PGA Tour, carrying a one-shot lead into the final round. But he was caught down the stretch, first by C.T. Pan and later by Webb Simpson, to leave the outcome very much undecided.

But Simpson ran out of holes, and Pan made a costly mistake by hitting his tee shot on No. 18 out of bounds while holding a share of the lead. It meant that Snedeker needed only bogey to earn his second Wyndham title and first Tour victory since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open, instead opting to sink a 20-foot birdie putt for a closing 65 and three-shot win.

"I guess I'm turning into Bubba Watson, wanting to cry every two seconds," Snedeker told reporters. "To do it here, to shoot 59 on Thursday, to be in the lead all week, to deal with that pressure every night, to be able to step up to the plate today and shoot 65 when I had to means the world to me."

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Snedeker struggled with injury for much of last season, and this spring he missed the Masters for the first time since 2010 while toiling near the edge of the top-125 bubble in the points race. But the veteran turned things around with a T-6 finish in Memphis in June, added a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier and now has come full circle in the city where he earned his first career win at nearby Forest Oaks in 2007.

"I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was," Snedeker said. "I've still got a lot of great golf in me. I'm excited about the FedExCup playoffs. I've done this before, I've won that thing, and I can't wait to try to make a run to Atlanta in the playoffs because I'm playing great."

It was a bittersweet result for Pan, who had his wife on the bag this week and briefly appeared poised for a breakthrough victory. The former University of Washington standout made six birdies in a 12-hole stretch in the middle of his round to catch Snedeker, but his drive on No. 18 sailed well right. It led to a double bogey, and at 18 under he ended the week tied for second with Simpson.

The result was still Pan's best of his young PGA Tour career, having started the week at No. 108 in the points race despite not having a single top-10 finish this season.

"Just had a little noise in my head and it caused me to hit a bad shot," Pan said. "But overall I feel good about the whole round. I played great. Just one bad shot, but that's OK."

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Taylor crashes playoffs with closing 63 at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 9:31 pm

Nick Taylor picked a good time to shoot his best round of the season.

Taylor was the big mover in the standings during the final regular season event, shooting a final-round 63 at the Wyndham Championship to grab a share of eighth place. The result moved the Canadian from No. 129 to No. 121 in the season-long points race, ensuring a spot in The Northern Trust next week and fully-exempt status for the 2018-19 season.

"You try to block it all out when you're playing. I tried not to look at any leaderboards today, especially the second 18," Taylor told reporters. "When I got my PGA Tour card the first time I shot a 63 in the final round ironically of the Finals. So I tried to draw back on that, and it worked today."

Taylor earned his lone PGA Tour win at the 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship, and he dug himself an early hole Sunday morning with a triple bogey on No. 14 while completing his rain-delayed third round. But he made four straight birdies on Nos. 2-5 in the final round, added an eagle on No. 15 and birdied the 72nd hole to retain his card with room to spare.

"It was a long day, obviously," Taylor said. "It was a lot of sleepless nights. Last night I didn't sleep that great."

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Current FedExCup points list

Taylor was one of two players who moved inside the top-125 bubble in the final round of the regular season. Harris English started the week at No. 132, but a T-11 finish allowed him to eke in at No. 124 with no room to spare. English shot a final-round 68 that included a two-putt par from 60 feet on No. 18 when a bogey would have sent the veteran to Tour Finals.

"It's one of the more nerve-wracking feelings I've had in a long time," English said. "It's a way different feeling than trying to win a tournament. I'm glad it's over."

With Taylor and English moving into the top 125, two players saw their seasons come to an end after missing the cut at Sedgefield Country Club. Martin Piller fell from 124th to 126th and was the man edged out by English's closing par, while Tyrone Van Aswegen dropped two spots from No. 125 to No. 127.

Ireland's Seamus Power, who also missed the cut in Greensboro, finished the season at No. 125 with 377 points, six ahead of Piller.

All players who finished the season Nos. 126-200 on the points list will have a chance to earn one of 25 PGA Tour cards available at the four-event Finals, while Nos. 126-150 will retain conditional PGA Tour status for next season.