Photo: Victor Fraile/Getty Images
At the risk of using a bad fish-out-of-water cliche, I'm taking the bait. A quick headline-glance at the multitude of Michael Phelps retirement stories hitting the web this weekend is all that's needed to realize his post-swimming days will be filled with plenty of golf and travel. Not too shocking; this is a pretty normal retirement plan for about 75% of the men in this country. Then again, most men aren't world class Olympic athletes retiring at age 27. So of course, the obvious question on everyone's mind is: could Michael Phelps become a professional golfer?
Ok, so maybe it was only on Bleacher Report's mind, but considering golf is the only specific activity outside of "diving with sharks" that Phelps could muster throughout all of the post-retirement interviews, it is at least a deserving thought. No one's even sure Phelps has the desire to compete outside of the pool -- another common theme of his retirement interview rounds is the assurance he will not race again because of the rigors of being a professional athlete -- so why do we assume he wants to try his hand at a different professional sport?
To his own admission, he is competitive at everything he does, and while he revealed to Bob Costas that he's not a very good golfer now, if he has "a goal of dropping X amount of shots, or working on my short game or putting, those things are going to keep me motivated and fire me up and excite me."
As most of us weekend warriors will tell you, getting motivated on the course is not the hard part. Shaving those few strokes off our game is. And while we may not have the time or resources to devote ourselves completely to the game, even getting near scratch golf -- let alone to a professional caliber -- is a feat for the truly gifted. Though the argument could still be made that Phelps falls into that "truly gifted" category.
Back in May, Phelps told Rick Reilly he had a desire to play golf that rivaled that of swimming, even suggesting as a youth he considered giving up the sport he now dominates to switch his focus. While he was always coaxed back into the pool by his mother, he still has the desire and wants to "play all the great [golf] courses" in the world. Oh yeah, and he's been getting coaching tips from Hank Haney. Maybe you've heard of him?
If I were to use one more cliche, I'd say it's not time to stick a fork in Michael Phelps just yet. Maybe his professional swimming days are behind him, but I'm positive we'll be seeing him in a pro tournament sometime soon -- at least in a pro-am. But for any further professional golfing speculation, well, let's just say if he makes it onto a tour not named Champions, he will be worthy of discussion among the greatest athletes of all time.
Michael Phelps talks with USA Today after his final race.
-- Derek Evers