Captain on the course

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

Daniel Alfredsson is once again making a big play to demoralize an opponent.

The captain of the Senators has done it for years in the NHL, ever since winning the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year in 1996.

He led the Senators to the Stanley Cup final in 2007 and was one of the few Senators to show up against the Anaheim Ducks, scoring four goals in the five-game final.

This spring, he added another page to his legend in Ottawa by playing on an injured knee and with a bad back, trying to rally his teammates in their first-round playoff series against Pittsburgh.

The series ended in four-straight games in favour of the Penguins, but Alfredsson left the ice at Scotiabank Place to chants of "Alfie, Alfie, Alfie!"

It was a great moment. I want to call him something else right now.

Our match at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, his home course, is even as we stand on the tee of the par-3 eighth hole, a brute of a hole at 220 yards to a well-protected green that requires all carry. We're playing on a late summer's day during last year's training camp.

With a big lash, he nails his tee shot with a 3-iron to about five feet. Clearly intimidated, I bail into a bunker right.

He makes the putt.

On the 448-yard, par-4 ninth, Alfredsson lays up short of the ravine that cuts the fairway at about 250 yards.

I pull my tee shot to the left on the dogleg and have no shot to the green which is tucked behind a long stand of trees up the left side of the hole. I watch Alfredsson launch his second. It screams into the air and turns toward the hidden green behind the trees.

"That looked pretty good," I call to him. As he walks up the fairway, he can see the result.

"It's better than you think," he laughs.

He's hit his shot from about 230 yards to three feet.

He makes that one, too. Now he's two up heading onto the back nine.

- - -

My handicap is six these days and Alfredsson is a four, but he generously gives me three shots on the front after I do some whining about how little I've played.

"But whoever wins the front loses a stroke (off their handicap)," he said, a smart and equitable way to keep it competitive.

"Ten-10-10?" he asks, meaning $10 for the front, $10 for the back and $10 for "the long," or the total.

"Sure. I think you can afford it," I said.

Alfredsson has a big, powerful swing which is fundamentally sound-- basically what you would expect from a professional athlete with an incredibly strong lower body. With those legs, Alfredsson has a rock-solid foundation for his swing. In our match, he was hitting the ball about 290 yards off the tee, launching a high, soaring draw.

He is self taught. He got into golf relatively late in life for a good player when he was about 20 and in his first year playing in the Swedish Elite League with Vastra Frolunda in Goteborg, his hometown.

He didn't really need the extra income, but he worked at a golf course from about 6 a.m. until noon every day, something to fill the time before practice at 3 p.m.

"I was a maintenance worker. I didn't mow the greens. I cut around the trees, the kind of jobs young people do," he said.

The job also gave him the chance to hit balls.

"My swing is one of those things where I go on feel. I don't really have any technique that says I have to do this. The only thing I watch is my hands. If I struggle, I usually lower them because that's my comfort zone. I'm sure if I get a coach and I want to improve, I'm going to be told I have to work on my full swing, as well.

"Mostly I feel like to score better, definitely my putting and short game have to get better."

When he first came to Ottawa after being drafted by the Senators 133rd overall in 1994, his real estate agent brought him out to Royal Ottawa to play a couple of times.

"Then when I signed my first four-year deal, I thought I'd be here (in Ottawa) for a bit," said Alfredsson. "I thought this would be a good way to meet people. I'm really happy I joined."

He hits first off the first tee and loses his drive a little to the right on the par-5 first hole, winding up in the trees that separate the first and 18th fairways.

I hit my opening shot pretty well, winding up about 40 yards behind him, but in the fairway.

I wind up sinking a three-foot birdie putt, while Alfredsson has a three-putt bogey after his approach spins back to the front of the green.

He's not happy.

On the 199-yard, par-3 second, I hit my 21-degree hybrid to the middle of the green while Alfredsson comes up short. I think I see the door open to go 2-up when he muffs his little pitch from in front, but he then proceeds to hole his next one from just off the green for par.

Typical. I'd seen it enough on the rink over the years.

I shoud have expected it here. Never count him out.

- - -

After those two monstrous 3-irons on eight and nine, Alfredsson is up two holes on our match. I'm down $10 after Alfredsson's fine one-under par 34. I rally on the back with the benefit of the extra stroke. We're tied after 15 holes after Alfredsson just missed hitting the par-5 in two, but then took four to get down from just off the green.

"It's frustrating. You know you can be better and you know how to do it, but you can't just do it on the course. Obviously, I've got some shortcomings, putting and short game," said Alfredsson. "That's something you have to practise. Either I have to put that time in to be better ... it's frustrating if I know I'm going to be a four no matter what -- no better, no worse.

