TOM POPE GOT OFFER FROM STAGS
Golf: Football no handicap to Pope's improving game
Thursday, July 28, 2011, The Sentinel
FOOTBALLER Tom Pope has made good use of his time on the golf course while he ponders his next career move.
The 25-year-old striker, from Sneyd Green, appears to be in limbo with his current club Rotherham United, but his game with the small white ball has seldom been better.
PITCHING IN: Tom Pope is aiming for a place in the Sentinel Shield quarter-finals.
A couple of competition wins in the space of 10 days at Burslem trimmed his handicap by four shots to 11, and Pope has also survived three rounds in the Sentinel Shield, in which he is now the highest-ranked player.
"I would like to get my handicap down as low as I can," said Pope. "I am competitive and I don't like losing."
The former Crewe Alex forward plays three to four times-a-week and reckons he has had a good upbringing at the High Lane club.
He explained: "People say if you can play well at Burslem you can play well anywhere. It is a short course, but it is tough and there are no flat greens.
"To be honest I don't normally play that well at Burslem, but I have played to three on other courses."
Pope entered the Sentinel Shield to play away from home, but has come out of the hat first each time.
He has beaten Keith Simpson, Mick Grocott (both Greenway Hall) and club colleague Andy Mannion, but is now looking forward to playing Darren Blairs at Leek for a place in the quarter-finals.
The self-taught Pope says he "hits a decent ball", but does not use a driver, adding: "My driving is more erratic than my shooting, so I use a three wood. I can hit the ball as far as I would with a driver and I am hitting my irons well."
Pope's golfing career began as a junior at Burslem.
He said: "My Nan lived above the clubhouse, but as football started to take over, the golf got left behind.
"When the Sneyd FC team started in Sunday football some of the lads in the pub started a golf society and that started me back. In fact, quite a number of the lads joined Burslem."
When Pope got his lucky break in football, moving from non-league Biddulph Vics to Crewe in July 2006, he played golf with Neil Cox, who had a handicap of one, and also had a couple of games with Jason Timmis (plus three). "The trouble is they took money off me," he joked.
He played less often when he moved from Crewe to Rotherham, living in Hilton, near Derby.
Pope said: "The Rotherham training ground is on a golf course and I also knew a couple of the Burton Albion lads who played."
Pope is now back in the Potteries, having recently moved to Norton Heights.
He said: "As far as the football is concerned it is getting very frustrating.
"I can leave Rotherham, who have thrown me out of their squad.
"I am training with the kids, but I want a settlement. My agent is on the case.
"I enjoyed my spell on loan at Port Vale last season and would love to go back, especially as I now live only half-a-mile from the ground.
"I also know all the lads, but there are money issues.
"I have had contact with Macclesfield, Torquay, Morecambe, Luton and Cambridge too, but the best offer so far has come from Mansfield."