September 22, 2009

My Game: David Wells

David Wells said golf fills the competitive void left by his retirement from baseball.

David Wells said golf fills the competitive void left by his retirement from baseball.

__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, famous free spirit and former All-Star pitcher David Wells, who played parts of 21 seasons with nine different teams, discusses what he enjoys about the game, with the camaraderie and the 19th hole ranking highest on his list.

I'll tell you right now, my game sucks. Well, not always. I played terrible at the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic in Lake Tahoe last year, came home and put a lot of effort into playing the game and trying to get better at it. I went from maybe a 12 or 13 handicap to a five. I'm going to keep plugging away. I love the game, but I'm my own worst enemy out here. I just get frustrated and it's usually over stupid little things. I'm working on my chipping game now. When you're playing in front of a crowd, you have a tendency to kind of peak your head up and chili dip or blade it. I'm trying just to relax, like I did on the mound. Just drink a beer, you'll be all right.

I am pretty much attempting to improve on my own. I took one lesson, from my neighbor across the street, Jeff Silverstein. This guy was just unbelievable what he did for me. He had me for two hours and it paid off. I've got a guy at my golf course in San Diego, Crosby National, who has been working with me on my chipping.

My Game

I picked up the game around 1990. I didn't really play during the baseball season. I just played after the season was over and during spring training, and not a whole lot. I didn't play during the season, because I wanted to go out after games and then sleep in. Occasionally I'd play some rounds, but nothing really serious.

But I want to take it serious now. I want to compete. That's my thing. I'm adamant about trying to be a scratch golfer. When you're a five, you can go either way. And it's going the wrong way right now. We play the morning group at Crosby National. We've got some plus-1s and some scratches and 2s and 3s. It makes you grind. It's fun. But it's a different story when you've got eyes on you. Then you're trying not to make mistakes and that's when you make mistakes.

I pitched in three World Series, without getting overly nervous. I trusted my ability there, but I don't trust my ability out here on the golf course, in front of people. It's a grind, it really is. I have to just mentally come out here and do it. Did I say I love the game? I hate everything about it, but I like the competitiveness, to come out here and compete and try to par every hole. That's the thing; when you come out you don't think bogey, you think par.

If you took away the 19th hole and the camaraderie, what would be the purpose? There wouldn't be a purpose. You might as well go skiing.