9 holes with ... Jarrett Payton

Walter never far from mind of self-described 'social butterfly'

Jarrett Payton used a weird, loopy backswing — a Matt Suhey replica, he explained — to hit his drive into the fairway on the third hole at Oak Park Country Club.

This was a notable accomplishment considering some Payton tee shots would have been apt for the movie "Sideways."

But then the craziest thing happened. Payton rode to his ball and scooped it up, saying: "I'd rather be near you guys. I want to be social."

Oak Park member Tom Dee and I were in the rough. Behind trees.

It brought to mind the great line from Tom Kite's cameo on "The Simpsons": "Homer, the traditional way to cheat in golf is to lower your score."

But that's Payton. He was competitive enough on the soccer field to score 35 goals as a sophomore at St. Viator and made the NFL after being named MVP of the 2004 Orange Bowl for Miami.

But golf? He never has taken a lesson, even though uncle Eddie Payton is in his 27th year as Jackson State's golf coach. The self-described social butterfly treats a round more like a cocktail party.

"Some of the best relationships you can make are on the golf course," he said.

Payton keeps business cards in his golf bag, which once belonged to his father and is emblazoned with "SWEETNESS." Walter Payton loved to play, and Jarrett said his weapon of choice was a 2-iron.

"His forearms were so strong," he said. "The ball sounded like a rocket taking off."

One time Walter told him: "Get a bag ready. I'm taking you somewhere."

It turned out to be Washington and a trip to the White House. In the Oval Office, Walter reminded his 11-year-old son to "stop touching stuff."

PresidentGeorge H.W. Bushtook them out to Congressional Country Club, and Jarrett remembers having his golf cart back down a hill into a bunker, only to have Secret Service members push him out.

Before he died of bile duct cancer in 1999, Walter took Jarrett everywhere. Now Jarrett doesn't take a step without Walter. The iconic photo of Walter wearing a headband in a Bears jersey is tattooed on Jarrett's right shoulder.

His Twitter handle is @PaytonSun, which sometimes draws snarky tweets such as "Become your own person."

Thanks for the life advice, people, but Jarrett's doing fine. He's a self-described philanthropist, entertainer, speaker and entrepreneur.

"Dad always said: 'Don't be like me; be better than me,' " he recalled.

He said there's no chance he will read the Jeff Pearlman book that detailed an "enigmatic life" — including Walter having fathered a child out of wedlock.

"My family and I know who my dad was; no book or person can change that," Payton said. "I have no animosity toward Jeff. My parents raised us (sister Brittney is co-host of the TV show "Chicago's Best") to love everybody."



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