Dominating Amateur Golf Circuit, Mark Mulder Says He's Retired From Baseball
Every once in a while, after a double-bogey, he'll chuck his golf ball into the water.
One of baseball's best pitchers for the first half of the past decade and a puzzling rehab story in the second half, Mulder has finally given up on baseball.
"I guess I am [retired]," he told FanHouse on Monday. "I haven't touched a baseball since February."
Instead he's playing golf, dominating amateur tournaments around Arizona and the West.
Mulder has played nine tournaments on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour, and he's won six of them. Over the weekend he won one of the tour's "major" events, the Western Open in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"When you play baseball for as long as I did, I needed to fill that competitive void, to go out and compete in some sort of way," Mulder said. "I had never played competitive golf until this year. ... I'm doing that now. It's fun."
The Golf Channel Amateur Tour bills itself as a series of tournaments in which amateurs of any skill level can compete in events that are run like those on the PGA tour.
The level of competition, however, is nowhere close. Even Mulder, a zero-handicap, admits that. He said he has friends in Scottsdale who are pro golfers, and he's played enough golf with them to know he's not one of them.
"There is a huge difference between me and what they do," he said. "It's kind of a moot point to think I'd ever go anywhere unless I got really serious with swing coaches, and I don't think I have the ambition to go that far."
Mulder, 32, lives in Scottsdale with his wife and two kids, ages 2 and 7 months. He plays golf about four times a week, breaking par about once every five rounds. (One of his golf partners is Jermaine Dye, whose baseball career also seems to have ended unceremoniously. "I don't think Jermaine has written anything off, but I don't think any teams are calling," Mulder said.)
Mulder's immediate plans are to keep playing the Golf Channel events and the American Century Championship, the Super Bowl of celebrity golf held every July at Lake Tahoe. Mulder said he'll also keep trying to qualify for the U.S. Open. He said he was at the cut line after 15 holes in a local qualifier this year, but the tripled-bogeyed to take himself out of contention. Even if he'd made it through that level, he'd have needed to also get through a sectional qualifying tournament that is filled with pros.
"I'll do it every year," Mulder said. "You have two career days, you never know."
As for Mulder's baseball career, that came to a quiet end this spring. A two-time All-Star with the A's, Mulder started having shoulder problems early in his days with the Cardinals. He was essentially rehabbing from 2006-09. There were rumors that he was ready to return to baseball as a spring invite in 2009 and again this spring. The Brewers, with Mulder's former Oakland pitching coach, Rick Peterson, were thought to be a likely destination.
Even Mulder thought he was close.
"I was working out last winter with this guy who was very different," Mulder said. "He trained in Europe with these javelin throwers and he understood the shoulder. I worked out with him for months and did all these crazy stretches. I got so strong and so loose. My shoulder felt good, but when it came time to throw sides, it had nothing to do with velocity or arm strength, but my delivery. My arm didn't get where it needed to be at the right time. It was like my arm moved too slow. That's what I dealt with ever since 2006. I never got over that hump. It was like I was always one step away from being good to go."
Mulder finally abandoned his comeback attempt in February. There was some confusion about it because Peterson was the first to announce Mulder's retirement, which prompted Mulder's agent Gregg Clifton, to say that the pitcher had not retired. Really, it was a matter of semantics.
"I guess I have retired," Mulder said, "but my agent was more annoyed that it didn't come from me or him."