April 28, 2009

My Game: Dan Jansen

Former Olympic speed skating champion Dan Jansen has used golf to fill a competitive void.

Former Olympic speed skating champion Dan Jansen has used golf to fill a competitive void.

*__Editor's Note:__In "My Game," a weekly series, GolfDigest.com asks noted personalities to expound on their experiences in golf, and their passion for the game. This week, Dan Jansen, renowned for winning an Olympic gold medal in speed skating in 1994 and dedicating the victory to his late sister, Jane, recounts how he got his handicap down to a 4 by marrying his golf instructor. *

My wife is a golf pro, Karen Palacios-Jansen. She has worked for David Leadbetter and Jim McLean before, and has made numerous appearances on the Golf Channel. She's a very good teacher. She gave me a golf lesson the first time we met. Then I didn't see her again for about four years. We were reintroduced at a Gary Player outing, began dating and got married.

My Game

I still take lessons from her. Though we're husband and wife, it still works fine, as long as I realize that she knows more about the game than I do. I'm still very much willing to accept what she says. My problem is that I'm a little too technical, because speed skating is very technical. The same approach hurts me a little too much in golf. I think too much about technique rather than just getting the ball in the hole.

When we play, we play even, no strokes, but she usually is on the winning side. She's a good player.

I actually started playing when I was 10 or 11, with my dad, who is an avid golfer, maybe once a week, in the summers, of course, because I lived in Wisconsin. We played county courses around Milwaukee, but I never got into it too much until I retired from skating in 1994.

Now, I play quite often, probably three or four times a week when I'm home. I live in Charlotte now and play at Point Lake and Golf Club, which features a Greg Norman course.

Individuality in golf, for me, is great. You're sort of out there on your own. The game is easy to love, but it's so frustrating that you hate it at times. But you always come back to it. It was a suitable replacement for skating, the competitive part of it, at least. The physical part is still missing. Skating is such a physical sport. I don't get on skates much anymore. I had been the skating coach for the Chicago Blackhawks for a couple of years so that got me on the ice.

My best memories of the game are of playing golf with my father and playing with Arnold Palmer. It was a treat playing with my father growing up and still is even now as he gets older. I played with Arnold in the Lexus Challenge in the Palm Springs area several years ago, and that was a great treat, too, just seeing how he gets it with the crowd. How he acts and interacts with them was a great learning experience.