SUN Hockey Pool

Teeing Off With... Flames prez Ken King

ERIC FRANCIS

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

Shortly after collecting just over $200 dollars for his efforts on the course, Ken King says hello to a family of members leaving the patio at Willow Park Golf Club.

After doing a double-take, a young pregnant woman in the group realizes the low voice she hears is indeed that of the Flames president she's known for years.

One of countless people who have been shocked to realize the man in front of them has shed 55 lb. from his considerably sturdy frame over the last year, King responds with a witty one-liner about her weight going up while his keeps going down.

"Some of my closest associates have walked right by me," said King later of the dramatic transformation that has everyone who sees him nowadays talking. "That's over 20% of your body, gone."

Taking a stand last year on added pounds he simply decided were no longer acceptable, King turned his diet -- and, in many ways, his life -- around.

And while golf had nothing to do with his reasons to adopt a healthier lifestyle, the increased fluidity in his swing speaks to the physical improvements he's made.

"Your body obviously has a lot to do with your swing -- my handicap is the same (16) but I'm swinging and playing better," said King, a Willow Park member dating back to his days as a publisher at both local daily newspapers.

"The most improved part of my game is my attitude. I was a headcase in the past but not now. If I play well, great. If I don't, that's fine, too. I see too many people pissed off. I come here to have fun."

He seemed to have plenty of fun yesterday as he racked up endless skins and matches in a foursome that included Flames co-owner Alvin Libin and his son Bobby Libin.

An average hitter who puts a slight draw on most shots, King's downfall yesterday came in the form of five or six missed putts inside four ft. However, with an iron game that helped guide him through one of the city's tightest tracks, he pieced together an 86 that earned him enough to buy dinner and then some.

King never played golf while growing up in Saskatchewan (hometown Hanley) but picked it up at age 30 as he entered the newspaper game.

"I love the competition," said King who wouldn't hear of golfing without a full compliment of wagers on the line.

"I used to consider myself not fanatical but passionate. I'm not as much any more. I do enjoy it, though."

What has taken him down to an average of 20 to 30 rounds a year has been the half-dozen horses he's accumulated over the last handful of years to help fulfil his dreams of becoming a cowboy of sorts.

"Horses or golf on a Saturday morning -- it's a real coin toss," said King, who travels to his cabin on the outskirts of town to feed and care for his horses every morning.

"I'm not a great horseman but I'm very game and I want to learn. I've learned as much about things through horses than anything else, including hard lessons like breaking bones and being on the ground on your back after falling off one."

Always quick to help look for a ball, help with a read or interject some of his quick wit into a situation, the slimmer version of the man who helped turn the Flames around seems a more relaxed sort these days.

"I pay for this entertainment," said Alvin Libin of his semi-regular golf partner.

"Playing with him is like buying a ticket to a show."

A very costly show yesterday.

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KEN KING

Handicap: 16

Best score: 79

Years played: since age 30

In his bag: Taylor Made rac irons, Big Bertha driver

Avg. rounds a year: 30

Favourite course: Willow Park (member)

Golf highlight: Shooting 35 (par) on the back nine at Willow

When the beer cart pulls up, I'll have a: water

Golf wisdom: "Two ways you can tell someone's true personality -- when they're drunk or when they're golfing."


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