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April 28, 2010

Swinney and Spurrier take rivalry to the golf course

There was orange on the tee box Tuesday morning - too much for Jerri Spurrier's liking.

There was orange on the tee box Tuesday morning - too much for Jerri Spurrier's liking.

When the wife of USC coach Steve Spurrier approached the first tee and saw Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and former Tigers great Dwight Clark in orange golf shirts with the tiger-paw logo, her garnet blood boiled over.

Not really.

Jerri Spurrier was joking with Swinney about her least favorite color before the Palmetto State pairing of Swinney-Clark and Spurrier-Sterling Sharpe teed off at the Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge at Great Waters on Lake Oconee.

Swinney and Clark promptly striped the fairway with their drives, which proved to be two of their best shots on the front nine. The Clemson duo managed a 3-over-par 75 to finish 11th in the 12-team, scramble format.

Spurrier and Sharpe, who won the event in 2008 and '09, finished third with a 5-under 67, two strokes behind Florida State's Jimbo Fisher and Terrell Buckley. Spurrier and Sharpe led at the turn at 4-under but never got their putters going on the back nine.

"Sometimes they don't go in for you," said Spurrier, who is scheduled to play Augusta National next week with his son Steve Spurrier Jr. and former Masters chairman Hootie Johnson.

Clark, the former San Francisco 49ers receiver whose game-winning touchdown catch in the 1982 NFC Championship Game is an iconic NFL moment, expected to receive ribbing from Spurrier, known for his competitive nature on the course.

Clark and Swinney, who has played only four rounds this year, provided plenty of ammo. Sharpe, the ex-Gamecocks and NFL receiver and a regular in celebrity golf events, probably plays four rounds in a weekend.

"I'm sure they had their guns loaded, because we didn't play very well," Clark said. "But they were very gracious (and) let us slide."

Clark had his retort ready if Spurrier or Sharpe mentioned the Gamecocks' 34-17 win against Clemson last year.

"They can't needle me too much. I was 3-1 against them when I was at Clemson," said Clark, who played for the Tigers from 1975-78.

Despite the Tigers' struggles, Spurrier and Sharpe tried to encourage them by complimenting their good shots and looking the other way on the bad ones.

"People don't needle out here, people that play golf seriously," Spurrier said. "People think that happens. We're out here to try to play the best we can."

After Swinney topped a grounder off the tee and Clark landed his drive in the pine straw at the seventh hole, Spurrier jokingly mentioned he had a ball in the fairway they could use as a mulligan.

"I'll buy it," Clark said.

Swinney seemed to get frustrated on the next hole when he putted from 10 yards off the green. After his putt hung up in the fringe, Swinney said: "Are you kidding me?"

But by the ninth hole, Swinney and Clark were able to laugh at themselves.

When both of their approach shots plopped into the water in front of the green, Swinney and Clark turned their Clemson hats around backward.

"Rally caps," Swinney said to Spurrier. "You got Dwight Clark on your team, it's never over."

Though they played better on the back nine, when paired with Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson and Will Perdue, the Tigers had too much ground to make up.

But for Clark, the day was about more than golf. The northern California resident met Swinney for the first time and enjoyed playing with Spurrier - and listening to him talk to himself after missed putts.

"He's a really good golfer and takes it serious and all that," Clark said. "We're out there just having fun - because we're not any good."

Swinney also had fun - never mind his score, and that of his rivals.

"They were great. (Spurrier) and Sterling are a good team. Sterling Sharpe's unbelievable. He can absolutely just crank it. That was fun to see him hit it with that kind of distance," Swinney said.

"We didn't play very good, but we had a good time. It was fun."


Florida State (Jimbo Fisher/Terrell Buckley) -7 $120,000

Georgia Tech (Paul Johnson/Jon Barry) -6 $60,000

South Carolina (Steve Spurrier/Sterling Sharpe) -5 $50,000

North Carolina (Butch Davis/Natrone Means) -4 $40,000

N.C. State (Sidney Lowe/Monte Towe) -2 $30,000

Alabama (Nick Saban/Steve Sloan) +1 $17,500

Maryland (Ralph Friedgen/Stan Gelbaugh) +1 $17,500

Vanderbilt (Bobby Johnson/Will Perdue) +1 $17,500

Wake Forest (Jim Grobe/Billy Packer) +1 $17,500

Mississippi (Houston Nutt/Wesley Walls) +2 $10,000

Clemson (Dabo Swinney/Dwight Clark) +3 $10,000

Virginia Tech (Frank Beamer/Brad Clontz) +4 $10,000

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