Athlete Golfers

Page 1

AVID St. Louis












JUNE 2011

VALUE: $3.95


ATHLETE GOLFERS WORDS: Dan Michel & Liz Miller


Five of St. Louis’ finest athletes have one thing in common: They all like to chase the little white ball.

The Big Hitter

CRAIG DAHL Craig Dahl has been playing golf just as long as he’s been playing football. The 6-foot-1-inch safety grew up just a mile from a golf course in Mankato, Minn., where he would practice as a kid. Some of his earliest memories are riding along with his dad in the golf cart and competing in a junior golf league. Of course, these days Dahl spends most of his time working out and playing football. The notoriously hard-hitter and special-teams standout says that although skills from football such as concentration and dynamic hip movements cross over to help improve his golf game, his innate aggression doesn’t necessarily serve him well on the course. “I definitely have to slow myself down sometimes, because I can get overly aggressive with the club and try

and swing too hard,” he says. “As a football player, you try to put all your energy and all your force into it, but with golf it doesn’t always work out the best when you do that.” Dahl says that he tries to play as much as possible in the off-season and that he especially enjoys playing with teammates. “I try to golf at different courses for charity tournaments. When I go back home, I have a few public courses that people I know will take me out to, also. Danny [Amendola] and I play, and I’ll play with Chris Chamberlain every so often,” he says, adding that the Rams keep their competitive nature even when they’re on the links. “It’s definitely competitive when we get out there with other teammates, but it’s also really relaxing to be outside and enjoy a nice, calm day out on the course.” Dahl says that his short irons are currently the strongest part of his game, but that he’s always looking to improve, whether it be from practice or with a little theatrical inspiration. “I try to keep my head and shoulders down,” he says. “But actually, every time I get up to the tee box, I always think of the line from Tin Cup, one of my favorite movies growing up. He says ‘Let the big dog eat.’” Despite his desire to improve as a golfer, Dahl mostly enjoys golf as a therapeutic way to compete without the everyday physical demands of his day job. “I just enjoy the competitive nature of it. It’s not something that’s physically demanding like football or basketball. It’s just something you can enjoy with your friends.”

Team: St. Louis Rams  Position: Free Safety Years Active: 2007–present St. Louisan Since: 2009 Favorite Courses: Boone Valley Golf Club and Old Hickory Golf Course Handicap : “I’m a bogey golfer. I hit in the upper 80s.” Must-haves on the Course: “My divot repair tool and ball marker with the North Dakota State logo on it. That’s where I went to college.” Favorite Clubs: “My Adams 3-hybrid and my 52-degree wedge.” 86 / AVIDMAGAZINE.COM / JUNE 2011

DanNY Amendola THE SPEED

Many football players talk about “the switch”—a state of mind they adopt to pump themselves up while out on the field. Danny Amendola knows this concept all too well, although he says it doesn’t help him too much in his other sport of choice: golf. “I’m more of an aggressive football player. Golf is a mental game,” says Amendola. “With golf I don’t have to switch that on like I do in football. I can just go out and enjoy the game.” That’s a frame of mind that comes with growing up as a golfer. He might not get too aggressive, but does he maintain his competitive edge? “Without a doubt. I’m not as good as some of my friends, but it’s definitely a sport where you can compete at a high level.”

the field, he does get to play in the occasional charity outing. He also likes watching a round or two on TV, especially the Masters. “I’m usually off during that period, and it’s one of the biggest [tournaments] of the year. I like the tradition they have,” he says. “I wanted Rory [McIlroy] to win it…I like to see young guys win because they’re going to be the future of the sport for the next 20 years because you can play golf forever.” Although a football player’s shelf life is just a bit shorter than a golfer’s, Amendola says he has a lot he’d like to do in golf. “I’d love to play Pebble Beach. I’d like the opportunity to lose some golf balls [there] one day,” he says. Although he remains true to his football career, he says golf is a healthy release for him. “I don’t necessarily get that adrenaline rush if I hit a good shot like I do when I make a good catch, but it’s still fun to get out there with your boys and enjoy the camaraderie.”

