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Published April 15 2010

Pro golf: Putting with a star: NFL great Rice on Nationwide with Schultz

Fargo golfer and Nationwide Tour regular Dave Schultz noticed something very familiar standing next to him when he hit the practice tee Wednesday morning in preparation for the Fresh Express Classic in Hayward, Calif.

Schultz wasn’t struck by the fact that he was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with NFL legend Jerry Rice was

It was how hard Rice was working to get ready for his professional golf debut.

“He’s working on his game like all of us are,” said Schultz, who finished 33rd on the Nationwide money list last season. “He’s obviously conquered one sport and he’s trying to conquer another.”

Rice, 47, is looking at forging a second career as pro golfer after one of the most successful football careers in NFL history.

The former San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver holds NFL records for receptions and touchdowns.

It was during his football career that Rice fell in love with golf. He told several news organizations this week that he became addicted to the game in the late 1980s during his prime with the 49ers.

Rice said he would hit balls every day before practice, and would return to the golf course when practice was finished.

“I tried to hit the ball and I basically couldn’t do it,” Rice said in an interview with the Nationwide Tour Web site. “And that really (ticked) me off.”

Rice received a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s tournament. He will also be the host, and his foundation will receive some of the proceeds from the event.

Golf, from D1

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Schultz said. “He’s stepped in and been a big-time partner to put this thing on. Without his help, this event wouldn’t be here this week.”

As for his own game, Schultz said he’s been a little too inconsistent to start the season.

Schultz has missed three-straight cuts following good tournaments in Columbia and New Zealand to open the year.

Schultz is 61st on the money list after six events with $13,620. The top 25 at the end of the season earn a PGA Tour card for the following year.

Schultz said he plans to play in the next three Nationwide tournaments.

“This is the sixth event in 29, so I have to keep it in perspective,” Schultz said. “I look at the next three events as a bonus because I didn’t play in them last year. I’m trying to find a rhythm early. When I play week after week I feel like my game builds on itself. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562. The Associated Press contributed to this report