This morning, Congressional Country Club in Bethesda played host to the Earl Woods Memorial Pro Am, the opening event in the AT&T National hosted by Tiger Woods. As you may have heard, Woods himself elected to have an NFL player in his foursome, but since it wasn’t one of the Redskins I didn’t see too much of that.
Instead, I walked the back nine with Jason Campbell, Antwaan Randle El, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, and PGA Tour pro Mike Weir while they hit balls. (And, in the case of Campbell and Randle El, hit and hit and hit and hit….)
Here’s how Campbell described his performance to me after the fact: “I had a couple good shots, but a little too much inconsistency. I’m nowhere near the professional level at golf, but I had fun.”
Anyone who has followed athletes and their post-game quotes at all can translate this one, with its telltale keywords “inconsistency” and “had fun”.
Here’s Weir, speaking a little more plainly when addressing the question of if the pro footballers had slowed the foursome down.
“I’m not gonna say that to them. No, we had a nice pace actually, well ahead of the group behind us. They’ve been practicing their football, not golf.”
It was hard to argue with. I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about goIf, but even I could see that Campbell and Randle El were struggling. Topped balls; long, slicing drives; big divots flying almost as far as the ball … it doesn’t take a golf expert to know that these aren’t the marks of a great day on the links.
But I wanted some more detail, a little more insight than my “Um, I don’t think that looks good.”
Fortunately, there were two excellent golfers there who were perfectly comfortable commenting on the players’ shortcomings: Shaun Suisham and Rock Cartwright.
“Right now I’m not seeing nothing too good,” Cartwright told me. “I think those guys, they’re not representing the Redskins well at all on the golf course right now. I think I’m gonna pull the guys to the side, give them a couple lessons.”
Lessons on what, I asked. “Jason has a lot of hand action, he doesn’t use most of his body,” Cartwright explained. “I think if he learned how to really use his body, he would hit the ball maybe 280, 300 yards consistently. And I think Randle El, his deal is he’s just a little bit too steep in his swing. I think he needs to flatten out a little bit.” Well, okay then.
And don’t think that Coach Boudreau was also struggling. “Boudreau’s actually a pretty decent golfer,” Cartwright said. “He hits the ball straight, gets it on the green, gives himself a chance to birdie and if not he saves par.”
Today is Canada Day, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that Suisham — who, I am obligated to mention, is Canadian — had a different focus when I asked about the team’s performance.
“I’ve got a lot more to say about the Canadian guys that are playing today,” he said. Both Weir and Boudreau are Canadian, so it wasn’t a completely outlandish suggestion, but I insisted that he start with his teammates.
“Start with the Redskins,” he repeated, and paused. As he was thinking, Campbell walked off to the left of the fairway, ducked under the rope, and started hunting along the treeline for the spot where his drive had landed.
“They seem to be pretty good at punching out and getting back to the fairway,” Suisham finally said. I pointed out that this might be because they hadn’t been doing much else all day besides punching out of the rough, and Suisham laughed.
I’m going to interject at this point that all of this was said in good spirits. Campbell and Randle El were both being self-deprecating and funny and perfectly aware of how they were doing, and, in fact, Suisham went on to make exactly that point. “You know, though, they’re not having a great day. Everybody’s out here having fun, and seeing this just makes you respect professional golfers like Mike Weir here.”
He was clearly determined to discuss the Canadians, and it was their day after all, so I asked him what made Weir so impressive. “He’s just got such a consistent swing,” Suisham explained. “It is the same thing over and over again. It’s really neat to get to walk along with him and watch him through all of this.”
A crowd had gathered around Campbell as he hunted for his ball, and he had stopped to sign a few autographs for eager fans, many of whom didn’t even realize that the quarterback was actually mid-play.
“You could look at it a few ways,” Suisham said. “You could say Jason’s having a bad day golfing, or you could say that Jason really wants to interact with his fans and spend some time with them.”
Campbell finally freed himself from the throng of fans, located his ball, selected his club … and managed to move the ball about twenty yards closer to the green, still in the treeline. Now the fans twenty yards closer in began to request autographs.
“See?” Suisham said, “He’s still there with them. He doesn’t want to let ’em go.” He looked at the treeline where Campbell was still held up. “You could also point out that he’s at a much lower risk for skin cancer than the rest of us.”
Both Cartwright and Suisham are legitimately accomplished golfers, so I asked Cartwright why they weren’t out there contributing instead of backseat golfing. “I don’t understand that. I think we’ve got a conspiracy going on with why these guys are out here,” he said.
A bias against special teams guys or something? “I think it is — you’ve got the two high profile offensive guys out there, they’re getting all the publicity … you know how it goes.” He shrugged.
Speaking of high profile, I asked if Cartwright had had a chance to see Tiger Woods at all, and this — finally — brought out a smile.
“I saw Tiger hit a monster drive here,” he said, “I think 310 yards or so, and I saw Romo come back and hit one in the bunker.” The smile grew wider. “That was a good thing.”
As the round wound down, I asked Suisham for an after-action assessment of his teammates. I was hoping for more amusing quotes, but he wanted to re-emphasize the more upbeat approach to the whole thing. “They’ve got a lot of room to improve,” he said, “but, again, they don’t do it for a living. Whether you’re good or bad, getting out for a day on the golf course like this is a good thing.”
I asked Campbell if he could find any kind of good thing in his game. He stopped and thought for a few moments. “It used to be my shot off the tee,” he said, “but today for whatever reason I was driving off the tee and it was tailing right.”
Maybe the reason is because he wasn’t Canadian. “There’s been a lot of Canadian lingo going around today,” Suisham said, “between Mike, Mike’s caddie Brennan, Coach Boudreau … there’s even a guy here from TaylorMade who’s Canadian.”
What kind of Canadian lingo? “You’d have to be Canadian to know.”
I asked Weir — a huge hockey fan who Boudreau presented with an Alex Ovechkin jersey and who was thrilled to talk hockey with the coach — afterwards if this was how they traditionally spent Canada Day, and he laughed. “When it falls on a Wednesday Pro-Am, sure.”
So I’m choosing to think of Jason Campbell and Antwaan Randle El as victims of their non-Canadian-ness.
“I was trying to help them out a little bit,” Weir said. “You know, Antwaan’s swing is really good. He just needs to work on his setup a little bit. His shoulders get a little open, but other than that, you can tell that they’re both great athletes. They don’t play a lot. It’s a game that you’ve gotta practice and play a lot, and I’m sure if they both had more time to do that, they’d both be real good.”
Tags: antwaan randle el, AntwaanRandleEl, golf, Jason Campbell, JasonCampbell, Rock Cartwright, RockCartwright, Shaun Suisham, ShaunSuisham
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