Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not all celebrities act like celebrities

I was sitting outside the clubhouse at the King and Bear course at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., this weekend, watching celebrities file in and out of the entrance. They were getting ready for the 10th Annual Murray Brothers Caddyshack Celebrity Golf Tournament.

Bill Murray was there. His brothers, Brian Doyle Murray, Joel Murray and others I didn't recognize also were there. Sports figures David Garrard, Jack Del Rio, Kenny Lofton and others walked past me.

Then a guy walked up to me, stopped and started talking to me. I recognized him. I'd seen him on TV, but his name escaped me. To him, I was some random guy sitting on a bench outside the clubhouse.

We started talking about the weather, specifically about the sunny skies after a night of rain. Then the conversation turned to the crazy storms during the winter in New York, where he said he'd been working fairly often over the past few months.

He talked about his home in Minnesota, where he would caddy as a youngster at Town and Country Club in St. Paul. And he mentioned how he would drive regularly in Minnesota's snowstorms.

"I'd get in my two-wheel drive Impala and just go," he said.

"Yeah, people in the South don't know how to drive in the snow," I said.

It was a brief conversation, and it didn't have to happen. He could have walked right past me just like the rest of the well-known figures who had gathered in St. Augustine this past weekend to help the Murray brothers raise money for the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.

But he didn't. And that's why I'm a fan of Chris Mulkey.

You might not recognize the name, but I'm sure you'll remember the face. He's been in at least 60 feature films and countless TV show, including Magnum, P.I., NCIS, Friday Night Lights, Law & Order and a show in 1990s with Brian Doyle Murray called Bakersfield, P.D.

As a journalist, I've met and interviewed a bunch of celebrities over the years. Many of them talk to you only because they want or need the publicity for some show, movie, book or whatever they're promoting. Few will stop and chat with you.

It was refreshing when Chris stopped to talk about something as mundane as the weather. Granted, he's not a household name - no offense. But he's still recognizable and a well-known actor, even if it is by face only to many people.

"It's about the kids," Mulkey said when asked why he took time out of his work schedule to fly to Florida for a day of golf.

Paula Trickey, whose TV credits include One Tee Hill, The O.C. and Baywatch, said she also was impressed with the students at the blind and deaf school who performed the night before the tournament.

OuttaSight played for the golfers, which brought Bill Murray out on the dance floor at one point.

"Did you see the kid playing Johnny Cash?" Trickey said. "It blew my mind."

Trickey said she plays in about a half dozen charity golf events each year, and the Murray brothers event is one of her favorites.

"It's all about the children," she said.

True, but it's also all about being down to earth. Some celebrities get it, and some don't.

video video

David Mobley, long drive champion from Charlotte - Bill Murray dancing to OuttaSight

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Charity golf tournaments in North Carolina

You know the old saying: "One paycheck away from being homeless." It's been around ever since I can remember, and I know plenty of people who really live paycheck to paycheck.

And with so many people who have lost their jobs in the past couple of years, I wonder how many of those people really did turn up homeless. I don't know any personally, but I did read about one man who lost his high-paying job and his house, but still has a nice roof over his head every night.

So what does this have to do with golf?

In April, my friend, Bryan Bush, is putting together a charity golf tournament in Rocky Mount, N.C., to raise money for a new homeless shelter and soup kitchen. The shelter will be called Operation Nineveh, and the tournament will be held April 16 at Northgreen Country Club.

We're going to have some great prizes and great golf for a great cause.

I've been talking this tournament up for the past couple of months, and I started thinking about other causes that are just as important as homelessness.

So I thought I'd throw a little publicity out there for some other charity golf events coming up in Eastern North Carolina.

  • This week, Northgreen will host a skills challenge to help raise money for the local American Red Cross' HEROES campaign. For $20, golfers will compete in four categories: driving, chipping, putting and an 150-yard approach shot. Scroll down on the Red Cross' Web site for more information.

These are just a few of the charity events coming up in the next month. If anyone knows of any others, let me know.

Obviously, I'm lobbying for the Operation Nineveh event, but take a look at all of them. There are a lot of people out there who need help.

