By Leonard Finkel
A little while back, I had the chance to attend the celebrity golf event in Lake Tahoe and got to interview quite a few of the players in attendance. I was curious how their individual skills in their chosen sports might translate into making them better golfers. I asked Hall of Famers like John Elway, Charles Barkley and Brett Hull (among others) that very question. Charles said he didn’t have much to share. If you’ve seen his swing, you can certainly understand why. Here is what some of the others had to say. We’ll share the information in a two-part series. Enjoy.
I’ve played with Chicago Bears legend Jim McMahon before. He’s an excellent golfer but the most unusual component of his game is that he plays barefoot. Jim said, "Probably the most transferable skill I took from football and it's no different from any athletic endeavor, is balance. Your feet being in balance and you under control as a quarterback is everything. I don't care how accurate your upper body might be, if your feet aren't taking the lead, you're going to throw the ball all over the yard. So, balance is the key component of that. Golf is 100% balance. It goes without saying. The hardest thing in the world to do is to hit that ball sitting on the tee. Without being in a good athletic posture and athletic balance, you don't have much of a chance of hitting a good golf shot. Every once in a while, you can get away with one, but consistency is everything in this game (golf). Really having yourself under control and trying to swing with a good base, posture and so forth is no different than the take techniques you use to learn to play quarterback."
Jim adds, "The other thing is being able to let a bad shot go. There are times out there when I had to play defender, I threw it to the wrong team. Those aren't much fun. The worst thing you could do is dwell on that. You have to let it go. It's the old Top Gun line, you just gotta let it go. In golf, you can't dwell on it either. There's another shot coming up."
NFL legend John Elway believes, "Golf is different than football in that you have to be a lot more patient. But I think the bottom line is, you're out here because you want to be competitive. To me that's the thing, anytime you're playing a game, you're competing. Our games are different but I like the competitive side."
NBA champion and current coach of the Golden State Warriors Steve Kerr had this to say, "The putting stroke can be a little bit like the free-throw; the routine, a soft touch, the need to focus and concentrate. There's probably a comparison to be made there."
Steve was one of the all-time great free-throw shooters but when I asked him if he had any putting tips that he could share, he replied, "Not really, I'm not a very good putter." (We both cracked up laughing!) "I think first and foremost, I think it's eye-hand coordination.
For whatever reason, hockey players are passionate golfers and tend to be pretty good golfers. Hall of Famer Brett Hull told me, "The thing that makes you such a great golfer as a hockey player, it's just such a natural weight transfer. You shift the weight to the back side and then you throw it back to the front side as you're coming through. There's a slight difference with turning as opposed to sliding. The sliding in hockey could hurt your golf game. Even the release of the hands helps in that aspect as well."
Tennis Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl feels, "I think in individual sports, you have to rely on yourself. You rely on yourselves dealing with the good and with the bad and shaking it off and going on. That's what tennis teaches you. I don't think tennis motion translates at all, but mentally, I think they're very, very similar."
Read part two in next month's newsletter.