Of all the ways to boost participation numbers in golf, I must admit I never thought of this one. Two time NBA Most Valuable Player and Golden State Warrior’s star point guard, Steph Curry, has traded the basketball court for the golf course this week to compete on the Web.com’s Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae.
Now I was the first to label this a farce. A quick look at his swing on YouTube had me dismissing the whole idea as nothing more than the privileged looking after one of their own. Yet 74 strokes later and Curry has me singing a different tune. This is a man who’s been doubted most of his life. Too skinny to play in the NBA they said, nothing more than a shooter. He now commands a contract earning him more than $200million over a five year period with the league’s champion team. Better still, he has an army of followers around the globe that, because of his interest in our sport, will be reading their very first golf articles this week to track his progress.
Curry was understandably “really, really nervous” hitting his opening tee shot, and it duly showed. He found the cup… holder of a golf buggy off his drive, wasting little time introducing himself to the rules official following the play. He soon settled, but admits the early pressure on the golf course certainly compared to that of the basketball court, and then some I’d wager:
“The feeling is the same. The adrenaline rush is there but you have a whole lot more time to think about what is going on. The best guys out here are able to master those thoughts for five hours.”
“Soon as he said my name on the first tee I could barely feel my hands, I had to take a deep breath. After the third or fourth hole, it was just golf like normal.”
Curry ended the day with three birdies, five bogeys and one double, having hit 8 of 18 greens in regulation and needing a very respectable 27 putts to get ‘round. Furthermore, he attracted hundreds of fans to the otherwise quiet fairways of a Web.com Tour event of a Thursday morning. High-fiving his way through 18 holes, he brought an energy and a swagger you’d rarely associate with a modern golfer to competition, and with it, much food for thought. With the jitters gone he’ll be hoping for an improved round today to give himself a chance of making the cut, and as a golf fan, it can only be good for our game if he succeeds.
The impact of such a world renowned star making an appearance in a professional golf event should not be underestimated. It has not only grabbed the attention of a whole new audience, but it’s tickled the fancy of a very familiar one too.
Padraig Harrington was a keen observer letting his Twitter followers know:
“1st golf scoring I checked out today from all tournaments was @StephenCurry30 @WebDotComTour.
Justin Thomas was a relieved lad after Curry bogeyed 18:
Gutsy day from @StephenCurry30, proved A LOT of people wrong. Dude has game! And I’m sneaky glad he bogied 18 so I didn’t tie him today (Emojis in a golf article. Now you know we’re making progress.)
Currently in a tie for 142nd positon, Curry has a lot of work to do to make the halfway cut, but regardless of what Friday holds, his fleeting appearance on our fairways can only be a good thing for a game that’s desperate to widen its appeal.