Landon Donovan Q&A: The American soccer star on how his country club ‘ruined’ his life

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Former soccer player Landon Donovan plays his shot from the eighth tee during the first round of the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club on January 18, 2024 in Orlando, Florida.
Landon Donovan plays a shot during the first round of the 2024 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.

Arguably the greatest American soccer player of all time would, you’d think, be a natural at foot golf. But that’s not where Landon Donovan gets his kicks.

GOLF: You recently played in your first celebrity pro-am: the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, in Orlando. Did you prepare for it as if it were a World Cup match?

LD: Probably more so! When you play a sport for a long time, you know how to do it. This was unknown territory — and I wanted to be invited back.

G: Is there anything from your soccer career that has helped your golf game?

LD: It sounds stupid but just watching the golf ball through the whole swing. When I had trouble scoring goals or my technique was off, I’d just visualize kicking the ball all the way through and not pulling my head up, because when your body comes up other things go awry.

G: Did you play much golf while you were playing soccer for a living on the pro circuit?

LD: For me, it was one to two times a year, but there were some guys on the team that would play golf every off day. One of my regrets in life is that I didn’t start earlier. The beauty of golf is it’s never too late to start.

G: Foot golf, a version of the game played with a soccer ball, has emerged as a recreational sport in recent years. Could you be the Tiger Woods of foot golf?

LD: No. [Laughs] I’m aware of it, I’ve done it, but I prefer the real thing now because I really don’t want to kick that many soccer balls.

G: Not too long ago, you joined your first country club, in San Diego. What’s that been like?

LD: I joined not knowing my life was about to be ruined. [Laughs] I started playing much more golf than I ever have.

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G: Has anyone at the club encouraged you on the course?

LD: One of the people who golfs there is Brian Baumgartner, who’s known to some people as Kevin on “The Office.” I’d never seen the show, so I didn’t know who he was.

G: Not a big “Office” fan, I see. How did he help you?

LD: We started talking, getting to know each other. He’s an amazing human being. He likes to travel and play in different tournaments. He said, “Landon, the one tournament you have to play is the HGV in Orlando.” So I was really happy to be there.

G: That week, you teed it up with the best LPGA golfers in the world. What was that like for you?

LD: I was trying to think if there is an equivalent in the soccer world and there just isn’t, because [in soccer] you’re on the field in this intense environment, and having other people around would’ve thrown me for a total loop. It tells you how much [golfers] are able to block everything out and just focus. Getting to watch people perform who are really good at what they do — I just geeked out.

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