DUBLIN, Ohio – Santonio Holmes’ introduction to golf left a lot to be desired.
He and his uncle dug a hole in the backyard and marked the target with a piece of cloth tied to a stick. To say the teenager who would go on to earn a football scholarship to Ohio State found getting the ball in the hole challenge might be an understatement.
“It kind of discouraged me on playing the game,” Holmes says. “And we didn’t have many minorities playing the game in the ’80s and ’90s, so I wasn’t inspired to do it. Everyone on television was saying the greatest sport in America really is football.”
But now, Holmes — named Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XLIII — specifies that football is actually the greatest “physical” sport. Golf, as he has come to know, is the most “remarkable” sport, challenging him in ways that football never did.
NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice introduced Holmes to golf after his 2006 rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, the wide receiver, who played nine seasons in the NFL, didn’t begin to take the game seriously until after his retirement in 2017 following a serious Lisfranc fracture.
While Rice, one of football’s best golfers, showed him how to swing a club at a celebrity event, Holmes remains self-taught and has never had a formal lesson. He laughs when he remembers grinding to keep his first round in the 130s, but he can proudly say that within five years he posted a career-low 78 at the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club.
“I remember keeping my scores when I first started playing, and all of the guys who would play with me would say ‘Don’t worry about those scores, it’s okay,’” Holmes recalls. “But me as a professional athlete, that was the greatest challenge for being a part of this game, was how can I really compete and be at the gentleman’s game, to be honest, and get myself down to the 80s. To feel real confident and accepting how these guys approach the game, how much they love it, how much they practice.
“Like, I want to feel that and feel confident that I went from scoring 130s and not knowing how to hit on the green in four, to hitting triple bogeys and fours and quads and getting 10s on the holes. Like, I remember those days. And today I feel like I can score birdies and even eagles with the way I’ve learned how to play the game.”
Holmes says his current handicap is a 9 or 10. He loves the challenge of playing from the tips and the feeling of confidence he has gained as a result. He works on his game with the same singular focus he had while playing football: by analyzing every mistake.
“I approach that with every aspect of how I played professional football because every route that wasn’t ran to my perfection or my liking, I dissected it in between what caused this to not be in the right setting,” the soft-spoken Holmes says. “And I admire that so much from watching the pro (golfers), how they approach the game.”
Holmes got to see Brandon Wu and Harry Higgs up close and personal last fall while playing with them during the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. He also spent a recent Wednesday afternoon on the range at Muirfield Village – about 18 miles from Ohio State– watching players get in their last-minute preparations for the Memorial Tournament.
Holmes remains struck by the consistency of the PGA TOUR’s best.
“One of the things that I admire the most is their routine that they go about approaching the game and being great at what they do,” he says.
Holmes has also embraced the sport’s penchant for giving back.
In February, he hosted a golf tournament during the Super Bowl to raise money for his foundation, 10 ALL IN. The organization promotes STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education, mental health awareness and diversity and inclusion. Holmes is already exploring venues for next February in Las Vegas.
“I’m super excited about that,” he says. “And to be within an environment that allows me to speak about what I’m passionate about and that’s giving back to our young people and teaching them this game and giving them access to tools that can get them so much further in life than sitting at home watching someone on television.
“You can pick up this game and go out and meet someone at the golf course that could actually change your life.”
Much of the work of Holmes’ foundation is focused on his hometown of Belle Glade, Florida, a rural community of about 16,000 in south-central Florida. He has partnered with the South Florida section of the PGA of America to help support the golf teams at Glades Central Community High School, growing participation from three students to 17 in three years.
In addition, the South Florida PGA and 10 ALL IN hosted their third Golf & STEAM Summer Camp in June. Volunteers from the PGA section handle the golf instruction while employees of Pratt & Whitney, an aerospace manufacturing firm, devise STEAM projects for the campers to work on.
“I’m super excited about what 10 ALL IN is doing for our community,” Holmes says.
Source : PGA Tour