Links to greatness

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

It's true, some guys really do have all the luck.

A week before coming to Spruce Meadows -- one of the world's great venues for show jumping -- Rodrigo Pessoa hit the links at one of golf's most famed tracks, the Old Course at St. Andrews ... and shot a 90.

"It was good. Just like riding here," he said.

Rolex holds an annual golf tournament, including athletes who serve as spokesmen.

Among them are the Brazilian-born Pessoa, three-time World Cup and Olympic champion. By the way, one of his partners was none other than Retief Goosen.

"Very nice guy, low-profile. And a really good golfer," Pessoa said. "It was two weeks before the U.S. Open (which Goosen gassed with a horrific final round) and I was really hoping he would pull it off. But that's the way it goes. That's sports."

The venue for the Rolex event is always the upcoming host site of the British Open.

A year ago, when the tourney was held at Troon, Pessoa played with Arnold Palmer. (Like we said earlier, all the luck.)

"It's a real privilege to spend a couple of hours with someone like that and get to know somebody that important and done all he's done," Pessoa said of the man who was such a fan favourite he elevated golf to a new level. "He's a living legend."

Of course the question remains, why a month before? Why not just before the British Open, when the course is in pristine condition and set up to be at its most challenging?

Keri Pessoa has the answer.

"That gives them time to replace the divots," his wife shot out before Rodrigo could reply.

Which caused him to sheepishly admit: "Yeah, we do quite a bit of damage. We rake the bunkers but the rest we can't do much about. But we rake the bunkers plenty."

Show jumping, in which Pessoa is ranked No. 1 in the world, will always be his sporting love.

However, golf -- which he took up five years ago -- is starting to take its effect.

He was introduced to the game by his father-in-law, William Potter, who served as chairman at the PGA's Buick Invitational.

"It's a fun thing to do when you have some spare time, that's not often but you get some days off," said Pessoa, a 15-handicapper who hit the Calgary Golf and Country club this week before gearing up again at the Spruce Meadows North American.

"What I like about it is you can go away from what you are doing, walk around a very pretty place that's quiet and peaceful and think about something else.

"You get to disconnect a little bit from what you're doing.

"It's a game that requires a lot of concentration and patience, very similar to what we do every day."

While there's not much of a chance Pessoa will hoist the Claret Jug, he did recently receive his due from the Athens Olympics.

Having finished second in Greece, Pessoa was elevated to golden status when Waterford Crystal, the horse belong to winner Cian O'Connor, was found to have a banned substance in its bloodstream and the medal was stripped from the Irish rider.

Pessoa finally received his gold Sunday, though with no fanfare, which is how he wanted it to be. "It's not really the way you want to get it," said Pessoa.

"We'll try next time to get it the proper way,"

He was more concerned about what the scandal has done to show jumping. "It's a pity. It's damaging to the image to our sport," he said.


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