SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Hall-of-Fame receiver Jerry Rice set another record Thursday, although this wasn’t one he’d hoped for at the BMW Charity Pro-Am.
Rice shot a 92, the highest score ever since this Nationwide Tour event began in South Carolina’s Upstate in 1992.
Rice talked before the tournament of buying Cristal for everyone if he’d reached his goal and made the cut. He saw those hopes doused early when he couldn’t avoid the water at The Carolina Country Club.
He put three shots into the water on the par-4 second hole for a 10. Things never improved from there. His 20-over finish was two shots worse than the 90 put up by Shawn McCaughley in 2006 at The Cliffs Valley Course.
Rice signed autographs for about 15 minutes after finishing No. 18. He then bypassed several TV cameras and media waiting to discuss his round.
“I don’t want to talk about golf right now,” Rice said before getting in his car. “Had enough.”
Rice had hoped to put on a better show his second time as a Nationwide pro than he did in his tour debut last month at the Fresh Express Classic. Rice went 83-76 to miss the cut and had worked hard on his game since then.
Rice played like a seasoned pro at first, sticking a crisp approach to about 5 feet on No. 1. However, he spun out the birdie putt and settled for par.
That’s when Rice’s serious problems began. He put his tee shot into the water on the right, then saw two pitch attempts wind up wet on the way to a 10. Two holes later, Rice needed three swings to get out of a bunker fronting the green. “Last time,” he told his playing partners, laughing after his second muff.
Rice’s bright spot on the front came on the par-4 seventh when he converted a 6-foot putt for his only birdie of the day.
But the former NFL star known for his matchless clutch ability could not get a rally going. His tee shot on No. 8 rolled in a creek to the right of the green.
Rice steadied himself somewhat on the back nine. His worst hole, a triple-bogey on the par-5 13th was as much the result of bad luck as bad play. Rice’s shot seemed perfect, hitting about 8 feet left of the flagstick to set up a birdie try. However, it spun back just enough to catch a slope and roll into the water.
“You could tell he was frustrated,” said Clint Jensen, a pro grouped with Rice.
But there is good news for Rice.
He’ll remain at the BMW event longer than at his last tournament. The celebrity competition calls for pros to play each of three courses in North and South Carolina before cutting to the top 60 and ties for Sunday’s final round.
And Rice has a big hole to climb out of. He’s 28 shots behind first-round co-leaders Martin Piller and Ted Potter Jr., who each shot 64, and will likely need an old-style Tiger Woods’ rally to stick around past Saturday.
Rice kept his good nature on the course and with fans. He continually cut up with his playing partners between holes and stopped to sign several autographs. One boy with Rice’s San Francisco 49ers jersey caught the players’ attention and he signed the back of the shirt.
“He’s a professional, no matter what he’s doing,” said Jensen, who’ll play with Rice the next two rounds as well.
Rice has said he gained a passion for golf while starting his All-Pro football career with San Francisco. It wasn’t unusual for Rice to begin and end his day pounding golf balls at the driving range before and after football workouts.
That dedication made Rice one of the game’s all-time greats and, upon his retirement in 2005, the career leader in catches, TD receptions and receiving yards. He won three Super Bowls with the 49ers and an AFC championship in Oakland.
Rice was voted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January. This round likely won’t make it into his acceptance speech or on his bust in Canton.
Jensen, 35, says he’s struggled for 12 years to make a life in pro golf. He spoke with Rice about blocking out bad shots and pushing forward. “It’s hard and he’s just kind of starting out,” Jensen said. “It takes a while.”