Basketball court or golf course, Jordan draws kids in droves

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The Independent Online

It was like a combination rock concert-youth basketball game, with hundreds of children yelling and screaming and chasing after some tall, bald retiree.

It was like a combination rock concert-youth basketball game, with hundreds of children yelling and screaming and chasing after some tall, bald retiree.

Forget that this was a golf course, where decorum dictates quiet and dignity. Bring Michael Jordan anywhere, especially in Chicago, give kids a free ticket to see him, and there's bound to be pandemonium.

"A lot of them, they never saw me play," Jordan said, shaking his head in wonder after playing in a three-hole exhibition this afternoon with Nancy Lopez, Laura Davies and Michelle McGann at the U.S. Women's Open.

"But their parents talk about me quite a bit, and that's the best compliment I could ever receive. No other trophy that I can receive can top that, that admiration I get from the parents right down to the kids."

It doesn't matter that it's been two years since Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their sixth NBA title or that he's switched his allegiances to the Washington Wizards. It doesn't even matter that he's a self-described "hack" on the golf course. He's still "His Airness," and that's all that mattered to the kids crammed around the greens and lining the fairways at the Merit Club.

"HE SIGNED IT!!!!" one child yelled, waving an autograph from Jordan. Kids followed Jordan from hole to hole as he and Lopez took on McGann and Davies in a best-ball format.

They ignored all the rules of golf etiquette, yelling Jordan's name, clapping and cheering for him while Davies was putting. And when Jordan went to the media tent afterward, almost 100 children stood outside, chanting, "Michael. Michael. Michael."

"That must be his life all the time," Davies said. "I asked him if he gets this all the time when he goes out and he said, 'I tend not to go places because it can get ridiculous."'

But even Jordan was surprised at the size of this crowd. "I was totally surprised. (I didn't know) there was this many people out here," he said. "... Eventually, when I get old and gray, it will die out and I can move around Chicago and be happy, I guess." Commotion or no, Davies said it was still a thrill to play with Jordan.

"He was really nice," she said. "It's always been my ambition to play golf with Michael Jordan. So now I've got one of my ambitions out of the way. I wish I could have played 18."

But three holes were plenty for Jordan, who freely admitted he was out of his element playing with Lopez, McGann and Davies. It got so bad he resorted to trickery at one point, whistling to distract McGann as she lined up her putt on the final hole. It didn't work, and McGann drained the 20-footer.

"I am still hooked on golf, but I've also come the realisation that I'm a hack," said Jordan, who once toyed with the idea of playing on the Senior PGA Tour. "I would play it every single day, that's how much I love the game. Even though I am a hack, I still love to play."

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