Friday, July 19, 2013

Chipper Jones Finds a New Challenge in Golf at the American Century Championship

Chipper Jones photo courtesy of Jeff Bayer/American Century Championship

South Shore, Lake Tahoe, Nev. – Chipper Jones finished his long and distinguished 19-year career as the Atlanta Braves third baseman with a .303 batting average and 468 home runs; numbers that likely will give the 41-year-old who retired after the 2012 season a home in the baseball Hall of Fame.

Now he is swinging at another white ball as a first-time participant in the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course that uses a Stableford scoring system that awards graduated points for pars or better.

In Friday’s first round, Jones was paired with former teammates Greg Maddux and David Justice. All three were teammates in the mid-1990s and World Champions in 1995. Jones and Maddux were teammates and golf buddies during spring training for more than a decade.

Jones showed promise on the course, with a booming 370-yard drive on the par-5 third hole. He registered his first par on the par-3 fifth. But his day was filled with jitters and too many missed short putts.

“It’s awfully frustrating, I’ll tell you that,” said Jones.  “But there is no replacement for those competitive juices. Once you have those competitive juices in you, you just want to do something to play and golf is my outlet now.”

Jones started playing golf with his father at about age 13 in central Florida. But he didn’t get a chance to play much during the baseball season.

“I loved to play in the off season and during spring training” said Jones, who was the overall first draft pick in 1990. “I feel like I’m still climbing the learning curve.”

In addition to playing golf, Jones enjoys hunting and spending time with his four boys at home.

“I have been living out of a suitcase for 23 years playing ball so it’s time to pay attention to them, added Jones, one of 14 rookies in this year’s event.

“I’ve had seven knee surgeries and I just really felt that my legs were leaving me and I wasn’t able to stay on the field (due to injuries). I think I was putting a little too much pressure on my manager and my teammates so I figured it was time for us to part ways.”

The event will be televised by NBC Sports Network from 4-7 p.m. (EDT) on Friday and by NBC on Saturday and Sunday from 3-6 p.m. (EDT).

By Craig Smith, former director of media relations for the U.S. Golf Association.

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