Matt Bocklet hit two perfect drives and revealed a secret.
Both tremendous tee shots tell you a lot about the Denver Outlaws’ longest-tenured man and one of the better players in Major League Lacrosse history. The secret will close a chapter, but not end the story.
Bocklet and I snuck in nine holes at the pristine Deer Creek Golf Club in Littleton on a perfect Thursday morning in mid-May.
The night before the round, and then again the day of, the Outlaws captain warned me he’s not very good at golf, as he only plays about five rounds a year. The good news for Bocklet is that he wasn’t exactly playing with Jordan Spieth, so it was a two-way street.
As we rolled up to the practice putting green Bocklet dropped his ball casually on the surface and proceeded to drain his first putt from a little more than 10 feet. Not very good, eh?
The first hole at Deer Creek isn’t all that long (380 yards from the tips), but the shot does have to carry over some water and a marshy area to make it safely to the fairway. I gave Bocklet the honors and received a final warning that his shot probably wasn’t going to be any good.
Bocklet piped one down the middle, probably in excess of 300 yards, then turned around and couldn’t help but crack a smile. “That’ll be the best one I hit all day,” he joked. My first shot ended up where his was supposed to go, a bad top job right into the drink. Luckily, a breakfast ball landed safely in the fairway and we were off.
The first swing of the day revealed one of Bocklet’s best traits: He’s humble as hell.
The Outlaws’ all-time leader in ground balls (with 481 total three games into the team’s 2016 campaign) is a cool customer. He’s polite, easy to talk with and down to earth. When the conversation shifted to lacrosse and his illustrious career, he said all the right things.
“The individual accolades are always nice but at the end of the day it’s what you remember. My favorite memory is running and hugging my younger brother Chris moments after the horn sounded and we won the MLL Championship in 2014. That’s the moment I remember the most,” Bocklet says.
He’s also smart, with a sharp perspective on what it takes to excel in something. While his golf game is good, but not great, he’s okay with that – or at least he is now.
“I read a lot of Malcolm Gladwell and I’m a firm believer in when he talks about 10,000 hours to greatness. I’ve put in the time with lacrosse but don’t put in those hours with golf. In the beginning, I used to get extremely frustrated when I was playing golf and then I kind of realized you’re going to get out of it what you put in. So now it’s just more relaxing, swing the clubs a little bit and just enjoy being out here,” Bocklet says.
We were indeed enjoying ourselves at Deer Creek. The course is nestled brilliantly right at the base of the foothills, with a new challenge on every hole.
As we approached hole five, it was clear two very different obstacles awaited. First, the hole itself (a 392-yard par 4) has trouble down in the middle, making the best shot off the tee a layup. If you go too far, your ball is likely lost.
Second, is a possible backswing distraction.
“Hey, Pet Resort! My uncle owns one of those back east!” Bocklet pointed out.
And then we heard it.
The dogs in the kennel started barking, maybe sensing our presence on the tee box about 50 yards below or ready to get back to their cushy lifestyles at home and out of the “resort” (which Bocklet insists comes with plenty of nice amenities for the four-legged friends).
This time I went first off the tee and pushed one to the left with my five iron. My donation of golf balls to the fine folks at Deer Creek was now about the same as the number of holes we had played. Rufus yapping in the background didn’t exactly help my already flawed swing.
The 30-year-old Bocklet was next, dealing with the distraction almost like he’s performed in front of a rowdy crowd before. Once again he pured his drive, executing the perfect layup shot and giving himself a clean look up the hill to the green.
“That’s right! Make some noise! I think the ‘Happy Gilmore’ approach to golf makes a lot of sense,” Bocklet says with a grin.
For those not familiar with the movie, here’s a quick summary: An aspiring hockey player takes up golf, makes the PGA Tour and flips the game upside down with his antics. Gilmore gets a running start when he drives the ball, putts with a hockey stick, and always encourages the crowd to get fired up before he hits.
“Happy Gilmore” is right up my alley, so I asked Bocklet if he’s a big Adam Sandler fan; Sandler played Gilmore in what many would consider his acting prime.
“With ‘Happy Gilmore’and ‘Billy Madison’ it’s tough to have to think about Adam Sandler back in the day. I think that he hasn’t made a good movie since then to be totally honest. He’s just making terrible movie after terrible movie and those movies are just such classics and so funny. It’s sad to see some of the movies he’s made these days,” Bocklet offers as we approached the fifth green.
The second great drive of the day shows Bocklet is clutch, and able to deal with (in this case literal) outside noise. The man is a winner.
He’s a two-time champion, once in his junior year at Johns Hopkins University, when Bocklet and the Blue Jays defeated a heavily favored Duke team by a score of 12–11 to claim the 2007 NCAA National Championship. He was also a key cog in the aforementioned 2014 Outlaws title team, leading the team with seven ground balls during their postseason run.
As the round continued, Bocklet offered up something surprising as the conversation shifted back to winning lacrosse championships. “This year is it for me,” he says.
