Woodward, Okla. —
By Jason Elmquist
EDMOND – Three Oklahoma State athletic legends got the chance to work with area youth during Wednesday's Junior Day at the 2014 U.S. Senior Open on the driving range at Oak Tree National.
Former U.S. Amateur champion and Oak Tree member taking a break in his preparation for his senior major premiere to join former NBA Dunk Contest champion Desmond Mason and Dallas Cowboy quarterback Brandon Weeden in some golf skills competitions.
"It doesn't get any better than that," Mason said afterward. "You're talking about guys who set their own mark at Oklahoma State in their respective sports and guys who have represented the university well, and who still have a passion and are engaged in our school. Just to be here with Brandon and Scott, I'm honored to be here with these guys."
While Verplank and Weeden were expected to have a good showing on the driving range – with Weeden living on the course and even having played several rounds with Verplank – Mason had a smooth strong himself. He was hands down better than a more infamous basketball player who took up golf – Charles Barkley.
But Mason divulged a secret. He's had some lessons.
"I will bet my life savings I can hit the golf ball better than Charles Barkley," Mason said. "But I'm going to throw that out there, Hank Haney (a professional golf instructor best known for coaching Tiger Woods) is a friend and he kind of gave me some lessons and we actually talked about Charles. He actually said Charles is an athlete, because to have that swing he can still make contact – so that classifies him as an athlete."
Since retiring from the NBA after a 10-year career, Mason has picked up the game of golf – with help from a professional golf instructor in Haney and some push from Weeden. And like Weeden, Mason has fallen in love with the sport.
"I just love the challenge of it. You can virtually play it forever, unlike football or basketball," Mason said. "It's always a mental game. You can never beat it. Every time you go out it's a challenge to be good."
While Mason is done with his professional career, Weeden is still young – in experience – on the NFL scene.
Now a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Weeden got cheers from the gallery for playing closer to his hometown of Edmond. After the event, Weeden and Mason took some questions from the young golfers in attendance – with the first question being about the health of Dallas Cowboy linebacker Sean Lee.
"I thought he was Chris Mortensen (an ESPN NFL Insider) or something," Weeden said. "He knew the scoop."
As for potentially joining the Champions Tour after his football career ends, Weeden – who recently witnessed the birth of his first child – said he'll just keep to being a casual golfer.
"I've got a long ways to go for that. It's a little different when you get out there and playing shots for $250,000 to $350,000," Weeden said. "But I'm going to continue to play, but there's no way I can ever reach this level. These guys have been doing this since they were three or four years old and I just picked up the game six years ago – so I'm nowhere near what these guys are."
Instead, Weeden is looking forward to one day sharing the game he's grown to love since going out with former OSU quarterback Zac Robinson with his newborn son – like many parents got to do Wednesday with the Junior Day event held by the USGA.
"To do that with your son, is even more special," Weeden said. "You can try to grow him as well as you can, but teach him life lessons and teach him golf while getting to spend that quality time is something else. Because I know time goes fast."
Mason issues challenge to Brown
While Desmond Mason may be five years removed from playing in the NBA, the former Oklahoma State basketball legend isn't willing to give up his claim as the best Cowboy dunker.
NBA rookie Markel Brown, who recently graduated from Oklahoma State, has had some highlight dunks in the NBA Summer League and Mason has issued a challenge to the Alexandria, La., native.
"He and I will have a dunk contest at some point just to really solidify the situation," Mason said after Wednesday's Junior Day event. "Everybody thinks I can't dunk, but I can still put it between my legs – and I haven't seen him do that yet.
"That is a challenge. That's my boy, and I'm challenging him right now."
No matter who may win that contest, Mason already has high praise for the former four-year Cowboy starter that was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Brooklyn Nets.
"Markel is a phenomenal athlete," Mason said. "Marcus Smart is a great player and he's going to have a long, great NBA career, but Markel is going to be one of those guys eight or nine years from now and he's still in the league and somebody still wants him. He'll still be doing it because he plays so hard and he's so passionate about the game. He's always been one of my favorites."