From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Golf Book
Getting Sacked by #56
By Dwight Freeney
As players, we always have a way to get back at you.
During the off-season I play golf two or three times a week. I’ll even sneak in a round here and there during the season. But I never play with any of my Colts teammates. I couldn’t take it. Football guys talk more trash than anybody. I don’t want to show up at practice and get ragged about missing a four-footer or losing a press. It’d get bad in the locker room. I mean real bad. I play golf to relax. That’s why I have my local group of guys to beat up on me. They’re not going to tell anybody what I shot.
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Of course, it can’t always be low profile. A few years back I got asked to play in Michael Jordan’s Celebrity Invitational in the Bahamas. I was just getting into golf then, but could typically shoot in the 90s if I kept my act together. I remember I had been playing pretty well leading up to it, and so was pretty psyched to fly down there. I had my people called Michael’s people to let him know I would play.
It’s a best-ball format tournament, and they pair you into two-man teams. Wouldn’t you know it, I got paired with Lawrence Taylor, the former star linebacker for the New York Giants, as if I even need to tell anybody who he is.
L.T. was my favorite player growing up, without question. I grew up in Connecticut and so the Giants were my team. In my bedroom I had L.T. posters and stickers plastered all over my walls. I mean #56 was my idol.
Now imagine how nervous you’d be meeting your boyhood idol for the first time. Combine that with the fact that there are television cameras all around. Now I’m fine with millions of people watching me rush a quarterback, but my golf swing, that’s a different story. I was shaking in my spikes as I teed up my ball.
Since retiring, Lawrence Taylor eats, sleeps and breathes golf. He’s a scratch player, plays thirty-six holes a day and thinks nothing of it. Sports Illustrated subscribers will remember the cover story that ran in July 2006, about how his addiction to golf saved him from another worse type of addiction. That story also talked about how competitive L.T. is on the golf course. All I can say is you better believe it. I could tell by the look in his eye on the 1st tee that he was there with one purpose: to win the tournament.
I actually whiffed shots that day. Swung at the ball and missed with cameras rolling. And when I didn’t whiff I would top the ball or squirt it off the hosel. I couldn’t believe how bad I played. L.T. couldn’t believe it either. He kept giving me the evil eye after each one of my meltdowns. I only needed to help him a little, but I didn’t help him at all, not even on one hole. I was apologizing to him up and down the fairways the whole weekend. I even tried to talk some football with him to break the ice, but L.T. wouldn’t have any of it. He was there to play golf. First time ever meeting my idol and I piss him off.
I’ve gotten better since. I can even throw up some scores in the 80s when I get it going. I’ve actually run into Laurence a few times, at other celebrity golf outings and such, and each time he’s introduced me as the worst golfer who ever lived. Busted my chops hard. I mean, L.T. and I are friends now, but he had no qualms taking me out in front of everyone. I still haven’t played with him again, so I’m awaiting the chance to redeem myself.
But like I was saying at the beginning, the only thing harder than golf is playing golf with other football players. They’re professionals at getting in your head.
Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC (c) 2010. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.