Chastain realizes new goal with golf victory


This time, Brandi Chastain kept her shirt on.

The USA women's soccer legend teamed with former major league pitcher John Smoltz to hold off another pitcher -- Roger Clemens -- and Ahmad Rashad to win the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational golf tournament at Shadow Creek on Sunday.

Chastain and Smoltz posted a two-day total of 6-under-par 138 to win by five strokes against a field of 19 other teams in the 36-hole scramble.

"I never thought I would win a golf tournament," Chastain said. "But I had a great partner."

Smoltz, a scratch golfer who has expressed an aspiration to play on the PGA Champions Tour, said of Chastain: "Brandi was great around the greens. We had a plan where she just needed to keep it in play and give ourselves a chance, and she did a great job of that."

Chastain, 43, retired from playing soccer last year after participating in a third failed attempt to keep a women's professional league in this country afloat. She stays connected with the game by doing television commentary, making appearances on behalf of U.S. Soccer, the sport's governing body, and assisting husband Jerry Smith, the longtime women's coach at Santa Clara, Chastain's alma mater.

But she knows the lasting impact she and her American teammates made on the game and women's sports on July 10, 1999, in the Women's World Cup final against China at the Rose Bowl.

With the game in its fifth round of penalty kicks before a record crowd of 90,185, Chastain kicked her way into history with her winning shot and subsequent doffing of her jersey.

Her goal sealed victory for the Americans as the U.S. won its second title after taking the World Cup in 1991. The image of Chastain on her knees, arms raised, fists clenched in triumph in her black sports bra is one of the most enduring in recent American sports history.

"People always come up to me and tell me where they were that day," she said. "It's part of my life and I never run from it. I'm proud of what we did and I'm glad people remember."

Chastain understands what she and her teammates accomplished that day is felt by this generation in terms of greater opportunities for women to play soccer and get college scholarships.

"That means so much to me personally," she said. "To know that we helped develop a new generation of fans to women's soccer and that their children will one day have the same opportunity, it's a wonderful feeling."

Chastain said the inability of a women's pro league to make it in the U.S. has been frustrating. But at the same time, history tells her that patience is crucial.

"I wish I could tell you it was just one thing, then we could fix it, but it's a little more complex than that," she said. "But the more we learn from our failures, the better we have of succeeding one day.

"I'm still hopeful that someday there'll be a women's league in this country that is successful the way MLS (Major League Soccer) has become. MLS didn't become popular overnight. It took time, but they made it."

Besides, Chastain said, if she can win a golf tournament, anything's possible.

"Just to be invited out here by Michael to play, being a women's soccer player among all these great Hall of Fame athletes, I think it shows how far our sport has come," she said."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

 

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