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Friday, February 14, 2014
Golfing with Belichick and Brady

By Mike Reiss
ESPNBoston.com

Belichick/Brady
Who better to round out a foursome for a friendly 18 holes than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady?

When the foursome of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and PGA Tour golfers Ricky Barnes and James Driscoll got stopped by a rain delay in last weekend's Pebble Beach Pro-Am, it sparked a spirited discussion.

"Tom was saying, 'Geez, you're a bunch of wimps! You can't play in this stuff?'" Barnes recalled. "That was kind of funny, him kind of calling us out."

The 33-year-old Barnes, taking it in playful stride, reminded Brady and Belichick that it wasn't the golfers' call but instead the official overseeing the tournament. In turn, Brady and Belichick started relaying stories about bad-weather football games, rattling off statistics about their offensive production in the last 10 snow/rain games that Barnes can't quite recall the specifics of, only remembering how impressive it was.

"We were asking, 'How badly does it affect you?' They were just saying how tough it was to tackle in the rain," he said. "The same thing for us -- keep the grips dry, hands dry, stay warm. It's kind of a whole process for us, too."

Oh, what fun it would be to play in a foursome like that, and hear those types of stories, over a three-day stretch at one of golf's landmark courses.

Brady/Barnes
Ricky Barnes congratulates Tom Brady after the Patriots QB sank an eagle putt at Pebble Beach.

The group was put together by Pebble Beach CEO Bill Perocchi, who grew up in Lawrence, Mass., and enjoys pairing foursomes together who have a common link. Barnes' father, Bruce, punted for the Patriots in the 1973 and 1974 seasons under late coach Chuck Fairbanks. The 36-year-old Driscoll grew up in Brookline, Mass., and fondly tells stories of attending Fenway Park, the old Boston Garden and the old Foxboro Stadium as a youth.

This isn't the first time they've played and/or interacted with Belichick and Brady at Pebble Beach, but the rain delays added a different twist to the experience.

"It's kind of cool, because we're never in the huddles or locker rooms and stuff like that, and they start telling stories," Barnes said this week from the Northern Trust Open in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

"The unbelievable thing that I got out of it is how these guys remember what year, what game, and who they played. They'd be like, 'Oh yeah, when we played Denver in '07' or 'Oh yeah, when we were at home versus Philly and ran on them.'

"My caddie goes, 'Who do you hate playing against?' Tom was like, 'Technically you hate playing teams you can't beat.' Then he said, 'We've been pretty successful' and mentioned Buffalo and he knew the record. Since he's been there, [he's] 22-2 against them. An incredible record and they just know all these statistics. That was the most impressive thing."

In many ways, that type of recall is like a golfer's.

"We are the same way too, when we hit a certain shot -- we remember what year it was and what hole," Barnes agreed. "That was a really cool spot when they were telling us stories and how they remembered little, little things like that -- the score."

There were more personal stories too.

"The first day, we were talking about Tom's introduction to football, his background, and how he hadn't played before his freshman year of high school," Driscoll relayed. "He was telling us the story, the first day of practice, when he showed up and didn't even know how to put the pants on, where the pads went in the pants. There were other guys out there who had been playing Pop Warner for years.

"He was saying the first couple practices and the first year, he was just getting lit up in the 1-on-1 tackling drills and stuff. His first year of freshman football, I think he was trying to play quarterback, but he wasn't even the backup. And they didn't win a game. He was explaining how he couldn't get on the field and his team was 0-8. I give him a lot of credit for just sticking with football after an experience like that, let alone to getting to be maybe the best quarterback of all time."

In the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Brady was paired with Barnes, and Belichick with Driscoll. Both pairings narrowly missed the cut, with one of Brady's highlights an eagle.

"It was really fun. I always appreciate playing with other athletes. That's kind of who I love getting paired with because that's who you can kind of learn from each other, why they're so good at their respective sports or their coaching abilities," Barnes said.

"I've been fortunate to play with Coach the last three or four years and Tom played this year. I'm the ultimate competitor and so are those guys. At the end of the day, if you're playing with the CEO or an actor or maybe some kind of other celebrity, you don't get the competitiveness that you get out of these guys. That's the part I love when I'm playing with them. It's not even their go-to sport and they're so competitive and so into it. It feeds into you."

Driscoll was impressed with how both Brady and Belichick handled such a unique situation.

"I think about that all the time; they have to go play a sport that they're not nearly as familiar with -- you take two people that are so successful at something and you put them in a totally different arena that they're not nearly as talented in, and then you have thousands of spectators watching them. It's a weird dynamic and I thought they handled it really well," he said.

"Especially Coach Belichick, I think a lot of Boston people probably don't get to see his personality because I think the way he handles the media, he has a certain style that's a little bit different than some of the other coaches. I think he can come off as not having a ton of personality but he hammed it up with the fans a lot of times. He'll go over and sign plenty of autographs. He gets a kick out of it. He's a fun guy. It was cool to see their personalities out there out of their normal job."

Belichick/Brady
Their golf can't match their football prowess, but Belichick and Brady are competitive by nature.

As it turns out, Belichick doesn't just make in-game adjustments on the football field. Driscoll relayed that Belichick switched drivers after the first day and had significant success off the tee (in one round, Driscoll estimated that Belichick struck 12 of his 14 drives just the way he wanted).

"He hit the ball great. His game, for his level and his handicap, I thought he played great," Driscoll said of Belichick, who had vowed after the AFC Championship Game that he'd take his frustrations out at Pebble. "He chipped in a lot, helped me probably 3 or 4 strokes a day. You can't ask for much more than that.

"He hit a lot of good shots, a lot of good putts over the course of the three days we played together but it just seemed like he didn't do them all on the same hole or in the same stretch of holes. He hit a bunch of good drives and a lot of good putts, but in that format, you have to get lucky and hit those good shots and good putts on the same hole when you're getting your strokes. We just didn't as a team ham-and-egg it that well."

And in a scouting report that sounded quite Belichickian, Driscoll offered this on the golf games of Brady and Belichick: "They're both really competitive. I think if they had played some more golf leading into the tournament, they probably could have done better but their schedules are so darn busy they can't get enough time to play the game. I think that's what kind of holds them back a little bit.

"[Tom], you could tell, if he played more, he has a ton of game in there. He hits it a long way. He has good technique. His grip is good, his stance is good, he looks good over the golf ball. He looks like a scratch over the golf ball. It's just a matter of playing more."

Driscoll first met Brady on the driving range at Pebble Beach a few years ago, but this was the first time he played with him. Between the golf and rain delays at Pebble, it was a neat glimpse for a fellow professional to see.

"It was really cool to spend a significant amount of time with Tom and just get to see his personality and his makeup. After kind of hanging with him for a little bit, it's no surprise how much success he's had," he said. "Meeting his parents, and his sister, he just has a quality background. He's a grounded kid and it seems like he has a great perspective on things. You can tell he obviously works his butt off. Also, he kind of sees the big picture and hasn't let all the success get to him or give him a big ego or anything like that. He's well-grounded. I think his parents probably deserve a lot of credit for that."

After the enjoyable three days, Barnes had just one request. He'd gladly play with Belichick and Brady again -- on the golf course or the gridiron.

"They were on our turf. I'd love to be on their turf for one time in my life," he cracked. "I want to catch a pass from Brady in the end zone in Foxborough."