Fore! Packers swing away

Stride for stride, the cornerback and the receiver race down the sidelines. In a split second, the receiver looks up, gathers in the ball and makes a deceptive move before striding into the end zone – much to the cornerback's dismay. 'Oh, well,' the back muses as he trots to the sidelines. 'I messed up. But I'm going to make somebody pay on the next play!'<p>

Unlike football, when you make a mistake in golf you can't hit somebody and "make them pay." Wrap a club around a tree if you must, but you've still got no one to blame but yourself, nobody else on whom you can vent your frustrations when things go badly. It's you against the golf course, the elements and yourself - not a frenzied mission to search and destroy your opponent. This is one of the many differences between the game of football and the game of golf. It's also one of the prime reasons many football players are drawn to the game.

"I like everything about golf," said defensive back Darren Sharper of the Green Bay Packers. "I like the fact that you can come out here and be at peace. Being on the course, the game can kind of make you go a little bit crazy, but it's a challenge and anything you can do that's a challenge, you want to keep doing it so you can get better at it. I enjoy it and it's a fun sport."

Besides his love of the game, Sharper had another good reason to be at Hidden Glen Golf Club in Cedarburg on June 13 with several of his Packer teammates and a number of players from other NFL teams. The occasion was the Badger Mutual/Darren Sharper Open, a charity golf event to benefit the Darren Sharper Kids Foundation, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and several other charities.

"I just wanted to do something to give back to the community and help a lot of other foundations around the country," said Sharper. "We wanted to make this golf tournament the biggest and the best in the Midwest."

As Sharper and many of his teammates will tell you with a smile, a bad day on the golf course beats a good day on the practice field anytime. But what is it about golf that these guys love most?

"I think it's the challenge," said wide receiver Javon Walker. "Most people don't know how challenging this game is and that it's actually a game that gets really tiring after awhile. You've got to concentrate. There are a lot of ways you can relate this game into the game of football. But it kind of gets you away from everything else."

Walker is a guy who gets out on a golf course at least once every two weeks if he can. For him, playing the game well often comes down to focusing on one basic skill. "What I try to do is come out and hit it straight. Whenever I can hit it straight, I think I'll do all right. My skills have gotten a little bit better out here on the course and I'm here to take it one step further."

Safety Marques Anderson started playing golf when he was very young but then quit at the age of 13. Only recently, he got back to playing the game and, for him, golf offers unlimited opportunities to learn how to focus.

"I think it's the focus part of the game," Anderson replied when asked what he enjoys most about golf. "You have to focus on every shot, from the short shots to the long shots. If you don't focus, you might be in the water, the sand or the trees. The mental part of the game really intrigues me."

Whether it's learning how to keep your head down and strike the ball properly, playing your irons correctly or developing the patience and skill to master the putting game, golf offers a world of challenges – and frustrations – for players at all levels. Running back Najeh Davenport and defensive end Jamal Reynolds are both new to the game, with only a couple years' worth of experience under their belts. Both were introduced to the game at Packer team golf outings.

"This is my third time," explained Davenport. "I played once as a rookie and I played last year on a little getaway with the Packers. It's a time-consuming game. Last year, after playing about nine holes, I was exhausted being out there all day!"

By definition, professional football players are tremendous athletes. But how many of their athletic skills translate well to the game of golf? Count Anderson among those who believe his football skills help him on the course.

"Just being an athlete gives you that athletic edge," said Anderson. "Also, being competitive on the field and then taking it onto the golf course. You know, that feeling that, 'Nobody's going to beat me, not even myself!' It's getting out there and having a good time, that's what it's about."

Other players don't see much carryover between the two games.

"The only thing that can kind of carry over is hand-eye coordination," said Sharper. "Maybe repetition, doing things the same way, over and over. A lot of times in football, when you get upset you can just go and hit somebody. On the golf course, all you can do is throw a golf club or something like that!"

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