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Golf Life: Brandi Chastain

"I fell in love with golf when I was eight. My grandfather used to take me to Pebble Beach—it's an hour south of where I grew up—and we would go to the AT&T Pro-Am and see some of the best golf in the world on some of the most beautiful courses you could imagine. We'd go to the driving range, and he would sit behind me and give me pointers. It was kind of the conduit to our relationship.

"Golf has always been something that my family did when we wanted to spend time together. We could laugh together, we could compliment one another—all the things that maybe you forget to do in your everyday life you could do on the golf course. You know, boys against girls, Mom and Dad against the kids. . . . It's been a wonderful family game.

"Now I use golf in various ways. I love to challenge myself. Going out on the course is a chance to say, 'Okay: Can I focus for the two or three seconds that it takes to make this swing?Can I get it right?And how many times can I get it right?And if I get it wrong, why did I get it wrong?' My profession is soccer, and I love the technical aspects of soccer, just like I love the technical aspects of golf. I enjoy trying to be a technical golfer.

"Another way that I enjoy golf is with friends. When I'm feeling under pressure with the game of soccer, my teammates and I will go out to the course and we'll make it an enjoyable afternoon. It's usually Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and I who go out, and we always joke around, toss balls at one another before a shot. Mia is very serious about golf, which I wish I was, so we try to keep her from getting too serious. Mostly it's about laughing and giving each other a hard time.

"I'm not so bad off the tee. I'm not perfectly accurate, but that's where I feel the most comfortable. I like to just grip that club and hit it as hard as I can.

"The hard part comes after I've hit a good drive or a good long iron. I don't know where the pressure comes from. It's not like it's my job. I've just put it on myself, but I talk myself out of making a good shot. From sixty and in, where everybody makes their money, is not my strong suit. I had a hole today where I probably hit it as far as I've ever hit it and was sixty to the pin for my second shot—and it took me four strokes to get there.

"Once I was playing with a group of three gentlemen and I had a sand shot that was buried—you could just see the top of the ball. And it was on a downhill lie, right at the edge of the lip, so I couldn't get my feet set. My partner was standing over my left shoulder, far back enough so that I wouldn't hit him with my club. But I had to close the face of my wedge a bit so I could dig down into the sand, and when I did that I got a club full of sand, and I lifted it up and it went right into his face. I had just met these guys that morning, and there I was thinking I'd blinded this guy for life. It was very embarrassing, but that's what I love about golf: There's room for improvement. Nobody in the world hits everything as they want, and we laughed about it. . . .

"I should take more lessons, but with my commitment to soccer it's hard. I tried taking a clinic from Tiger Woods once, sort of. . . . He was in northern California teaching underprivileged kids the game of golf. So I called one of his representatives and said, 'Can I be an underprivileged kid for a day?' He said no, but that I could come and hang out. I got to use Tiger's two-iron while he was doing the clinic. Hitting with his club was like lacing up Pele's shoes or swinging Barry Bonds's bat, you know?You don't get to do that every day. It was a very awe-inspiring encounter.

"When I'm at my best in soccer, and when I do things well in golf, is when I'm not thinking. Which is hard to do, because you stand over that ball and you want to think, 'Okay, hold it this way, take it back like this, how steep, how shallow, what's the wind doing . . .' I try to take myself out of that. If it's practice, I think about those things, but on the course I try to just play the game, because there's no reason to go out and ruin a good day's worth of golf with too much thinking.

"You can't be more serious than your actual ability. I mean, I'm a professional athlete, so I expect myself to be able to figure things out. But I try not to get stressed about it. I always find that when I do enjoy myself I play better. There are too many things in life. . . . If you don't have to create the stress, then just don't do it."

Scorecard BRANDI CHASTAIN
AGE 35
HANDICAP "Probably 25. But my scores aren't indicative of how good a golfer I think I may be."
BEST SCORE 87
FAVORITE COURSES "Portugal, down in the Algarve. We go there every year for soccer. Absolutely beautiful."
EQUIPMENT "Everything is from Nike—they sponsor me in soccer."

Brandi on the Tee
ANALYSIS BY CLAUDE HARMON
Brandi has a good athletic setup. Her stance is a little narrow for a driver, which will cause her problems in the backswing. Her take-away is okay, though a bit on the inside; note how low her right arm is going back. Her real problem, though, lies at her top-of-the-backswing position. Her legs have lost their stability and her feet have rocked back, leaving her weight in a reverse position, with her upper body moving forward to compensate. Coming down, her lower body is very inactive. You can see her legs sliding into impact, which will cause weak and inaccurate shots. But her follow-through looks great—many players would give the shirts off their backs for that finish.

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