Barkley hopes to apply new-learned skills to Tahoe celebrity golf tournament
Sun News Service
How a celebrity swings a golf club has never really mattered in the 20-year history of the American Century Championship.
Until Charles Barkley took a series of well-documented lessons from Tiger Woods’ swing coach in the reality TV series The Haney Project. The highly watched show recently wrapped up, and Barkley plans to apply what he has learned in the ACC on July 14-19 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Anyone who has taken in a few episodes knows that Hank Haney hasn’t fixed Barkley’s dreaded hitch-and-dip swing. But Barkley expects to perform better than he has in several years in the 54-hole Stableford-format tournament.
“I’m looking forward to the American Century. To be honest with you, I think I’m going to play better,” Barkley said during a teleconference on Thursday afternoon promoting the star-studded event. “Most people think you bring the club back and hit the ball. I have an idea of what I’m trying to do.”
Throughout the spring, Barkley and Hank spent a couple days together every two weeks filming each episode. While they were filming, Barkley hit 1,000 golf balls per day on the range, and Haney was present for every one of them.
“It was one of the great experiences of my life,” Barkley said. “For a regular hack like myself to spend time with Hank, that was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. A guy like me doesn’t normally get a chance to work with a coach of Hank’s magnitude for an extended period of time. It was really good working with Hank, and I thank him for the time and effort he put into me.”
Most of all, Haney was impressed with Barkley’s work ethic.
“It was a big hill to climb. Charles’ game was in a bad way. But I’ve never had a student who has worked (harder) than Charles. The only one who works as hard is Tiger.
“He has improved a lot. He has to take it to the course still.”
Barkley’s awful golf swing has become the topic of conversation everywhere he goes. His fans don’t wish to talk about his all-star seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns. Instead, they offer suggestions to fix his swing.
“Whether I’m at the dry cleaners, at the market, they wish me luck and everybody wants me to try something. I giggle about it every single time. Even the little old ladies walking the street want to give me advice,” Barkley said.
Barkley’s swing usually looks fine on the driving range, but he typically reverts back to the stop-and-go motion at some point when he plays an 18-hole round with friends. This pattern has convinced some to believe that Barkley’s problems are more mental than physical.
“Every mistake is mental and physical to a certain degree,” Haney said. “Charles is one of the greatest athletes of all time in his sport, so you can’t tell me that someone so great in one sport can’t translate that to another sport.
“Everybody is looking for some light switch that you turn on. That’s just not realistic. That’s not life. He is gonna play better than he’s played in years past, and I’m 100 percent confident in that.”
While Barkley struggles for more consistency in his game, Haney isn’t disappointed by his pupil’s slow progress. His main objective was to help Barkley once again find enjoyment, rather than ridicule, on the golf course.
“I know it’s in there. He has flashes of brilliance on the golf course,” Haney said. “It’s not an easy game, not easy to change. My expectation was to get Charles to play and enjoy the game. Golf loves him, and I wish him luck. Hopefully I can get him tuned up before he goes to Tahoe.”
As a regular last-place finisher in the event, Barkley has been on a celebrity search, trying to convince players that he might be able to beat to come to the tournament. Retired NBA center Alonzo Mourning has taken the bait and will participate this summer, but Barkley has been working hard on Dwyane Wade, who is new to the sport.
“I tell them that nobody cares how you play golf. Get over yourself. It’s not about winning the tournament. Probably five to 10 guys have a legitimate shot at winning this thing. Everybody is there to have a good time, socialize, and we raise a ton of money for charity.”
Before The Haney Project was created, Barkley considered giving up golf. But now he seems rejuvenated and talks about winning the “Black Masters.”
“One of my goals is to win the ‘Black Masters.’ The tournament within the tournament, we call it the ‘Black Masters.’ That’s a lifetime goal as fast as golf goes,” he said.
Between now and mid-July, Barkley plan to work on justifying why the Stateline odds on him winning the tournament have dropped from 500-1 to 499-1.
“I’m just trying to get my game to peak at the right time,” Barkley joked.
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As seniors from North Tahoe collected diplomas this week, a group of Lakers continued another local tradition — capturing first place at the boys’ regional golf championship.