Friday, March 12, 2010

When will Tiger return?

Earlier this week, "sources" said Tiger Woods would play at the upcoming Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Now, there are "sources" who say Woods will return in April at the Masters in Augusta.

I'm guessing that tomorrow, there will be "sources" who say he's playing at the CA Championship at Doral as Charl Schwartzel
in some elaborate disguise designed by the top Hollywood special effects artist.

But I guess I can see why the speculation is running rampant. After word leaked out that Woods would make his return at Bay Hill, the phones started ringing, and ticket sales went up.

A few weeks ago, I was in Kohler, Wisc., having lunch with the 2010 PGA Championship tournament director Barry Deach, and Woods name inevitably came up.

"We wish him all the best, and we would welcome him with open arms," Deach said.

The PGA Championship isn't until August, and chances are that Woods will be back by then. But who knows?

But even so, Deach said, "The Majors are a little less affected" by Woods' decision to play.

He's right. Non-Majors try to field the best players available to get better television ratings and attendance. And for the past 15 years, Woods has been the biggest draw at those non-Majors, particularly the Bay Hill event, which he hasn't missed since he started playing pro. Actually, he's been the biggest draw in golf, but you get the picture.

The Majors - Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship - have the built-in draw that they are the major tournaments of the golf season.

But I'm guessing that Woods isn't going to base his decision on how it's going to affect a particular golf tournament's bottom line or TV ratings. I would hope his decision is based on equal parts of how it affects him and his family.

If he needs more time to get his house in order, then wait. If things are good at home enough for him to play in a couple of weeks at Bay Hill, then do that. If the Masters is the right one, then wait for April.

And if he really is playing at Doral as Charl Schwartzel, then you heard it here first.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Bear Trap

Two par 3s and a par 4.

It doesn't sound like much, but this weekend, the best players in the world might find it a little challenging. Well, they did last year - and every year that PGA National has hosted the Honda Classic, actually. At least that's what the hype says.

But are the holes really that hard?

Holes No. 15, 16 and 17 at the PGA National Champion course will be spotlighted, I'm sure, during the 2010 Honda Classic, which begins Thursday. Nicknamed the Bear Trap, they've been called the toughest three holes on the PGA Tour, and that's a pretty bold statement, considering Amen Corner at Augusta, the last three holes on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and 14-16 at Bay Hill.

On paper, the holes don't appear hard at all, except for the fact that No. 16 is the course's No. 2 handicap hole. But 15 and 17 are par 3s that play 179 and 172 and are ranked the third easiest and easiest holes on the scorecard, respectively.

But water and wind play huge roles when you actually get out there and play the holes. You have to carry your tee shots over water on both par 3s, and the 434-yard par 4 16th has water down the entire right side. Yes, that is intimidating.

Originally designed by Tom and George Fazio, it has hosted a Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and 18 Senior PGA Championships. In 1990, Jack Nicklaus redesigned the Champion course, and it's been hosting the Honda Classic since 2007. In honor of Nicklaus, the 15-17 three-hole stretch was dubbed the Bear Trap.

It's interesting to watch the ads for this weekend's Honda Classic. You know, the one with Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Y.E. Yang - if I remember correctly - knocking ball after ball into the water during play on the Bear Trap holes.

I played the Champion course at PGA National in November. I hit the greens on both par 3s and two-putted for pars, but I double-bogeyed No. 16. I never hit the water, but I just hit a couple of bad shots en route to my 6. Granted, I was playing from the white tees, which means the holes played 143, 353 and 131, but I still had to hit the shots. After that good stretch of golf, I was smiling. And even after I teed off on No. 18, (see photo to the right), I still was smiling.

Of course, I should have been a little more focused because even if you make it through the Bear Trap relatively unscathed, you have the Champion course's finishing hole with which to contend. For the pros, it has another tee shot over water and plays 556 yards. For me, I got to tee off on the other side of the water hazard, but it still was 507 yards. I carded a snowman on the hole.

But I didn't get caught in the Bear Trap.