Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Utah Jazz guard Deron Williams plays in the Sorenson Champions Challenge at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club in Lehi on Monday.

First thing you notice about professional golfers is their sun prep and brand-named gear on hats and shirts.

At Monday's pro-am of the Sorenson Champions Challenge at Thanksgiving Point, Annika Sorenstam, Jack Nicklaus, Ian Baker-Finch, Craig Stadler, Dave Stockton and others who make their living in the sun had the white 50 lotion spread on thick. Like they just got out of milk bath.

Sorenstam showed up with her game face on, saying her appearance was a welcome reprieve from work, that the distraction from the LPGA Tour was a time to have some fun. The legendary Swede recently announced her retirement at the end of this golf season. She was one of the biggest draws of the day and will continue to attract the numbers today as the actual tournament kicks off.

Looking the part of a pro in every other way was Jazz point guard Deron Williams, decked out in coordinated black-and-red shirt/pants combination, black Nike shoes and genuine hacker nervousness right before he teed off in a group led by Dave Stockton Jr.

Make no mistake about it, Williams is hooked on the game. "Play it every day since the season ended," he told reporters.

Williams said he was more nervous watching Tiger Woods' final putt on the 18th to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate than he was watching Sunday's Lakers-Celtics playoff game.

Williams also confessed he was "nervous" Monday about his first official tee shot.

Free throws with the game on the line? Not even close.

How'd he do?

Williams, sporting a flat power swing that he tends to pull, ripped off a 280-yard tee shot right down the middle on his first tee shot of the pro-am, which his group started on the par-5 No. 2 hole at The Point. The group, playing a Las Vegas-scramble format, used his ball for the next shot and carded a birdie.

Williams explained he invites tips from anywhere and from anybody who'll give it and claimed he can hit his driver 330 to 340 yards. "But it could go left, it could go right, or it could just go straight up in the air."

About an 18- to 20-handicap player right after the season ended, Williams said he's probably a 25 now. He likes to play with Gipper and Tony Finau when they're in town, and he takes pointers from Thanksgiving Point director of golf Mark Whetzel.

"My game needs a little work. I've been working hard on it. It's a game I like so much, but I'm not good at at. It's a fun game, a relaxing game, but sometimes it can be frustrating."

So, what's the best part of his golf game?

Williams answered with a dead man's stare. Like there was not a good part. He's not quitting his day job. "Hey, it depends. I'm trying to relearn and do it right, getting it all down, concentrating and it's like starting over, like learning to ride a bike."

The best golfing Jazzman?

"It's gotta be Kyle Korver; he's about a 6 or an 8 (handicap)," Williams said.

So, what's in Williams' bag? An interesting question. He hits Callaways but is under a basketball contract for Nike gear.

"Guess they'll need to hook me up with some Nike clubs," said Williams.

That's the spirit, Mr. Williams.

Caring about brands and you're a real golfer.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com