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My dream isn't to be richer than Mike Tyson or to be more famous
than Muhammad Ali--it's to play a round of golf with Evander
Holyfield and Felix Trinidad. But I don't see my dream coming
true anytime soon, because they, like most professional
pugilists, don't play golf.

Why? Perhaps boxers think the game isn't rough and tough enough
for their ring personas. They might not understand how hard it
is to put a little white ball into a 4 1/4-inch cup. In fact,
it's much easier to land a right cross in the ring than to float
a 220-yard two-iron shot over a pond to a flagstick tucked
behind a bunker.

Perhaps fighters are worried that they'll have to dress in
knickers, a la Payne Stewart. Another unnecessary concern. You
can't wear your boxing trunks on the course--at least at nice
places--but regular golf duds are pretty hip. I even wear them
off the course.

Some fighters have told me they can't fathom playing golf
because a round can take up to five hours, while they're
accustomed to focusing for a couple of minutes. But I tell them
that's the idea: Golf is a great way to relax, especially after
you've unleashed all that energy in the ring. In fact, the links
are where you'll find me the morning after all of my fights.

I admit I had reservations a couple of years ago when my brother
Joel Jr. introduced me to the game. Golf is almost totally
mental. Boxing is mostly physical. But golf has taught me
patience and how to control my emotions.

The most surprising aspect of the game is the pressure golfers
put on themselves. Two weeks ago, at the Isuzu celebrity
championship in Lake Tahoe, Nev., I was shaking so much on the
1st tee that I chunked my drive 25 yards. I don't know how the
Tour guys keep from cracking.

In my brief golf career I've already broken 80 a couple of
times. My ultimate fantasy is to make the Senior tour, and I
have 25 years to get ready. Meanwhile, I want some kindred
playing partners. Give golf a try. It's a knockout.

Oscar De La Hoya is the WBC welterweight champion.

COLOR PHOTO: JIM GRANT De La Hoya is more nervous putting than punching. [Oscar De La Hoya playing golf]