DENVER – John Elway pulled an Elway on the Elway hole.
“Seven on 7,” the Hall of Famer said sadly after carding an even-par 72 Wednesday in his first senior golf tournament since turning 50 in June.
Elway’s blunder came about when he played the wrong ball and ended up with a triple bogey on the par-4 seventh hole at the Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, site of the HealthOne Colorado Senior Open.
Elway hit a TaylorMade Penta 2 ball from the rough only to realize when he reached it again on the fairway that it wasn’t his.
So, he penalized himself two strokes.
“It was the same exact ball and it was buried. I could barely see the ball and it was a TaylorMade 2, which is what I was hitting,” Elway said. “I didn’t mark the ball. … I just figured it was the same lie, same everything, so I didn’t check it for sure. I was happy to find it, actually.
“And after I hit it and I got up in the grass, I looked at it and I said, ‘Aw, that’s not my ball.’ So, we went 10 yards farther and there was my ball, and it was in much better shape than the one I hit.”
This golf ball is relatively new, so that made it all the odder to Elway that two nearly identical balls would be so close together to trip him up.
“I was a little bit unlucky, but I also should have checked it. It was in a big tuft of grass and I could only see about that much of it,” Elway said, holding his thumb and forefinger to make a hole about the size of a dime. “And it was a TaylorMade with a 2. So, I should have picked it up to make sure it was mine.”
There were only two fans watching, along with an Associated Press reporter and an AP photographer, who were far enough away that Elway and his caddie, Jeff Nickless, could have kept quiet and nobody would have known about the blunder.
Elway did the honorable thing, though, went back and played his ball.
Now, the two-time Super Bowl winner can add “honest golfer” to his resume.
“And I counted my scorecard seven times there because I wanted to make sure I didn’t write down a wrong score, either,” Elway said. “It was disappointing but I was able to come back and I actually played really well. So, it was just a mistake.”
Otherwise, Elway played pretty consistently, never needing a three-putt.
“I was glad I came back after that 7 because it bothered me, razzed me a little bit,” Elway said. “And I actually hit a good shot on the next hole, had about a 6-footer for birdie and I missed it. And I made birdie on the next hole.”
Elway was the low amateur finisher Friday and is five shots behind leader Bob Niger of El Dorado Hills, Calif.
Another round like this and Elway should easily make the cut Friday when the field of 156 amateurs and pros is trimmed to the top 55 scores plus ties.
“My thought was I couldn’t win it today, I could just lose it,” said Elway, who tied for second at a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada in July. “So, I played probably a little bit safer that I probably would if I was chasing somebody.
“If I can play like I did today tomorrow and eliminate the big hole, then maybe I can sneak back into it.”
Aside from working on his golf game, Elway has spent part of his summer dipping his toe back into the NFL with some marketing and corporate projects for the Denver Broncos
It’s the first time he’s been involved with his former team since retiring in 1999 after winning back-to-back Super Bowls. He’ll help them promote their game in London next month against the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s kind of a perfect situation with what I have going on right now,” Elway said. “So, I’ll go to London with them and kind of see what happens. But it’s nice to just be close, back with the Broncos.”
Elway also has attended a couple of coach Josh McDaniels’ practices this summer. He said he’s impressed with quarterbacks Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow, the former Florida star whose popularity recalls the days of Elway’s arrival in Denver in 1983.
And what does Elway make of Tebowmania?
“Tim’s a popular guy. He won the Heisman his sophomore year in college, and then they won the national title, so we’ve heard about Tim for three years,” Elway said. “I mean, he’s just a popular guy and not only for what he does football-wise but for what type of person he is.
“I think now that we get into the regular season the mania may cool down a little bit and we start talking about wins and losses, and I’m sure Tim’s anxious to get going with the season, too.”
Like many NFL observers, Elway said he’s “curious to see how they’re going to use him in certain situations. But all the young guys will see things turned up a notch once they get into the regular season.”
While Orton has a stranglehold on the starting job, Elway said he believes the Broncos will find ways to get Tebow on the field.