Amendola grew up in The Woodlands, Texas, where he started playing golf with friends in high school. “It’s a big golf community, and we had a number of country clubs where…we could go and play,” he says. Amendola also worked at a golf course while attending Texas Tech and does most of his golfing in Houston, where he lives while not in St. Louis. Although the wide receiver, who held the 2010 NFL record for all-purpose yards at 2,364, spends most of his time in St. Louis either in the gym or on

Team: St. Louis Rams Position: Wide Receiver Years Active: 2008–present St. Louisan Since: 2009 Handicap : 12 Favorite Golfers to Watch: “Anthony Kim and Rory McIlroy—any time you see young guys come in and dominate is exciting for me.” Favorite Club: TaylorMade R9 Driver JUNE 2011 / AVIDMAGAZINE.COM / 87


CAM JANSSEN Cam Janssen likes to hit people. It’s no secret. So how, you might ask yourself, could he possibly be into a sport such as golf? Well, the Eureka-born win actually didn’t have any interest in the sport until he started playing competitive hockey.

“Everyone I played with in hockey played golf,” Janssen says. “I didn’t like it at first. I thought it was kind of a goofy sport—no contact involved. I didn’t like anything that didn’t have any contact.” Eventually Janssen came to like the sport once he gained consistency and realized how relaxing golf could be—not to mention how it complemented his life as a tough-as-nails hockey player. “I play hockey all year long, then in the summer I work out and play golf,” he says. “It’s beautiful.” It’s that tough-guy attitude that’s earned Janssen a reputation with fans and hockey players alike, even though he says fights

in hockey are waning. “It’s kind of hard to get in a fight these days. It’s kind of dying out, but it’s like a light switch, man. When I have 20,000 people cheering for me, I just go out and do my thing.” With such an aggressive, competitive nature, it’s only natural to wonder if Janssen gets in any fights on the golf course. “Only with myself,” he says jokingly. “No, my hands and my body go through so much during the year that I just go out on the course and enjoy the weather and play… instead of driving myself crazy every time I have a bad shot. “Just like any other sport, you have to have your mind right,” he says. “If I’m thinking about all kinds of different kinds of things when I’m trying to golf, I’m not going to be as consistent as I want to be.” Janssen says golf and hockey do require some similar technical skills. “Hand-eye coordination. You need it in both sports,” he says. “The only difference is, I can’t let my frustrations out in golf like I can in hockey. That’s why I go through so many clubs every summer.” So, does he have any tricks to keep his temper low? “Yes, it’s called beer,” he says. “It works out really well until those last couple of holes. I’m not very good then.”

Team: St. Louis Blues Position: Right Wing Years Active: 2004–present St. Louisan Since: 1984 Favorite Golfer to Watch: “John Daly. Because he could be the worstlooking athlete I’ve ever seen in my life, but boy, he can hit the ball, and I like to hang out with him.” Favorite Club: Big Bertha Driver and 3-hybrid Favorite Courses: Fox Run Golf Club, Country Club of St. Albans and Pevely Farms Golf Club


