Man, am I glad the Cowboys beat the Bucs on Sunday. Because outside of Texas Stadium, I'm not sure there's anywhere more Cowboy-crazy than where I work: The Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas. When we lose, everybody at the club looks like someone shot their dog. The Cowboys Golf Club is the only NFL-themed golf club in the country, and we're just a 15-minute drive from the Cowboys' practice facility. In the clubhouse we have Super Bowl trophy replicas for every Cowboys championship (five and counting, Redskins fans!) as well as helmets, jerseys and other memorabilia. My favorite is a photo of Moose Johnson walking alone down the tunnel after a tough game, his head down and his uniform dirty. He’s a football player, sure, but he’s also a man who's just finished a hard day's work and is heading home -- something any rancher or farmer can relate to. A challenging public-access course, the Cowboys Club is also a great place to play golf. On Sundays when the Cowboys are at home, we host shotgun tournaments in the morning and then bus our guys to the game afterward. The best days are late-afternoon games when you can play in the morning, then get over to the stadium with time to tailgate before the game.
One of my good friends is Coach Bill Parcells and when he was the Cowboys' coach he really promoted golf. He talked often about the game and how the lessons of golf relate to football. Parcells would say how the most important thing in golf and in football isn't your great shots or big plays, it's being able to minimize your mistakes so they don't become disastrous.
He'd also often say, "Don't confuse routine with commitment." That's the best training and coaching advice I've ever received. So many people just go through their routine and look like they are committed. They'll say, "Hey I'm working on it, coach, doing what it takes." But the best of the best are committed and never need to say a word, their actions show it.
Our new coach Wade Phillips isn't as much of a golfer, but we still have a lot of coaches who play as well of some of the players, including Terry Glenn, Jason Witten, Terence Newman, and of course Tony Romo, who tried to qualify for the U.S. Open. We don't see them during the season much, of course. Coaching and playing football is a seven-day-a-week job during the season. Maybe during the bye-week we'll spot an assistant coach sneaking away from the film room to play 18, but in the offseason, they're always out here.
I like playing with the players--Troy Aikman is one of my favorite people to play with and Emmitt Smith is a ton of fun--but as a teacher it's most rewarding to play with coaches, because they are always in coaching mode and they never stop teaching. You'll hear them talk about how to reach a challenging player, and how they advise their players to better themselves in their personal lives. The lessons you learn are not about football or golf, but about how to accomplish something you've never accomplished before.
How do football players compare to other athletes at golf? Well, not that well, largely because their bodies are built to deliver impact and to take impact. They're bulky guys and when you look at the PGA Tour, you don't see a lot of bulky guys. Hockey players have the easiest time adjusting to golf because the hockey-shot motion is probably the most similar to the golf swing. Baseball is another side-on sport (that is, in baseball, hockey and golf you line up parallel to your target line) and some baseball players have become very good golfers. Football players struggle a little more with learning the game. Quarterbacks like Aikman and John Elway have become excellent golfers, but the bigger lineman and running backs have a big adjustment to make when learning golf. For example, Emmitt really works on his game, but because he has a body built to punish defensive linemen, golf doesn't come as naturally to him.
They all still love the game, though, no matter how much they have to work at it. Football players are drawn to golf because the game allows them to showcase their skills as individuals. Football is the ultimate team game, and football players spend almost all their time in a team environment. However, each member of an NFL team got there by being individually committed to developing their own talents, so golf gives them a stage to compete for only themselves, something they don't get in football.
Another thing you learn playing golf around athletes is that they love the game as much as anyone. Just because you've won a Super Bowl doesn't make beating your buddy in a Nassau any less sweet. One time I was in a match with Coach Parcells, Aikman, and New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton.
Parcells and I were a team, against Aikman and Payton. On the first tee, Parcells said to me, "You take care of your guy, I got mine." Well, my guy was Aikman and he was 4-under on the front nine. At the turn, Parcells was on me, "I thought you got your guy!" Well, we managed to get to just 1-down by 18, but we lost the final hole. How did Aikman and Payton react? You would have thought those guys won the U.S. Open. They went completely nuts.
You don't forget those days, guys out there having fun, grinding it out and talking trash. That is good stuff, whether you're a Hall of Fame coach, a Hall of Fame farmer or a Hall of Fame office worker. I just hope you're a Cowboys fan too.