Michael Beasley's growing golf obsession

Wolves forward Michael Beasley is about to give an entirely different meaning to Minnesota Links.

Who can blame him? A slew of blue-chip opponents (Boston on Sunday, followed by the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday and the Miami Heat on Friday) will fill Target Center this week. It requires little analysis to observe that the vast wealth of those on hand will be in attendance to view the visitor's bench.  

And as the Timberwolves' 17-57 season bleeds toward a close, they're pacing toward the league's second-worst mark for the second time in as many seasons.

Copious amounts of losing at this stage in the game could lead to either binge drinking or levity. Let us trend toward the latter today, and recognize that players (like all who have invested advanced degrees' worth of time with this bunch) have actual lives outside of Target Center and require variety and leisure pursuits to maintain some sanity amid a demanding work and travel schedule.

For Beasley, said leisure will find him on the golf course after the season breaks.  

The amply inked scorer will be spending a substantial part of his off-season in the Twin Cities, and he aims to refine a golf game that he was introduced to just a year back by Keith Askins, his former assistant coach in Miami.

"I drive past the golf course every day waiting for the snow to melt," Beasley said after a recent Wolves practice. "I'm fairly new [to golf], but I'm pretty good, though. I've learned from some good teachers."

Before being traded to Minnesota, Beasley began playing in Miami's North Beach, and took several lessons from pros to learn how--in his words--to play the game "the right way."

While his scoring marks on the course more than quintuples his 19-point scoring average on the court, Beasley (who shoots lefty, swing righty) knows that his marked hoops skills mean little on the links. 

"It's the only sport in the world I can play and my physical ability has nothing to do with it," he said. "It's challenging. You go out there and think, 'I'm big. I'm strong. I'm athletic, so I can hit the ball.' But it's just not that at all. It's a mental game. I love being out there by myself, sometimes. Just give me time to think and give me time to be with myself."

Minnesota has more golfers per capita than any state in the nation. Count our pro hoopsters among the numbers. Of his Wolves playing peers, Beasley notes that he's discussed golf at length with both Lazar Hayward and Luke Ridnour.

But whether he's playing solo or with a foursome, Beasley is so drawn to golf that he now counts the pursuit as "third on my priority list, behind basketball and my kids." 

He practiced regularly over the winter, refining his swing at indoor virtual facilities.

"It keeps my swing intact," he says. "I'm not really sure how accurate it is for speed, distance, and the ball. But it definitely helps keep my swing where it needs to be."

That virtual hand-eye is extended via Beasley's longtime affinity for video games; in this vein,

it's "Tiger Woods PGA TOUR" offering from EA Sports. 

"I get them every year; every one that comes out I get," he says of Woods's game. "I'm actually, like, the best at the video game. I shoot, like, 40-under sometimes. The video game is unreal. Once you master it, it's the easiest thing in the world."

Beasley has never met Woods in person ("That would be a great honor," he notes), but he says he always uses Tiger's likeness in the virtual realm. Of the real Woods's struggling game, Beasley adds:

"Tiger Woods, in my eyes, is the best to ever play. I still think he's the best; even though he's going through a little rough patch right now and he's still going to show everybody why he's Tiger Woods."

After being traded from Miami to Minnesota last summer, Beasley acclimated to his new home by frequenting a public nine-hole course in the western suburbs. Describing the condition of his game, he says:

"My weakness is my putt game; I can't really putt that good . . . I'm either swinging too hard or not hard enough. And reading the hills and stuff like that, I'm not really good at that. But my strengths are probably the pitch; I'm good with the pitching wedge. And the sand--I'm good in the sand, believe it or not."

But aside from chewing on crazy amounts of candy in both arenas, are his court and course games simpatico?

"My basketball game is a little fast-paced," Beasley concludes. "I kinda want my basketball game to be like my golf game: real slow, real patient, and just letting things happen. On a basketball court I have all the confidence in the world. When I'm on the golf course it's the total opposite."

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