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Garcia trades pitching wedge for pitch

Golfer practices with the Revolution

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / September 1, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - If the Deutsche Bank Championship turns into an endurance contest, Sergio Garcia will be ready. The Spanish golfer displayed his fitness, as well as some impressive soccer skills, while participating in a full practice session with the Revolution yesterday.

His intense approach to golf is matched by his passionate involvement in soccer.

“If he just played football, maybe he could have done OK, you know?’’ said Carlos Rodriguez, Garcia’s manager. “But, obviously, golf is the job.’’

Rodriguez set up the Revolution connection with Garcia. Rodriguez’s soccer coach at Bentley was Pete Simonini, a former Revolution goalkeeper coach.

“He actually wanted to practice a couple of times, but with the hurricane, he couldn’t do it,’’ Rodriguez said. “He has practiced with Villareal in Spain but not with any US teams before this.’’

Garcia’s soccer roots run deep. He was born in Castellon, on the Costa de Azahar, near Valencia and Villareal. He invested in his hometown team, CD Borriol, and has actually played in league games for Borriol, which came within a goal of being promoted from the Tercera Division last season.

“When I first saw him, I was kind of worried,’’ Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph said of Garcia. “But once he started playing, his technique is very good. We would definitely invite him again.

“There wasn’t a dropoff or anything like that. He’s better than [Chad] Ochocinco, by far.’’

During a half-hour scrimmage, Garcia showed a strong left-footed shot, blazing two shots just off target, with another saved by goalkeeper Matt Reis.

“There’s no doubt about that, I’m mainly left-footed,’’ said Garcia, who golfs righthanded. “I’m a little bit ambidextrous.’’

Garcia played as a midfielder, slotting behind the forwards. His touches on the ball were confident and he showed a knack for opportunistic strikes on goal.

Revolution coach Steve Nicol noted that Garcia had “a nice left peg.’’

“Unfortunately, he showed a couple guys up,’’ Nicol said.

Said Garcia, “It’s always fun to do something you love. I’ve always loved playing football.

“Thanks to [the Revolution] for giving me a chance to practice with them. I don’t know if the coach is going to cut me, but it was a great experience.’’

Garcia is not the only PGA Tour member playing soccer. Rodriguez said Australian Nick O’Hern organizes a team involving caddies and players to compete with local teams.

Garcia is a Real Madrid supporter, but he is not caught up in the club’s rivalry with Barcelona.

“They’re just very good, simple as that,’’ Garcia said of Barcelona. “As I said, I am a fan of Real Madrid, but a fan of football and I can see who plays good football and who doesn’t. So Barcelona is just amazing, and I think Real Madrid is catching up.

“It’s a shame that we don’t have maybe three or four strong teams in the Spanish league, so it looks like it’s going to be a battle between the top two.’’

Among Revolution players, midfielder Chris Tierney, who has a 12 handicap, is considered the best golfer.

“He’s a great athlete,’’ Tierney said of Garcia. “I didn’t know what to expect but I was impressed. He’s in shape, a super fit guy, really skilled, which is what it’s all about. And he knew where to play the ball and soccer movement, so it was really impressive.

“I’d seen and heard him talk about soccer before. But I didn’t know he was as big a fan of soccer as he is. I’m a big golf fan myself, and I’ve was always a big fan of his from those old Ryder Cup days.

“He brings that excitement to the game, just a really fun, energetic player to watch, who brought something different.’’

Garcia gained admirers among Revolution players, and the team also gained a fan.

“I’ll just be cheering for them to be where they belong, which is much higher up,’’ Garcia said.

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.