Anyone who’s a fan of the New York Knicks basketball team knows the name John Starks. He was the team’s shooting guard from 1990-1998. But getting to that point didn’t come easy. His career had a couple of false starts, but he perservered. So it’s little wonder he’s a fan of the game of golf.
“It teaches you a lot about yourself” Starks told me early in February when we spoke by phone. ” You have to be patient, it builds your character” he says. As Starks rightfully points out, in golf, you call penalties on yourself. It’s about integrity, and that speaks to Starks and why he thinks it’s such a good game for kids.
Starks took up the game in 1994 when he was in his mid 20’s. A friend invited him out. But how could a guy who played such a fast, physical game as basketball find delight in golf, I ask.
“Golf is a lot like basketball” he tells me. You have to stick with it. “In basketball, you may go scoreless for a few trips down the court, but you stay in the game and it’ll drop” he tells me, adding “It’s like that in golf. You may have two or three bad holes, but eventually, you’ll start to score and it will light you up”.
To Starks, a former teammate of greats including Patrick Ewing, Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley, golf is every bit as competitive as basketball, saying it’s just as much of a mental game. The only difference, it’s not as physical. But golf has something else: “You learn to communicate” Starks tells me. “With kids spending so much time alone on the computer, they don’t learn how to communicate, to talk with others. Four hours for a round of golf cures that.”
These days Starks’ handicap is a 4. A far cry from the first days of the game when a team mate invited him to play.
But for Starks, once he learned the fundamentals it was all fairway from there.
His favorite part of the game — the short game.
His favorite club — the sand wedge. He delights in playing from 100 yards and closer.
Favorite course — the Trump course in New Jersey because “it has it all, length, beauty, PGA tour quality.”
Finally I ask, “Did you ever feel like tossing those clubs in frustration?”
“Never” he tells me, and I can hear the smile in his voice. “The game drives you to be good; that one good shot brings you back. Golfers talk about that. Once you hit that one good shot your competitiveness comes out and you know you can do this.”
WHY PLAY GOLF?
John Starks former NY Knick says:
the game drives you to be good
it teaches integrity
improves your communication skills