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Bra thoughts: Brandi Chastain on Zidane and Mia, and female celeb golfers

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

STATELINE, Nev. - No one rips her shirt off with more flair than Brandi Chastain.

Brandi Chastain
Women's World Cup hero Brandi Chastain iscusses a shot with her caddy at a celebrity golf tournament
Brandi ChastainBrandi ChastainZinedine Zidane post-World Cup head-buttBrandi Chastain

Pulling the old Hulk Hogan move (OK, almost) in celebration at the 1999 Women's World Cup final propelled Chastain to women's-soccer stardom second only to Mia Hamm. Little girls in shin guards adored her; David Letterman drooled over her.

A more ego-fueled athlete might feel the need to remind people - again and again - that before yanking off her jersey she scored the Cup-clinching goal in penalty kicks. Not Chastain.

The defender from San Jose whom teammates nicknamed "Hollywood" has fun with her image - which is literally an image of her in a sports bra. Her autobiography is called It's Not About the Bra; so's her Web site, on which her famous shirtless photo is liberally plastered. She's parlayed her soccer and celebration sense into a gig as a commentator for ABC/ESPN.

When TravelGolf.com caught up to Chastain, she was swinging her driver in Lake Tahoe, still showing that women can hang with the guys - even in the old-school, backslapping world of celebrity golf tournaments.

In a field with the likes of John Elway, Ben Roethlisberger and Ray Romano, Chastain had her share of autograph seekers. She also revealed a sweet story about learning from her grandfather, a sweet feeling for notorious French head-butter Zinedine Zidane and a sweet solution for revolutionizing women's sports.

Q: How seriously do you take golf? Especially playing in one of these celebrity events?

A: I can't lie and say that I'm not competitive. Every shot I have the desire to be good. And I want to make birdies and I want to make pars and I'm disappointed when I don't. So I'd say I'm extremely competitive when it comes to my golf game. Even though I know my standard is not high.

But I can't help it. That's just my nature.

Q: When did you really start getting into golf?

A: My grandfather and I were very good friends. My mom's father. We used to say we were going to go to lunch and he'd take me to the driving range and we'd have lunch and hit golf balls. And I never really learned ... I didn't have a coach or anything. I'd just, you know, swat at the balls. And that's been probably since I was 10.

So it's been a long time. But I never got any real formal training. It was just something we'd always do together that we enjoyed. Then once I got older, he couldn't play any more. He'd just sit behind me and I'd hit the balls. He would kind of live his golf through me. But we never played the course, we never did anything like that. Just the driving range.

Q: Did you try and get your teammates on the U.S. women's soccer team to play golf?

A: Julie [Foudy], Mia [Hamm] and Kristine [Lilly] all enjoyed playing, which was nice. When we were training for the Olympics and living in Florida, we lived on a golf course. We'd go out and play after practice. If it was a brutal week we'd be out there sometimes three, four times a week. Again, we tried not to be competitive. But the way we're wired, we couldn't help but want to beat our opponent, to beat each other.

I'll give it up. Mia was probably the best-scoring golfer out there, and Julie was all of our handicaps [combined]. She was the funniest. And Kristine and I kind of hovered in the middle somewhere.

Q: Does your soccer prowess carry over to the golf course?

A: It's so different for me from the soccer field from the mental side. On the soccer field I don't have to think about anything. It just comes natural. Playing golf, I can't stop thinking about things. Maybe that's my trouble; I overanalyze things. ... It becomes more mentally exhausting than physically exhausting.

Q: What was your reaction to Zinedine Zidane head-butting the Italian player in the World Cup final?

A: I'm a Zidane fan, so that's disappointing, to see him exit the World Cup under those circumstances. Because I don't think, had he not been provoked, he would have done that. But having said that, what he did was wrong. And he was penalized in the way he should have been penalized.

It's a part of soccer I wish we could get rid of. All the faking, all the fainting. ... You need gamesmanship in sports. That's part of the fun. But when it crosses the line and becomes very personal and blasphemous almost, it's detrimental and I think the integrity of soccer has to be upheld over everything else.

Q: Did you think FIFA should have suspended the Italian player as it did, or done more?

A: I don't know how they'll ever know exactly what he said. Unless somebody else heard something or saw something, we'll never know what happened. But like anything, Zidane had to be held responsible for his actions. So should every other player that steps onto the field.

Q: You're asked to give these kinds of opinions on TV now. How's the transition to commentating going?

A: What I want to do is to share my experiences in soccer, my insight in soccer. My objectives are basically to help people who are coming around to soccer enjoy it more, to understand the subtlety of the game more. And also to give the soccer fan, the person who knows soccer, maybe some insight on tactics or techniques, or why something's working. Besides, it allows me to stay close to the game.

Q: You're one of only two women in this tournament. Is that intimidating, playing golf against a virtually all-male field?

A; I see those guys as I see all my teammates in women's sports. They're athletes. They're competitors. And they're out there to do the same thing I'm there to do, which is score well, have fun. So I didn't see male/female.

If you play soccer, it's just soccer. It's not women's soccer. And it's just golf. Everybody has to play the course. We're not playing each other. So I'm not nervous about that. But I would like to see more women out here.

Q: Why aren't there more women in these celebrity golf events?

A: 'Cause you're not in charge. Because you're not inviting them.

I don't know. I have no idea what the answer to that question is. I don't run a golf tournament. But I'd like to see one run by you. You seem like a big backer of women's sports.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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