Every golfer knows the dream: 18 holes every day for the rest of your life. I pretty much lived that dream for the four years I was out of coaching. My norm was 36 holes a day and a few hours of practice. Fifty-four holes wasn't out of the question. I'm a member of eight country clubs, including Loch Lomond in Scotland and English Turn in New Orleans, site of the PGA Tour's Freeport-McDermott Classic, not to mention my home, which is off the 3rd hole. I've been to Augusta, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews.
Sounds great, huh? Well, one of the main reasons I took the coaching job with the New Orleans Saints in February was that this so-called fantasy life wasn't all it's cracked up to be. My problem with nothing but golf is this: God gives people certain talents for certain things, and he only gave me so much skill as a golfer. There was a limit to how good I could get. Football is my job. It's what I do best, and I get paid better than most guys on the Tour for doing it.
Amateurs don't understand what it takes to be a great golfer. I hear so many fiftysomething average Joes brag that they're going to try the Senior tour. Give me a break. It's just not in the cards for these idiots. The Senior players—guys like Jim Colbert and Charlie Sifford—have played golf their entire lives, and every year there's a bunch of guys just like them turning 50. You think there's room for normal folks like you and me?
During my layoff from coaching, my goal was simply to get better at golf. I did, lowering my handicap to one, yet I knew I could never be good enough. That's why it was a blessing that the Saints called. (As it happened, they tracked me down while I was playing in the pro-am at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in Palm Springs.) I won't say I got bored with the game while I played it nonstop for all those years, but I did go a little stir-crazy. Hard as it is to believe, I often got violently angry, smashing clubs and all the rest.
Now that I play golf in my spare time rather than all the time, I've learned to relax when I'm out on the course. I still love the game. Some NFL coaches won't play golf, but I'm not going to be a phony and say there isn't time for both. In fact, I'm in Scotland now for a monthlong golfing vacation. But I can handle the truth: People like you and me can look like Tiger Woods on one shot and a spastic on the next. Just stick to your day job. I'm perfectly happy to be an amateur golfer and a professional football coach.