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If a round of golf can reveal a lot about a person's character—a spurious concept, we know, but just go with it—a recent 18 holes with Steph Curry showed him to be a charming young man, a superb athlete and money in the clutch. But all of these qualities have already been on display during his day job as point guard for the suddenly relevant Golden State Warriors. The revelation from this round at Spyglass Hill, in Pebble Beach, Calif., is that Curry is an unabashed golf nerd. When he stiffed a wedge on the 15th hole, he called it "a Jason Dufner tap-in." (This was six days after the Duf's victory at the PGA Championship.) Spying a playing partner's SeeMore blade, he said, "That's Zach Johnson's putter, right?" He spoke knowledgeably about different strains of grass ("There's not much grain in this poa") and esoteric equipment specs ("I get a much higher launch angle with this driver"). Uh, Steph, exactly how much golf do you watch? "A lot," he says. "Too much. The TV at home is pretty much always on the Golf Channel." Unless he's playing his favorite video game, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14.
At 6'3" and 185 pounds, Curry has the build of the young Tiger—supple and sinewy—and he generates some of the same terrifying power with his compact, upright swing. Spy's 11th hole is a sweeping dogleg right par-5, measuring 528 yards. After launching a butter-cut around the corner, he was left with a mere 152 to the green. On the par-5 7th hole, Curry set up another eagle putt with a towering four-iron from 218 yards. But you don't whittle your handicap down to scratch, as Curry has, merely by generating vortex-inducing clubhead speed; his putting stroke is almost as pure as his shooting stroke. Spyglass has long been considered the toughest course on the Monterey Peninsula, but Curry torched the place for six birdies and shot a two-under-par 70. Along the way he broke the spirit of previously chirpy adversaries in a betting game, his father, Dell, and Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob.
"That was one of the best rounds of golf I've ever seen," said Lacob, who is a regular competitor in the Crosby Clambake. With typical understatement Curry allowed, "Yeah, I played pretty good."
Curry, 25, has been making birdies almost as long as he's been making baskets. He came to the game through Dell, who for Christmas in 1987 received a set of golf clubs from the Cleveland Cavaliers, for whom he was a feared long-range marksman. The sticks gathered dust for more than a year, by which time he was playing for the Charlotte Hornets. One day during the off-season sheer boredom drove him to the driving range. Says Dell, "You know the old story: I hit one good shot, and I was hooked."
That was the year Steph was born, so eventually his old man cut down a putter for him and they learned the game together. "My favorite thing about golf has always been getting to spend time with my dad," says Steph. (His kid brother, Seth, who just signed a rookie training-camp contract with the Warriors, sometimes tags along but struggles to break 100.) Dell is a player: After he retired in 2002, he got down to scratch and now, at 49, still carries a sporty 4.8 index. "But every year [Steph] gets longer off the tee and I get shorter," says Dell, a founding member of the Club at Longview, outside Charlotte. "It's kinda sad. How old were you the first time you beat me? Fifteen?"
By then Steph had been taking lessons at Larkhaven Golf Course, which Dell calls a "goat track," in Charlotte. He was a bright, curious kid who enjoyed the internal challenge of improving and the technical aspects of the golf swing. But as Steph tells it, he joined his high school team mostly so he could cut class. "Every Tuesday and Thursday we got out at 12:30 to go play matches," he says. "I'd rather be outdoors than in a classroom." His fondest competitive memory came at the conference championship in his senior year, at which he finished second. The final round was the first time he broke par, shooting a one-under 70 at the Cedarwood Country Club, though it wasn't without some drama on the closing par-4.
"It's funny, I can remember it like it was yesterday," Curry says. "I flared a drive into the trees and had to punch out. Then I got up-and-down from 100 yards."
His low round now is a 66, shot a couple of years ago in Hawaii.
"Where'd I shoot that 66?" Steph asked his dad at Spyglass.