NAPLES, Fla. – The Franklin Templeton Shootout starts for real Thursday. But the past two days, the unofficial Tim Tebow Pro-Am drew a more than usual number of fans to Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
The former Florida Gators star quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, who's now a TV analyst for the SEC Network and ESPN, played both days of the pro-am, stopping frequently to take pictures and autograph items for fans.
"His impact was tremendous," Shootout Tournament Director Rob Hartman said of Tebow, who left following Wednesday's round to head to New York City for ESPN's coverage of the Heisman Trophy ceremony. "The amateurs who played with him just had a blast. He really added value everywhere he touched."
A longtime Shootout pro-am player helped get the road started to Tebow's appearance, and his brother, Robby, also played both days of the pro-am.
"It was a lot of fun," Robby Tebow said. "I got to hang out with Greg Norman a little bit. That was obviously a joy and a pleasure.
"The money they're raising for cancer (CureSearch, which benefits childhood cancer research, is the tournament charity) is amazing. Ultimately, that's what we wanted to do, to bring awareness to what Greg's doing with the Shootout, and get to hang out with some of our buddies that play on tour. To get to be in their world for a couple of days is a lot of fun."
Tim Tebow played with J.B. Holmes on Tuesday and fellow Gator Billy Horschel on Wednesday. Horschel's known Tebow for quite a while, but not as long as his wife, Brittany, who went to high school with Tebow at Ponte Vedra Beach-Nease.
"It was a blast," Horschel said. "Tim and I are really good friends. He doesn't get to play golf very much. He hit some really good drives. I think the whole group had a lot of fun with him. I wish he'd play more golf because he's got some really good ability."
Tebow had not played since his foundation's tournament back in March, so Hartman was thrilled the Shootout was able to have Tebow come and play.
"We hope he'll be back in the future," Hartman said.
Fox commentator Joe Buck was scheduled to play with Tebow in the pro-am but couldn't due to a wrist injury. However, Buck did go out and follow Tebow's group and chatted with him.
"He reminds me of Kurt Warner," Buck said, referring to the former star NFL quarterback who now also does TV. "He's one of those guys that you think you know what they're all about when you see him from a distance, and then you get to know them and you realize, they're not -- they're better."
Buck agreed with the thoughts of ESPN's Chris Berman that Tebow has a bright future if he stays in TV, but both wonder what happened with Tebow and the NFL. After leading the Denver Broncos to a playoff win, Tebow was replaced by Peyton Manning, and never really played much after that, getting cut by the Jets, Patriots and, this year, the Philadelphia Eagles just before the season.
"I think the door was closed on him a little early," Berman said. " ... He's a winner. ... You wouldn't want to close the door quickly on someone who's a winner. I'm surprised."
"He's got a smile, and I think it's infectious, and I know he loves the game," Buck said. "If he could get on somebody's roster as a quarterback, a tight end, a running back, a safety, a tackle, he'd probably do it."
This article was written by Greg Hardwig from Naples Daily News, Fla. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.