Danny Ainge, who has already had his flings as a professional baseball player and basketball player, participated in his first big-time golf tournament last weekend at Lake Tahoe in the nationally televised Celebrity Golf Championship. The Sacramento Kings guard finished the 54-hole tournament 13 strokes over par and in 10th place, just eight shots behind the winner, Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien.So how does Ainge compare competitive golf to competitive basketball and baseball.
"When it comes to pressure, there's just no comparison," said Ainge, whose 9 handicap barely qualified for the 10-handicap-or-less tournament. "There's pressure in baseball and basketball, but it's only intense at the end of games. In golf, you feel it from the first tee. After 18 holes every day I was exhausted."
Ainge said he was surprised to finish in the top 10 after spending two days before the tournament watching the assembled celebrities play their practice rounds. Many of the celebrities, such as Bill Laimbeer, Davey Johnson, John Elway, Dan Marino and Mac Davis, had handicaps of three or less - and routinely shot par or under in practice.
"Then they were shooting in the 80s in the tournament," said Ainge. "I think the big thing was the pressure - having to count every single putt, having to go back to the tee and reload after an OB."
Despite thriving under pressure, Ainge said he has no designs on a third professional career on a golf course. "If I REALLY had to rely on my swing . . . nah, it would never make it," he said. "That's the nice thing about baseball and basketball - you get paid no matter how bad you play."
ADD AINGE: The ex-BYU star was grouped with Graig Nettles and Michael Jordan for the final round. Nettles finished the tournament in eighth place and Jordan in ninth, one shot ahead of Ainge after rounds of 76-77-75.
Jordan IS thinking about golf as a professional career after he's through with the NBA.
"I'll tell you the difference," said Ainge. "Michael spent eight hours a day for weeks practicing for the tournament. He hired a professional to teach him all the shots. He brought the pro to Lake Tahoe and he was his caddy. He is serious about his golf."
Sunday's galleries surrounding Jordan were the biggest on the golf course. "I've played with him before and it's great, he's such a gentleman," said Ainge. "But there were so many people I kept losing my caddy in the crowd. I asked a 14-year-old kid in my neighborhood to come and caddy for me. I knew he wanted to be around Michael Jordan."
MEDIA ISSUE: In spite of all the talk in the media about the pending realignment of college conferences, and specific talk that BYU could figure heavily in the changes, Pete Witbeck, one of BYU's associate athletic directors, says the Cougars haven't talked to anyone officially - and no one has talked to the Cougars.
"I think it's a media game as much as anything," says Witbeck. "Our phone sure hasn't been ringing, and, you know, it's hard to go to the dance when nobody's asked you . . . and if you do get asked, you have to decide if you want to go."
"I think there's some casual talk. But everything I know about the subject I've read in Sports Illustrated or in the newspapers, and I think that's typical. At this point it's mostly a lot of smoke in the air."Y. JUMP?: Witbeck wonders if it would be sensible for BYU to jump the WAC for the Pac-10, even if that becomes a possibility.
"I wonder if the Arizona schools would do it again?" he asks rhetorically. "What have they been to, one Rose Bowl between them?"
He's right. Since Arizona and ASU left the WAC for the Pac-10 in 1978 they have made it to just one Rose Bowl - by Arizona State.
In their 12 years in the Pac-10, the Arizona schools have combined for 28 conference championships (17 for ASU, 11 for Arizona) for an average of just over two a year. That includes four basketball titles (all by Arizona) and one football title (by ASU).
By contrast, in their 16 years in the WAC (1963-1978), the Arizona shools combined for 58 conference titles for an average of almost four a year - including five basketball titles (four by ASU, one by Arizona) and nine football titles (seven by ASU, two by Arizona).