SUN Hockey Pool

An eagle eye for golf greats

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Despite steering some of hockey's greatest players to almost 1,500 wins and a record nine Stanley Cups, Scotty Bowman says the most incredible athletic accomplishment he ever witnessed had nothing to do with the sport that made him famous.

Instead, the 73-year-old coaching legend cites a five-hour stroll around Pebble Beach with Tiger Woods as the backdrop for the most phenomenal sporting endeavour he's ever been privy to.

Several years before retiring as the NHL's most decorated coach, the longtime golf enthusiast became a volunteer scorer with the U.S. Golf Association. And when assigned to count strokes for the final pairing of the 2000 U.S. Open, Bowman got the world's best vantage point to watch Woods complete his historic 15-stroke win.

"I've been at Super Bowls and lots of things like that but to see him play the way he did that Sunday was really something to see," said Bowman, in town to speak at last night's Edge School fundraising dinner.

"I've never seen a guy as focused as Tiger."

To make his point, Bowman said that despite spending the day inside the ropes walking no more than 20 ft. away from Woods, it wasn't until after the round in the scoring tent he noticed Bowman.

"I'd met him at a Sports Illustrated dinner the year before and we chatted quite a bit that night, so he knew who I was," said Bowman, telling the story like an excited schoolboy.

"When he was finished verifying his scorecard he saw me and said, 'Hey, what are you doing here?'"

A brief conversation followed, punctuated by Woods reaching into his duffle bag to give Bowman a ball.

"I'll tell you, (Steve) Yzerman was sort of in a zone when the game began and thought of nothing other than his next shift, but what I noticed was that Tiger didn't spectate at all. All he did was talk to (his caddie) Steve Williams and never once acknowledged any of the spectators who screamed out things to him all day. It wasn't until he was on the green on the 18th hole that he started to wave to the crowd. That's what the great one's do -- they focus better than anyone."

Still actively involved in hockey as a consultant with the Red Wings, Bowman spends more time with his four kids and grandchildren. One hockey highlight since retirement was coaching a team of world all-stars against a Russian team at Red Square in December. It was there he laced up the skates for the first time since 2002 when he circled Joe Louis Arena with the Stanley Cup aloft.

"Unfortunately, they shot a lot of confetti on the ice so I was nervous about falling more than anything," laughed Bowman of his famous farewell skate in Motown.

"It was a plan that could have gone the other way."

And where are his famous blades now?

"I've got em' in Buffalo. You used to be able to loan stuff to the Hockey Hall of Fame but they stopped that program. If you give it, you don't get it back. I'm going to give them a lot of stuff that I've kept over the years."

Of course, it won't include the golf ball from Woods.


Videos

Photos