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UAB’s Trent Dilfer ranked best golfer of any football coach in America

The state of Alabama’s football coaches have long been known for their love of golf. Nick Saban would take “insane measures” to make tee times. Hugh Freeze, a self-proclaimed golf fanatic, has played at Augusta National several times. Even former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was known to spend some time on the links.

However, a new face has arrived on the scene to wrest golf supremacy away from Saban and Freeze. Per an analysis conducted by Alex Kirshner, a co-host of the college football podcast Split Zone Duo, UAB head coach Trent Dilfer is the best golfer of any coach — not just in the state, but in the country.

Kirshner searched the United States Golf Association’s database and found that 18 active FBS head coaches keep official handicaps. Dilfer paces the group by far, sporting a handicap of plus 0.1, almost six strokes ahead of second-place Jason Candle.

Auburn’s Hugh Freeze ranked third on the list with a handicap of 6.9, while Alabama’s Kalen DeBoer came in at 14th with a handicap of 17.7. For context, the recently retired Nick Saban keeps a handicap of 10.6, better than DeBoer’s but worse than Freeze’s.

For those uninitiated in the terminology of golf, a handicap is the number of strokes a player is expected to take above or below a course’s par score. The lower the number, the better the player. Dilfer’s +0.1 handicap isn’t just impressive among his coaching peers — it places him among the upper echelons of amateur golfers in the US.

Analysis from golf website TheGrint.com reveals that DeBoer is in the bottom half of amateur golfers, Saban is in the 65th percentile, Freeze is in the 83rd percentile, and Dilfer ranks in the 98th percentile.

“Trent Dilfer told me he golfed 218 times in 2018 after he was let go from ESPN. That handicap is legit,” The Athletic’s Chris Vannini posted after news of Dilfer’s talent began to circulate social media.

Dilfer’s interest in golf is nothing new. The former NFL quarterback has recorded nearly 20 appearances at the American Century Champion, an annual celebrity tournament hosted at Lake Tahoe, and in 2011 even discussed the possibility of an appearance on the PGA Champions Tour. According to Dilfer, his dedication to golf was sparked during his football career.

“Years ago I was playing pretty good in football, I was playing pretty good in golf and I was thinking I was a hotshot. [Former NFL quarterback John Brodie] pulled me aside one night after a practice round at the Black Diamond tournament in Florida,” Dilfer once told Golf Digest. “He had me in my golf spikes, and he was coaching me at football. He was yelling at me on the putting green, ‘do this, do that,’ he was working on my drop, he was just grinding me in my golf outfit, teaching me how to be a better football player.”

“We get done and we have a beer, and he looks at me and he says, ‘You’re a par-shooter as a football player, and you’re a par-shooter as a golfer. That isn’t good enough.’ I was a plus-1 or something, and I was a pretty good football player, but that message resonated with me. I wasn’t working on the right things. It was that year that I started working on my golf swing; it was that year I started applying the principles of golf and football together, the mental and the emotional and the technical.”

Dilfer made his first appearance at the Regions Tradition golf tournament last week, joining Saban, DeBoer, and Freeze.

“I do hit balls a lot,” Dilfer told ABC 33/40 before teeing off. “I get out of the office this time of year in the evenings and use the range as a time to rest my brain. I’ve played a handful of times [this year.] I got lucky and made six birdies the other day, but I can make double bogey as fast as anybody these days.”

Charles Vaughan is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. 

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