Who knew you could have breaking news on a golf course?
Matt Bocklet has a lot going for him right now that revolves around lacrosse. Like any smart person, he’s managed to make something he’s really good at and passionate about his full-time job.
Along with being the captain of the Outlaws, Bocklet is the head coach at Highlands Ranch High School (something he’s done for the last five years), runs “DoCo” Lacrosse Club and, along with his brothers Mike and Chris (who also both play for the Outlaws), runs X10 Lacrosse, a sleep-away and day camp for boys and girls to hone their skills at one of America’s fastest-growing games.
It’s clear that lacrosse, specifically coaching and instructing, is in Bocklet’s blood.
“I think I will always coach lacrosse. I thoroughly enjoy it and it’s given me so many opportunities to travel, go to different cities every weekend and meet a bunch of people, so I try to give [kids] some of those same opportunities. You’ve got a bunch that aspire to play college lacrosse and I’m trying to prepare them to be able to do that. I’m a big believer in using lacrosse to get to the best college you possibly can,” Bocklet says.
And while his coaching career will go on a long time, not many people know about Bocklet’s retirement, at least until now.
“I just think it’s probably time,” Bocklet says.
He’ll hang it up after this year with eight seasons as an Outlaw under his belt and nine in the MLL overall. But even with those two career championships, Bocklet says there’s work to be done this season.
“As a player, I’m definitely happy, but I’m not satisfied. I want another championship this summer. The funny thing about them is once you win one and you experience that joy and realize how great that moment is it becomes almost addicting, just wanting another one right after,” Bocklet says.
I reminded him that at least he’s won one at the top two levels of lacrosse; not many guys can say that. Ever hungry for success, Bocklet offered a quick reply.
“Well I don’t have a high school state championship. So I’ll have to get that one coaching. That’s the goal, and it might take some time, but I’m not going anywhere,” he says.
And just like Bocklet won’t be going anywhere in the Colorado lacrosse community, neither is his ability to hit clutch golf shots.
Hole six at Deer Creek might as well be a mile long.
Okay, it’s not that far, but at 562 yards it’s not one, not two, but three really good (and long) shots to even dream of a look at birdie. Bocklet and I both hit good drives, setting ourselves up in the fairway, so we decided to have a little fun.
“We’ve got to try it,” Bocklet says.
The “Happy Gilmore” driving technique isn’t as easy as it looks. I barely made contact with my ball, sending yet another Nike into lost ball land. Bocklet had a whiff or two during his attempts, eventually connecting on one that whizzed past our photographer Randy Parietti and was just as gone as my ball.
Our chat in the cart on the way up the fairway moved toward other post-retirement plans; Bocklet has a quirky aspiration.
“My former teammate, Ken Clausen, and I, we’re going to get into curling and we’re going to bring the ‘Happy Gilmore’ rowdy crowd approach to it and get them going and get them excited,” Bocklet says.
It’s hard to tell if he’s being serious. Really?
“Yeah. We went to the new curling center in Lakewood and got a tutorial and got to play a round? A match? I don’t know what they call it in curling. The little old lady that was nice enough to teach me how to do it told me I had a natural ability when it came to curling. She’s the guru of curling,” Bocklet says with a laugh.
And his plan to spice the atmosphere up a little?
“I’ve never curled in front of a crowd, I’ve only curled in front of a few people, but I think it’s pretty quiet. I think they give it the golf approach, no talking while you’re trying to slide across the ice, but I think some noise and some beers will change that sport,” Bocklet says.
In between all the curling talk Bocklet took out a fairway wood and blasted his second shot on the par 5 down the right side, setting himself up nicely (it appeared) for a clean look at the green.
“You’ll have a good angle,” I told him after watching his shot sail a couple of hundreds yard with a nice draw to the right.
But as we approached his ball it became more and more clear he was actually going to have a bad angle on his third shot. What was tough to tell from back in the fairwas was he was now behind a decent size mound of grass (nearly big enough to call a hill), which had a bunker on the other side of it. Just past that, with no real landing area, was the pin on the front side of the green.
But like he did all day, Bocklet wasn’t phased; he executed a perfect flop shot over the mound and the sand, landing the ball within five feet of the pin. It was nearly a tap in for birdie.
Meanwhile, the lacrosse star still had one of his next ventures on his mind.
“I’m all in. This is already happening next year post-retirement, straight into curling,” he says.
As the round wrapped up and we sat in the fairway of the last hole, I had to ask Bocklet one more time about his plans to hang it up. It’s clear he’s thought this through; it’s clear he has a vision of a storybook finish.
“I wear No. 7 like John Elway. I want to ride off into the sunset just like he did,” Bocklet says.
Matt Bocklet’s secret is out of the bag; maybe the perfect ending awaits. But even if it doesn’t, Bocklet will keep plenty busy, lacrosse and otherwise, in the next chapter of his still very young life.