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Maury Povich signs for a fan who said she attended a PGA Tour celebrity field event to see him.
Maury Povich signs for a fan who said she attended a PGA Tour celebrity field event to see him. (GolfPublisher.com)

Maury Povich: "I'm the best of the TV-news and talk-show-host golfers!"

Chris BaldwinBy Chris Baldwin,

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Maury Povich's syndicated daytime talk show doesn't often have him mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Rather and Brokaw. Topics for Maury in a recent week included "I slept with your fiance ... Is he my baby's daddy?" and "She was born my twin sister ... Today she's a man!"

Still, the man who helped invent tabloid TV - Povich was the first anchor of the groundbreaking A Current Affair - is certain he could always beat Dan and Tom in a most important venue: the golf course. Make that double for annoying air hog Regis Philbin and satellite-radio king Howard Stern. And don't even bring up that here today/gone tomorrow talker Tony Danza.

The son of legendary Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich might actually be best known for being married to Connie Chung, a news union that's lasted 22 years and counting. But Maury Povich is also a scratch handicap, and one who's not afraid to poke a little fun at himself.

When an autograph-hunting fan at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic screamed, "Maury, you're why I'm here!" Povich laughed before anyone. "You're here to see Maury Povich," Povich smiled as he signed the woman's program. "Right."

Whether in a celebrity-tournament field with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Samuel Jackson and Roger Clemens or at a summit of TV anchors, Povich could turn out to be the most insightful guy in the room. He talked to TravelGolf.com about his love for the game of golf, Michelle Wie triggering household debate with Connie, how his father never thought Maury would be able to afford country-club dues, and famed coach Peter Kostis threatening his marriage.

Q: Do you get nervous playing in front of the crowds at these PGA Tour events with celebrity fields?

A: Never in front of a crowd. The only time I get nervous is in front of the pro because I want to show the pro that I can play some. This week [at the Bob Hope] I didn't play a lick. So what can I tell you?

Q: How often do you get out to play golf?

A: I don't play any in the winter time. That's the problem. I'll start playing around April. I play in lot of Senior Amateur events, a lot of Senior Amateur scratch events. That's basically my game. That's what I do. And I play in [the Bob Hope]. I play down in Michael Jordan's tournament. I play in a couple of celebrity tournaments in Tahoe, places like that. Then I try to play in U.S. Senior Amateur qualifying and things like that.

Q: How did you first get into golf?

A: My father was a sportswriter for The Washington Post for 75 years and basically I was your classic baseball, football and basketball player in high school. Then I got to be 30 and [my father] was a member of a club, and he said, "If you ever want to play golf come now, because you ain't going to be able to afford the initiation fee." So I started when I was 30. Never took a lesson until I was 50. And Peter Kostis has been my teacher for the last 17 years.

That's when I really got involved competitively. I mean, I won club championships before I was 50. But I never did well in any kind of national tournaments until I was 50.

Q: Do you pick up anything from playing with the pros?

A: This is what you pick up, you pick up this realization, this reality: They are so much better than any amateur thinks he is. Secondly, their timing and rhythm is just remarkable. And it's all the way through the bag. They have no faster rhythm on their driver than they do on their wedge. That's the biggest lesson amateurs can learn.

Q: Who's the best celebrity golfer you've ever seen?

A: The best of the non-athletes in the country probably is [soap-opera actor] Jack Wagner. I'd say when it comes to the news-show business, television news and talk shows, I'm probably the best. There are a lot of actors who are getting better. Dennis Quaid, I hear, is getting a lot better. He's a low single-digit handicap now.

The ones who are really, really good are athletes who've retired and play golf a lot. People like John Elway and Mark McGwirehey've really become fine golfers.

Q: Who's the worst? Which celebrity have you played with, who you think to yourself, "This really isn't their game. They shouldn't be out here"?

A: [Laughs] Well, if you hang around Charles Barkley a lot, you realize that it just may not be his hobby of choice.

Q: Have you followed the Michelle Wie story? What are your thoughts?

A: I follow the Michelle Wie thing. I'm with a lot of people, I think it's great. My wife and I differ with this. My wife's so happy that she's out there competing against the men. And I think, just in terms of golf, that winning is very important.

I don't care whether you win in little league or whether you win in the major leagues, winning is important because you learn how to win. I would like to see her play in tournaments that she knows she can win.

Q: Are there any other golf disagreements in the Povich-Chung household?

A: My wife has grown to think of Peter Kostis as the Golf Devil. She used to think of him as the Golf God. She set up my first lesson with him. But now he's tested my marriage more than any other [thing]. It's to the point where if CBS has the tournament, I might show up on Thursday, wherever it is, just to talk to Kostis.

Q: What brought about this Peter Kostis devotion? Or stalking, whatever you want to call it.

A: I was a good club golfer. When I started in my 30s, I was about a 15 handicap. In my 40s, I was about a 4 or 5 handicap. Now after being with Kostis, I'm down to a scratch.

My wife bought me lessons with Peter Kostis for my 50th birthday. Those were my first lessons. She did a lot of research on it, an extensive amount of research. And she told me, "This was the guy. He's supposed to be the Golf God." [Laughs] She might wish she could have that one back.

Q: Is there a dream course that you haven't played yet that you really want to get on?

A: That's a good question. I was just talking to some people. I would like to go to Australia and play Royal Melbourne. I've never played down there. That's one of the oldest courses there is. It's supposed to spectacular. There's supposed to be some great courses in New Zealand and Australia. I've never played there.

I'm a classic-course kind of devotee. I like old courses. Which is why I played in three British Senior Amateurs. So I've been to Scotland and Ireland and places like that. To experience that is very special. And I have an extensive antique golf collection of balls, clubs and art. I'm just a big fan of the old courses.

Q: Do you get in on any of the side bets that are made in these celebrity events? Roger Clemens was talking about how much money he had on the line.

A: Really? Nobody asked me. What am I, chopped liver? I could have participated in that. Did Roger win?

Q: He said he won.

A: Good. Well, that's all I got. I'm going to look for a bet.

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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