|Ex-Trump star Carolyn Kepcher smiles through finish at a celebrity golf tournament. (GolfPublisher.com)|
STATELINE, Nev. — Carolyn Kepcher hardly appeared to be someone shirking her business responsibilities or basking in newfound celebrity status. She sat on a low rock wall just below the Edgewood Tahoe clubhouse, intently thumb typing into her Blackberry as the commotion of a celebrity golf tournament buzzed around her.
This was a scene from the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe mid summer. Little did anyone know at the time that this would be one of the last public appearances Kepcher — simply Carolyn to millions of "Apprentice" fans — would make as Donald Trump's right-hand businesswoman.
The Donald fired Kepcher, reportedly for excessive self promotion. The 37-year-old, thin blonde had become something of a surprise reality TV icon with her quick wit, savvy business sense and willingness to disagree with Trump over who deserved the "You're fired" on the shows. Trump's other original on-air sidekick George mostly validated The Donald's own views.
Kepcher used "The Apprentice" spotlight to write her own business book, a la Trump. She parlayed the publicity into reported $25,000 appearance-fee speeches. Still, no one on the outside saw her dismissal coming.
In Lake Tahoe, Trump and Kepcher didn't appear to spend much time together. But a lot of people wouldn't go out of their way to hang out with the boss in the off hours. Trump had an entourage of associates. Kepcher had her Blackberry.
The most noteworthy thing about the celebrity tournament turned out to be Kepcher's golf game. Or her struggles with her golf game — and her refreshing attitude toward it.
On the day of this interview, Kepcher completed her round with a last hole (Edgewood's No. 9) of horrors. She shanked her first approach shot well short. Her second try skidded under the ropes, into the crowd and behind a tree.
Nevertheless, Kepcher marched over to it, smiling, determined to play it. She blasted out from the tree, came short of the green in a bunker - and sent her next shot skidding off the green and down a little hill.
Needless to say, the executive in charge of Trump's golf operations was not having a good day on the course. It's hard to imagine The Donald reacting to such a struggle with anything close to a smile.
Kepcher stopped to talk with TravelGolf.com later, after some time on the range. It turned out to be one of her last public interviews as a Trump employee.
Q: How important is to be a good golfer in the Trump organization?
A: You're asking me that now, after that round. That's so unfair. Um, how important is it to play? I think it's more important in my business considering that's what I do. But it's more important that I know about the game, the people who are involved in the game, how to operate the golf courses. We're going to put my game on hold.
Q: How competitive do you get out there? You seemed pretty calm on your 18th hole, going from off the tree to in the bunker.
A: Oh no at that point and time I was just kind of having some fun. Because my putting's off and I couldn't hit a shot. I lost it because I had a bad day. But in all fairness, I don't play competitive golf. So it's a little nerve racking. But it was fun.
Q: When did you first really start getting into golf?
A: I guess you could say I started getting into golf ... gosh ... a few years ago. I'm trying to actually start practicing. Because I just kind of get out there and play. I'll try and get a handicap this next year. Hopefully, I'll have a good game then.
Q: Have you played in this tournament before?
A: I haven't ... (whisper) It's pressure. Pressure!
Q: Is it nerve racking playing out here in front of a crowd?
A: It is. I don't play golf in front of people. I don't even play competitively for that matter. I just came out here to have a really good time. I played fairly decent yesterday. My putts were not on without a doubt. I was on par 5 in two and I three- and four-putted, so it was kind of a disaster.
Q: These tournaments seem to draw mostly male celebrities. You're one of only two women in the field. Why do you think more women don't come out?
A: Oh, I don't know. I have no idea. I was thrilled to be invited. I had a good time. I can't answer that one for you.
Q: With Trump getting more and more into golf, in Scotland, all around the world, did you sort of see this coming, even years ago?
A: No, no. When he first started out, he purchased some land in Florida and he built a golf course and then he loved it. He purchased some more land in New York and he built another golf course. Then in New Jersey, built another golf course. LA. It just sort of transpired. And of course Scotland. It's been pretty exiting.
Q: Is he really as hands-on with the golf as it seems?
A: More than you know. More than you know. ...
Q: How hands on? Micro-managing?
A: ... Well, he loves the game. This is something he really loves to do. That's why he's here playing today. He enjoys it. That's why he loves the golf business.
Q: How have things been different for you since the Apprentice came on air? People recognizing you and things like that.
A: Yeah, I'm a little busier. And I get to play in fun events like this. And not play so well. But I did have fun.
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