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'Jimmermania' alive, just not his golf game

By Steve Yinging

for the Deseret News

Published: Friday, July 15 2011 11:11 p.m. MDT

STATELINE, Nev. — Before "Jimmermania," there was "Tebowmania."

Two collegiate sports greats — Jimmer Fredette of BYU basketball fame and former Florida star quarterback Tim Tebow — teed it up together on Friday during the opening round of the American Century Championship near Lake Tahoe.

Although he started slowly, finding a water hazard on the first hole, Fredette rebounded to avoid the tournament basement an earn a second-round pairing with a Hall of Fame basketball player.

Tebow launched his professional football career last year with the Denver Broncos, while the high-scoring Fredette is preparing to suit up for the Sacramento Kings once the NBA lockout is resolved.

Fredette said prior to the first round that he was looking forward to his first-round pairing with Tebow and ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards in the 22nd annual golf tournament for sports and entertainment stars. An opportunity to get to know the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner better wasn't lost on Fredette, who respects the Broncos' second-year quarterback's work ethic.

"I actually talked to him (Wednesday at the ESPYs), and I've talked to him on the phone a couple of times for some different things," Fredette said. "I think that we are both very hard workers, guys that have proven people wrong time and time again and continue to work hard and just push through it and not really listen to it and just go out and play as hard as we possibly can."

Tebow came away from his first-round pairing impressed with Fredette.

"He's a great guy, a great competitor. We had a lot of fun, and it was honor for me," Tebow said.

With little golfing experience, Fredette was still able to play his way off the bottom of the leaderboard. Fredette is tied with Charles Barkley for 83rd place in the 85-player field.

Incidentally, Barkley and Fredette will be paired together for Saturday's second round — a matchup that pleases the NBA Hall of Famer.

"I'm looking forward to it. He'll be fun to play with," Barkley said. "I met him a little while back. I'm really pulling for him to do well in the NBA, looking forward to watching his progess."

Fredette received the Best College Male Athlete ESPY on Wednesday, while Tebow earned the same honor in 2009.

A sleepy-eyed Jimmer Fredette polished off another round of obligations with an engaging smile spread across his face.

"I didn't have too much sleep," Fredette said of the four-hour nap before departing Los Angeles. "The trip we had out here, we were real tired, too. And it's been crazy and I had to wake up real early and come here. But it's a really exciting experience for me. I can't wait to get out there and play and interact with all the people and the players."

With Fredette spraying balls all over the driving range on Thursday afternoon, former Major League Baseball player Kenny Lofton sidled over and offered some friendly advice — for Fredette's golf game and the remote possibility that the rookie might take a shot at Dancing with the Stars.

"The ways his hips are moving, he's not going to do too good," Lofton suggested.

While golf remains a mystery to Fredette, an impending pro basketball career retains his focus. Fredette remains adamant that he'll wait out the NBA labor issues and start his pro career in Sacramento.

"I'll be playing in the NBA whenever it is," Fredette said. "I want to come in and make an impact with this team right away, be able to come in and hopefully help them win more games, get on that right track, hopefully get close to the playoffs or make the playoffs.

"I just want to come in and make an impact and gain the trust of everybody and play well."

When that time arrives, Fredette won't easily forget his time spent in Provo, where the Cougars won three Mountain West Conference titles and earned four NCAA tournament berths.

"The biggest thing is the relationships that I made with my friends off the court and my teammates and coaching staff that were there," Fredette said. "It was such a great time, being on the road with them and hanging out. The biggest thing with our team was that we really enjoyed each other's company off the floor, and that is what gave us such great chemistry on the floor.

"It was a blast to be out there. I remember winning championships with those guys, being able to have a lot of fun and just the relationships that I made, those are the things I will take away from Provo."

The Jazz were unable to keep Fredette in Utah, enabling Jimmermania to spread into Northern California.

"I think the hype was going to be big regardless of where I ended up," Fredette said. "Obviously I had a built-in fan base in Utah. It would have been fun to play in Utah, but I'm a Sacramento King, and I'm really looking forward to being up there and helping that team continue to get better.

Even Super Bowl-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers considers himself part of Jimmermania. Rodgers began following the Kings while growing up in Chico, Calif.

"I'm a sports fan, so I'm a fan of what he did in college. He strokes them from all over the place," Rodgers said. "I've been a Kings' fan for a long time, and we've had some rough seasons."

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