THE BODY, THE GUNNER, THE QB AND THE GOLDEN BOY TEE IT UP IN OUR THIRD ANNUAL CELEBRITY MULLIGAN CLASSIC
Say what you will about the 38th governor of Minnesota, the dude knows how to have a good time. Here it is-what, just past 9 p.m. in the bar of hazeltine national golf Club-and Jesse Ventura is still chomping on his gnarled arturo Fuente grand reserve, sipping local Minnesota brew and going on and on about his role in Predator. And if he isn't flashing his Sag card, he's describing what it's like to tear layers of raw, blistered skin off your palms during navy SEaL training, or what a genius WWE master Vince McMahon is, or how Charles Barkley offered to match the guv's $120,000 state salary if Ventura would join Sir Charles' posse. Of course, Ventura is the same guy who, during a recent audience with the dalai Lama, asked if his holiness had ever seen Caddyshack.
The rest of the field in the third annual ESPN The Magazine Celebrity Mulligan Classic- almost all the rest-sits spellbound as governorBody explains in detail what he'd like to do to the psycho whose death threat way back when forced him off a course during a damn fine round. And while we're on the subject of death threats
Less than 10 feet away, his back pressed hard against a wall, his eyes continuously scanning the bar area for someone with, say, a glock and a grudge, is a plainclothes state trooper whose own black .40-caliber Beretta hangs ever so visibly in a holster on his right hip. Another trooper, also in civvies, this one with shoulders the width of a hazeltine fairway, is positioned nearby.
Not that there's much to worry about. The only ones left in the bar are the guy drawing the cold ones, a couple of waitresses, SportsCenter anchor dan patrick, Milwaukee Bucks guard ray allen and a handful of members who couldn't even swing a firm flex shaft without the help of a respirator, much less make a lunge at the guv.
Vikings qB daunte Culpepper would have been here too, but he had to bug out after eight holes. That would have been fine if he'd left a check for the new adidas golf shoes, tommy Bahama shorts, yellow hazeltine-logo golf shirt, socks, four sleeves of pro V1s, rental clubs, caddie and lunch I sprang for. But he didn't, which is why I feel like borrowing one of the governor's security men for an hour. Instead, I'm trying to figure out a way to explain to the travel & Expense police back at The Mag how i dropped five Franklins on daunte and don't have an 18- hole scorecard to show for it.
Just about then i hear the governor's threemegaton voice mushroom in my direction.
"Know what you ought to do?" he asks.
This will be rich. Expense-report tips from a politician. "No, sir. What's that?"
"You ought to shave your head," he says.
"Shave your head. My wife says it made me look 10 years younger. Get a triple-head norelco. Works great. You can even do it while you're in the car."
In a perfect Ben affleck/Matt damon world, i would have said, "You're the third governor this week who's told me that." Instead, I change the subject from male pattern baldness to the site of the 84th pga Championship.
"So, fellas, whadya think of the course?"
For BEing stuck in the middle of nowhere- more specifically, in Chaska, Minn., 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis-hazeltine national has done pretty well for itself: a couple of men's and women's u.S. opens, a Senior open, an nCaa championship, its first pga Cham - pionship this year and another in 2009, the u.S. amateur in 2006, the ryder Cup in 2016-and now the prestigious Celebrity Mulligan Classic.
As always, the CMC has a four-man field. the 2002 invitees:
Governor Jesse Ventura Formerly known on pro wrestling circuit as Jesse "The Body" Ventura retired in 1984 became actor became mayor became Guv in 1998 as Reform Party candidate golf junkie for 18 years quit cold turkey took it up again about six years ago right handed, but swings lefty 17 handicap played augusta national in 1994, parred amen Corner-his only three pars of the day dream foursome: guv, tiger Woods, Charles Barkley, Jack nicholson. (Jack bumped the guv's original choice, anna Kournikova, when somebody pointed out she probably doesn't play golf any better than she plays tennis.)
Dan Patrick Formerly known as the Eastern Kentucky u. shooting guard whose coach called him golden Boy ESpn anchor, ESpn radio host, ESPN The Mag columnist only player to qualify for three Classics appeared in movie The Waterboy 11.8 uSga handicap index as arnold palmer looked on, dribbled drive off first tee at at&t pebble Beach national pro-am (but recovered nicely) dream foursome: Patrick, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Johnny Carson.
Ray Allen Formerly known as a Minnesota t-Wolves draft pick out of uConn traded to Bucks three-time nBa all-Star 7 handicap wears golf socks with u.S. flag logos handle on Scotty Cameron putter is red, white and blue played Jesus Shuttlesworth in Spike Lee movie He Got Game appears in summer release Harvard Man dream foursome: Allen, tiger, J.Lo, Bill Cosby.
