NBA analyst Charles Barkley should have given up on golf a long time ago. Other superstar athletes would have. They wouldn’t put up with the frustration of playing and practicing, but only getting worse. They wouldn’t put up with the public ridicule about an unorthodox swing exposed to millions on television and across the Internet. They wouldn’t put up with repeated hits to their egos by friends and experts in the game.
But because he really loves the game — one of his only private respites in a public life — and truly desires to get better and help other hacks like himself, Barkley is putting his game and life on display in “The Haney Project,” a seven-part, reality series premiering at 8 p.m. Monday on Golf Channel (Cox 60).
Barkley’s quest is simple – to enjoy the game again.
“Golf is really the only thing I’ve failed in life at,” Barkley said. “On every level of basketball, I’ve been really good. This is interesting to me to let this side of me out there. It’s tough for me, but when I signed up for this I said to myself, ‘It can’t get any worse.’”
Longtime friends and golfing buddies Seth Joyner and Roy Green — who appear in the series — sympathize with Barkley, but also never miss an opportunity to poke fun. “He’s been suffering for a long time, but there’s no way in hell I’d get up on national TV if I had a swing like that,” said Joyner, former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker. “I hope he gets fixed, so I won’t have to look at that ugly-ass swing anymore.”
“I wouldn’t want anyone to see me with that swing,” says Green, a teammate of Joyner’s in Philadelphia, but better known as a star receiver for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s. “It’s good that he won’t play with us anymore. It’s too painful – for all of us!”
Barkley says he’s taken hundreds of lessons and even got hypnotized. “All I got out of that was a good nap,” he said. He’s convinced Hank Haney is the answer. Haney has coached hundreds of golf greats over an illustrious career, but none greater than his current student, Tiger Woods.
“He’s a great teacher, but he’s a lot more intense than I thought. You work extremely hard and he gets on you pretty good. I was surprised by that,” he said.
During intense training sessions, Barkley easily hits more than 1,200 golf balls under Haney’s watchful eye. He’s also taken steps to improve his fitness through stretching and cardio workouts.
“He’s been as dedicated a student as I’ve ever had. He’s tried so hard and that’s what it’s going to take to get over the hump,” said Haney.