June 30, 2009

My Game: Bruce Jenner

Since winning the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics, Bruce Jenner has used golf to fill the athletic void.

Since winning the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics, Bruce Jenner has used golf to fill the athletic void.

Editor's Note: In "My Game," a weekly series, GolfDigest.com asks noted personalities to expound on their experiences in golf, and what keeps bringing them back. This week, former decathlete Bruce Jenner, the gold medalist in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, discusses his love-hate relationship with a game that he happily evaded until his 50th birthday.

I did not start playing golf until I was 50. My wife bought me a membership at Sherwood Country Club in Westlake Village, Calif., for my 50th birthday. I didn't know whether she was just trying to get me out of the house, was sick of me, or what.

I was looking for another challenge anyway. I love learning new skills. For instance, I got into remote control helicopters. I've become obsessive about learning the skills required to control them, because they're very, very difficult to fly. They crash easily.

Golf similarly requires special skills. It's also the only sport you can take up later on in life and actually get better at it.

Once I retired from from track and field, I had had nothing athletically to fill the void. I was working and making babies -- I have 10 children. I mountain-biked and such, but I really didn't have a skilled sport. I wasn't doing anything but raising kids and carpooling.

I took to golf right away and eventually got my handicap down to a five. I try to get to the club and hit balls and work on my game every day, if I'm not working and am at home. My problem is that I can shoot 74 one day and turn around and shoot 97 and get to the point in the latter round where I just don't care any more and hate it. Just get me out of here.

The game will drive you crazy. It is extremely frustrating. I come from a world of athletics in which your performance is more consistent than this. And I was able to use aggression; aggression is good in my sport, the decathlon. But in golf, aggression is not good.

It makes it very difficult for me, the toughest thing for me to overcome, that and not playing enough tournament golf. I practice a lot and have fun doing that. I have a few hours during the day, so I'll go the club and hit balls for an hour, work on the short game, go play seven or eight holes, then go pick up the kids. But I don't get out and play enough competitive golf, which is what I need to do. I get a little out of sync and don't know how to get it back.

You will never master this game. Tiger can't master this game. Consistency is most frustrating for me. Every day is a new adventure. Today, for instance, I entirely messed up my round and started thinking, "What am I actually really doing wrong here?" I started thinking about how my shoulder turn and how I wasn't making enough of one. It's so frustrating. I can go out and play even and then can go out and shoot 90. It's ridiculous.