The NFL is an intense and pressure-packed business. With the Patriots’ season in full swing, it is a fitting time to see where golf fits into the lives of some New England football favorites.
Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski compares the mental nature of golf and kicking. “In golf, if you’re confident about your shot, you will hit a good shot. The same goes for kicking. Mentally, and with regard to controlling your nerves, golf and kicking are similar.
“Just thinking of the shot and not the consequences of the shot is the key. Most of all, it’s fun to clear your mind and just hit a great shot or a birdie to win a dollar off of your buddy.”
Hall of Fame Patriots’ linebacker Andre Tippett, now the team’s executive director of community affairs, found golf in college. He relates, “I actually took a golf class at Iowa, and then started fooling around with the game a bit more. I struggled with it and spent a lot of time on the range learning the lessons of mechanics.”
Drafted by the New England Patriots out of the University of Maryland in 1991, quarterback Scott Zolak was known as much for his personality as his passing prowess. He is a regular at corporate charity golf tournaments and brings his animated style to the golf course.
“There is nothing like seeing Joe Weekend Guy with 2 gloves on, taking swings, getting out a viewfinder, taking more swings, and then shanking his shot,” says the Patriots’ radio analyst on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “I love hitting into that group. That’s how they know to get moving.
“The worst shot I ever had was a par 3. I used a choke down on a 7 iron and skulled the ball into a boulder. It hits a tree and rolls back like 3 feet to our pin.It was a terrible shot, but I came closest to the pin. It was truly a Happy Gilmore moment!”
While many golfers learn the game from their fathers, Patriots’ special teamer and safety Nate Ebner glommed onto golf from the female side of the family. “My mom played a lot of golf, so I started playing with her,” says Ebner, now in
his fifth season with the Patriots. “My aunt’s house is at Ipswich Country Club, so I still play there a lot.”
For Ebner, golf is a break from the non-stop business of pro football. He relates, “It is definitely an escape. When you’re in the NFL, it is all business. Golf is a great way to get out there and interact with people.
“If I can play nine holes without losing the ball, that’s a good day on the course. My goal is to understand why I hit a bad ball, and then make adjustments. Golf has always been a little battle for me. It’s all about mental control, and staying out of my own head.”
Similar to his kicking cohort Gostkowski, Patriots’ punter Ryan Allen he sees the similarities between golf and punting. “Both golf and punting are one-rep exercises. You only get one swing, and you only get one chance at punting. Your approach, progression, and alignment are all very important.
“We all put a lot of effort and time in at the facility, so it’s great to have something that takes your head away from football for a little while. The veterans on the team have really passed golf down to us.”
John Molori is an author and columnist for numerous publications. Like him on Facebook at John Molori, Twitter @MoloriMedia. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy Patriots.com.