Saturday, August 1, 2009

First 'real hit' hooks Colts player on golf

Melvin Bullitt came to the Indianapolis Colts two years ago as an undrafted free agent from Texas A&M.
In 2008, his second NFL season, he started 12 games and led the team in interceptions, including three game-saving picks in the final seconds to seal Colts victories. He also has been a stalwart on special teams.
Before the Indiana PGA's Play Golf America Day on May 29, Bullitt had been to a golf course only once. On his trip to The Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin, he had no expectations of becoming a golfer.
"The Colts asked me to come, so I did. I wasn't really interested in golf until I had the experience of a real hit that day," Bullitt said.
That real hit - an ironic phrase from one of the Colts' hardest hitters - was the hook that was going to change his summer. After two hours of instruction on that day in May, he was bitten by the golf bug.
"I am real athletic, and I didn't respect the athleticism that goes into golf," Bullitt said.
Over the next three weeks, Bullitt and I got together for several golf lessons. During this time, he bought stylish new golf clothes and started using a new set of clubs. He became an avid viewer of the Golf Channel. It was apparent that he was becoming a student of the game.
It was not uncommon for me to get a text from Bullitt regarding the PGA Tour event that was being played or some other programming that was being aired on the Golf Channel. Once, he even let me know that he was watching Michele Wie in an LPGA tournament.
This might sound like strange behavior to the non-golfer, but for those of us who know the sport, this was the evolution of a golfer.
Bullitt will tell you that football and golf have some things in
"In some ways they are really similar. You have to be patient because everything doesn't go your way," he said. "You can't overdo it. You don't force it.
"When I started hitting golf balls, I thought it was all about the arms. I learned that I wasn't utilizing all of my power and that I needed to use my hips and legs. It is like making a tackle; even though you use your arms, the power is in the legs."
Bullitt continued to work hard. He hit a lot of balls. When he played, the scores were high.
"The first time I played this summer, I shot 81 for nine holes. Making consistent contact with the ball was hard," he said with a laugh. "But the more I worked on it, I hit it every time. I started to get precise and began to figure things out like how to open or close the club face to control my distance."
As the summer rolled by, it was time for Bullitt to head to his hometown of Dallas. It was there that he continued his golf with Ronny Glanton, PGA professional at Sherrill Park Golf Course.
"He is very motivated and a great listener," Glanton said of Bullitt. "He is highly competitive and expects to get better.
"Most importantly, Melvin is an unbelievable person. What he does with his local football program is amazing. He donates his time, teaching drills and techniques to kids. He just gives back. His dad instilled a lot of moral character in him. Melvin is a class act."
Bullitt started getting better on the course. His low score to date is 47 for nine holes. He lists his first-ever birdie as his biggest thrill.
"It was Hole 9 at Woodbridge Golf Club in Wylie, Texas. It is a par 4, and we played from the blue tees, about 450 yards, and I made a 20-yard putt."
Spoken like a true football player - yards, not feet.
Bullitt will be the first to tell you that his time with the PGA professionals was valuable.
"Patience is the key to golf, and they taught me that," he said. "The other thing that I learned is that you have to be well-conditioned to play golf. My swing changes after 11 or 12 holes when I get physically tired.
"I have a hard time maintaining my concentration. Golf is helping me learn to focus. I think the things that I have learned from golf in regard to focusing will help me study my playbook better.
"Getting ready to hit a shot in golf is like preparing for the next play in football. I should be better with my concentration."
Like all golf fans, Bullitt has a favorite player.
"Of course, it's Tiger," he said. "But there's a new cat out there. They call him Spider-man. He's ripped. I don't know much about him yet, but I like watching him."
He was speaking of Camilo Villegas.
What does Bullitt expect long term from golf?
"This sounds crazy, but eventually seven or eight years from now, when I am done playing, I want to be a full-time pro. It will be my number one sport," Bullitt said.
"I would encourage all kids to give it a shot. I promise you, golf is something you will enjoy. Many minority kids need the opportunity to experience golf. You never know what might happen to a kid who gets a chance to play golf."
This weekend Bullitt joins his Colts teammates at training camp. He will be hanging up the clubs and shifting his attention to his current No. 1 game, football.
"I am excited for the season to start. We control our own destiny. We have a lot of talent, and I am really looking forward to playing for coach (Jim) Caldwell," he said. "There is going to be a lot of moving around on defense and a new special-teams coach. I'm ready."
Bullitt again will be listed behind All-Pro safety Bob Sanders on the Colts' depth chart.
"He is still my mentor," Bullitt said. "Bob and Antoine (Bethea) are the best safeties in the league. I just have to be ready to play. I know I will get my chances."
And the golf clubs?
"Yep, the golf clubs get put away until early February when we hopefully finish our business. As soon as we take care of that, I can't think of a better way to celebrate than with a round of golf," Bullitt said.
Bullitt wears No. 33 on the field. Want to make a bet when he shoots his number on the golf course? It's not if, just a matter of when.
Ted Bishop is director of golf for The Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin and secretary for PGA of America.

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