Ben Greve led the Minnesota State Open last weekend. He was attempting to win two Opens in a row like his golfing heroes John Harris and Tom Lehman.
At the University of Minnesota and on mini-tours, Greve had obsessed over the mechanics of his swing, and as an accomplished amateur he fiddled with his pre-round routine.
With history beckoning, doubts encroached, and that’s when Greve received his latest reminder of how lucky he is to be married to Lindsay Whalen.
“We were joking before the final round,” Greve said. “I started saying, ‘I don’t know of any tournament I’ve ever played where I won leading start to finish.’
“She was like, ‘What are you talking about? Why are you thinking? Just go do it.’ She’s so confident, and she knows how important confidence is in sports.”
Greve won by five strokes.
“I’ve not only learned from Lindsay, I’ve learned from that whole [Lynx] group, the coaches and players,” Greve said. “What people don’t see is just how much preparation they do and how many sacrifices they make. While we’re all having fun in the summer they’re usually watching film, or just resting, staying out of the sun.
“I used to show up at a tournament 40 minutes before my tee time, and loosen up and go. Now I get there two hours early and really get ready, and talk to people about the course.”
Whalen plays point guard for the Lynx, the team of the decade in the WNBA. Whalen and Greve met at Minnesota, at a 9 a.m. business statistics class.
“I approached her,” Greve said. “I knew who she was.”
Greve played basketball as well as golf at Annandale, where his father, Dave, still coaches golf. He became a fan of Whalen’s when she played for Hutchinson.
Whalen’s career has brought Greve to Europe and Rio and various American cities. Greve is an agent with the Twin City Group of insurance brokers, and his job has allowed him the flexibility to travel with his wife and fit in the occasional weekday round.
Now one of the greatest basketball players in Minnesota history is married to one of the state’s most accomplished amateur golfers.
“She can play golf, too,” Greve said.
After graduation, Greve and two of his best teammates from a strong Gophers team, Justin Smith and Simon Nash, invited Whalen to play. They decided to bet and gave Whalen a two-stroke handicap on every hole.
“After seven holes, we had to reconfigure the game,” Greve said. “She won every hole by two shots. You could say she’s a little competitive.”
Greve is, too, but he never tries to compare his accomplishments to his wife’s.
“I tried to play professionally for about six years,” Greve said. “I truly know that I’m not good enough, or that I wasn’t good enough. Jim Lehman [Tom’s brother and a golf agent in the Twin Cities] told me I was a tweener. Maybe too good to be an amateur, but not good enough to be a pro. I believe that.
“A PGA Tour player probably would have shot five shots lower than I did this weekend. If I played well for a round, I could compete with the guys at the bottom of the Tour. But over four rounds, or a month, or a season, there would be separation.’’
Greve is friends with Minnesota amateur Sammy Schmitz, who qualified for the 2016 Masters. Greve would like to follow the same path or qualify for a U.S. Open.
He has one athletic advantage over his wife: Greve can play his sport for decades more. Someday, Whalen will be forced to retire. At least that’s the working theory.
“She gets asked about it all the time,” Greve said. “I don’t think she’s even given it much thought. Hey, they’re [17-2]. They’re thinking about this season.”
The Minnesota champion golfer of the year might even give the Lynx some advice he picked up along the way:
Don’t think. Just go do it.
And: Listen to Whalen.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib firstname.lastname@example.org