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Before he hit it big on MTV, Carson Daly thought of making golf his career.
Before he hit it big on MTV, Carson Daly thought of making golf his career. (GolfPublisher.com)

Late-night host/MTV legend Carson Daly talks golf and that sneaky Roger Clemens

Chris BaldwinBy Chris Baldwin,

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Carson Daly can come off as annoying on TV. Let's face it: If you're not a teenage girl - or, more accurately, if you weren't a teenage girl during the height of MTV's Total Request Live craze - you've probably wanted to throw something at Daly's smug mug on screen.

Jumptheshark.com, the Web site dedicated to ascertaining the point at which a TV show starts running on fumes, has signaled the low point of Last Call With Carson Daly so many times it's become a running joke.

Get Carson Daly off TV, though, and you'll find one of most polite celebrities anywhere. He didn't just play to the fans at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic while the cameras were on or reporters were watching. He charmed the volunteers, particularly the older women, clearly coming off as the celebrity in the field they'd most like their daughter to date. He's that well-mannered and genuine.

And if you didn't leave the Bob Hope with a Carson Daly autograph, you didn't want one.

Daly once thought his future lay in golf - that or the priesthood. He studied theology at Los Angeles' Loyola Marymount University (which he entered on a golf scholarship) but dropped out, intending to take a shot at the tour. He thought about Q School, ended up in radio instead.

With a career that's seen him skyrocket to fame on the wildly popular TRL, build a respectable audience for the 1:30 a.m. Last Call, become a nationally syndicated radio host and a start a small record label, Daly's probably certain he made the right choice. Having dated a host of hot movie and pop stars - Jennifer Love Hewitt, Tara Reid (to whom he was engaged) and, reportedly, Christina Aguilera among them - probably cuts back on the regrets too.

Not that Daly's ever forgotten about the golf. At the Bob Hope TravelGolf.com caught up with the man who played in California junior tournaments against Tiger Woods and found that he still very much lives the game.

In fact, Daly was more than a little peeved at a certain six-time Cy Young Award winner for dropping him as a teammate. Well, peeved I good-natured way, and not enough to keep him from commenting on the LPGA's trio of young starlets. This is Carson Daly, remember.

Q: You won the Bob Hope celebrity competition with Roger Clemens on your team last year. He wins this year without you ...

A: He won. Whatever. Just what Rocket needs. Another freaking trophy.

Q: Is Clemens the kind of guy who's going to rub it in about his hole in one?

A: He had a hole in one? I can't wait to get my free drink.

Q: Are you going to campaign to bring him back on your team next year?

A: You know, he's the man. Whatever he wants to do. That will be up to him. We're happy just to be in the shadow of Roger Clemens. Wherever that leaves us "little people," we'll just follow that giant winner of a shadow and see where it takes us.

Q: How competitive do you get out there on the golf course?

A: I just get upset with myself because I don't get a chance to play that much. I just want to play better. I'm constantly reminding myself that it's beautiful out - "Isn't the weather nice? Aren't the people nice? Isn't this a great event to be in?" But I have a little competitive juice going from playing junior golf.

And when I'm not playing well ... I just really want to.

Q: You have a little different perspective then a lot of these celebrity golfers, having played golf competitively on the junior level growing up. How does that play into it?

A: Well, I think it helps as far as overall experience playing with these [PGA] guys. It helps to have a little bit of a history of the game with the pros. If they're going to be nice enough to let you in their office, in the ropes like that, it's good to abide by some etiquette and sense of the rules out there.

Prior experience definitely helps. Knowing when to pick it up, pace of play. That stuff's important. These guys are out here to make a living.

Q: Who's the best celebrity golfer you've ever played with? Are you up there yourself?

A: Oh, God no, not me. Just in general, [actor] Jack Wagner is a damn good golfer. [John] Elway hits it well. [Mario] Lemieux hits it well. A lot of the athletes do. [Former major league pitcher] Rick Rhoden.

Q: Is there a guy you've played with who just shouldn't be out there, period?

A: Charles Barkley. Nasty. Nasty, nasty good swing. Fun to play with, though. But he's got no business being out there.

Q: How often do you get to play with your late-night-talk-show schedule?

A: Never. This and [the celebrity PGA tournament at] Pebble Beach. We just moved the show out from New York to LA in September, so hopefully I'll be able to play a little bit more.

Q: Comedian George Lopez was saying he'd like to see 15 of these PGA events with a celebrity component. Would you play in more of these if they become a regular part of the Tour?

A: Oh, absolutely. I would love to. It's just a matter of everyone's schedule. I don't know if I'd be able to carve out any more free time for golf tournaments. But I wish there were more opportunities for us to play in these. There are four or five of these that a lot of guys play. Whether it's [Michael] Jordan's event next weekend in the Bahamas, Pebble Beach - and some of them are getting a little hard to get into, there's that celebrity tour.

If there was more opportunity for us to play, I think that we would definitely do it. Guys like Jordan in particular ... he loves to play golf. He'd never turn down an invite.

Q: Being in the world of junior golf when you were younger, did that help you later in your show-business career?

A: I think so. Just dealing with some of the pressure situations. I wasn't a great athlete. … Patience, some of the lessons in golf, definitely help you out - at least [they helped] me out - in my career. Dealing with the entertainment business, just take it one shot at a time.

It can go as quickly as it came. That's also one of lessons that golf teaches you.

Q: A hypothetical. Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel. You have your pick of dating one of them. Who do you choose and why?

A: Come on. They're all too young for me.

Q: That's not what I've heard ...

A: Funny.

With their golf, Paula Creamer's taken the more traditional junior-golf route and she's a California girl. What do you want me to say? We'd love to have Michelle Wie on our show.

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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