After seven holes, it was time to launch a full-scale investigation.
Chris Collins, a supposed 10-handicap, had recorded four pars, two bogeys and a birdie. So Northwestern's new basketball coach was on pace for a 74 or 75 at Sunset Ridge in Northfield, a tree-lined gem that once hosted a Western Open. On a day with a two-club wind. In what he claimed was his first round of the year. (Anyone know a good private detective?)
Topping it off, Collins said he hadn't played much in his previous life at Duke. Coach Mike Krzyzewski likes golf even less than losing to North Carolina, and Collins was the only member of his staff who played. So he rarely did.
And yet here he was, chipping to within inches of the cup and hammering 270-yard drives onto wet fairways.
"He's just piping it," observed Sunset Ridge caddie master Greg Kunkel.
"Beginner's luck," Collins shot back.
Collins is five parts humble and one part cocky — with nothing in between.
When he scanned a list of Sunset Ridge members and noticed that Northwestern women's basketball coach Joe McKeown has a 7.5 index (handicap), Collins said: "I'll have to take him out."
And he did not mean take him out to dinner.
Collins also told the story of how a Chicago tabloid did not list him among the area's top 20 players after his junior year at Glenbrook North.
When his friends razzed him, Collins told them: "You're laughing now. Next year I'll be on the cover."
He was voted Mr. Basketball of Illinois the next year and excelled at Duke, which beat out Florida and Illinois for his services. (Northwestern, oddly enough, put little effort into his recruitment.)
"I was unathletic, never even dunked," Collins said. "That (confidence) was an important trait. I always felt I was really good."
And yet on the golf course, he acts as if he read "Golf for Dummies" that morning.
After Collins split the fairway with a bomb on No. 13, NU assistant athletic director Paul Kennedy remarked: "Another lucky shot, huh? You must be the luckiest guy alive."
Replied Collins: "Let's hope we're saying that in the wintertime, boys."
Suffice to say, Collins would trade triple-bogeys for a better chance to end NU's 0-for-eternity record at making the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats should have a decent shot this season because of what transpired April 19, Collins' 39th birthday. Talented swingman Drew Crawford committed to remain at Northwestern for his fifth year, telling Collins: "I'm all in."
"The best birthday present I could have received," the rookie head coach said.
Bill Carmody was a skilled tactician but uneasy in public. Collins' game-day skills are unknown, but he already has proven to be a public-relations ace.
Since taking over March 27, Collins has served free chips and guacamole to students, Shot the Puck at the United Center (0-for-3), visited WMVP-AM 1000's Waddle & Silvy and thrown out the first pitch at Wrigley Field. But just barely.
It rained so hard in the hours before the Cubs' April 18 game, everyone figured it would be a washout. When Collins heard the game might be played, he and wife Kim jumped in a car, only to find sections of I-94 shut down.
"I can't believe I'm gonna miss this," he kept saying.
He ran into the park and barely made his 1:08 p.m. "tee time."
"It was a strike," Collins said. "I had to make up for my hockey performance."
He also made up for it at Sunset Ridge, which he played a time or two in the early '90s. Longtime basketball coach/analyst Doug Collins doesn't play — "He doesn't have the personality for golf," Chris said of his high-strung dad — so Chris would hack it around with friends at Sportsman's, a Northbrook Park District course.
In 2012, Collins fulfilled his golfing jones by going to the Masters for two practice rounds.
"That was the one tradeoff for losing to Lehigh (in the NCAA tournament)," he cracked.
Watching those pros must have rubbed off on Collins, who carded a 78. He hit only a handful of bad shots, including a drive on 12 that prompted him to shout: "Son of a bucket!"
He closed out our match on the 16th hole — and apparently was too polite to remind me to pay up. (I still owe him a Sunset Ridge hat.)
"I'm very competitive," he said. "But golf is the one sport where I really just enjoy going out and getting some fresh air."
Five-second bio: The former Glenbrook North and Duke star replaced Bill Carmody as Northwestern basketball coach.
Where: Sunset Ridge, Northfield (White tees: 6,529 yards).
Collins' handicap: 10.
What he shot: 78.
Scouting report on his game: "I'm a gunner — not a safe player."