Since 1994, Steve Burton has been entertaining audiences as a sports anchor/reporter, and now sports director, at WBZ-TV. In that same time frame, the game of golf has been entertaining Burton, but it did not start out that way.
“I started golfing about 20 years ago with my father in law,” says the 51-year-old Burton. “I hated it, thought it was a horrible and boring game. Once I started playing more, I was addicted. It became more enjoyable as I got better at it. I love challenges. After I shoot a great round, I can’t wait to play again the next day.”
A former quarterback at Northwestern University, Burton has made a name for himself on the field and behind the microphone. He has also crossed paths with some big names on the golf course.
He relates, “I’ve played with guys who are very competitive, guys like Bo Jackson and Lawrence Taylor. You can build relationships on the golf course. It breaks down barriers. I played with Mario Lemieux in Michael Jordan’s tournament in Vegas. He talked about coaching youth hockey and how parents call him and ask about playing time for their kids. This happens to Mario Lemieux? It was terrific.”
While Burton has played great courses around the country, he has a soft spot for some excellent local courses. “I belong to Hopkinton Country Club and play often at Shining Rock in Northbridge, MA,” he explains. “I also play a lot at Maplegate in Bellingham. The course is narrow and tough. I like to take good players there because it can be a humbling course.”
It was at one of these courses where Burton’s ultimate golf highlight took place. He relates, “I was playing in a tournament to benefit cancer research at Shining Rock. It was great because I was playing with some old high school buddies. They were all lined up watching me shoot about a 200 yard drive off the tee. It rolled right in the cup for my first hole in one!”
Great moments are the norm for the Burton family. Steve’s father, Ron Burton, who passed away in 2003, was a college football All-American at Northwestern, a CFL and NFL star, and a member of the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame.
Moreover, he founded the Ron Burton Training Village (ronburtontrainingbvillage.com) in Hubbardston, MA nearly a quarter-century ago. The Village teaches kids from low income communities the values of racial harmony, leadership, self-determination, respect, and love.
Village programs stress spiritual, educational, and physical fitness training in a nurturing environment. Golf is a big part of the curriculum. Says Steve, “My dad always told me to take a moment to give back. Playing in charity tournaments is not just about playing golf, it is about being a positive presence.
“Every year, the Country Club in Brookline sends a golf pro to the Village to teach kids the game. Dad always wanted all kids to have access to golf. At WBZ, I used to do a “Beat the Pro” golf segment. I had my dad on with me once. He was not a golfer, but we had the best time. I am so happy to have that on tape.”
For many in the media, golf is either an amusing activity or an agonizing addiction. Burton is somewhere in the middle. “It’s a getaway that I take seriously,” says the Framingham native who began his Boston media career at NESN.
“I play with guys who are focused on getting better. When I play with Doug Flutie, we compete end to end. No matter who we are playing, we play it straight up, no strokes regardless of anyone’s handicap, and we have to putt out. There are no gimmes.”
Like Flutie, Burton moved from the gridiron to golf, but what is the connection between these two very different sports? Burton responds, “It is the mentality, the ability to focus and calm down when the game is on the line. Tom Brady is a good golfer because he has that ability.
“I played quarterback and it is really about slowing the game down. Can you see the ball in the cup? Golf can be intimidating. It is a game for risk takers and smart players.”
John Molori is the co-author of “The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball’s Prized Players,” to be released in the fall of 2013. Email John at email@example.com.
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