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Q&A With Trent Dilfer

January 2011

Trent Dilfer, 38, won a Super Bowl as the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens in the 2000 season and is currently an NFL analyst on ESPN. Dilfer's an avid golfer (his low round is a 62), and in a recent conversation with Senior Travel Editor Matt Ginella, he tells us his best story of competing against a PGA Tour pro, shares advice on golf in Tahoe and, with the NFL playoffs at their peak, gives his take on former Ravens teammate Ray Lewis.

ON GOLF ...

What's you first memory of golf?
When I was in junior high, a buddy and I were starting to get into some trouble. That summer, before my freshman year, every morning my mom would take us out to this golf course about 15 miles from our house, Rolling Hills in Watsonville, Calif. It's an old public track. I used my grandma's golf clubs, and my buddy had a few irons and a wood from his grandfather's set. Mom would give us five bucks; in 1984 that was a decent amount of money, and she would drop us off in the morning and pick us up at dark. I was always Tom Watson, and my buddy was always Jack Nicklaus. We skanked it around until we learned how to actually get it in the hole. We both fell in love with it.

Who won more, "Watson" or "Nicklaus"?
I think Nicklaus got an early lead, but Watson won more in the end.

Why did you like Watson?
I found out he was a Stanford guy -- not that I love Stanford, but I was from the area. I loved his aggressiveness. Back then he was known for ramming every putt three feet by the hole if he missed it. That's how I learned how to putt; he was my guy. I loved his mentality. I loved that he played good in bad weather.

I see that you have five top 10s in the American Century Championship in Tahoe. You're getting close. Do you prepare for that as though you're a professional golfer prepping for a major?
Yes. The best I can -- and my family would attest to this -- everything I do in golf is to prepare for that tournament. It's not enough based on the fact that I haven't won it, and I'm not nearly the player I was five years ago. I have so many injuries, physically I just can't repeat fundamentally sound moves of my golf swing. What's interesting, and what has got me in trouble there, is that I've never made enough putts. I've gone into the tournament putting great and just haven't holed enough putts. It's the strength of my game, chipping and putting, but I miss a lot of short ones up there. It's not a nerves thing. I haven't been able to figure it out.

You received the 2009 John Brodie Award in Tahoe (which recognizes accomplishments in a chosen profession and the sport of golf), and you wore his No. 12 with the 49ers. Obviously there's some connection there.
Chris Chandler and I have been very close friends forever, and Brodes is Chris' father-in-law. Years ago I was playing pretty good in football, I was playing pretty good in golf and I was thinking I was a hotshot. Brodes pulled me aside one night after a practice round at the Black Diamond tournament in Florida. He had me in my golf spikes, and he was coaching me at football. He was yelling at me on the putting green, "Do this, do that," he was working on my drop, he was just grinding me in my golf outfit, teaching me how to be a better football player. We get done and we have a beer, and he looks at me and he says, "You're a par-shooter as a football player, and you're a par-shooter as a golfer. That isn't good enough." I was a plus-1 or something, and I was a pretty good football player, but that message resonated with me. I wasn't working on the right things. It was that year that I started working on my golf swing; it was that year I started applying the principles of golf and football together, the mental and the emotional and the technical. I had a great football season, and then I won the Black Diamond tournament. I shot 65-67 in the qualifier and beat [Rick] Rhoden on the last hole of the shootout. That was the height of my golfing career. That was when I learned how to go low. A couple of years later I shot a 62 in San Diego to win that tournament, and that's really when I started being sound in all three of those areas: My mental game had to be sharp, my emotional game had to be sharp and my technical game had to be sharp in both football and golf.

Is the Champions Tour a possibility for you?
I don't know. I met with Laird Small at Pebble last year. I told him, "I'm back to being a par-shooter. That's really where I am. I can go out and be around 75 to 70, but the 65s are few and far between." I asked Laird, "What's it going to take?" He identified a few major technical issues that I would have to fix. I just can't hit the ball out of my shadow anymore. I stand up at the ball at impact. I've still got to practice during the football season, and that has really been my issue. My life is too full to dedicate the time to do that right now. My girls are getting older, and they're kind of recognizing that I need a competitive outlet. Maybe this article will be my motivation to go out and start pounding balls and working on my short game during the football season. I've torn both Achilles tendons, I have major bone spurs in my left ankle, I have 12 different shoulder separations, so I have some physical issues that I have to correct before I can get my golf swing the way I need it. But I have the resources to do so, and maybe one of these days I'll get around to doing it.

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