Elway shows he’s still got game

Travis Bertoni tees off on the 10th hole Saturday at the Straight Down Fall Classic at San Luis Obispo Country Club.
Travis Bertoni tees off on the 10th hole Saturday at the Straight Down Fall Classic at San Luis Obispo Country Club.

Comparing football to golf is kind of like comparing apples to oranges.

But for NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, the competitive drive that led him to two championships and five Super Bowl appearances as a football player, also shines through on his golf game, despite the obvious differences between them.

“There’s so much time, there’s so much more thinking involved (in golf),” Elway said, “where as in football it’s a lot more reactionary.”

Despite not picking up the sport seriously until he was in the middle of his NFL career, Elway showed the crowd at San Luis Obispo Country Club that he belonged at the Straight Down Fall Classic during Saturday’s first round.

Early on it was apparent that Elway was more than just a celebrity playing in a pro-am tournament, despite the 20 to 30 fans following him, some decked in Denver Broncos apparel.

After outdriving the rest of his foursome on the first hole, Elway nailed his approach to within three feet of the cup to set up an easy birdie.

A hole later at the third, Elway showed his prowess on the greens, hitting a mid-range birdie to move his team to 2 under and grab an early share of the lead.

Elway and his partner, Paul Lobato, remained at 2 under through five. But the pin placement on up a hill on the sixth hole gave players fits throughout the day.

“You couldn’t be above the hole,” Elway said of the sixth’s pin placement. “You had to make an eight-footer, or a 10-footer coming back and just couldn’t do it.”

Elway and Lobato finished with a 69, well off the pace, but still in the hunt.

Fred Couples and Brad Shaw, as well as Olin Browne and Olin Browne Jr., lead the tournament after carding a 63. Among the teams tied for third are the tandems of San Luis Obispo native Loren Roberts and Mike Rowley, as well as former Cal Poly standout Travis Bertoni and PGA Tour veteran Kevin Stadler, are all at 65.

Playing in the group with Elway was former club professional Steve Seals. A Straight Down representative, Seals is no stranger to playing with big-name golfers.

Years ago, Seals was the club pro when a young Tiger Woods came to play at his course several times. Seals also played a round with NFL Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen.

Still, Seals said the experience of playing with a bona fide superstar like Elway is something he’ll take with him.

Conversational topics between the two golfers included among others, the Stanford football team’s chances at a potential BCS bowl.

“We were talking about the possibilities that Stanford might miss out on the Rose Bowl if Boise State or TCU sneaks in there,” Seals said.

It’s moments like that, which fans are privy to at the Straight Down. It was one of the few tournaments in the nation that allows fans to trail just behind the golfers while walking on the course.

“The great thing about this tournament is that it not only gets great players, but it also brings out great people,” Seals said.

The tournament will conclude today at San Luis Obispo Country Club.