Sam's Other Love
Sam Bradford's football skills earned him a Heisman trophy, but Oklahoma's quarterback is also a seriously good golfer
Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford has been the star of many a photo session since he won the Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding player in college football—but none like this one. Golf World was taking pictures near the 50-yard line in cavernous Memorial Stadium to illustrate an article about the sure-armed junior who is as interested in golf as football, and might be as good at it if he devoted himself.
"If I could play any sport at OU, it would be golf," says Bradford. "I love playing golf. I'm definitely jealous of Anthony Kim." He doesn't know PGA Tour pro Kim, who left OU a year early, but he'd heard Kim might come back for a football game after the Ryder Cup and they would play. Kim didn't make it, but it remains on their to-do lists.
Bradford may enjoy rock-star status in football-obsessed Soonerland, but an associate athletics director escorting him this bright summer day nevertheless cautioned him not to take divots out of the hallowed turf. Don't worry, said a confident Bradford, he would pick his shots clean with a wedge. And he did.
"You know," he mused at one point, "I've always said that before I'm done here I'm going to blast a golf ball out of this stadium. I'd love to do it in front of 80,000 screaming fans."
Bradford often breaks par on strong courses, and his shotmaking prowess is said to rival his passing prowess (50 touchdowns and a 180.8 efficiency rating last season, both best in the nation). On the golf course he is long, plays short shots with finesse and "seems to be the real deal," according to acclaimed teacher Jim Hardy.
Kelsey Cline, a long-time friend of Bradford, is a former touring pro who coaches the Oklahoma Christian University team that ranked first in the final Golf World/Nike NAIA coaches' poll in May and won the NAIA national championship. He played about half of Bradford's 20 rounds with him over the summer and says, "If he had a formal handicap, it would be zero. I'll sum up Sam's game by telling you that for somebody who doesn't practice, he can hit an 8-iron 150 yards or 185 yards depending on the situation. He has a couple extra gears. Oh yeah, and he likes to wear a visor.
"Certain people get in their own way," the coach sums up, "and certain people don't. Sam doesn't, on the golf course or the football field."
The tousle-haired Bradford, his 223 pounds well spread over a 6-foot-4 frame, sees close parallels between golf and football.
"Both sports require the ability to read a situation and then use the right touch," he says. "Mentally, both require you to have a short memory and always focus on the next shot or play. You have to stay within yourself and within a game plan and not try to do too much."‘I've always said that before I'm done here I'm going to blast a golf ball out of this stadium. I'd love to do it in front of 80,000 screaming fans.’
Citing Kevin Wilson, coordinator of OU's record-setting firewagon offense (and a fellow golf buff), Bradford says, "Coach Wilson always uses golf analogies with me during football games. It's amazing how the two sports translate for each other."
Wilson says: "He'll miss a couple passes, and I'll say 'Let's double down,' as if there's a golf bet at stake. Or he'll complete one and say, 'It was just like lobbin' a sand wedge.' He manages our offense the way a good golfer manages his game. Sam dares to live on the edge but doesn't get greedy.