South Shore, Lake Tahoe, Nev. – Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin come from sports worlds that are far apart, but Friday they were united by their unlikely friendship and their nervousness on the first tee of the American Century Championship.
Hamlin, who was paired with Jordan and earned plenty of television time as a result, was so nervous that it took him a few holes to get his palms to stop sweating.
“I was really nervous to be honest with you. It took me a while to get those jitters out of me,” said Hamlin, who is currently ranked fourth on the NASCAR circuit with two wins and a second place finish in 14 events in 2012. “Michael has told me this is the most nervous he gets all year.
“We talked last week and he said you are going to be so nervous,” said Hamlin. “I don’t think I understood until I got to the first tee. But I played pretty well. At least I ended up in positive numbers and that’s a good thing.”
Hamlin finished with four points in the tournament’s Stableford scoring system that awards graduated points for pars or better, well behind the first-day leaders actor jack Wagner and baseball pitcher Mark Mulder, who have 22 points apiece.
The event continues on Saturday and Sunday, with television coverage be televised by NBC from 3-6 p.m. (EDT).
Jordan also finished in the positive, but he expected far more than the eight points he collected.
Hamlin clearly was out of his element. The slight 150-pounder is more used to driving at 200 miles and hour and running inches from another car. But somehow Hamlin and Jordan took a liking to each other, having met at a Charlotte Bobcats home game.
“It started with me being a season ticket holder at the Bobcats,” said Hamlin. “He sits at courtside and I sit at courtside. I struck up a conversation with him and found out that he’s a big race fan, and he starting asking me about my races from the previous weeks. It even turned into a business partnership that we have.”
The friendship also led to Hamline being in the Tahoe area for his week off.
“If I wasn’t here, I’d probably be in Charleston (SC) or Myrtle Beach (SC) golfing this week anyway,” said Hamlin. “This is something special, and I’m glad to have been invited. Michael probably had something to do with that.”
By Craig Smith, former director of media relations for the U.S. Golf Association.