|Justin Timberlake talks to a young fan at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. (Chris Baldwin/WorldGolf.com)|
LA QUINTA, Calif. - There are just some things you don't expect to see in this life. Dick Cheney wrapping Hillary Clinton in a friendly bear hug. Woody Allen making a movie anyone under 40 cares about. The Arizona Cardinals playing in the Super Bowl. A boy bander smacking 280-yard plus drives on a PGA Tour course.
Yet, there Justin Timberlake was, sending drives sailing past Super Bowl MVP Marcus Allen's and six-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens' tee shots.
Yes, Timberlake is wearing a polo shirt covered in pink dots in while hitting those bombs.
You got a problem with that?
The people certainly don't. When TravelGolf.com caught up to Timberlake at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, no one was drawing bigger galleries than the 'N Sync guy-turned-solo star and soon-to-be movie actor.
Not even the Stars Wars-geek-thrilling Samuel L. Jackson could compete with Justin Timberlake's throngs.
Timberlake's galleries always included at least a half-dozen girls under 12 in sequined homemade "Justin" shirts and an unexpected number of appreciative grandmothers. Timberlake could not have been more polite to the Palm Springs crowds if his own grandmother was tugging on his ear. He stopped to sign every day, putting in a full two hours of signature-scrawling and smile-exchanging after the first round alone. His wardrobe changed during the course of the event (from camouflage hat to pink shirt to trucker hat), but his demeanor never did.
Timberlake's net worth is estimated in the hundreds of millions (boy-band residuals pay golden) and he's turning his successful run as a solo artist into a stab at screen stardom. He has three movies coming out this year, one in which he co-stars with Jackson and Christina Ricci and another featuring the The Rock and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
He may be even better known for tearing off Janet Jackson's top in that Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, or for having dated Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and (currently) Cameron Diaz.
What many people don't know about Timberlake is how absolutely golf-obsessed he is. This ex-boy bander's a legitimate 6-handicap who plays almost religiously. Diaz had to take up golf to spend more time with him.
Timberlake is a member of the very exclusive Sherwood Country Club in Los Angeles, and you can hear the excitement in his voice when he talks about the game.
Q: Do you get nervous out here playing in front of the galleries at PGA Tour events? Or is it no big deal considering you're used to performing to thousands and thousands at concerts?
A: I get way more nervous playing golf in front of 500 people than being on stage in front of 20,000 people. I've been performing all my life pretty much in music. On stage, even if it's an outdoor concert with half a million people, I'm in my element. I know what it takes to put on a good show for the fans.
Out on the course, you want to hit the ball well so badly, but there are so many things you don't have control over.
Q: When did you really get into golf?
During the 'N Sync days I started going to play regularly when we were on tour. The roadies really got me into it. I'd go with the behind-the-scenes people and get the chance to play all these awesome courses. It's easy to fall in love with it.
You have a lot of time on these tours. As Alice Cooper said, you can either drink all day or golf. I was never into partying as a way of life, so I got into golf. It's easy to fall into a pattern of staying out all night if you're finishing up a show around midnight.
The golf gives you something to look forward to the next day.
Q: How much does golf factor into your daily life now?
A: Every time I'm on the road, I'm looking for a course where we can play. We worked out a trip to [much-buzzed-about Oregon resort] Bandon Dunes. Getting to play courses like that just gets me going.
Q: Do you think people are surprised when they see you, the 'N Sync guy, the former Mouseketeer, hitting drives over 280, 285 yards? It sort of goes against the perception.
A: Actually, I think people are surprised when you don't play well. They think that because we're good at one thing, we're automatically going to be good at everything. I have fans out here expected me to be this great golfer. They're shocked if I hit one out of bounds, disappointed if I miss a putt. It's a little crazy.
They're so disappointed for me. While I'm thinking, "That was a pretty good shot for me." [Laughs]
I think it's cool for young people to see that just because we're so-called celebrities, we're still just normal people. It's good for them to see that you can be good at one thing and stink at a lot of other things. Maybe it gives them a new outlook, makes them realize they don't have to be good at everything to be successful in life either.
A lot of the celebrities they watch weren't great at a lot of things in school either.
Q: So every time you hit a bad shot you're helping the youth of America?
A: More like driving myself crazy. [Laughs] I get so competitive out here. And on days like today, I'm finding all the trouble. I actually play better on the longer courses we have in this event, like the Classic Club. I can usually get off a pretty good drive, at least as far as distance, and it gives me a little advantage on the longer courses. But on the shorter ones, it just seems to put me in all the trouble.
They move the [celebrity] tees up so far for us already.
Q: You've been spending a lot of time after your rounds signing for the fans. And you have some pretty enthusiastic fans. What's your approach with the autographs?
A: The fans have been great to me and I don't think it's asking too much to have me sign something for them. I know what it was like to be a kid their age, wanting autographs of the sports stars. There are people out here who probably wouldn't be at a golf tournament otherwise. That's something for them to come out just to watch you play golf.
I just try to get everyone I can and talk to them a little. I get some ideas from talking to the fans, hearing what they like or didn't like in an album and now movies.
Q: You've taken your girlfriend, Cameron Diaz, golfing. Who's the better golfer, Cameron Diaz or Britney Spears?
A: You're kidding, right? I'm going to leave that one to your imagination.
March 16, 2006
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.
We all love golf course rankings, but there's quite a bias involved, huh? Host a major championship and you're basically guaranteed a spot on the list. What about the average duffer who's more impressed with the beer list than the slope/rating - or prefers friendliness over the fine, imported lotion in the locker room? Where's our list, hackers? Answer: Right here.
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