Tatum, Walker Developing Golf Games While in Bubble

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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BOSTON – Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker are living more and more like their legendary friend, Michael Jordan, with each passing day inside the NBA’s bubble in Orlando.

Basketball is their first priority, but golf isn’t trailing far behind.

Such is the case for the two Celtics stars, a chunk of their teammates and the rest of the NBA’s players and coaches who are living an isolated life within the league’s closed-campus environment in Florida.

The Celtics have been out of the bubble’s quarantine period for only four days, yet Tatum and Walker have already played two rounds of golf, with plans in place to play a third during Tuesday’s scheduled off day. Grant Williams and four Celtics coaches, including head coach Brad Stevens, have also already hit the links for at least one round, and Williams said that he will play again Tuesday.

As those facts may indicate, the game of golf is a very popular one both within the Celtics and within the league in general, as Gordon Hayward alluded to during Monday’s media availability.

“I’ve heard from everybody around the league, once you get the bug, you want to be out there every day,” he said.

Such is the case for Tatum, and Walker isn’t far behind.

Tatum picked the game up during the league’s hiatus period from mid-March through early-July. He has a set of customized clubs, has taken lessons, and has played multiple rounds since the weather warmed up in Boston.

Walker, meanwhile, is a beginner who’s catching the bug in Orlando. He just ordered a new set of clubs that are scheduled to be delivered to him this week, and in the meantime he is borrowing Celtics media services manager Brian Olive’s set.

“He might owe Brian Olive for a few dozen balls for the last two rounds,” joked Andy Mannix, Boston’s assistant equipment manager who played both rounds with Walker and Tatum.

Mannix, an avid golfer himself who was sure to point out that he won the first two matchups with the duo, has gotten an inside look at Tatum’s development on the course throughout the spring and summer.

Mannix has now played four rounds with Tatum – two up in New England, and two down in Orlando – and is already feeling Tatum’s pressure on the scorecard.

“I’ll say this: he’s not better than me yet,” Mannix said. “He claims that he will be by the time we get outta here – and I’m not doubting him, because I’ve been playing for 20 years, and he’s already like right where I am. We’re both shooting like low-90s, trying to break 90, trying to play bogey-golf."

That's mostly due to the tee box, it appears.

"He might hit the ball 310 or 320, but he has no idea where it’s going," Mannix joked of Tatum's tee shots. "But his mid-irons are solid. He works on his game."

Mannix also revealed that Walker improved his game quite a bit in Orlando within a matter of two rounds.

“The first day he struggled,” said Mannix. “He was getting a little upset, which is understandable. We’ve all been there. But then the second day, it was almost like night and day. He was putting the ball in the air. He was putting the ball down the middle.”

Tatum, Walker and the rest of the Celtics crew have three courses from which they can choose to play on a daily basis. Players and staff can choose from available tee-off times at each course by opening the mobile app the NBA created for its campus in Orlando.

“The NBA Campus App is what it is,” Mannix revealed. “It’s all-encompassing. It shows what they’ve got available, and you just text the number and they hit you back right away. They set up transportation. It’s like everything from the NBA... It’s first-class.”

That experience even carries over to the course itself, in order to protect the players and the staff members.

“You can’t even go to the snack bar there,” Mannix added. “If you want a snack or something like that, you have to call a number that’s on the golf cart, and then an NBA security representative who’s in the bubble brings out whatever you want.”

This is one of the key perks that is available to players, coaches and staff throughout the duration of their stay inside the bubble – a perk of which Tatum and Walker are regularly taking advantage.

Mannix better enjoy his time atop of the leaderboard with these guys. It may not last much longer.