Tim Beckman faced a dilemma on the 14th hole at Olympia Fields' North Course: lay up or try to fly it 160 yards from the right rough to clear the scrub area.
"You know me," the Illinois football coach said. "I'm not going to play it dang short."
At least not by design.
This rough was not swallowing balls like it did 10 years ago during the U.S. Open, won by Jim Furyk. But for a football coach who visits the driving range as often as he punts on third down, it could be unforgiving.
Beckman swung and immediately said, "That's short."
But he had no regrets about his decision, saying, "I had to try it."
You could snicker and say what transpired was emblematic of Beckman's first year in Champaign, which was characterized by missteps both literal (he fell on his keister at Northwestern, drawing an interference penalty) and figurative (he was caught chewing tobacco during the Wisconsin game, an NCAA no-no).
But the misery of a 2-10 season has not sapped his positive energy. A friend texted him recently to say Barry Alvarez went 1-10 in his first season at Wisconsin. Three years later, he was smelling roses.
What also gives Beckman hope is a revamped staff that includes two who rounded out our foursome: offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, who grew up in Philadelphia and played streetball with Vince ("Invincible") Papale, and defensive line coach Greg Colby.
"Huge" is how Beckman described the hires. "Cubes has been a head coach. Colby has Big Ten experience. Nothing against the guys (they replaced). Last year was all of our faults. It was my fault."
Beckman came to Chicago last week as part of the Fighting Illini Caravan. The schedule originally called for an attention-grabbing reception in Evanston he had no role in planning.
"I had no idea," he said. "I'm not sure if Michigan has (events) in East Lansing."
I wore an orange hat and joked that had I chosen the color of my alma mater, Northwestern, Beckman might have tried to bench me. In an effort to ratchet up the in-state rivalry, Beckman puts injured players in purple beanies during workouts.
"We had 22 guys out at one practice last year," he lamented.
OK, enough football talk. After all, it is May.
Beckman arrived for the 10:10 tee time — that's 10 o'clock in his beloved "Illini time" — and made no secret about the caliber of his game. Approaching Tribune photographer Zbigniew Bzdak, he asked, "Is this who I have to pay off?"
He later said of Illinois golf coach Mike Small, who has made 15 cuts on the PGA Tour, "As great as he does with his program, he'd probably have to tutor me for over a year (straight) to get me good."
And after mentioning that he played at TPC Sawgrass, site of this weekend's Players Championship, he said he got a "6 or 7" on No. 17, the island-green par-3. "That's the number of balls I lost."
Beckman played almost everything but golf while growing up. He ran track, played baseball and cut weight in the presence of legendary wrestling coach Dan Gable. Ask him what position he played in football, and this is the enthusiastic response: "Outside 'backer. We ran the wide-tackle 6."
There are two subjects Beckman could talk about from dawn till dusk: football and family.