Beyond Golf — 07 June 2016 by Jim Street
Griffey is a long-ball hitter in golf, too

SAMMAMISH, Wa. – In a little more than seven weeks, Ken Griffey Jr. will stand in front of a large audience in Cooperstown, NY, and deliver what surely will be a from-the-heart speech.

And in typical fashion, Junior is taking his sweet time putting his thoughts on paper.

“I haven’t started writing the speech yet,” the former Mariners centerfielder said on Tuesday afternoon as he strolled along the pristine 14th fairway at Sahalee Country Club during the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship Pro-Am. “I had some friends who said they would write but said, ‘Uh, no you won’t.”

More likely than not on July 24, Griffey’s own words will flow just as smoothly as the swing that produced 630 career home runs, 13 All-Star Games (all starts), 10 Gold Gloves and the highest percentage of votes in the storied National Baseball Hall of Fame history.

Griffey was named on 99.3 percent (437 of 440) of the votes by veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

This will be his second visit to the HOF since the election and the first time he has entered the hallowed halls. That, he said on Tuesday, will happen on the Friday before his induction, two days before a family bet is settled.

“There is an over-under as to when I will start crying,” Junior said. “My dad said 90 seconds (into the speech) and that’s the low. My son, Trey, said, ‘Dad, if you start crying I will have to explain it to my (University of Arizona) football team.’

“My youngest son, Tevin, said, ‘Please don’t start crying (because) I am going into high school and I don’t want to start my freshman year off like that.’ And my daughter, Taryn, said, ‘Oh Dad, go ahead and cry.’”

Although not exactly at his baseball-playing weight, Griffey hits a golf ball with as much authority as he did a baseball.
Asked if it’s harder to hit a golf ball straight or a baseball far, Griffey said: “Hitting a golf ball straight, because I could care less after it leaves my bat, as long as it touches grass or some seats.

“I prefer the seats, so I can make a couple of lefts.”

Junior stood out in the crowd, wearing gray shirt and slacks supplied by Nike. He also had Nike clubs. And Nike shoes. He also said he felt at ease on the course with the best women golfers in the world. He has, after all, played numerous times with Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara and the late Payne Stewart. Now he plays with Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson.

“Every now and the ball pas them,” he said. Asked about the pink driver that Bubba uses, Griffey said, “I wanted one of those pink drivers, so he sent me one.”

So how did Griffey impress his playing companions?

“He hits the ball a mile and he has a nice swing, too,” said Lydia Ko, the No. 1-ranked women’s player in the world and member of the Tuesday Griffey foursome that also included former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. “He hit some amazing shots out there.”

Junior didn’t brag. “I had a nice drive on (No. 1) and a nice approach on 18 and that’s all people need to know.” Ko said it was a terrific experience.

“Of course I know who he is,” the 19-year-old Auckland, New Zealand golfer said. “He is an amazing baseball player, and is going into the Hall of Fame. It was a pleasure playing with a legend today.”

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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