Ray Allen is a sharp-dressed man, an actor, an avid reader, a philanthropist and a bit of a philosopher. And, oh yeah, he’s a pretty good basketball player. The former University of Connecticut All-America and National Basketball Association All-Star is a stone-cold shooter from anywhere on the floor and was the calm at the eye of the storm as the Boston Celtics marched to the NBA title this past season. An avid golfer and four-handicapper, Ray took a few minutes recently to chat with John Torsiello, Senior Writer of Golfing Magazine.
GM: How much golf do you get to play in the off-season?
RA: I play about four times a week. Two years ago it was just about every day. I would say I get in about 110 rounds over the spring, summer and fall.
GM: Now that you have children do you still have time for golf?
RA: Sure. But the kids do take up more time now. They are young, but I take them out while I’m playing to get used to the game.
GM: When did you start playing?
RA: I started playing my sophomore year in college.
GM: Is that when you started getting serious about the game?
RA: Yes. Coach (Jim) Calhoun would always be talking about golf because he plays so much. Whenever we were somewhere warm during the season he would be out there. As a young man you aren’t thinking about playing golf because golf was slower and you wanted to moving all the time.
GM: So, were there other guys on the UConn team that you played with?
RA: Myself, Rudy Johnson, Travis Knight, Jeff Calhoun and a few managers on the team would get together and play at this little par-three course not far from campus.
GM: That’s when you got hooked?
RA: What keeps bringing you back, even when you aren’t that good, is hitting that one perfect shot that goes straight down the fairway and getting real excited about it. That’s what kept me interested, even then.
GM: Is your approach to golf different from what it is for basketball?
RA: Yes. Golf is unconventional for an athlete. Most people try and attack the game by swinging real hard at the ball because that’s what you do in other sports, go hard all the time. You have to learn to be patient and calm in golf.
GM: How did you improve?
RA: Really, by watching other people who were better than me. It’s like basketball in that regards. You pick up things here and there from people and adapt them to your game and pretty soon you are getting better. I love to learn by watching and taking small things from people I play with or against.
GM: What made you so good at golf?
RA: Practice. When I first started playing, I would get to course 20 minutes early and just hit driver on the range. But pretty soon I realized that to be good you have to hit every club in the bag. I would practice and practice so that I wasn’t guessing that I could do something on a golf course. I knew I could do it. It’s the same with basketball. I practice moves so that in a game I’m not just ad libbing something. I’ve done it many times before and know that I can do it in a game. Preparation is key.
GM: What has golf taught you?
RA: Golf has helped me with patience and understanding that to be a great golfer you have to be a better person. It’s made me improve as a person. If you get angry and irritated on a golf course when you can’t play well, then how do you deal with adversity in life? It makes you change who you are to some degree. If people throw clubs on a golf course they aren’t the types of people you will probably want to hang out with.
GM: Do you think you would like to try and make a living playing golf?
RA: I wouldn’t go that far. Being good is more than shooting low scores. It’s dealing with pressure and galleries. I’ve played in a couple of celebrity tournaments and other big events where there were a lot of people watching, and it’s a lot different than playing with a few other people around.
GM: What is your favorite course?
RA: Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. When I was in Milwaukee playing basketball for the Bucks, I lived about a 45-minute drive from there and used to go every Friday. I got to know every shot on every hole. It’s one of those courses from the first tee shot that you know you are into something big, like being in a game. You have to think your way around the course with each shot.
GM: What is the toughest course you’ve ever played?
RA: Medina (Country Club) in Chicago. It’s just long and tight.
GM: Are you a member anywhere?
RA: I’m a member at the Aldara Golf Club in Washington, the TPC at River Highlands and Lake of Isles here in Connecticut.
GM: How about your favorite course in Connecticut?
RA: I definitely like the TPC at River Highlands.
GM: How about in New England in general?
RA: I like The Ranch (Golf Club in Southwick, Massachusetts).
GM: What is your best round ever?
RA: I’ve shot 70 a couple of times, but I can’t even remember where.
GM: What is your dream foursome?
RA: Tiger, Phil Mickelson and Sergio.
GM: Have you played golf with anybody in the NBA?
RA: I’ve played several times with Jason Kidd, and when I was younger I played with a lot of guys in NBA. But the younger guys in the league don’t play now. Doc (Rivers, Celtics head coach) is average and Danny Ainge (general manager) gets out sometimes.
GM: Do you have a basic swing thought?
RA: It’s definitely to try and remember to rotate my shoulders and get a full turn on each shot and not just arm the ball. Basically, just think about a good shoulder turn and dropping the club into the slot on the downswing.
GM: What are your thoughts on putting?
RA: I see a lot of people with unorthodox grips and that isn’t me. I try and stay real compact over the ball, keep my body and feet parallel to the line and the putter on line and don’t worry about the hole. I don’t three-putt a whole lot. Two-putting is the name of the game for me.
GM: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
RA: I hit the ball pretty far. When I first started playing I was hitting it as far as I ever have but I lost it a lot. I’ve toned it down and stay in the fairway now. The worst part is my iron play. I inconsistent
GM: Being a four handicapper you must be somewhat consistent.
RA: As a four, you are expected to be in every fairway and on every green in regulation. When you are a 14, it’s not that big a deal. So, the expectations rise when you are a better player.
GM: Do you admire professional golfers?
RA: Golf is a lot more lucrative now then it was even when I was a kid. I guess we are envious of pro golfers to some degree. The great thing about being a pro golfer is you get to play in nice weather all the time. You look at where they are, Hawaii, Arizona, Florida. We play during a season when it’s 20 degrees outside and snowing. So I would like that aspect of it.
GM: Everything I read about you talked about how much you like to read. What are your favorite books?
RA: Self-help books, fiction, non-fiction, anything really. I started reading a lot when I played in Milwaukee and we weren’t winning. The plane rides home were quiet, so I figured I would spend my time reading.
GM: Describe the 2008 NBA season. What did you take away from it personally besides the trophy?
RA: The peak was winning it all. It worked out perfect. It’s the highlight of my career. We had a blueprint for success, which was for us to stay healthy and play as well as we could as a team, not necessarily start out trying to win a title. We’re doing that as we go into this season. Try and stay healthy and help the young players get even better. It worked for us last year because everybody contributed and you did what you did best.