July 28, 2009

My Game: Herm Edwards

Herm Edwards grew up in golf-rich Monterey, but didn't start playing until he was an adult.

Herm Edwards grew up in golf-rich Monterey, but didn't start playing until he was an adult.

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 NFL head coach Herm Edwards (New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs), now an ESPN analyst, discusses growing up in the shadow of some of the finest courses in the country and never playing them until he finally discovered the game in adulthood.

The crazy thing for me is that I grew up in Monterey, went to Monterey High School, had all those great golf courses nearby, but I never played them. I used to run on them. Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, they had a lot of hills, I'd go out early in the morning and run them, train on them. It was a great place to run. All those beautiful courses and I never thought about playing golf. I was a football player.

There were guys going out for the golf team, and I thought, "What are they doing?" I'm playing football, my mind was involved with football. As I got older and matured a little, as a player and later as a coach, you start hearing about this game called golf and think, "Well, I can do that. I'm an athlete." Then the first time you go out there and look at the ball, it sits there. Doesn't move. And you get to hit it. And then you stub it and knock it all over the place and you get humbled. Then your competitiveness comes out. You say, "You know what? I've got to be able to do this." That's what hooked me. Pride.

My Game

I'm enjoying it. I'm playing more than I ever have, because I've got some time now with my ESPN work, got some days off. As a coach, I played only in the off-season; I'd get about a month when I'd try to cram it in.

I'm probably about a 10 or 11 handicap now. That's OK for me. I haven't played a whole lot of golf in an extended period of time. And to take the game up when you're older is tough. I've never taken a lesson, so I get these habits and am trying to figure them out as I play. But I love to play.

When I was still playing football, I played in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. I've played in the American Century Championship now four times. When you're playing in front of a crowd, your anxiety level is up and your competitive juices come out. But golf is all about tempo. If you lose your tempo just a little bit, the ball goes left, it goes right.

You have to keep the positive in your mind. The thing I'm learning about golf is that you've got to control your emotions. If you can't, bad things are going to happen. I'm pretty grounded. I can control my emotions pretty well, but I get frustrated sometimes. But the whole deal is the next shot. You can't do anything about the last one. It's the next one. How do I save par? How do I make a bogey so I don't make a double bogey?

The thing about golf that's so great is that you've got to hit every shot. It's on you. In football, basketball, soccer, other people are in involved. Not in golf.

We're building a house at Tehama Golf Club in Carmel, Calif., Clint Eastwood's place. I play out of Tehama now. I've played all the great courses in the area -- Cypress Point, Monterey Peninsula Country Club. I've got friends at all of them.

If you want to play golf, the Monterey Peninsula is a pretty good place to live. And as I always say, enjoy the walk. It's a great walk, particularly there.