Can a professional tennis player successfully switch sports and become an equally capable Tour golfer? As a swimmer turned golfer, Michael Phelps’ recent transition on the Hank Haney Project looked achievable but athletes, no matter from which sport they originate, still must put in the work to stay out of the water!
Where tennis and golf both require optimism, positive self esteem, alertness and tactical thinking as stated by USPTA.com, according to Dr. Jim Gavin, author of “The Exercise Habit”, tennis “outperforms golf in developing positive personality characteristics.”
In the sport of golf, on the other hand, you must be able to call a penalty on yourself and realize that the mental portion of the game is equally as important as the physical part.
Since there is an age “limit” as to how long a tennis star can truly be in top condition, it is not surprising that after finishing their careers some tennis players move right into golf, the game that can be played for a lifetime and where career is not necessarily limited by physical “wear-and-tear”.
The most recent tennis superstar who made the move into golf was the American Andy Roddick. Retired in 2012, the former World Number One in tennis made his debut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am but, according to his own words, the debut was “so-so”.
The very first successful transformation from tennis to golf was the American Ellsworth Vines.
In the 1930’s, Vines was in the top rank of tennis players winning “Wimbledon” (one time as an amateur, three times as a professional), the US Open (twice as an amateur and once as a professional) and “Roland Garros” (as a professional) .
After retiring from tennis Vines won five tournaments on the PGA Tour and, in 1951, became a semifinalist in the PGA Championship.
Australian Scott Draper did not achieve such significant success as a tennis player – his highest achievement was the 42nd place in the ranking, five wins in ATP tournaments and a win in the Australian Open mixed doubles. In golf, however, Draper had to wait for his first win only two years – in 2007, he bore the bell at the PGA tournament in New South Wales.
Another former World number-one tennis player, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, took up golf quite successfully. A Sydney Olympic champion, winner of the Australian Open and the “Roland Garros” in 2011, Kafelnikov became the champion at the “Russia Golf Championship” and is currently considering whether to take part at the Olympic Games in Rio.
The most famous female tennis-golf professional is former world number-one Althea Gibson. While playing tennis, Gibson became the first African-American woman to have won five “Grand Slam” titles. Ms. Gibson is a legend, considered by some to be a “female Jackie Robinson” who crossed over into golf as the first African-American woman to play on the LPGA Tour.
There are many golf lovers among active women tennis players, Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Daniela Hantuchova, for example, often play golf on an amateur level. The latter, by the way, can be seen with a club in her hand more often than other representatives of WTA-Tour.
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