While the rest of the golf-viewing world was watching the Chrysler commercial with Lee Iacocca and Snoop Dogg during the WGC-NEC Invitational in August with slightly baffled amusement, for a couple young golf promoters, the commercial was accomplishing something much bigger.
"When that commercial would run, my phone was ringing off the hook," said Mack Daddy Caddy's Mike Yohay. "People were calling to say 'Look, it's happening.'"
For Yohay and partner Luke Kohl, seeing the capitalist hero Iacocca with the hip-hop sensation Snoop Dogg was just that much more evidence that they were on to something big.
The basic premise of what Kohl and Yohay are trying to accomplish seems simple enough, but on further review, it's a task that requires endurance. By infusing hip-hop culture and music with the grand old game of golf in their promotions, MackDaddyCaddy is attempting to attract people to golf that would never have the inclination or opportunity to heft a club.
"Mackdaddy is trying to build a bridge between hip hop and golf," Yohay said.
While their initial efforts have been met with some roadblocks, the duo's enthusiasm is undeniable. And this isn't just two guys looking to make a buck, with a background as a golf caddie on the Senior PGA Tour, Kohl brings cache to the enterprise, being the actual "Mack Daddy Caddy" of the pair.
"I feel very fortunate that I got to caddie for guys like Hubert
Green and Walter Morgan and get to know guys like Chi Chi Rodriguez, Arnold Palmer and all those guys out there," said Kohl, who managed to work as a caddie at the tender age of 14. "I grew up with these guys, and some of them gave me a lot of inspiration. They wanted to give me some really good tools so I could go on and do things."
Kohl and Yohay, both 26, met as students at Iowa's Grinnell College, where the two speculated about things they could do to combine two of their major interests, hip-hop and golf. As the idea matured, the two came up with ideas to hold events that would include golf, discussion and music, all with an upbeat hip-hop background.
"We want to level the playing field while upholding the integrity of the sport," Yohay said. "We have the utmost respect for golf, but we want them to be more open."
It's an age-old complaint with golf: many people, especially minorities in urban areas, have very little exposure to golf, and the high prices of the sport can make it impossible for them to get that exposure. Kohl and Yohay are actively trying to do something about that.
Mack Daddy Caddy's first attempt at building this cultural bridge met with some problems, however. In San Francisco, a show set to feature an outdoor putting facility, modern golf fashion and a discussion group with Morgan, hip-hop star RZA, Ice-T's longtime DJ Evil E was "compromised" when the permit to set up the golf area was denied at the last minute.
"I don't think San Francisco is ready for Mack Daddy Caddy, yet," said Yohay. "Their permit office was very uncooperative in enabling us to create a golf and hip-hop environment. I would say that hip-hop is still something that polarizes people."
While the San Francisco show lost its golf element; a discussion forum and hip-hop concert were held. The hip-hop stars they were able to get involved -especially RZA, a member and producer of the group Wu-Tang Clan and something of a hip-hop renaissance man - showed that the hip-hop side of the bridge was ready to begin construction.
"We were very disappointed because the biggest thing we were going to do was give kids from the Boys & Girls Club a chance to listen to some of their role models," said Kohl, who is working on a book titled "Mack Daddy Caddy" that will chronicle his career as a young caddie. "But just in these discussion forums we feel like we're doing our job, and philanthropic justice for the world. I know I was given incredible experiences when I was young, and I want to share that."
The pair has also struggled finding golf courses willing to let them use a driving range for what the pair term "Bogey Nights" where live music and entertainment will combine with golf. Nonetheless, the pair have shown no signs of giving in.
"(The San Francisco) show was a success in the fact that we were able to pull it off," said Kohl. "It really started about eight months ago when we were visiting driving ranges and everybody was telling us that they don't want music and they don't want 'those kinds of people here.'"
Kohl and Yohay are both adamant that their main goal is to provide golf with players they have never looked for, and that they believe the rules of golf are a great learning tool for kids.
"When people hear hip-hop and golf they immediately think of irreverence and that's not what we're about," Kohl said. "We want the rules and etiquette but we just want to give it a face lift for the 22nd century."
Not slowed down by the early round of rejections, Kohl and Yohay are looking at other destinations like Las Vegas or the Caribbean to hold events, and the two are looking at 2007 to begin a tour ala the Celebrity Golf Tour.
"It also takes a lot of guts and skill to put the ball where you want it," said Kohl, who has a career-low round of 65 after spending much of his youth on the links. "I think golf is a wonderful metaphor for the improbability of life. You don't know where the ball will go, but you have to go with it."
Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., Yohay is well aware that golf is just not available to kids from urban areas, and that even the idea of playing golf may turn them off. But both he and Kohl (a Kansas City native) said they believe that in the end, the sport of golf will thrive with a new breed of player.
"Basically, if you see And1 and what they've done with basketball and hip-hop, that's what we're trying to do with hip-hop and golf," said Yohay, chuckling. "Our job is a little harder, though, because basketball was already cool when they started."
October 31, 2005
William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.
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