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 Barry at Pro-Am 
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Post Barry at Pro-Am

Barry easy to catch on course

Ex-Lion Sanders plays slow round in pro-am
July 7, 2005


For years, Barry Sanders did things as fast as he could on a football field.


Former Lions running back Barry Sanders heads for the 10th tee as he signs autographs for fans Wednesday during the Ford Senior Players Championship pro-am.

These days, he's taking things slower. A lot slower.

The Lions' retired running back doesn't take handoffs anymore. Instead, he's content to play golf, as he did Wednesday at the Ford Senior Players Championship's pro-am.

Sanders was among Detroit athletes like the Red Wings' Manny Legace and Kirk Maltby, former Lions receiver Herman Moore and former Tigers pitcher Dave Rozema who played at the TPC of Michigan in Dearborn.

Actually, Sanders didn't play golf so much as he stared at golf. The largest gallery of the day followed him around the course, and spectators probably could have drawn up their wills in the time it took Sanders to hit each shot.

"Now you know why they're so slow," George Evans of Warren said of Sanders' group as he watched the Hall of Famer stand over a shot in the 18th fairway. "It takes him a half hour to hit it. Just hit the ball."

Even Sanders, who plays to about a 20 handicap since he took up the game six years ago, conceded he was a bit slow at times.

"Yeah, I've been told I play way too slow," Sanders said. " 'Just get up there and hit the ball' a lot of people tell me, like my dad. I don't know. Gotta take my time."

And he sure did. Sanders, who made two birdies, averaged about 40 seconds from the time he addressed the ball to the time he hit it.

"He does OK," said Sanders' pro partner, Allen Doyle, after the 5-hour, 10-minute round. "He's very deliberate, so you can see where he's had some lessons and he's particular on what he's trying to do. He's not there yet as a player, but you can tell that he concentrates like he wants to be a player and he wants to execute the golf shot."

Doyle said he enjoyed the round and appreciated playing with another athlete. He also couldn't resist asking Sanders the inevitable question.

"I said, 'I'm going to ask you this and it's probably the one billionth time you've been asked: You miss playing?' " Doyle said. "And like any competitor he said, 'Certainly I miss some things about it and some things I don't.' But you drop it at that because he's been asked those things a billion times."

One thing Sanders likely won't miss anytime soon is playing golf in front of a large crowd.

"It's tough," he said. "It's a lot easier to play by myself and a lot less pressure. When people are watching, I can tell the difference."

It seemed odd for Sanders, who used to play before nearly 100,000 rabid football fans, to be rattled by a few hundred sedate golf fans. But Sanders said it wasn't a fair comparison.

"When you played in front of 90,000 you had a little help," he said. "Out here it's just you, so it's a little different."

One smart aleck piped up and said sometimes it seemed like it was just Sanders out there with Lions.

"No, c'mon," Sanders said with a grin.

Sanders wasn't the only one with time issues. On the practice range, Legace was hitting balls and preparing for his afternoon tee time. He was expecting Maltby, who had a similar tee time.

"He's always late," Legace said. "He's going to be late for his own funeral."

With the NHL lockout still in effect, Legace has had a lot of time to work on his golf game. He said he plays twice a week.

But that doesn't mean his hockey muscles have grown stiff. Legace works out five to six times each week to keep in shape and he will begin skating this week.

As Legace and Maltby played, spectators kept asking the same question: When are you going back to work?

"In the fall," Maltby said while signing autographs.

Even Barry Sanders would probably consider that a little too slow.

"If he isn't the best football player, the best runner, that the Lord has ever made, then the Lord has yet to make one." Wayne Fontes on Barry.

July 7th, 2005, 12:09 pm
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