Daunte Culpepper Formerly known as a Cris Carter yell stick no official handicap: usually shoots high 90s-low 100s best golf moment: "anytime i hit the ball straight" must handle pressure of beating utah coach rick Majerus' 122 at pebble in inaugural Classic, tennessee titan Eddie george's 144 at atlanta aC in last year's event has met guv before dream foursome: daunte, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, Bill gates.
Culpepper is in town for a Vikings minicamp, but apparently didn't pack a bag when he left his off-season home in orlando. So a Vikings pr person leaves a message on my cell: daunte needs size-40 shorts, XXXL shirt, size-13 shoes, etc. he'll pay when he gets there. Sure. By the time Culpepper makes the drive from Eden prairie to Chaska, the group is already on the driving range, Ventura is on his first Predator story and Culpepper's clothes and accessories are on my corporate amEx.
"I don't need to practice, Bro," says Culpepper. he does need lunch, so a locker room attendant brings him enough Turkey and chicken to feed a soup line. Meanwhile, back on the range
"So, ray, you almost played here," says the guv, recounting the '96 draft-day trade of allen and andrew Lang to the Bucks for Stephon Marbury. "Then Stephon ran off on us."
Truth is, allen still has the t-Wolves cap he was handed in the green room that night at the draft. He barely had enough time to put a bend on the bill before he was shipped to Milwaukee.
"I'm a loyal guy," says allen, who lives yearround in Beer town.
"Well," says Ventura, "maybe we got swept in the playoffs this year, but at least we made it."
Allen smiles. Sort of. The Bucks became the first team ever to lead a division in april but fail to make the playoffs in May. Allen was so steamed by the collapse, he wouldn't even watch the playoffs.
The foursome eventually makes its way to the first tee, where the starter delivers a brief speech about speed of play and then winces as the guv sends his drive into the 5-inch rough, patrick snap- hooks his into the junk, Culpepper does a repub lican (pushes it far right) and allen yanks his far left. The non-uSga-approved Celebrity Mulligan rule, with the blessings of the starter, is invoked and everyone does much better, with the exception of golden Boy, who pulls another one.
Hazeltine plays 6,630 yards for the CMC field, but a hair-on-your-chest 7,360 yards for the pga Championship aug. 15-18. the Mall of america isn't that long. As the official pga release promises, hazeltine "will challenge the shot making
abilities and patience of the world's greatest players."
Maybe so, but the pga boys won't play in foursomes where two security guys are packing heat, or where the tV anchor is just waiting to say, "and the whiffffff! " They won't have a quarterback who can double as a linebacker. And they won't have a governor who served in Vietnam, wrestled for a living and can trash-talk with the best of them.
Asked a few days earlier how he'd try to rattle, say, patrick, Ventura doesn't pause for a breath: "Just my presence will intimidate him. He's a pretty boy and i'm a former pro wrestling bad guy. I'll have my ways. Whenever someone has a chance to make a putt against me, my security guys will sort of show their weapons. It usually works."
Patrick understands what he's up against: "I don't think you can get into a navy SEaL's head. I think he has to get there himself. It's not like Barkley, whom you can work like a marionette."
You don't work the guv, the guv works you. the round isn't even one hole old and an awestruck Culpepper is half-whispering, "i never thought in my life i'd ever play golf with Jesse the Body." Ventura might be 51, but his arms are still thicker than the state budget and, let's face it, he didn't do two tours in 'nam as a cultural attache. plus, he doesn't exactly hide his military past. A SEaL cap sits atop his shaved noggin, a navy-blue SEaL shirt stretches across his chest. If not for the dockers khakis, you'd think he was a drill instructor.
Culpepper, in what would become the lone golf highlight of his brief hazeltine visit-that, and the pro-shop shopping spree-muscles his second shot onto the green and two-putts for the only par of the group. Everyone else walks off with cele - brity bogies on the 412-yard opener. Culpepper/patrick go 1-up in their $1 skins game against Ventura/allen.
They go 2-up on no. 2, thanks to a textbook par by patrick, a lost ball in the rough by allen ("it's like Vietnam in here," he says) and the exciting adventures of Ventura in not one, but two greenside bunkers. Ventura looks like he's trying to dig a foxhole, what with all the grunting, the plaintive wails of "oh, man!" And the sand flying in the air. he settles for a quad-bogie snowman.
But the hole isn't a total loss. Ventura casually mentions he was at hazeltine in 1991, when the late, great payne Stewart won the u.S. open in a Monday playoff. He was also at the 1991 charity auction that featured the actual socks, plusfours and shirt Stewart wore during one of his open rounds. Ventura opened the bidding at $200.
"Nobody else bid," Ventura says. "i've got the clothes in a drawer." (Creepy, but here's guessing they're worth more than a couple of hundred now.)
