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Fame & Fortune
Hale Irwin
Hale Irwin
College football star chose career busting par, not heads.
Celebrity interview

Cautious, but shoots for pin if time's right

Bankrate: The courses have changed drastically as well.

Irwin: There again, that's equipment. We're seeing a real change in how players play the game now simply because of how courses are being designed and what the equipment now allows you to do. It's a whole different climate, no more or less exciting, I think it's always been exciting, but it has maybe helped the average player more than the best player. I think the best players in the game are probably being disadvantaged because of all of the mis-hits that players can now put on the ball and they still come out just fine. Having said that, there is still an awful lot of talent out there because more kids are playing the game and we're seeing better teaching at younger ages.

What distresses me a little bit is that we're not allowing these kids to play other sports. If they are football players when they're 4 years old, they're linebackers when they're 24 years old. They don't get to do anything else. What worries me is that these kids are going to be tomorrow's leaders. I'd like to see them be as well-rounded, both physically and mentally, as they can be. That bothers me a bit. We need to allow these kids to grow and become what they want to become and not burn out, whether on golf or track. You certainly see it in swimming; these kids burn out at 14 years old.

Bankrate: Will that pendulum swing back?

Irwin: In golf, I don't know. The only way it's going to swing back is we're probably going to have to change our equipment. We're going to have to start with the ball, bring the ball back to where it really does spin a little more, where it does curve off-line a little more, take the velocity down so it doesn't go so far. I mean, I'm hitting the ball farther now than I've ever hit it and I'm nearly 62 years old! I mean, give me a break!

Bankrate: Half of golf is a mental game. Did you ever struggle there?

Irwin: No. I've visited casually with a couple of sports psychologists, and I'm not going to say they're necessarily picking my brain, but they are, simply because I've been able to compete at a high level for such a long time. And coming from a different background than most of the other guys, I think I'm sort of that rare bird, or maybe it's an oddball, I don't know. But my conversations with them, when I hear what they talk about or say to other guys, I say well, I've done that my whole life. It's what I believe in, it's how I've conducted my career and basically what I try to do in my personal life and my professional life. So I probably wouldn't be a good candidate to sit down with a sports psychologist and get all psyched up.

Bankrate: Did you ever suffer a case of nerves?

Irwin: No. Well, shoot, I want to be nervous. Through the years, you could look at all the players that have succeeded, maybe in any sport, and the best rise to the top. When it really matters the most, that's when they are the most anxious, that's when they get in the so-called zone, that's when their heart beats to a different drum and they become encapsulated in that time. Things slow down. That's how the best become the best and how many of the others are the supporting cast.

Next: "You never learn anything when you're talking."
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