John Elway's dream foursome would include his dad, Arnold Palmer and Ernie Els. (Getty Images)
Hall of Famer Elway always up for the challenge
Those who argue there's no royalty in the United States obviously never have been to Colorado, where, more than a decade after the conclusion of his legendary NFL career, John Elway still reigns as the Duke of Denver.
By John Elway, Special to PGA.com
I started playing golf when I came to Denver. I was a baseball player when I was younger and at Stanford. Then I played a year of minor league baseball for the Yankees in the summer between my junior and senior years. So I was never really a golfer until the offseason before my second year.
We'd have workouts in the offseason and I was looking for something competitive to do during that time. So I joined Valley Country Club and became really good friends with the PGA Professionals, Carl Faddis, and the assistant there -- they're the ones who really got me into the game of golf.
I love the game because it's one of the few things that, as you get older, you can still compete at. I love that side of golf, and it's such a game of imperfection -- you can never beat the game and it changes day in and day out. There's so much to it and the challenge of trying to do it well day in and day out gets my competitive juices going.
I had played football for so long and at such a competitive level, I desperately needed something to replace that. The business world, it's competitive, but it's not like playing a sport. So golf has been huge for me in filling the void that I found when I stopped playing football. It's just such a tough game to master and a great game to try and get good at.
The biggest difference between golf and football is that it indeed is an individual sport. Every game that I played when I was young was a team sport, whether it was football, basketball or baseball. It's a different atmosphere than team sports; there's no one to blame except yourself, which I like.
I'm a 1 handicap now, but getting there was hard because I always had such a short playing season. When I played football, I didn't play golf during the NFL season, so there was really only about a four- to five-month window that I could play in and try to get the improvement in. I saw some results early during the first five years I played, but it's very difficult to go from say, a 4 or 5 handicap to a scratch golfer, which was always my goal. But since I've retired, I've been able to play a lot more golf, especially during the season. So it's been a little easier to improve my game.
I've been a scratch, but now my handicap has climbed back up. Now I'm in the process of trying to get it back down to that scratch level. But I love that part of the game, too, the practicing. I have a little time now to work at the game and that's a challenge I enjoy too, working and getting it back down.
I've shot 64 a couple of times -- once at Cherry Hills and another time at Black Rock Country Club in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. When you do that, you just can't believe the game can be that simple. And then the sun rises the next day and you shoot 76. That's the thing about golf; once you think you have the game mastered, it turns around and slaps you in the face.
My dream foursome would include my dad and Arnold Palmer, and right now, I think I'd like to play with Ernie Els. He's got such a smooth swing and he's a big guy like me. It would be fun to watch him and see how he gets into the right positions with his clubs.
I wouldn't say I've tried to pattern my game after anyone; obviously, with how difficult the game is and especially for big guys and how difficult it is for them to get the club on plane, I've always watched the bigger guys. Phil Mickelson would be another, but he's a little bit different in that he's a left-hander, but I've always tried to emulate the taller guys, because that's where I am. I want to see what it is they do.
This is also why it's exciting to have the Senior PGA Championship in town this week. If you want to see great golf swings, like I do, there's nothing like watching some of the best players in the world.