"I'm kind of stuck there right now. I need to make a committment to it or kind of just play for fun and don't get frustrated like I am now."

On the long, par-4 15th hole, we have hit our tee shots within a few yards of each other. We're playing on a beautiful late summer's day, evening creeping up on us. The talk bounces around about hockey and golf. I am a few yards ahead of Alfredsson, just on the edge of a steep dropoff, which has everything to do with the fact he hit a much shorter club off the tee.

Alfredsson had a little more than 200 yards to the green on this long par-4 and his approach leaks right and lands in a bunker. I practically top my hybrid, but the low screamer has a nose for the green and limps onto the putting surface.

Alfredsson fails to get up and down from the bunker and I make a two-putt par to go up on the back and in the match.

On the 17th hole, which has a split fairway, he creams his drive over some trees on the left, shortening his approach to about 75 yards. I stay on the lower fairway. Alfredsson jogs over from his ball to give me a yardage with his laser range finder. Nice of him with so much on the line.

He hits his sand wedge over the green and into a bunker, his third comes up short of the green and I wind up winning the hole with another unspectacular par.

Alfredsson takes a swipe at his ball after he plucks it out of the hole, frustrated with the loss of strokes around the green. Those errors -- with the fairway wedge and untidy work around the green -- are the areas where he needs to improve to knock those last few strokes off his 'cap.

"That's not a tough shot, either, because the pin is back and there's a lot of green," he said of his approach. " I should be able to have a 10-footer at worst for birdie."

After we halve the 18th hole with pars, Alfredsson grips my hand in a firm handshake.

"That was a fun match," he said.

I wind up $10 ahead, though I had a 78 to Alfredsson's 74, thanks to his generosity with the strokes on the first tee.

Outside on Royal Ottawa's spectacular verandah (it is one of the best clubhouses in golf, perched over the 18th green, the rumpled fairways exaggerated by the shadows cast by the setting sun) he settles our bet on the balcony over a post-match glass of water and a salad, darkness falling around us.

Alfredsson doesn't play golf to relax. If anything, he shows more emotion, seems to be less restrained, on grass than on ice.

"I'm fascinated by the mental approach of the game and how hard it is to keep a round together," he said. "It's you against the course. I love that challenge. I've never won the challenge."

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IN THE BAG

DRIVER: Nike Sasquatch, traditional shape, Diamana shaft, stiff. 10.5 degree loft

FAIRWAY WOODS: Titleist 975, 3-wood, 5-wood, graphite shafts, stiff

IRONS: TaylorMade Rac 4-PW, stiff shafts

WEDGES: Cleveland, 52-56-60 degrees

PUTTER: Scotty Cameron Newport Studio

BALL: Titleist Pro V1

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SWING ANALYSIS

We asked award-winning Kevin Haime, operator of the Kevin Haime Golf School and former Canadian PGA Teacher of the Year, to evaluation Daniel Alfredsson's swing (above):

Alfie's athleticism and strength definitely stays with him on the golf course. This is a very powerful and balanced-looking golf swing worthy of a long-hitting single digit to scratch golfer.

Daniel's upper body is swinging nicely. His arm swing keeps the club very close to where it should be. The only exception being his left hand grip.

At address, his left hand is a little too much on top of the club which causes the club to be a little closed at the top of the swing. This could lead to an occasional hook, especially with the longer clubs.

I'd also like to see Daniel narrow his stance a touch to encourage a little more hip rotation. He really doesn't turn his hips much at all in his backswing.

His wide stance also prevents aggressive hip rotation and clearing through impact. As a result, Alfie's second "miss" may be a block out to the right.

All in all though, this is a golf swing that most players should envy. It looks strong, stable and is fundamentally sound. I just wish he didn't get to use it quite so early this year!

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ABOUT DANIEL

Home courses

Royal Ottawa Golf Club; Kungsbacka G..C. Sweden.

MEMORABLE SHOT

"My first tee shot when I represented my club back home. It was a competition between the top 12 clubs in the country. I was put in because our team didn't do so well the first day. I wasn't expecting to play. The players in this are trying to be pros and I was a four-handicap. Everybody knew who I was and probably wondering what I was doing there. I don't think I've ever been that nervous. I was shaking. I faded it right into the middle."

FAVOURITE GOLF COURSE

Tralee Golf Club, Ireland. "I usually scored well there. I just love the course. It's right on the ocean."

GOLF MEMORY

"The first time I went to Ireland. It was quite an experience and it's something I'd like to do more as I get older."

DREAM FOURSOME

Tiger Woods. I'd like to pick his brain and watch him play. I really admire him. My dad, Hasse, so he could see how to play golf. Steve Yzerman because I've always admired him. I met him a couple of times. It would be fun to talk to him, as well."


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