NAPLES — ESPN personality Chris Berman always raves about how much he loves visiting Southwest Florida during his annual trip to play in the Shark Shootout, but this year’s appearance almost didn’t happen.
Berman underwent hip replacement surgery in August, limiting his ability to play golf – at least until Wednesday.
Berman hobbled through 18 holes alongside playing partner Kenny Perry, often using a club as a makeshift cane, but said he had targeted this week for months during his recovery.
“Here I am standing here and I’m thrilled,” Berman said after completing his round Wednesday. “I expected nothing – and hip replacement is nothing compared to what some of the people that we’re raising money for are going through (the event benefits childhood cancer research) – but it feels good to be out here. The doctors told me four months ago that December was an attainable goal and I’m thrilled.”
Berman owns a home in Captiva and said getting away from work for a few days to relax in Southwest Florida is always one of the highlights of his year.
“It’s a pleasure and a treat to be able to come here and get away from things for a couple of days,” he said. “It gives me a chance to exhale and just forget about everything, and have some fun and play some golf with some tremendous players and guys that I’ve become friends with over the years.”
Berman and Perry teed off just after 9 a.m. when temperatures were in the mid-40’s, but Berman, who has lived in Connecticut for the last three decades, said the weather was just fine.
“I was sweating by the time we got to the third hole; this weather isn’t cold to me,” Berman said. “The course is in good shape and it would have to get a lot colder than 40 to keep me from playing.”
After he finished his round, Berman learned of the news that Florida football coach Urban Meyer was stepping down from his post, Berman said he was surprised.
“He wanted to step away last year, but he probably felt he had a job to do for the kids the he recruited there,” Berman said. “It’s admirable that he came back for one last year, and that he’s now going to take time away to be with his family.”