Playing a different sport is a good way to take our minds off basketball, especially in the off-season. For Matt Janning of KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, golf has been more than just a way to relax off the court; it has helped him learn to be more focused, more competitive and, of course, to have a lot of fun over the years.
Janning started playing golf at a very early age, as his family lived in the right place to do so. "I grew up literally 2 minutes away from a golf course, so I could walk there, jump out and play whenever I wanted. There were two or three more within a 5-minute drive. I started playing when I was maybe 8-9 years old and I liked it, enjoyed it and just kept it going," Janning said. His family saw that Matt liked it and that started a bond with his son that still stands.
"I think it is relaxing, for one. You can just go out and play at your own pace... and you can also still make it competitive."
"My dad used to play, just casually, with some friends. My parents bought me a set of clubs when I was 8-9. Me and my dad would go play, and still play every once in a while, just to kind of get out, have fun and enjoy the summer weather," he said.
One of the things that Janning loves about golf is its combination of leisure and competitiveness. "I think it is relaxing, for one. You can just go out and play at your own pace. People kind of enjoy that aspect, and you can also still make it competitive. You have both sides - relaxing and competitive," Janning said.
He explained how that is the reason so many retired basketball players pick up golf: "A lot of athletes when they are done playing, they miss that competitive edge of playing basketball. I think golf is great to play with two or three friends. You have fun and can make it as competitive as you want."
Janning has found teammates to play golf with in Vitoria-Gasteiz and as it happens, one of them is quite good. "I play during the year, it is a little bit harder because of the weather, sometimes. The last couple of years, it was a little bit harder to play, with the schedule and the weather here in Vitoria, which not so good for golf," Janning explained. "I played with Johannes Voigtmann once and already this season, me, Shavon [Shields], Ajdin [Penava] and Toko [Shengelia] went to play a few times. Toko and Ajdin are learning; I would say they are beginners, but they enjoy trying to learn because it is a game in which if you start to learn, it is almost like an addictive thing. You want to try to get better. Shavon has played quite a bit and played a lot this summer. He is pretty good."
One area that is very similar in both golf and basketball is the mental preparation before hitting a golf ball or shooting a foul shot. "In basketball, the only time when you know exactly your movement, your routine, is a free throw. Every other aspect in a basketball game, you are reacting to certain things," said Janning, a career 78.9% free throw shooter. "It is more action, but one part is completely comparable to a foul shot. The mental approach to golf is probably one of the highest in any sports."
After nine years in Europe and living in six different countries, Janning wants to take the opportunity to play on some of the most famous golf courses in the world. He will not do it alone, though; his wife Jul will be alongside him.
"I got my wife to start playing now, too. She started playing a few years ago, so it was my excuse to play more golf, but it got a little bit harder with the baby and everything. But I think that after the season, we could go to Southern Spain, or even travel around and go to different countries, trying to find a decent course to play. One of my goals is to play some of the top courses in the world. That is definitely on our bucket list," he said. "I would love to play in St. Andrews and there are also some really nice golf courses around London where you can play without being a member. St. Andrews is one of the most legendary courses in the world and playing there would be an awesome experience."
"After the season, we could go to Southern Spain or even travel around and go to different countries, trying to find a decent course to play. One of my goals is to play some of the top courses in the world."
How good is Janning at golf? Not good enough to be professional, but good enough to beat most amateur players out there. "I never calculated my handicap because I don't play the same course enough to get an idea, but I would say that if I play a lot throughout the summer, I can shoot around the mid-80s and I am happy with that. Bogey golfers, that's my norm," he said. "I think it is different for everybody, but I can hit three or four good shots in a row, and then hit a crazy bad shot. And in the next hole, you correct what you did and that kind of drives you to find that consistency. For me, if I play bogey golf, there is always one shot per hole that I could do better. I like the competitive aspect of it, try to get as close to par as you can. It is what drives me and I get a little bit addicted to the competitiveness."
There is one thing Janning has yet to accomplish on a golf course that Janning hopes to get to soon. "I've never had a hole in one. I had some really nice drives on Par 3s. I was really close and ended up having a birdie, but never a hole in one yet. That would be nice - a hole in one on a nice course in Europe."