Bumpy ride for Moseley in celebrity debut
Freestyle skier Jonny Moseley has been through many bumpy rides but none as severe as the one he experienced in the first round of the Isuzu Celebrity Golf Championship on Friday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Moseley shot a 31-over-par 103 in his celebrity debut, coming within five shots of the all-time record-high round Dennis Erickson set in 1992.
“Every part of my game stunk today. It was terrible,” Moseley said. “I had a great time, but I wasn’t hitting good at all and magnify that by the crowd pressure.”
The U.S.’s first gold medalist at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, looked as cool as actor Tom Cruise before reaching the first tee, but soon showed his rookie status.
While drawing honors ahead of playing companions Lee Jansen and Mike Eurizone, Moseley tried to soothe a cotton mouth worse than a football player going through double days in August. After his fourth cup of water, Eurizone advised Moseley to take a deep breath and go.
To shouts of “Mo Town” Moseley stepped between the 10th tee blocks (he started on the back nine) and told the crowd, “I’m shaking in my boots.”
Sure enough, the 22-year-old who learned to ski at Squaw Valley sent the squirrels scattering as he hooked the tee shot into the bushes and an unplayable lie.
However, Moseley seemed to settle down after chipping into the fairway and nestiing his fourth 170-yard fourth shot within 10 feet of the pin. But the lefty three-putted, including a gimme from two feet, to start with a hockey stick (7).
“I felt bad for him because he was so nervous, especially the first few holes. I think he got really frustrated and he started getting fast with his swing, but he finished up real good. So you can see that he can play, but he was fun to play with as I expected,” said Eurizone, who helped orchestrate the USA’s improbable gold medal hockey upset of Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Still, the personable skier joked with Jansen on the next tee before taking a bogey 5. Then he gained some momentum by trickling a delicate downhill chip to within five feet on the par-3 12th hole. But his charming grin quickly wore off as he missed the putt and took bogey and then bogeyed the 13th hole.
His round unraveled on the par-4 dog-leg right 14th, when he used six shots, including three chips, to reach the green. Moseley two-putted for a snowman, but didn’t bolt to see if Mammoth Mountain was still open for skiing.
Moseley pull-hooked his next tee shot into the woods en route to a double bogey, but rebounded for par on Edgewood’s signature hole, the par-5 16th, which gives the player full view of the active lake and the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
Daringly, Moseley hit a fairway wood from 270 yards out into the bunker just right of the pin. He neatly blasted to within four feet and buried the putt.
Obviously, CNN reporter Craig Sager was impressed, because before Moseley could hit his tee shot on the par-3 17th, he was asked to do an interview for the cable channel.
The delay didn’t help as Moseley sent his short iron shot into the drink. But that didn’t stop him from signing several autographs before scoring a triple-bogey six.
Despite Moseley’s troubles, his mother, Barbara, kept offering encouragement as she walked the 18-hole round.
“I think he might need me in the background instead of being this close,” Barbara joked. “He doesn’t get to play golf that much, but he really loves it.”
Only the tension of performing in the Winter Games and subsequently appearing on the David Letterman Show touched the same nerves as golf did on Friday, Barbara said.
“Everyone here is so good, it’s bound to make you nervous,” she said as her son was three-putting the 18th hole for another bogey.
Children must not have known that Moseley shot a 16-over-par 52 for nine, because they cornered him between the 18th and first tees anyway. He signed all he could before slipping into another frustrating nine holes.
Some late-round encouragement from U.S. bump teammate Chris Hernandez seemed to help. Moseley showed resolve and finished par-par-bogey.
“I think everyone expected a lot more out of him, but oh, god, with all of those people watching him play. I can barely play with three people watching, let alone all these people. I’d totally shank it,” said Hernandez, who has a summer job at Edgewood.
When the damage was tallied on his second nine, Moseley nearly doubled his 52 whacks with another 51.
“I definitely didn’t come to play today. It’s a matter of skill, you know?” Moseley said. “You can play good in practice, but you have to have great, great skill in order to perform under pressure.”
Notes: Hernandez’s torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee is healing nicely. He feels the knee is about 75 percent its normal strength and has been rehabilitating it in the gym and on his mountain bike. “It’s not hurting me at all, but I still have a long ways to go. Everyone is getting mad at me because of the way I’m riding my bike, saying one crash and you’ll be out another year.”
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