I didn't start playing golf until the summer of my freshman year at college, but I got serious about it the minute I played one time. I was hooked. I never took lessons. I learned by playing with good players, taking advice and whatnot, and watching their habits and throwing it all into the memory bank all the time.
"I'm about a two-handicap now, but I don't get to play much during the season, and going into the Stanley Cup finals for three or four years made the summers really short, so I didn't have much time to work on my game. I'm not bitching, that's for sure, because it's better than last year [his Red Wings were eliminated by the Mighty Ducks in the first round of the playoffs]. In the off-season I play every day, sunup to sundown.
"It usually takes me only about a week after the season ends to get it back. As soon as your short game comes back and you get your feel, you're laughing.
"If I could putt, my game would be even better. That's the problem—my brain. If I would just be patient and bear down a little more instead of rushing everything, I'd be fine. It's that hockey mentality that's screwing me up. The actual movement is similar to a slap shot except that you slide when you're taking a slap shot, and you can't do that when you're golfing. I hit it plenty far, but I have no interest in that anymore. My game has come full circle. When I started, it was grip it and rip it and who cares where it lands, but after ten years I've come around to the straighter-is-better philosophy.
"I've played in Wayne Gretzky's charity tournament a few times—they always put me and Wayne and another NHL player in a best-ball against Mike Weir. It's a lot of fun, but there has been some serious competition. Mike beat us the first year in extra holes, but he had to play really, really well to do it. He had a bad day a couple of years ago, and I birdied four of the last six holes, and we smoked him. The next year I sank a birdie putt on the second extra hole for the win. Mike wants to beat us this year, but he's going to have to have a great day to do it. It's tough enough, and then on top of that you get the hockey players taking you out the night before. I don't think Mike is used to that.
"The biggest difference between hockey players and pro golfers is the short game. I guarantee you: On sixteen of eighteen holes, I hit it just as good. I hit it to twenty feet and they hit it to twenty feet, but their putt looks like it's going in and mine doesn't. I hit a bad shot and make double; they hit a bad shot and recover for par. They see a lot of things that we just don't see as schmoes. The difference between a two-handicap and a PGA player is like a marathon. The difference between a two and someone who can make the match play at the U.S. Amateur obviously isn't quite that far.
"I've played the U.S. Open qualifier five or six times. The AP picked it up [last year], and all of a sudden it's a big deal. I went down with my buddy right at the end of the hockey season, but I wasn't expecting anything. Of course nobody writes about the tournament I won this summer at Baltusrol [the Tillinghast Cup]. Our Brook Hollow team won the team event, and I won the individual. I shot one under on the Open course.
"I picked Mike Weir to win the Masters, and I said Woods wasn't going to win a major [last year], too. I know more about golf than I do about hockey.
"Golf is a different kind of pressure—there's the pressure of not wanting to embarrass yourself. If you have any doubts when you are addressing the ball, you are going to hit a bad shot. In hockey there's more of a flow, but in golf it's you against the ball. In hockey it's you and a team and a whole lot of other things to worry about. You've got people hitting you, you've got other people with the puck, there's so many intangibles that you can't do anything about, so you're not thinking too much about that one little puck.
"I'm going to see what happens when the collective bargaining agreement [between players and owners] expires in September before I consider retiring. When I'm done, it's over forever. I'm going to play golf in the Amateur and in the state amateurs and things like that until I just can't do it, and then I'm going to turn pro and take the money at celebrity tour events."
Scorecard BRETT HULL
BEST SCORE 67 at the Northland Country Club in Duluth, Minnesota
FAVORITE COURSES Dallas National Golf Club, Pinehurst No. 2 and Pebble Beach
MEMBERSHIPS Sherwood Golf and Country Club, Ontario; Dallas National; Brook Hollow, Dallas; Northland
EQUIPMENT "I'm in transition—too many sets, that's the problem."
Brett Hull's Slap Shot
ANALYSIS BY CLAUDE HARMON
Brett's overall swing is pretty solid. His address and take-away are good, which helps him get to a decent position at the top of his backswing. And he makes a nice shoulder turn. The bad parts are in the downswing. His arms get too close to his body as he starts to come down to the ball. This causes his hips to slide into and through impact in a blocked position. To fix it he should try creating more width on the downswing by swinging his arms past his body. As he does this, his lower body will rotate left and he will be in a much better impact position. That should put the icing on his game.