Celebrities are cool, right?
And there were plenty of them this weekend at the American Century Classic (better known as the Celebrity Golf Tournament) at Edgewood Golf Course in South Lake Tahoe. Because of an excess of invites and the growing popularity of the event, a record 91 big names partook.
But like the majority of those who were a part of the record crowd on Saturday, I didn’t care who was sinking birdie putts. Or who couldn’t get their first shot past the women’s tee. Or who was four putting with regularity.
I wanted to see the names. I wanted to see the famous interact with the average.
So I followed as many former athletes, current athletes, TV stars, comedians, coaches and singers I could on Saturday and ranked them.
Essentially I tried to decide, are they cool? Or are they squares?
Obviously, I had to use a small sample size, and some interactions were limited by the size of the crowd following a particular group.
Keep in mind, players were under no obligation to interact with fans. Those in attendance were discouraged from asking for pictures and autographs during play.
Shane Battier (13-year NBA career, ESPN college hoops analyst):
Battier spent the early holes, before the crowd grew drastically, walking on the side of fairways talking to fans who chatted him up.
One of the weaker golfers in the field, he joked with Saturday playing partner Cris Collinsworth, “The thing about this course, you celebrate bogeys.”
Collinsworth responded, “Oh, like the Fourth of July.”
Brian Kelly (Notre Dame head football coach):
Kelly played up every stereotype ever created about him. Old, boring football coach.
That dude was a bummer.
Larry the Cable Guy (Comedian known for phrase ‘Get er done’):
The self-proclaimed redneck comedian was arguably the crowd’s favorite participant.
Donning his typical cutoff camouflage shirt, he was the most engaging golfer I watched. After three putting his first hole of the day, he joked to the crowd, “Why am I even out here?”
Four holes later, he persuaded the growing following to boo his playing partner, Willie Robertson, for missing a putt.
He tried to get security to kick fans out after they returned the favor when he missed his next putt.
Charles Barkley (16-year NBA career, NBA on TNT analyst):
Barkley is another one of the most beloved returners to the tournament.
Despite is notoriously poor golf swing, his banter with the crowd and a fellow competitors was hilarious. When told by a fan that his golf swing was better than Shaq’s (Shaquille O’Neal), he responded, “Me and Shaq are winning at life. We don’t care about golf.”
After sinking a bogey putt on the par 3 12th hole, he yelled back to tennis player James Blake, playing in the group behind him, “Hey James Blake, that’s a par. Suck on that.”
He also told playing partner, actor Kevin Nealon, that one of his putts was “the worst he’s ever seen.”
Justin Timberlake (Actor, singer):
As the biggest star at the event, Timberlake obviously had a monster following so his interaction with individual fans was kept to a minimum. However, he was seen dancing with playing partner Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton from ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’) just as much as he was seen golfing.
At the rowdy 17th hole along the beach, Timberlake was drinking (while on national television) without a care.
It’s his world. We’re all just living in it.
Willie Robertson (Star of TLC hit reality show ‘Duck Dynasty’):
On his show, Robertson is hilarious.
At the ACC, he wasn’t nearly as funny, rarely having much to say in a group with Larry the Cable Guy and actor/comedian Rob Riggle.
However, when asked, he would quietly sign an autograph and pose for a picture.
Rob Riggle (Actor/comedian):
Riggle is not one of the guys who is funny in movies then turns it off once he steps off set.
Playing alongside Larry the Cable Guy, the two competed for most fun group of the day along with Barkley and Nealon.
Aaron Rodgers (Quarterback of the Green Bay Packers):
Rodgers was one of the competitors who generated a massive crowd, thereby limiting his interaction with individual fans.
He did, however, sign a few autographs between holes before his assigned security guard moved him along. On the 17th tee, he played catch with fans on the beach, including throwing a couple 45-yard bombs to a fan on a boat. Both were dimes.
The fan dropped the first pass and caught the second, generating a loud applause from the several thousand around the hole.
Plus he brought his girlfriend, actress Olivia Munn. I’ll have a beer with her too.
A.J. Hawk (Linebacker for Cincinnati Bengals):
Hawk is a bro.
Not only are his shoulders wider than some of Edgewood’s greens, he is a great time. And he hits the ball a mile.
In a practice round earlier in the week, he flattened a drunken fan who dared the 10-year veteran to put a hit on him. That’s a special kind of stupid.
After sending his approach on the par 4 14th over the green, one fan asked him if he lost something. Hawk responded, “No. I was planning on you guys throwing it back on the green.”
Brian Baumgartner (Actor, best known for his role as ‘Kevin’ in NBC’s ‘The Office’):
On the office, Baumgartner played the role of a dimwitted food obsessive. So it was almost strange seeing him high five with playing partners Rodgers and Hawk.
He cracked jokes throughout his round. After watching Rodgers and Hawk bomb tee shots on the par 5 16th, he joked, “Great, now I have to go.”
He proceeded to top the shot and barely get it past the women’s tees. He double bogeyed the hole.
Alex Smith (Quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs):
The former 49’ers quarterback, who developed a following in San Francisco, acknowledged members of the crowd he apparently knew but ignored the majority of photo and autograph requests.
If only the Chiefs’ passing game was as good as his golf game.
Jerome Bettis (13-year NFL career as running back):
I’m torn here because I had to watch ‘The Bus’ win a Super Bowl over my Seahawks when I was a sophomore in high school. But he was genuine all day.
Bettis took pictures with fans and signed autographs with almost anyone who asked. The number would’ve been higher if it weren’t for Super Bowl XL.
Nathan can also be reached via email at email@example.com. His weekly column, ‘Shoup Shots,’ runs in the hard copy of the Sparks Tribune every Tuesday morning.