By Richard Kent BASN Writer
Updated: August 20, 2011
WESTCHESTER, NY (BASN)—-Jim Thorpe.No not that Jim Thorpe, Jim Thorpe the golfer is as unassuming and approachable as any major athlete in the world.Despite his 3 PGA and 13 Champions Tour wins,he is a regular guy willing to talk about any topic.
The 62 year old recently spent almost a year in prison on tax evasion charges and owns up to the misdemeanor and calls the episode,”a learning experience.”
He has been back on the Champions Tour since April 1 and opined Saturday, after his round at the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship,the 5th Major of the Champions Tour, on many topics.
Thorpe is concerned that so few African-American compete in the game at the highest level today. He misses the late 1970′s,when cronies like Lee Elder,Pete Brown and Charlie Sifford were on Tour with him.They,to him were true pioneers,especially at The Masters,which didn’t permit African-American golfers for many years.
Thorpe plans to play another year or so and then devote his energires to extending the First Tee program beyond the age of 18 for minority golfers.He thinks that is an essential step to growing the game,which he calls expensive to play to more African-Americans.
He has played with both Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in his day and while not saying it directly certainly implies that Jack is still the greatest player to ever play the game.He does,though feel that Tiger will be back given his talent level.
Thorpe calls Arnold Palmer,”a true Ambassador of the game” and likens his game more to Woods than Nicklaus,in that they both took tremendous gambles on the golf course. He feels that Lee Trevino was a true great of the game.
Thorpe always has been a big hitter but emphasized that hitting it big and directionless is of no value in the pro game.
Thorpe credits most of his success to his 30 plus year marriage and calls his wife his “anchor.”
During our interview he engaged in some fun banter with former US Open winner Hale Irwin.Both of them were football standouts in their youth and Irwin noted that one of his goals in life is to tackle the much bigger Thorpe.
Thorpe has the gift of gab but also game on the golf course.The sport will truly miss one of its stars when he hangs up his spikes for good.