Gareth Bale and Pau Gasol, professional golfers| The USA Print

Pau Gasol, in Pebble Beach.

A winner of five Champions Leagues and a double NBA champion competing in an official golf tournament on the US circuit surrounded by professionals. Gareth Bale and Pau Gasol have discovered not only a new passion after their retirements from football and basketball, the end of very successful careers, but also a sport that sharpens their competitive sense and the desire to train and improve. The 33-year-old Welshman and the 42-year-old Spaniard played this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California, a competition between professional golfers and fans and personalities such as Bill Murray and Condoleezza Rice. It is held in pairs, one for each side, in the traditional format of four rounds, from Thursday to Sunday, at 72 holes and with a cutoff after the third.

Pau Gasol, in Pebble Beach.
Pau Gasol, in Pebble Beach.Ezra Shaw (AFP)

For Bale and Gasol it has not only been fun, but the stage to test where their golf is. The ex-soccer player has a 2 handicap (it is the number of shots given above par on the course; the lower the number, the better player, until reaching 0, which is equivalent to being a professional), and the former Lakers player has an 11 handicap. The former has shared a tournament with Joseph Bramlett, and the Catalan with Mark Hubbard. And both couples slipped into the best. Bad weather forced the suspension of the pro-am competition this Saturday (the professional competition will continue), with Gasol and Hubbard ninth in the standings with -16, nine behind the head, and Bale and Bramlett sixteenth with -15.

After playing Thursday and Friday at the Spyglass and Monterey Peninsula courses, on Saturday the candy for the two famous rookies was to set foot on Pebble Beach, one of the great stages of American golf. Along the way, both Gale and Gasol delivered shots that could well go into the reflexes from any PGA Tour event. The Welshman, moving with a swing that hardly differs from that of a professional (he was left-handed as a footballer, but he is right-handed as a golfer), delivered a delicate blow to green from a cement path where his ball had ended up. The Catalan landed near the flag after hitting a tree as an obstacle. The circuit’s social networks shared the videos with messages of admiration. Tucked into golfer’s shoes, they even had to suffer the suspension of their rounds by the wind.

Welsh. Golf. Madrid. That message that was ironic about Bale’s priorities has erased football from the equation. After playing in the World Cup with his team, golf has become Bale’s great sporting love. It already was in a way for a long time, but now the former striker can give free rein to his desire to compete, and who knows if in the future he can dream of something more. Faculties are not lacking to continue climbing steps. No godparents. On the La Moraleja course, he shared hours of practice with Eugenio López-Chacarra, the golfer from Madrid who is now joining the Saudi league, LIV Golf. And he recently left Jon Rahm open-mouthed before a Basque tournament in which they both played together. “I told him, ‘You can’t be that good at professional soccer and golf at the same time.’ It just doesn’t seem fair to me. You can’t dedicate yourself to one thing and have so much talent for golf. It’s very, very good,” Rahm said. He has started to show it.

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Later I discovered Pau Gasol golf. The great referent of Spanish basketball has been practicing for less than three years. Although he has already been seen by two museums such as Augusta and Saint Andrews last year. Gasol attended the Masters invited by Sergio García, and repeated the experience in the Scottish temple at the last British Open. In both cases it was easy to find him on the field, a couple of heads above the fans, a privileged height of 2.15m to follow the games, and always very attentive to the game and hungry to know and practice. “In golf he discovered a certain peace, which is something that has been very good for me. It is also a challenge to learn a new sport that has many layers. It has attracted me a lot when I have had time to dedicate to it, because you need to put many hours into it to improve and enjoy. A door has opened and I have entered a fascinating world, and at the same time a competitive challenge that has allowed me to revive the desire for work and effort ”, he recounted in an interview in EL PAÍS last summer. Gasol and Bale, Bale and Gasol, professional golfers.

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