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August 05, 2002

A Healthy Portion of Humble Pie
By Dan Patrick

On Saturday, at the Celebrity Champions Classic at the Country Club of the North, in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, at a tournament I hosted, I experienced perhaps the most humbling moment in my entire celebrity golf career. I lost a round of golf to Charles Barkley.

Perhaps I'm being overly dramatic. But if you've ever seen Charles play golf, you'd understand the catastrophic nature of this freak occurrence. Here's what happened:

Charles' swing is like a solar eclipse -- you don't look at it directly for fear of harmful effects deep within the recesses of your mind.

I was listed to play with Charles and former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon. I assumed Jim, who is a very good golfer, would be my only competition that afternoon. I was optimistic that I could take him. Our tee-time was noon, which is the equivalent of dawn for Jim. I figured I'd have him beat before he could wipe the sleep from his eyes.

Despite this significant edge, I decided not to take any chances. I hit the driving range early for a few practice swings. As I eased into my zone, something out of the corner of my eye disrupted my Zen-like state. A few yards over, Charles was hacking away. I tried to concentrate on my own game, but I was awe-struck by his bodily contortion and a bit confused at how his odd swing could even make contact with the ball.

Charles' swing is like a solar eclipse -- you don't look at it directly for fear of harmful effects deep within the recesses of your mind. But like a car wreck, a morbid curiosity kept drawing me to watch. It's difficult to explain without visual aids, but it's as if his club bends, like nun chucks, and creates angles that defy all laws of physics on his back swing. On the down swing, there is a distinct pause before the follow through. He literally stops -- similar to when a fan snaps a photo at an inopportune moment causing Tiger Woods' swing to come to a jolting halt.

Despite going to great lengths to improve his swing -- including hypnosis and lessons from world-renowned golf instructor David Ledbetter, who told him to take a two-year hiatus and come back as a left-hander -- Charles seemed hopeless.

I razzed him a bit, but he kept his head down and said something about how it would be completely different out on the course. I laughed out loud as I thought to myself, "I could beat Charles left-handed. I could beat Charles with one club!"

Shortly before noon, McMahon joined us. At this point, the jawing was full-throttle, so Jim decided to make things interesting. He bet me $100 that Charles could take me. "Easy money," I thought. With everything I knew about Charles' game, I had a C-note coming my way.

Off the bat, the barefoot McMahon was intense and had his A-game going. Charles was smooth and steady. There's no way to couch this, so I'll just come out and say it: I triple-bogeyed the first hole, scratched and clawed my way to a par on the second hole, and tripled-bogeyed No. 3. Before I knew it, I was down six strokes to Charles Barkley.

Now Charles and Jim are giggling like a couple of schoolgirls, and I wanted to cry. In his own glossary of terms, Charles told me, as only he can, "This ain't like playing in the backyard with your friends at your lily-white country club." All the while asking, "When are you going to raise the white flag?"

I refused to give up. I thought, somehow, Charles would eventually become the Charles I knew. His demise was just a hole away. But he continued to play well, and at one point he actually said, "I feel sorry for you."

But I didn't want pity. What I wanted was for heat stroke to take me down before we could complete the round. By 16, I knew that wasn't going to happen and I knew I wasn't making a comeback.

I humbly raised the white flag.

McMahon completed the round with a 75 and an extra $100 in his pocket. Charles, who shot an 83, got something money can't buy -- bragging rights and the knowledge that I will never live this down. He actually said, "I will never let you forget."

As if I need a reminder.

More importantly, the Celebrity Champions Classic was a huge success. The tournament auction raised more than $30,000 for Children's Hospital of Dayton. My sincerest and deepest thanks to everyone who made the event possible. For complete results, check out Celebrity Champions Classic web page.

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