One of the many perks of being a professional footballer is that you have plenty of free time on your hands. And many of them enjoy a relaxing round of golf or two to maintain their competitive streak in a rather more laidback way.
Some footballers have become rather handy at their second sport, with scratch handicaps and dreams of turning pro not all that uncommon.
Par for the Course
There aren’t many examples of golfers that could have made it in football, and indeed some would be best off leaving the beautiful game to the professionals. Rory McIlroy once injured his ankle so badly during a kickabout he was forced to miss the 2015 Open Championship!
Assuming he doesn’t feel the temptation to lace up his boots again in 2023, McIlroy will head to the Open as the favorite in the golf odds at 8/1, with the other two members of the sport’s holy trinity – Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler – both priced at 9/1.
But the golf tips this week written for the Open Championship will note the Irishman’s prowess on the Links – he won the tournament in 2014 and has recorded five other top-five finishes in it, so McIlroy is as likely as anybody to land a second Open title.
For aspiring British golfers, the Open Championship is the pinnacle of the sport – it’s qualification criteria, which allow for amateurs to book their place in the field, means that a footballer could, in theory, qualify. None have so far, with former snooker world champion Shaun Murphy coming the closest of the sporting fraternity to a spot in one of golf’s oldest tournaments.
Maybe former Real Madrid and Tottenham ace Gareth Bale will be the first sporting star to turn professional at golf? He leads the way in our rundown of footballers with a penchant for putting…
You may remember Bale’s infamous ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid. In That Order’ flag that naturally infuriated his then employer, Real Madrid, while referencing his love of golf.
The Welshman has a Par 3 course built in the garden of his home and has already made his PGA TOUR debut – albeit as an amateur in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Playing partner Rahm described Bale as a ‘very, very good player’, and with a handicap of just two shots it might not be long before the former winger is turning professional at a second sport.
The pinnacle for an amateur golfer is to reach ‘scratch’ status – that means they no longer have a handicap such is their prowess. Few have reached that level, but Harry Kane has a handicap of just four and once played a round at The Grove, a former British Masters host venue, in -1.
Andriy Shevchenko was a prolific goalscorer in his day and won the coveted Ballon d’Or, but since retirement, he has spent more and more time on the golf course. So impressive is the Ukrainian’s ball striking that he once competed in a Challenge Tour event, albeit he missed the cut.
One of the few former footballers to reach scratch status is Jimmy Bullard, the midfielder who spent plenty of time honing his golf skills during a lengthy career. After retirement, he was invited to play on the EuroPro Tour, but like Shevchenko he found the standard a little too hot to handle.
Older readers may remember former Manchester United winger Lee Sharpe. His handicap is just 0.5, and at the age of 51, he is hoping to make it as a pro on the European Seniors Tour. Not bad going considering Sir Alex Ferguson banned his players from golf in a bid to preserve their energy for matchday.
Could Sharpe, Bale or even Kane make it as a professional golfer one day?