Tiger Woods and Gerald Henderson

Saw Gerald Henderson, the elder, a few weeks ago, long before the NCAA tournament began and long before the younger Gerald's Duke team would become the round-of-16 matchup for Villanova.

That game, which is scheduled for 10 p.m. on Thursday, will require the Wildcats to find an answer for Henderson, a classic 6-foot-4 swingman who leads the Blue Devils in scoring, and is second in both rebounds and assists. The Episcopal grad is also a very decent three-point shooter on a team that shoots the three extremely well, but his strength is getting to the rim and playing hard around the basket.

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Gerald Sr. was a very good player in his own right, a 6-foot-2 point guard, mostly for the Celtics. He also played a couple of seasons late in his career for the 76ers and he and his wife settled here and maintain a real estate business in Blue Bell, Pa. Their older daughter graduated from Villanova, in fact.

Those who know Gerald Sr. know that his great athletic passion since retiring from basketball is golf, a passion he passed on to his son at a very early age. Gerald Jr. took to the game and was playing it at a high level, even as a teenager. One of his frequent playing partners was Eagles announcer Merrill Reese.

As a father who knows how hard the basketball life can be, and how quickly it can end, if Junior had wanted to put his energy into golf, dad wouldn't have stood in the way. When Gerald Jr. was about 14, he had the opportunity to meet Tiger Woods, who agreed to analyze the younger man's game. What did Tiger tell Gerald Sr. after that encounter?

"He's farther advanced at this age than I was," said Woods, who doesn't hand out compliments easily.

The young man took that information and told his father that he still wanted to pursue basketball as a career rather than golf. Later this year, the younger Henderson will be a first-round pick in the NBA draft, so it's not like he made a bad decision.

But maybe if Tiger had been a little more emphatic, well, who knows? A golf scholarship to Stanford isn’t that bad a fallback position, and Villanova might have a different problem to solve on Thursday. So blame it on Tiger for not convincing Henderson that golf was the way to go.

As it is, Gerald Jr. chose basketball and it will be the job of Villanova to make him play over par.

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SHAMELESS PLUG DEPT.: I've seen a lot of Villanova fans in the last few days who are traveling to Boston for the NCAA Regional, and they have asked for a good spot to go near the TD Banknorth Garden.

One good recommendation is Johnnie's On The Side, which is literally just two blocks down a sidestreet from North Station and Causeway Ave.

Full disclosure is that the place is partly owned by Terry Lyons, who is an old friend, a former media relations guy with the NBA who I have known for 20 years. But beyond that, it is a place with food that is a cut well above typical bar fare and a very wide-ranging beer and wine list, good ambiance and a great location.

"We want this to become Nova Nation North," Lyons said. "I contacted the athletic department and alumni department. It's going to be a lot of fun."