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Ray Romano takes his golf game very seriously - and he might take your golf ball too.
Ray Romano takes his golf game very seriously - and he might take your golf ball too. (GolfPublisher.com)

Nobody loves golf more than TV's Raymond (Romano, that is)

Chris BaldwinBy Chris Baldwin,

STATELINE, Nev. - Ray Romano is one of the all-time sitcom kings, a comic who took home $1.8 million dollars per episode by the end of his run on Everybody Loves Raymond. But right now, he's just another guy trying to get his kids to do something.

Romano has finished a round in the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe and he's asking two of his sons if they want to hang out in the celebrity hospitality tent. America's deadpan funnyman obviously wants a bite to eat. His kids aren't exactly down.

"You guys don't want to stop in the tent?" Romano asks, almost pleads.

A few teenaged shrugs later, it looks like the stop in the tent is going to be a walk-through at best. Ray Romano's not going to convince his kids to hang out at a lavish meal spread if they don't want to. Some things about being a dad are universal, even if Dad is the highest-paid actor in TV history.

Not that Romano's just another guy out on the golf course. He'll fool with anyone and everyone.

When a fan throws him a golf ball, hoping for an autograph, Romano catches it, glances down and smoothly puts it in his pocket. He walks off, signing posters and TV Guide covers, leaving the ball-tossing fan hanging, letting the joke build that $1.8 million man might just keep the gratis gift.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure I saw Romano throw it back. Maybe the fool tossed him a Pro V1.

Romano is a hard-core golfer, after all. His borderline-loopy zeal to make the cut in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am became fodder for an hour-long HBO special. When it comes to golf, Romano can make Larry David look relaxed.

What other megastar would put a link to the story he wrote for Golf Digest about breaking 100 at Augusta National near the top of his Web site?

Still, Romano knows better than to play it too straight at a celebrity golf event. He there to entertain too.

When an earnest young TV reporter asks a stream of listless questions - ("How does it feel to be here?") - Romano stops him mid-stream: "Are you here on a Make-A-Wish program?" Even the hapless reporter laughs.

"Teach me, teach me," the TV guy begs, handing Romano the mike. "No, that would be your boss' job," the comic says, walking away. With maybe an extra golf ball in his pocket.

TravelGolf.com caught up to him later and found Romano worrying over his game again. But in a funny way.

Q: Describe your round. Was that a typical Ray Romano round?

A: I didn't play as well as yesterday. I started out horrible and then I shifted into another gear, which was neutral because I was in reverse. I had a good, like, from nine to 15, and then I finished up pretty bad. But I made an eight-foot putt for bogey, to save a bogey. So you've got to take the positive. You've got to Zen it. You've got to Zen it. You've got to take the positive and go with it.

That's usually not like me, though. But I did a little cursing too. So it's Zen, it's curse, it's calm, it's frustrating, it's everything. It's like women. I don't even know what I'm saying so stop me.

Q: How do you get ready for a tournament?

A: I just practice golf. It is what it is. It's fun for me. Maybe a week or two before I'll try to get out a little more than normal.

Q: Was that HBO special reflective of the your obsessiveness toward golf?

A: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We're that into it. We're that crazy. Sad, isn't it? Care to diagnose?

Q: Usually [Everybody Loves Raymond co-star] Brad Garrett is out here at these tournaments with you. Is it any different without him here?

A: I do miss him. When he's not here I'm one spot closer to last place. As long as he's here I know I'm not going to be in last. So it's a huge psychological safety blanket to have him in the field. I sleep a lot better at night.

He's so annoying, though, so it's refreshing also. Really bad guy. Haven't you heard the Hollywood rumors? You cannot keep that Brad Garrett out of the tabloids. Brad Pitt's insanely jealous.

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

A: More than my wife wants me too. I'm the kind of guy who has to tell his wife he's going to Hooters so he can play golf. Really, don't I have hard life? Violins please.

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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