World Golfer

Former NFL legend Larry Fitzgerald Jr. has taken his passions for golf and helping others around the globe.

April 30, 2024 | 0 min.
By Mark Craig

In 2013, fellow Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts was first bitten by the golf bug that would infect Larry Fitzgerald Jr. from age 29 to 40 to, well, the rest of his life.

“Andre asked me to try it and drove me out to a charity event,” says Fitzgerald, a Minneapolis native, former Holy Angels star and probable first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer in 2026. “I really did not want to go.”

How’d he shoot?

“About a million,” Fitzgerald says.

But …

“I also hit a couple shots I really thought were great,” he adds. “I fell in love.”

That’s putting it mildly.

Fitzgerald now plays every chance he gets. Wherever he wants. With basically everyone. He’s played with Tiger more times than he can remember. And Michael Jordan, of course. And, oh yeah, every living president. As in “of the United States,” for gosh sakes. In fact, one of Fitz’s four career holes-in-one came one swing after Barack Obama—or “44” as Larry calls him—when he stuck his  tee ball 6 feet from the cup at the 170-yard 13th hole at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida.

“I was elated, but I didn’t celebrate too much initially,” Fitzgerald says with a laugh. “With all the Secret Service around, and all those guns, I didn’t want anybody to think I was making any sudden movements toward President Obama. He did say that was the first one he’d ever seen in person, which was cool.” 

Fitzgerald has played all over the world. Literally.

“I took a golf club to Antarctica and hit a ball,” Fitzgerald says.

Why? “To say I did it,” he says.

And why were you at the barren bottom of the world, Larry?

“Sightseeing,” he says. “I’ve been to 108 countries. I bet I’m one of the few people in the whole world who’s hit a golf ball on all seven continents.”

With a house in Eden Prairie for the last 20 years, Fitzgerald spends summers in Minnesota. He’s a member at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata and Interlachen Country Club in Edina, not to mention Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, Paradise Valley Country Club in the Arizona city by the same name and Seminole, where he carved that beautiful 8-iron into the hole to one-up the 44th president of the United States back in 2019.

Fitzgerald has shot a career-best 70 five times, including once at Interlachen, and has crafted a 71 at St. Andrews and a 76 at Augusta. He’s also played in the last eight AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Ams, winning twice with longtime playing partner, PGA Tour player and fellow Whisper Rock member Kevin Streelman.

“My first year there was 2014,” Fitzgerald says. “My goal was to not hit anybody.” He didn’t. Five years later, playing to a 13 handicap, Fitzgerald and Streelman finished 41 under to win by seven. Two years after that, they won again, shooting 33 under to win by five.

That’s a long way from shooting “a million” back in 2013. What happened? 

“Practice, practice, practice,” he says. “Hitting balls continuously, until I had blisters … I’d go hit balls at 5:45 in the morning before I went to practice. I’d get to practice around 7 for my lift. Then practice at 8 or 9. Then go play golf.”

Fitzgerald played 17 NFL seasons as a world-class athlete with two of the best hands in NFL history. He ranks second in league history in receptions (1,432) and receiving yards (17,492).

And yet his first couple golf seasons were spent as a “terrible, high 20-something” handicapper. (Although he did notch his first hole-in-one after only six months, using a 6-iron into Whisper Rock’s 195-yard seventh hole as his dad—Larry Sr., longtime sports columnist for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder—looked on in disbelief as a man who still has no aces in 45 years of trying.)

“Golf is really humbling. When you are so good at one thing and so terrible at another, it’s frustrating… It’s the hardest game to play. Ever. And I’ve played them all.” —Larry Fitzgerald Jr.

At this point, it seemed only logical to ask Fitzgerald to name the absolute worst golfer among the all-time greatest athletes he’s played with. “Adrian Peterson,” Fitzgerald says. “Watching him try to swing a golf club … it just didn’t match up with his athleticism.”

Fitzgerald now plays to a 5 handicap. And though he’s already enjoyed many heavenly experiences, he was asked to pick three partners for a dream foursome. “Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln,” Fitzgerald says. “And we wouldn’t be riding. We’d have to walk. Four hours to walk and talk with those guys. I’d love to pick some of the greatest minds in history. And play golf while doing it.”

Mark Craig

An award-winning sports-writer the past 35 years, Mark Craig has covered golf, the Gophers, the Vikings and the NFL since joining the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1999. His Back Spin column in the Minnesota Golfer magazine has won three gold awards from the Minnesota Media & Publishing Association.  

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