The Best Known Golfers Among NFL Players

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2021

The Best Known Golfers Among NFL Players

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    Aaron Rodgers
    Aaron RodgersEric Risberg/Associated Press

    NFL players are constantly working to develop their on-field talents, but the pursuit of a Super Bowl ring isn't their only interest. Many of them also spend time on the golf course.

    And as you'd expect from elite athletes, they're often pretty darn good too.

    Throughout the year, NFL players will participate in events that support a foundation or charity. Others will compete for a title in a Pro-Am tournament or simply hit the links for pure enjoyment. Along the way, several have become near-scratch golfers.

    Retired players, such as Tony Romo and Peyton Manning, are not highlighted individually. Additionally, not every player is a verified top golfer; everyone here has a specific reason for inclusion.

    All players mentioned are active as of the 2020 season, and the list is ordered alphabetically.

Jake Elliott

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    When the coronavirus pandemic halted the sports world, Jake Elliott took his golf talent indoors. The Philadelphia Eagles kicker posted a video of himself doing trick shots.

    But his talents are not limited to short-game boredom.

    Elliott boasts a 2.2 handicap, according to Evan Macy of the PhillyVoice. In 2018, Elliott told the team's official site that he started "playing a ton" late in high school and early in college.

    Last year, Elliott won the Golfweek Skills Challenge against NFL kickers Mason Crosby, Robbie Gould and Brandon McManus.

Larry Fitzgerald

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Whenever he's done catching passes in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald still has a few more championships to win.

    The longtime Arizona Cardinals wideout has twice won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am alongside Kevin Streelman. The duo earned a seven-stroke win in 2018 and five-stroke victory in 2020.

    But while Fitzgerald will likely chase some Pro-Am titles after retiring, golfing may only become a slightly larger hobby.

    "I love playing golf, but I'm not making the world a better place by playing it," Fitzgerald said in 2019.

Brett Kern

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    Brett Carlsen/Associated Press

    Through the 2020 season, Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern ranks 11th in NFL history with 46.0 yards per kick.

    And he excels on the course too.

    In 2019, Joe Rexrode of The Athletic noted Kern is a 1-handicap golfer. While in college, he even caddied at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio, for three summers.

    Given that background, it should be no surprise he's been a member at Nashville Golf & Athletic Club while playing for the Titans.

Patrick Peterson

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Patrick Peterson hit one ball in 2011 and found himself hooked.

    "My first club I ever hit was a 7-iron because 7's my favorite number, and I flushed it and was like: 'Man this game is that easy? It can't be that easy,'" he told Adam Woodard of Golfweek in 2020. "I'll never forget after that I went and literally started buying clubs. That's how I got into the game."

    Since 2015, his foundation has hosted the Patrick Peterson Celebrity Golf Tournament. Peterson has played in several Pro-Am events, including the American Century Championship and Phoenix Open.

    Peterson told Golfweek he's the second-best golfer on the Cardinalsahead of Fitzgerald and only trailing punter Andy Lee.

Aaron Rodgers

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Aaron Rodgers has become a fixture at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Most recently, he finished in a tie for ninth alongside Max Homa in February 2020 as the pairing shot 24-under par.

    One day, Rodgers might just win it.

    During a 2019 interview with Chris Nashawaty of Golf.com, Rodgers said his best handicap is a 3.5. And that talent has a national showcase too; he teamed up with Bryson DeChambeau to take on Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in the fourth edition of Capital One's The Match on July 6 at 5 p.m. on TNT.

    Rodgersa three-time NFL MVPis a member at Green Bay Country Club.  

Matt Ryan

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Matt Ryan wanted to stop losing, so he wanted to improve. And we're not talking about him as a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.

    "When I first got [to Atlanta in 2008], Chris [Redman] was my backup for four years," he told Dan McDonald of PGA.com. "Chris is a good player. And I was tired of losing money to him on the golf course. Every time we'd go out, I was tired of getting beat up by him, so that was kind of my motivation to get better."

    Ryan certainly rode that motivation to great success, playing his way to a 1.2 handicap by 2017, per Golf.com.

    In the last decade, he's hosted the Matt Ryan Celebrity-Am Classic annually and played in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and American Century Championship.

Ryan Succop

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    As a junior at Hickory High School in North Carolina, Ryan Succop won a state championship in golf. In 2020, he won a Super Bowl as the kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Who's to say which one is better?

    In all seriousness, Succop has enjoyed a couple of rarities in golf. In addition to the state title, he caddied for Wesley Bryan at the 2016 Nashville Golf Openand Bryan finished in the top 10. He's played to a scratch handicap, per Discover South Carolina.

    Spending six years as Kern's teammate in Tennessee probably didn't hurt Succop's gameand vice versa.

Adam Thielen

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Succop, however, isn't the only state golf champion.

    Adam Thielen won a title while attending Detroit Lakes High School in Minnesota. (For good measure, the four-sport athlete finished as the school's all-time leading scorer in basketball too.)

    Thielen, who recently put a golf simulator in his house, has competed at the American Century Championship several times. In 2020, the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver finished in 12th place. Thielen tied with Rodgers for 18th in 2018.

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