By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
At 6-feet, 6-inches tall and weighing in somewhere near 310 pounds on one side or the other, with shoulder-length blond hair and an equally blond mustache, Pat Eger is one of the most distinctive of West Virginia University football players.
You notice him, even dressed in full football regalia, his hair flowing from beneath his helmet as he lines up over the football, pointing out blocking assignments before getting into the job of centering the ball back to quarterback Clint Trickett.
Seeing this, it is difficult to imagine a second side of Pat Eger, sporting side that just doesn’t seem to fit with life in the pits.
Pat Eger plays golf, and, when he is able to get down into it, he’s a pretty good golfer.
“My dad taught me how to play golf. He was a scratch golfer, a monster off the tee,” he said, speaking of the late Mike Eger.
One can only imagine how either of them hit the ball off the tee.
As someone who, in another life, covered PGA golf, I’ve seen up close and personal the likes of Arnold Palmer and John Daly and even the legendary Sammy Snead hit balls from the tee.
The two moments, however, indelibly implanted in a mind
that is beginning to forget a lot of other things began with a practice round I walked as golf writer at the Atlanta Journal alone at Augusta National before the 1966 Masters with Jack Nicklaus.
As we approached the third hole, Nicklaus peered down the fairway and spied a new bunker place about 300 yards out at the dogleg to the left, put there exclusively for him as he had been playing the hole by cutting the dogleg.
Nicklaus put a ball down and drove it over the dogleg, easily. He did it again. And again, then looked at me and said:
“I guess if the tee is all the way back, I’ll have to play short,” he said, smiling as he walked away.
The second came one spring afternoon in Bradenton in the early 1990s when I was covering the Pittsburgh Pirates, going out and playing a round of golf with Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds, who had just recently taken up the game.
All I can tell you is Bonds would have driven that third green at Augusta, such were his drives. They literally went out of sight … and out of bounds, often.
This, mind you, were the pre-steroid days. One can only imagine what a round of golf was like with Bonds wearing a 7 3/8 golf cap.
Eger can understand how that could be. He loves the game of golf.
“In middle school and high school, I played a lot, and when I got down here I kept playing but it seemed like as soon as I started really, really pounding the strength and conditioning here I lost something in my swing,” he said.
It is a different kind of strength training and flexibility needed to block a middle guard or hit a driver 300 yards down the center of the fairway.
In high school, before he got into weight training, he had that flexibility.
“If I got hold of it, I could hit it,” he said. “I remember, my senior year of high school, our football team did a golf tournament to raise money for the program. There were two holes that were long drives to raise money on. I got the first one, and then we were on 18. It was scramble, and the three other guys had hit it in the fairway. I was playing with my dad, his good buddy and his son, and they were like, ‘Let it rip! Let it really rip!’
“If I had hit six more inches it would have been off the fairway and I wouldn’t have gotten in, but it stayed on, and it was about 300 or 350 yards.”
The games, one would imagine, are dissimilar in more ways that just muscle configuration, but Eger begs to differ.
“A lot of both games is mental toughness,” he pointed out. “That’s huge in football. It’s what we train all winter for.
His example was intriguing.
“Running Law School hill,” he said. “That has nothing to do with football. I’ll never be running uphill in football. But that teaches how, when times get tough and you get tired, to buckle down and bear down and reach down inside you and find that little extra you’ve got and give it your all.
“When things are going bad on the golf course and I want to throw my clubs in the woods, you’ve got to calm yourself and focus up and get through it.”
It is no different on the football field than it is on the golf course … except there are no mulligans.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.