Big Mac might have the drive to win in golf, too
Mark McGwire is not a better golfer than Peter Jacobsen, Nick Faldo, Paul Azinger or the other golfers who joined him in the ADT Skills Challenge at Boca Rotan, Fla., last month. But the slugger beat all the pros in the made-for-TV event that was taped and will air on NBC on Dec. 27-28 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
The retired home run slugger is a zero handicapper, though he plays only one or two days a week. He won the long-drive contest at 319 yards, finished second in another skill competition and tied for second in a third.
'It was definitely fun, and it was an honor to play alongside these fantastic pros I have watched for quite some time,' McGwire says. 'Peter made me feel at home, and so did the other pros.'
McGwire says he took up golf when he was 5.
'My father had polio, and it was the only sport he could play,' he says. 'I quit baseball my sophomore year in high school to play on the golf team. I went back to baseball my junior year, and things worked out pretty well.'
Jacobsen, amping up as he prepares to join the Champions Tour in March, says he's impressed with McGwire's game.
'Nobody was really that shocked (that McGwire won),' Jacobsen says. 'Everybody knew he had the talent. The golf swing is exactly the same as baseball, just on a different level and plane.
'That Mark competes so well under pressure didn't surprise me, because he has been in that kind of situation many times Ñ 3-2 count, bottom of the ninth, he needs to get a base hit to win, and he gets it. What surprised me was his short game Ñ his wedge, recovery shots, bunker play and putting. That's generally the area that separates a very good amateur and a professional.'
Jacobsen says he finished 'third or fourth' in the long-drive competition at about -290 yards.
'When I give a clinic, I start with a wedge and move up to the driver,' the Portland pro says. 'In the Skills Challenge, we started with the driver, and it wasn't easy. There was a crosswind of about 10 miles per hour, and it was a pretty tight fairway. Two or three golfers missed the fairway completely. I got all three of my drives in, which earned me the Hale Irwin Consistency Award.'
Jacobsen says McGwire, 40, could have a future in golf if he desires.
'He has one of the finest swings in the game,' Jacobsen says. 'We were all scrutinizing it, and we couldn't find much wrong with it. If he worked hard for the next few years, he could go to the Q-school and get his card Ñ not that he's going to do that.'
If McGwire intends to do that, he isn't saying.
'Since I retired from baseball, my new addiction is golf, along with my family,' he says. 'I like the competition. I might enter some tournaments like the Southern California Amateur and the U.S. Amateur, but I don't know where this will take me.'
• When Bill Walton suggests in his latest ESPN.com article that Rasheed Wallace is an 'embarrassment and a disgrace' to the city of Portland, he gets no argument here. But Bill, when you write that Portlanders 'have been incredibly forgiving of all of my own transgressions against human decency,' to what exactly do you refer? Could you go into a little more detail?
• Help me out here: Would the editor who crafted the headline 'Bush will ensure Saddam gets fair trial' be the same one who wrote, 'Kersey will make Wallace talk to media'?
• Hawaii's Mark Kuebler scored 24 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime, to lift the Rainbow Warriors past Oregon State on Monday night in Honolulu. If the name sounds familiar, it's because the 6-5 senior is a former South Salem High standout who averaged 22.4 points and was most valuable player in his division as a sophomore at Clackamas Community College in 2001-02.
Kuebler leads Hawaii with a 19.2 scoring average while shooting .500 from the field and .448 from 3-point range.
• Not so good to see: Ruben Patterson, jumping on the press table at the end of last week's Laker game, pointing to the fans, thumping his chest, celebrating as if the Blazers had won a title. Save that for the playoffs, Rube.