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Staying The Course

by Seth Burton / Los Angeles Kings

Hockey is known as a game of aggression. It is a game of blazing speed and quickness, agility and violence that combines in dramatic, hard-hitting grace. The sport associated with black eyes, broken noses and bone-crushing checks does not have a reputation as a game for the demure, erudite fan.

“But golf,” Kings forward Brad Richardson said with a laugh, “golf is a gentleman’s sport.”

And the four-year Kings veteran should know. The Belleville, Ontario, native virtually grew up on the links, opting to hit a small white ball with a club in the Canadian summers when he wasn’t lashing at a rubber puck with a stick during the winter.

“My parents would take us [to the golf course] in the morning or we would ride our bikes there, the course was like 10 minutes away,” Richardson remembered. “We would stay there all day and then ride home whenever we got tired.”

Now, the 26-year old Richardson plays golf to take his mind off his sometimes stressful day job, being a jack of all trades forward for the Kings. It is a job he does well, as the Kings signed him to a new two-year contract prior to the start of the 2010-11 season, showing just how important the versatile 5-foot-11, 191-pounder is to the teams winning goals.

While Richardson has not been able to get completely comfortable at any one position on the ice for the Kings, he is just  naturally at ease playing golf.

“It is definitely something I like to do,” Richardson said. “It is a passion of mine. It is one thing that I can take advantage of playing in a warm climate like L.A.”

But Richardson does much more than just hit some balls. When his golf game is at its peak in the summer months, Richardson is a ‘scratch golfer’, shooting par. Like his hockey game, the seeds of his golf game began at an early age and can be traced back to his Canadian roots.

Richardson’s family has a cottage in Stirling, Ontario, and he and his brother would spend the majority of their time at the nearby Oak Hills Golf Club, a small, 36-hole public course.

“I would get lessons in the morning and I would play 36 holes in the afternoon,” Richardson said. “It was a great way to grow up.”

Now Richardson is able to play with many of his golf-loving Kings teammates, and when he isn’t working on his hockey skills, he has seen improvement in his golf game.

“I honestly have gotten so much better in the last six years,” Richardson said. “I got over the hump to shoot in the low 70s and break 70 regularly. That is a huge hump to get over, and now that I’ve gotten there I have figured out how to stay there.”

In Los Angeles, Richardson usually plays with Kings right wing Justin Williams at various courses throughout the region.

“We both love to play golf and play a lot when we can,” Richardson said. “We play a little bit at Trump National in Palos Verdes and I’ve played Sherwood [Country Club in Thousand Oaks] a few times. I love that course. We have played Riviera [Country Club in Pacific Palisades] and it was great. My favorite course around here is probably The L.A. Country Club. I really like that course. I like different holes and I like the old traditional courses with tree-lined fairways. There are a lot of great courses out there to play.”

Along with Williams, Richardson was able to play one of the world’s most legendary courses last summer when they travelled to New Jersey to play the Pine Valley Golf & Country Club.

“Pine Valley is unbelievable,” Richardson said. “That is why it has been the number one ranked course in the world. Every hole, you just have to say, ‘Wow.’ When you step up to that first tee, it was incredible. Hopefully that is not the last time I play it, but it was a lot of fun and I played well.”

When he does have more down time, Richardson is looking forward to testing his game on several more of the world’s most famous courses. He counts a trip to Northern California to play at Pebble Beach and Spy Glass among his top priorities, as well as venturing to Augusta National in Georgia and Bandon Dunes in Oregon.

“There really are so many courses,” Richardson said. “I would love to get out and do some more courses in the States, and hopefully one day get over to Europe and play some golf over there in Ireland and Scotland.”

Hockey and golf can both be emotional games and it took Richardson a little bit of time to learn how to channel those emotions on the golf course that he was encouraged to let out when he was on the ice.

“When I grew up, I had a pretty bad temper,” Richardson said. “I’ve broken my share of clubs in the day. I would blow up and have a double-bogey and never recover. I would just get too mad.”

Now as an established NHL player, and a Stanley Cup champion, Richardson has mellowed out quite a bit.

“If I hit a bad shot, you might hear just one expletive,” Richardson smiled. “That’s it. I let it go pretty quick. I want to play well, but it’s not the end of the world if I hit a bad shot. I just move on and relax instead of getting all stressed.”

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