The Fan Favorite

T.J. OSHIE Since he was a kid, T.J. Oshie has played what seems like every sport under the sun. As he worked his way through school in Mt. Vernon, Wash., many different sports fell by the wayside, but hockey and golf always remained strong with him. “Originally golf just started out as a way to get out of class and go to meets,” Oshie admits. “Then I started loving it. I only played for two years until I was on varsity.” The 24-year-old Blues forward, who’s adored by fans for his intense play on the ice, says he sees a lot of crossover between his two favorite sports. “There are a lot of similarities,” he says. “Hockey players usually hit a pretty long ball off the tee, and I think that’s just because of how much we have to snap our wrists through for a hockey shot. You’re hitting the puck in pretty much the same spot as you are in golf.” Although Oshie eventually picked hockey as his sport of choice, he still respects golf for being among the most challenging sports around. “I think just the fact that it’s so hard. You even see pros falling apart on the course,” he says. “Obviously they’re at a much higher level, and the courses are much more difficult, but it’s so hard to master; it’s almost impossible. You just want to keep getting better.” His passion for the sport eventually led him to found the T.J. Oshie Golf Tournament with his father, who manages it. “It was awesome,” he says of the most recent tournament. “The money was donated to the youth hockey program in Grand Forest [in Washington]. It was a really good turn out.” Oshie also co-chairs fellow Blues player Alex Steen’s golf tournament, which is held every year in Winnipeg. Oshie says that he and his teammates are always enthusiastic about combining sports with philanthropy. “Anything that any of us can obviously do to give back to the community, we definitely jump at the chance,” he says. “With something as simple and fun as golf, where anyone can come out and play, it doesn’t matter what your handicap is. It’s always fun to get out there, have a good time and play some different games on the course—all for a good cause.”

Team: St. Louis Blues Position: Forward Years Active:2008–Present St. Louisan Since: 2008 Handicap : 12–14 Favorite Course: “Missouri Bluffs. I played the best round of my life there. I shot a 71 all around.” Favorite Club: 60-degree TaylorMade wedge



OZZIE SMITH Every self-respecting St. Louisan knows the legacy of Ozzie Smith and his indelible impact on the world of baseball: 2,460 hits, 580 stolen bases, 15 All-Star Game appearances and 13 consecutive Gold Glove awards. He’s clearly earned the title “The Wizard,” but many don’t know the impact he’s having on the world of golf—one that comes with its own impressive title: president of the Gateway PGA Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gateway PGA Association. But Ozzie Smith wasn’t always a golfer. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, country clubs weren’t exactly abundant. “Golf was never one of those games we had access to,” says Smith. “That wasn’t a sport we even looked at on the radar.” It wasn’t until Smith was in the majors that he took notice of the sport, but even then he didn’t play. “I didn’t want the confusion of the different planes of swing when I played,” he says. “So I didn’t take it up actively until I retired in 1996.” That year, a member of the board of directors at the Gateway PGA Foundation asked Ozzie to participate in the Whitey Herzog Golf Tournament. “I went out there the day before and hit some golf balls. I spent my career hitting a ball that was moving. [I thought], “This ball is sitting still, so how hard can it be?’” he says. “I found out very quickly that it’s probably the toughest thing I’ve ever taken on.” Smith adds that golf fills the competitive void that retirement left in his life and that he tries to hit the course whenever he can. “I play to a seven handicap. Sometimes it feels like a 14.”

Team: St. Louis Cardinals Position: Shortstop Years Active: 1978–1996 St. Louisan Since: 1982 Handicap : 7 Favorite Courses: Bellerive Country Club, Boone Valley Golf Club, Country Club of St. Albans and Fox Run Golf Club Most Sought-After Skill : “You’ve got to be able to improvise. That’s what you see with Tiger Woods and Phil [Mickelson.]”


As more than a decade passed, Smith golfed regularly, but almost two years ago, two members of the Gateway PGA approached him with the idea of becoming president of the foundation. He was apprehensive at first. “Being president was something I’d never taken on before,” he says. “They convinced me that I would be able to have an impact on helping them grow the game in the inner city and in the process maybe find another Ozzie Smith somewhere, so I took on the challenge.” Today, Smith’s presidency finds him, among other things, planning the Gateway PGA Foundation Pro-Am, an annual tournament that takes place in early June. But instead of a slow-paced, celebrity-laden event, Smith wanted to breathe some life into his tournament. “I wanted people to have this personal experience,” he says, adding that the tournament hosts no more than 24 foursomes. “That way I’m able to meet and greet people and spend some time with them.” Despite his busy schedule and the occasional flare-up from old injuries, Smith still sets goals for himself and has no intention of slowing down any time soon. “I have not reached the level of consistency I want to be able to shoot at,” he says. “I’m just going to keep going until I can’t swing the club anymore.” A


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