Inside Comments: Steve Turcotte

Northwest native and NBA star LaVine finds out that golf is tough – and addictive

There isn’t much on the basketball court that Zach LaVine can’t do. Need a rim-rattling dunk, he’s got you covered. After all, he did win the NBA Slam Dunk Championship twice. Need a deep three? No problem. In fact, in a game against Charlotte back in November, LaVine scored a career-high 49 points, hitting 13 three-pointers along the way, including the game winner.

He grew up in Bothell, went to Bothell High School and then played at UCLA for one year before being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2014. His NBA career has taken off ever since.

Now, the golf course is a little different matter for LaVine. As good as he is on the basketball court, he is finding golf is not as easy. But after two rounds this summer, LaVine is hooked. His long-time friend Tony Willis is working with his swing and fellow professional basketball player Sekou Wiggs is becoming a regular golfing partner.

LaVine decided that golf was a great avenue when the NBA season shutdown due to the Coronavirus situation. The NBA season will re-start with 22 teams in Orlando. LaVine, who now plays for the Chicago Bulls, will not be part of the re-start as the Bulls finished 24th.

That just gives LaVine more time to fine-tune his game. LaVine shoots the basketball right- handed but plays golf left-handed, which makes sense since he was a lefty on the baseball field growing up. He was such a good baseball player at a young age, that his dad Paul thought he was destined for a career in the big leagues. But basketball became his love, practicing in the family backyard with his long jump shots and dunks. As a senior at Bothell, LaVine averaged nearly 30 points per game and was the state’s Player of the Year.

He played with the Timberwolves for three seasons before being traded to the Bulls in 2017. In 2018, LaVine signed a new deal with the Bulls for four years and $80 million. His career averaged a solid – 17.7 points per game, nearly four assists per game and averaging over 30 minutes.

As much as LaVine likes his time on the basketball court, he is finding that time on the golf course can be fun, but also maddening at times.

At Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club in Federal Way, LaVine teed it up for just the third time. He had borrowed clubs, a right-handed putter (probably not a good thing for a left-handed player) and a driver with a whippy shaft that didn’t help his fast swing.

All of that didn’t matter. The smile on LaVine’s face when he stood over his first tee shot at Twin Lakes said it all. That shot turned out to be a grounder down the fairway. His second shot, something similar. But then he proceeded to hit a 7-iron 170 yards over the par-4 green. “Was that good?,” LaVine asked Willis, who proceeded to look at me like ‘how did someone new to the game just rip a 7-iron that far?’

LaVine has always been a high caliber athlete. Might have got it from his dad Paul, who played in both the NFL and the USFL. His mother CJ was a softball player. Athletic genes run in the LaVine family.

On the third hole, Willis told him to hit pitching wedge – on the 115-yard par-3. He proceeded to hit that club 155 yards. But as the shot sailed long, LaVine saw just how maddening golf can be with some grounders and missed putts – although he was using a right-handed putter so we will cut him some slack on those missed putts. “This is frustrating but I like the fact it’s all on me – and a real individual game,” LaVine said. “I just never realized how hard it can be.”

On the par-4 6th hole at Twin Lakes, LaVine hit a drive that looked like a pop up. This pop up went 280 yards. On the ninth hole he nearly drove the par-4 green with what looked like another pop up. “It’s time I start getting serious about this game,” LaVine said.

As good as LaVine is on the basketball floor, he just might have some golf game in him too. Just give him some time.