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Golf Life: Wayne Gretzky

"I started playing golf when I was about seventeen, because in the hockey world everyone says you play hockey in the winter and golf in the summer. I had no affinity for the game at all—the exact opposite.

"I probably made a cardinal error when I started. I played hockey left-handed, and because the best golfers in the world at the time—Palmer, Nicklaus and guys like that—were right-handed, everyone said you've gotta play right-handed. And I probably should never have been a righthanded golfer; I should have stayed lefty.

"When I started it was totally about hanging out with my buddies. Then a little later it was about being able to participate in charity events and not look like a complete idiot. I don't spend a lot of time practicing. I enjoy playing and I enjoy being out there, but to spend two or three hours at a driving range is not my idea of fun. I did that in a lifetime of hockey—practicing and preparing—and this for me is fun.

"We've been lucky in Canada. Mike Weir's made golf the 'in thing' to do—he's done for golf in our country what Tiger's done for golf worldwide. Mike is a hero in Canada, and more and more kids there are now growing up saying, 'You know what?I love hockey, and I wanna play hockey, but I also love golf, and I wanna be a golfer.'

"I live on a golf course [Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California], and I enjoy the tournaments there. I don't go in thinking I'm going to win. Since I've retired, I don't have that same competitive spirit. But it's fun. And every year in Canada I have the Wayne Gretzky & Friends charity tournament. Usually it's myself and two other hockey guys playing best ball against Mike Weir.

"Mike has showed me so many things over the last few years that have helped me hit the ball a lot better and a lot more consistently and a lot farther. He switched me to a left-handed putter because I was a left-handed hockey player. And I do putt better left-handed than I did right, although I've only been doing it for about a year.

"I can play hockey in front of two million people and it doesn't phase me, but out on the golf course I'm just like everyone else: You get on the first tee box and you get nervous. When you play in front of people for the first time, it's heart wrenching. The first time I was in a tournament where I actually played in front of people—I believe it was 1981—was in the Canadian Open, in the pro-am. On the first hole I got on the tee and shanked it dead left, and I hit a kid in the head. Knocked him out. I ended up visiting him later that day in the hospital, where he had to spend the night. Thankfully things have gone up since then.

"My family and I live at one of the absolute most gorgeous golf courses in all the world, and I can play it every day. And we have a golf course in my hometown, Brantford, Ontario, called the Brantford Golf & Country Club, that is as nice a course as there is anywhere in the world. So I'm lucky. I don't venture out a lot to play, because I've got five kids and there's not a lot of time. As it is now, I can go play golf and be back home in three hours. It makes life easier.

"I haven't taken a lot of lessons. I should take more. You know what I take?A lot of tips. I mean, I'm no Brett Hull—he has more putters than Mike Weir!—I'm not that obsessive. But we all like to compete, whether we're playing basketball or hockey for a championship, or whatever it is. But in golf you can be at any level and the handicap system is such that you can play with anyone else. If you're a fifteen-handicap you can still play against somebody who's a two-handicap. Golf allows an average player to compete against great players, and you can't get that in any other sport. I mean, how's anybody going to play basketball against Shaquille O'Neal?

"If I had to pick the ultimate foursome I could play with—people always try to conjure that up, you know—I think it would be myself and Gordie Howe . . . Babe Ruth . . . and Charles Barkley, because Charles is so much fun. He'd probably even get the Babe laughing. That'd be a fun foursome."

SCORECARD
Wayne Gretzky
Age
43
Handicap
"It says in the book that I'm about an 8. If I was going to get into a little bit of a five-dollar Nassau and I had a partner, I'd tell anyone that I'd be a better partner as a 10, and I wouldn't be cheating. I'd play to beat anyone, but 10 is probably more accurate."
Best Score
76, at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, CA.
Memberships
Sherwood Country Club; Brantford Golf & Country Club, Brantford, Ontario.
Equipment
TaylorMade driver; Titleist irons and balls.
Day Job
Managing partner, Phoenix Coyotes.

GRETZKY SHOOTS ...HE SCORES!
Analysis by Claude Harmon III
Wayne's setup is pretty solid. His stance is wide and should give him a good foundation. But as he moves the club away, he lifts it with his arms. His left shoulder goes down, which means he is tilting rather than turning. Then his weight moves forward. Notice how close his left knee has moved to his right, putting his legs in a weak position at the top of his swing. As his legs then slide back into impact, the clubhead outraces his hands and his body. His follow-through is okay, but he's tilting backward a little too much. Wayne needs to firm up his lower body, to keep his knees apart as he swings back and to let his weight move in the direction of his club. If he does this, he'll be able to control his downswing much better.

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