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Cleveland: Freeze, Couples Chill at Champions Tour

Fred Couples and coach Hugh Freeze photo courtesy of Rick Cleveland
Fred Couples and coach Hugh Freeze photo courtesy of Rick Cleveland

So, I saw Hugh Freeze leave it in the sand trap on the par-5 first hole at Fallen Oak. I saw Dan Mullen leave it in the trap from the 18th fairway. Lots of sand flew out of both traps. No ball.

Both took it like a man here in the Champions Tour Gulf Resorts C Spire Pro-am.

Ole Miss and State fans should both cheer. Here’s why: You never want your football coach to be too good a golfer. You want your football coach on the road recruiting or in the film room, not on the golf course.

I am reminded of Steve Sloan, the former Ole Miss coach and one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. Sloan was a scratch golfer. He competed on the highest level in regional amateur tournaments. I saw him make a hole-in-one on a 200-yard-plus par-3 in the State Amateur one year in Meridian. He had a fluid swing, nice touch around the green.

An d all that would have been fine with Ole Miss fans, except for the fact that the Rebels endured four straight losing seasons under Sloan’s reign. True or not, many Rebel fans grumbled that Sloan was spending too much time on the golf course and the practice tee.

Never mind that Sloan had won big at Vanderbilt and Texas Tech and played every bit as much golf at those two places as he did at Ole Miss. (The biggest difference between Sloan at Vandy and Texas Tech and at Ole Miss had nothing to do with golf. It had everything to do with Bill Parcells not coming to Ole Miss with him.)


Journalistic honesty compels this observation: Freeze isn’t all that far behind Sloan when it comes to golfing prowess. That first sand shot aside, Freeze made two natural birdies on the front nine. He has a Jim Furyk-like loop at the top of his swing but he makes up for it on the downswing. He usually makes solid contact with a square clubface. He has plenty of distance..

Just don’t accuse him of playing too much golf.

“I play lots of golf in May and June, but almost never besides that,” Freeze said. “I guess I can play a little bit for somebody who’s never had a lesson.”

He surely can. Reliable sources tell me Freeze broke 80 at Augusta National during a round last year. Trust me, you break 80 at that place, on those greens, you can play. He probably shot even-par on his own ball for the nine holes he played Thursday in a rain-shortened round.

Mullen had his moments, too. Unfortunately, his best shot was his last shot before the rains (and lightning) came.

Mullen is quick to tell you his main claim to golfing fame is his wife, Megan, the former Golf Channel anchor who captained her high school golf team.

“She’s a much bigger celebrity here than I am today,” Dan Mullen said. “Everybody out here knows Megan from her days with the Golf Channel. She really enjoys being out here. I bet the group would have rather had her play than me. I think she’s a little better player than me.”


The highlight of the day had little to do with golf. Freeze had just hit his tee shot on the green on the par-3 eighth hole. Couples had stepped away to use the portable potty.

Randy Long, Freeze’s cart-mate took a five-foot-long rubber snake out his golf bag, and put it on the floorboard of the cart. Freeze nearly stepped on it.

“Hugh didn’t even flinch,” Long said.

“My heart did,” Freeze said, laughing.

Freeze suggested Long play the same trick on Couples.

“I’m not doing that,” Long said.

“Well, I will,” said Freeze, and he did.

When Couples exited the port-a-let, the snake was there to greet him. To say he flinched would be an understatement. He jumped.

“At least he didn’t squeal,” Long said. “That’s what most folks do.”

Said Freeze, “Don’t be too hard on Freddie. He’s not from Mississippi like us. He doesn’t see snakes like that all the time.”

Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@msfame.com) is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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