By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer
HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry pumped his right fist, raised his arms in the air with club in hand and gave a firm shoulder bump to caddie Jonnie West, his golf partner on road trips with the Golden State Warriors.
A birdie at last after he scored three bogeys over his initial five holes Thursday.
There was the animated, confident Steph that NBA fans know so well, the two-time league MVP finally feeling it and making the tough shots on the challenging course at TPC Stonebrae while playing in his highly anticipated professional golf debut.
Curry drew quite a crowd to the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic, where Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice has played a few times in the past.
The star point guard of the champion Warriors high-fived fans — some 300-plus at the picturesque course providing panoramic views overlooking San Francisco Bay — between some holes and chatted with the other two in his threesome, Sam Ryder and defending champion Stephan Jaeger.
As Curry warmed up on the range early, he turned to West and said, “Let’s go, man, let’s go.” Perhaps his golf version of “Lock in! #dubnation.”
Curry, who munched on a breakfast sandwich at the green of his first hole, missed badly on his initial ball of the day, landing his tee shot off a hill that kicked it perfectly into the cup holder of a golf cart. He then took a drop.
Not quite as spot-on as those signature pregame tunnel shots at Oracle Arena or jaw-dropping, buzzer-beating 3-pointers from way, way back.
On the 15th fairway, Curry leaned on West, a member of Golden State’s front office and son of Hall of Famer Jerry West. Then Curry finished the par-5 15th by sinking a 5-foot, downhill birdie putt. He made par on No. 16 then survived a tee shot to the bunker and a near stumble climbing out of the sand on the par-4 18th and made about an 8-footer to save par.
That prompted a triumphant club tap to his shoe and Curry then held up the ball sporting a big grin.
Curry began his round on the back nine and was 2-over 37 at the turn, where he eagerly accepted a bag of fast food chicken for lunch.
The top 65 and any ties from the 156-player field will make the cut to compete on the weekend. Curry is a sponsor exemption and one of three amateurs in the event.
With so many cameras clicking, cheers and whistles moments after he struck the ball and hundreds of supporters in No. 30 shirts and Warriors gear, this was no doubt a “Strength In Numbers” kind of day.
There would be no balls lost, either. Wherever his shots landed, a big crowd quickly gathered to get an up-close glimpse of one of basketball’s best. One of the biggest bargains in the NBA before, Curry was rewarded last month with a $201 million, five-year contract.
Playing his other sporting passion, Curry got plenty of help along the 7,024-yard, par-70 course. Those with homes along the course gathered in groups on decks to catch a hole.
“Good luck, Steph!”
“Play well, Steph!”
“Sit, sit, sit!” hollered 9-year-old Noah Zilka of Benicia, attending with grandfather, Tom Zilka.
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