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Who Hits the Golf Ball Further: Levitt or Emmitt Smith?

If you can’t figure out the answer to that question, you need some serious help.

Thanks to the kindness of Jonathan Thomas, Martha Miller, and all the other fine folks at American Century Investments, I got the chance to play golf with Emmitt Smith, winner of Dancing with the Stars. Before that, he had some success in football as well.

When I stepped up to the first tee in the American Century Celebrity-Amateur tournament, it was the first time I’d teed off in front of a gallery in 15 years.

The last time was on the first tee at St. Andrews, on the honeymoon of my first marriage. (My first wife did all the wedding planning and asked me if I couldn’t at least be in charge of the honeymoon. I planned a great golf vacation to Scotland. Unfortunately, she didn’t play golf. It is surprising the marriage lasted as long as it did.) That fateful day at St. Andrews, there was a gale force wind blowing right in my face. I teed up my ball, swung way under it, and popped it up. The wind was blowing so hard, it was unclear whether the ball was going to come down in front of where I hit it, or wind up actually going backwards. It finally came down about 15 yards in front of the tee box. It was probably the worst round of golf I ever played.

With Emmitt, however, I did a little better on the first tee, smacking a nice drive right down the middle. Then my friend Jeff Thomas stepped up and drilled one. Then it was Emmitt’s turn to hit. He hit it well, though his upper body is so big that he doesn’t really take a full swing.

We walked out to the balls. My drive was out there about 250 yards, which is mighty good for me. Jeff hit his ball about 30 yards past mine, which didn’t surprise me a bit. We looked around and didn’t see Emmitt’s ball, even though it should have been right in the fairway. Emmitt just kept on walking all the way up to a water hazard that must have been 350 yards from the tee, looking around in the weeds for his ball. Jeff and I laughed quietly with one another — this guy is deluded, perhaps a few too many blows to the head playing football? After all, nobody could hit the ball that far. Emmitt eventually gave up and dropped a ball.

On the next hole, I hit another good one, as did Jeff and Emmitt. This time there was no water hazard. We walked out to the balls. Mine was pretty good, Jeff was 30-40 yards past me, and Emmitt’s ball was at least another 60 yards further. I then realized that it was entirely possible that Emmitt had hit his ball in the water on the previous hole. I’d never seen anything like it. On a 570 yard par five, Emmitt was left 220 yards to the hole on his second shot. He nearly drove the par fours. If you think I am exaggerating, check out the winner of the 1999 long drive contest at this tourney. His winning drive that day was 373 yards!

Except for those first two drives, I mostly embarrassed myself all day. Even as badly as I sandbagged my handicap, I still contributed nothing to the team. Emmitt could not have been nicer, however. He even pretended to be interested in Freakonomics.