Rice taking shot at golf; 68 best score

Count 49ers legend Jerry Rice among those impressed by Phil Mickelson's bold Masters victory Sunday.

"The Masters this past weekend was just unbelievable," Rice said during a recent conference call. "To see Phil Mickelson be up by 2 strokes and going for that shot in between the trees with a 6-iron from 207 yards was very inspirational. After that I had to go hit some more golf balls."

Rice's passion for golf has led him to compete in the Fresh Express Classic in San Francisco. The Nationwide Tour event begins Thursday, with proceeds going to Rice's foundation. It's the first time Rice has competed in a professional tournament. He'll have to make the 36-hole cut to compete for prize money.

"I got an exemption into this tournament and it blew me away completely," Rice said during the call. "The thing about me is that you know I’m a competitor, and I don’t want to go out there and have the Nationwide Tour players think this is a publicity stunt or something for attention. It’s not. I respect the game of golf and I work hard at it. I have the opportunity to go out there and prove to everybody that I can play golf."

Rice said he used to rise at 4 a.m. and hit the driving range at 6, then report for work at the 49ers around 8:30. He would head back to the range at night. Rice said his best round was a 68, and he has broken par twice at TPC Stonebrae, site of the current event. No professional athletes from other spots have made the cut in a Nationwide event, although Mark Rypien, Al Del Greco and others have tried.