'Ham Hands' a natural

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:53 PM ET

It's been 40 years since Herm Harrison first cast his eyes upon the game of golf and fell in love.

The former Calgary Stampeders receiver (1964-72), renowned for his pass-catching prowess and XL-sized 'Ham Hands', stumbled onto the game innocently enough.

Now not a day goes by when he's not trying to improve.

"George Dunn, the trainer, took me out to a little par-3 in 1965," recalls Harrison, 66.

"I'd never swung a club before but I loved it so much, the next day, I went out and bought my first set of clubs. I thought, 'Wow, man, how could I NOT do this?' Now I try to play at least twice a week and, if I can sneak a nine in, I'll sneak that in, too."

But even though the former Stamp now plays to an 8-handicap, he sometimes lets his thirst for golf knowledge get in the way of his natural athletic ability.

A four-letter star at Arizona State in basketball, baseball, track and football, Harrison now immerses himself in golf magazines, instruction manuals and video, although admitting he has recently learned that sort of intense study can do more harm than good. He's now taking instruction from Jeff Lubin at Calgary Golf Academy, who is helping Harrison rely more on his own talent and less on technical tweaking.

"I buy swing films and books, I look at everything," Harrison says.

"Jeff says, 'Herm, it's fine to read those things but you can't place yourself in those magazines. You've got to do what you're capable of doing. You have to forget about most of that stuff, realize that you're going out to just have a fun game. We're not hitting 500 balls a day like the pros.' "

Harrison plays plenty of charity tournaments, including Special Olympics fund-raisers and the annual Stamps alumni event.

Like his football days when hours each day were dedicated to breaking down game film, players such as Harrison need to remember not to think too much when the game begins.

"That's exactly what happens," Harrison nods. "I'd watch the defence, then read and react. The same goes for golf."

Lubin is intrigued when good athletes are confounded by the game.

"I find it kind of interesting when you have a guy who lettered in four sports at college -- a very athletic guy -- but golf seems to be that one sport that puts a spell on people as far as taking away their natural athletic ability and turning it into a mechanical game sometimes," Lubin says.

"They don't seem to trust they can swing a club like they could throw a football or shoot a basketball.

"They become more mechanical.

"I think most good athletes, especially pro athletes, seem to study the game too much."

Lubin has Harrison hitting balls quickly without taking time to take his normal setup, a drill that forces the player to lean on natural ability.


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