By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Say Hey Kid dropped in on the Champions Tour Saturday.
Baseball Hall of Famer and San Francisco icon Willie Mays spent some time around TPC Harding Park at the start of Round 3 of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, greeting the final two groups on the first tee.
“Wish I’d have played with you, you could have showed me how to hit it long,” the 80-year-old legend said to Fred Couples and Mark Calcavecchia.
“You don’t need any help,” Couples said.
Indeed, Mays was a pretty good golfer back in the day, a mid-70s shooter who traveled with the PGA TOUR for a short time after his playing days, in association with a sponsor.
“They were so good, I’d shoot 75 or 78, they’d shoot 65 or 68,” Mays said. “When I was out there, it was a fun thing. I learned how to hit the ball, how to fade it, how to chip, how to read the greens. I played a lot with Raymond (Floyd), Trevino, Chi Chi.
Today golf is a popular pastime and topic of conversation in baseball clubhouses. Mays said that wasn’t the case in his time, though many ballplayers were good golfers.
“We talked baseball, why talk golf when you’ve got to go on the field and play baseball?” said Mays, who hit 660 home runs in 22 seasons, including 14 in San Francisco with the Giants. “We did have some golfers on the club. Most of the pitchers would play. But not me, they said ‘you couldn’t play.’ (Managers) Leo (Durocher) and (Alvin) Dark, they said ‘we don’t want you playing because it might mess up your swing.’
“Wouldn’t have messed mine up, but they didn’t see it that way.”
Mays, who was also at TPC Harding Park two years ago for the Presidents Cup, has history with several players in the field this week. Couples is a favorite, and Tom Watson goes back decades with Mays.
Watson remembers a priceless moment with his son and Mays from 1992 at Giants spring training.
“I remember it like it was this morning,” Watson said. “I went up to introduce Michael to him and myself to him, he had that big smile on his face and he looked at my son and started talking to him … ‘How would you like to play some catch?’ And for 15 minutes they threw the ball around. 15 minutes!”