Jay Bilas, 55, has been a college basketball color commentator and studio analyst for ESPN since 1995. The Charlotte, N.C., resident is also an avid golfer who is a member at Charlotte Country Club and Carolina Golf Club. Bilas starred at Duke University under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, helping the Blue Devils reach the 1986 NCAA title game. He later served as a graduate assistant coach at Duke from 1990-92, where he earned his law degree. Bilas was the featured speaker at the 2019 U.S. Amateur Players Reception at Pinehurst and attended the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur in Charlotte. The USGA talked with Bilas about his passion for golf.
What is your USGA Handicap Index?
It’s 7.0, but that’s phony. People pick me up in a limo to play me at that number.
Do you have any golf or basketball superstitions?
In basketball, I used to change out my shoes if I didn’t play well, so I have a lot of shoes. And in golf, I try to use the same ball as long as I can when I make a par [or better].
What is your perfect golf foursome?
I would love to play with Tiger Woods, my brother Dave and my dad. Tiger Woods is my favorite golfer ever since I first saw him tee it up.
What is your favorite golf course?
Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey.
Who is the most famous person you have ever played golf with?
It would probably be [New England Patriots quarterback] Tom Brady and I am sure when he is asked that question, he probably says me (smiling).
Watching the U.S. Mid-Amateur competitors last year, what impressed you the most?
Just how patient and consistent they are. I love watching these great players hit a golf ball. I can’t fathom hitting it that well. To be able to see the caliber of golfers take on this golf course has been a real treat. And they are such nice guys, too. To be that good and that nice is really kind of cool.
Who is the best golfer in the college basketball world?
That’s a good question. It would probably be [Coach] Roy Williams of North Carolina. He’s had the same putter for 50 years, so it must be pretty good for him.
What is harder, lining up a free throw or a 5-foot putt?
A 5-foot putt by far. In a free throw, the conditions are always the same. It’s always 15 feet. There’s no wind and it’s always indoors. Putts are different all the time. I’ve missed plenty of free throws and putts, so I know the distance. But there were no gimmes in free throws.
Hailie Sandor is the associate producer of social media for the USGA. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.