Hazeltine has a championship pedigree and an impressive architectural bloodline-Robert trent Jones Sr. designed it and later modified it, son rees performed the latest face-lift-but it isn't exactly beloved by the tour fellas. dave hill, second to tony Jacklin at the 1970 U.S. open, said that "all the place needs is 80 acres of corn and a few cows"-an opinion shared, if not echoed publicly, by many of his peers. Over the past 30 years, substantial changes-doglegs straightened, tee boxes moved, fairways lowered, bunkers added, greens altered-have softened criticism without turning hazeltine into anyone's idea of a master work of art.
Wait until the pros see no.3. the par-5, a plenty meaty 560 today, will be stretched to 636 for the pros in august-the longest hole in the history of the pga Championship. tiger on 'roids couldn't reach this thing in two, especially with the prevailing winds that blow hard into your face.
Allen and patrick play the hole like club pros and walk off with pars. Culpepper, who's never had a lesson-and it shows-leaves with an honest 9. The guv busies himself hacking out from under trees, thrashing through hoselgrabbing rough and dead-choking putts that stop woefully short of the cup. as official scorekeeper, I ask one of the stone-faced heat-packers how Ventura did on his fourth shot. "Excellent," the bald security guard says in an even tone. "the governor does great on every shot."
Of course he does, Mr. person With the Loaded Beretta. anything you say. i write down 7 for Ventura, but i do it when the security guy isn't looking. no need to antagonize the muscle.
On the par-3 fourth, Culpepper four-putts for an 8, something you don't see every day. and I'm sorry, but i don't remember much about the par-4 fifth, other than it has the longest green on the course and Culpepper says he might have to leave early to attend a comedy show. (tums, please.)
I do remember no.6, another par 4, because golden Boy hooks his 3-wood into the backyard of a minimansion. right next door is another minimansion where a foursome of bikini-clad young ladies are sunning themselves on a trampoline, which is also something you don't see every day.
When he wasn't asking what time it was, Culpepper was working his way to a 7. "No excuses," he says. "I'm just sucking today." allen records his fourth straight par, Ventura bogies and patrick matches hangmen with Culpepper.
"Nobody got a tweet-tweet?" says Culpepper, who needs a refresher course on golf slang. "We need some tweet-tweet action."
He gets it on the next hole, a 492-yard par 5 that'll stretch to 542 yards for the pros. allen sweet-spots a drive and pulls out his 3-wood from 240. "Do I look like I came here to lay up?" He says. The ghost of Stewart couldn't have hit a better shot. Allen is on in two.
Culpepper loves it. He loves everything right now after center-cutting his own drive. "When I get lessons I'll be the man in this game," he says. "I've got the mental power." He says this right before dubbing his second shot, pushing his third, gagging on his fourth. dazed, he glances over at Ventura across the fairway. "I want to call him 'Jesse the Body' so bad," he non sequiturs.
To buck up Culpepper's spirits, i mention this to Ventura, who pulls the cigar from his mouth and shouts, "daunte, you can call me the Body, even though the body left 10 years ago. The only time i'd ask you to call me different is if we were standing in the Capitol."
Allen gets his tweet-tweet, Ventura gets his par, Culpepper gets his nickname wish, patrick gets another 7.
No. 8 was once one of the most hated holes by the pros until the Joneses turned it into a nice little par 3 (178 for the pros). no pars for the group, but there is a bit of drama. Ventura's bunker shot flies over the green and settles deep into the rough.
"Sorry," says the bald-headed state trooper. "I was supposed to shoot that before it got there."
At hole's end Culpepper says his goodbyes. I'm tempted to ask him if he needs anything else. Something to wear for the comedy club appearance? a mortgage payment we can take care of?
"Bro," he says, "if there's any charity thing you need, let me know."
How about the geno unemployment Fund?
By the time the front nine is done, allen has a 39, patrick a 44 and the guv a respectable 50. The big skins game is shot to hell, thanks to Culpepper's departure, and Eddie george's scoring record remains safe for another year. Culpepper would have had to shoot a 94 over his last 10 holes to surpass george's spectacularly wretched round at aaC.
So the hackers continue as a threesome, which is good news for the pair of caddies we hired. One less ball to find. not that they really minded the gig. When the tee-off listings were posted earlier in the day, hazeltine loopers lined up for the chance to become part of CelebrityMulligan Classic lore. At least, that's what one of our caddies told me, but he could have been just sucking up for a bigger tip.
No. 10 doesn't do much for the group, but the par-5 11th (597 yards come pga Championship time) is halle Berry gorgeous. Patrick pars it, allen scuffles his way to a double and, well, I'm not exactly sure what the Body did. So i ask Mr. Person With the Loaded Beretta.
"Did the governor birdie that?"
"Yes, he did," says the trooper.
"Seven," whispers the caddie. not much happens on the par-4 no. 12 ************************
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