If I learned anything during last week's U.S. Senior Open, where I missed the cut by a country mile in my first official start on the Senior tour, it is this: Police work is terrible training for pro golf. All week people were telling me, "You've been shot, so standing over a four-foot putt must seem like cake."
Well, trying to drain a putt produces a different kind of fear. When you're fighting for your life, you just react, and there's not much fear in that. In golf you can stare at the ball as long as you like, and it's not going anywhere until you hit it. That can be terrifying, especially with fans watching.
Before I turned pro, in 1996, and hit the minitours in hopes of making the Senior tour, I spent 25 years with the Orlando Police Department. I loved my work, but I was involved in two bad shootouts. The first, in 1974, occurred while I was trying to arrest a murder suspect. I had him pinned against my car, but he elbowed me to the ground and grabbed my gun. He shot me twice and ran away. Bleeding badly, I dragged myself to a phone, called 911, and the fire department got me to the hospital just in time. A few hours later the suspect was arrested. He was convicted of first-degree murder and in 1986 was executed in the electric chair.
The other incident happened in 76 on a robbery stakeout at a gas station. The suspect came out of the station after having robbed it, and my partner and I confronted him. After he shot at my partner, I put nine pellets in his chest, killing him instantly. I'll never forget the look on his face. I could hear the bullets enter his chest, and then I heard the air coming out of his lungs.
If I ever make it big, I'm going to be my own sponsor, because I don't think any company would let me wear the golf shirt I've got in mind: It has epaulets, the Orlando Police insignia over my heart and a name tag on the other side of my chest.