Ricky Barnes finds comic relief at celebrity pro-am
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Our story finds 2002 Amateur champion Ricky Barnes at the Kiawah Pro-Celebrity Challenge outside of Charleston, S.C. The big, blonde kid with the million dollar grin from the University of Arizona is standing - no check that --rolling on the ground on the 14th hole of the Kiawah Island Club's Cassique course.
Playing partner Adrian Young, drummer for the Grammy Award-winning band No Doubt, has a reputation for shedding his clothes on stage.
But it's former Chicago Bear quarterback Jim McMahon, Barnes' other "pards," who is naked from the golf shirt down, barefoot, and sizing up his approach shot while sucking down his (anybody's guess) Coors Light of the day. Cameras are snapping, jaws are dropping, and Barnes is overcome with hysterics.
"The only thing that would top all of this is if I made a hole in one," Barnes says as he gets up and wipes the grass clippings from his pants. "Then I'd walk on my hands naked up the 18th fairway."
Barnes is playing in his first celebrity pro-am. That he should end up on a fairway with the partially nude purveyor of the Super Bowl Shuffle has a "just another day in the office" type feel to it based on his 2003 experiences to date.
The 22-year-old young gun played a practice round at the Masters with Arnold Palmer (whom he's ofted compared with). He played and kept pace with Tiger Woods in the first two rounds of the Masters, and teed it up with Woods and Ernie Els in the first round of the U.S. Open. He shed his amateur status at the Sprint International in August and signed a cushy endorsement deal with Callaway shortly thereafter.
When the highs are that high, the lows are never far behind.
Since turning pro, Barnes has missed seven consecutive cuts and he's fresh out of sponsor's exemptions. He has a date with stage two of the PGA Tour's National Qualifying (Q-School) on Nov. 18 - 21 at the Black Horse Course in Seaside, Calif. where he hopes to shoot his way onto the 2004 roster.
Should he not make it through the second and final stages of Q-School, Barnes says he'll grind away on a smaller circuit.
"There are lots of tours out there," he says. "Those guys on Tour know how to play the mental game. My goal is to get out and play and stay focused."
It is hard for Barnes to focus with McMahon in his group. It's hard for anyone to focus on anything but McMahon. It started before the threesome's 10 a.m. tee time when McMahon showed up barefoot and sucked down a couple beers with breakfast. On the first tee at the Tom Watson designed links layout, McMahon chatted up the crowd, took a big pull from his Coors Light, and ripped a drive 270 yards down the center of the fairway.
Asked about his disdain for golf shoes before teeing off on the second hole, McMahon says, "This is America. You've got to be free. Shoes are too constricting. Spikes are overrated. This game is all about balance. The more I drink, the better my balance."
Barnes just shakes his head. Maybe this is good for him. For the first time in months he's not the center of attention. A couple holes later, McMahon, who tells one spectator that he's a "sh__ty" six-handicap, is spraying the ball all over the place. Barnes is playing like most pros play when the pressure is off -- lights out. Young, sporting a Mohawk and a Jesper Parnevik-esque outfit, is the pleasant surprise of the group. The SoCal native took up golf when he was 14, played on his high school golf team and still has a text book swing to show for it.
"I try to play every week when we are on the road," Young says. "I'm the only one in the band who plays. I usually go out with the (road) crew guys."
Team rock star/ex-jock/golden boy is even after five holes and just a couple of strokes off the lead. McMahon rallies on the par-5 6th, sticking his 250-yard approach shot three feet from the cup. He holes the eagle putt as Barnes and Young break out with Tiger-like fist pumps.
But this round was destined for good times, not good scores. Heading into the ninth, one of the course volunteers spots a small alligator sunbathing on the banks of the pond just beyond the tee box. McMahon rushes over in his golf cart, jumps out and tries to snatch the gator by the tail.
"Is he for real," shouts Barnes.
"Oh yeah," says McMahon's caddy.
Two years ago at a celebrity pro-am, a patron bet McMahon he wouldn't grab a gator by the tail, pull it up the bank and wrestle it. The Super Bowl shuffler got the reptile up on the bank but it slipped back into the pond before he could pin it down.
"He collected the bet," the caddy says.
All bets were off on the 14th, though. The odds that McMahon would duff his tee shot short of the ladies tees, pull his britches and underpants down to his ankles, hit two shots with his pants around his ankles, and then decide to play the rest of the hole half naked were astronomical.
Or were they?
"This (celebrity) tour has one set of rules for Jim and one set of rules for everyone else," Young tells Barnes walking down the 15th fairway. "If I did what he did they'd be all over me."
Undaunted by the prospect of prohibition from future events, Barnes lays the following bet on the line as they approach the 15th green: if he holes his 50-yard pitch shot, all three have to walk up the 18th fairway in the buff. Barnes takes a quick practice swing, lofts a deft lob wedge to the middle of the green and watches in shock as the ball just lips out of the cup.
Hard debut to top
Subsequent pro-celebrity challenges will have a tough time measuring up to Barnes' celeb circuit debut. Not because of the outcome -- Barnes shot a tasty 67 but the group finished tied for 17th, 10 strokes back of Hank Kuehne, Billy Joe Tolliver, and Mark Rypien.
But because of the shoeless, pantless beer guzzler with the 1985 Super Bowl ring.
"Nothing will ever top that," Barnes says walking up to the scorers tent.
Even a spot on the 2004 PGA Tour?
"Well, sure but that is different," he says. "This was just crazy. He's crazy. I love it."
McMahon, popping yet another cold one and signing autographs for any and everyone who asks, wouldn't have it any other way.
Kiawah Pro-Celebrity Challenge Notebook
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Ricky Barnes makes his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. where he splits time between the two resort courses at Grayhawk Golf Club and the ultra exclusive Whisper Rock Golf Club. Both facilities come courtesy of Scottsdale developer Gregg Tryhus. Whisper Rock, designed by Gary Stephenson and Phil Mickelson, has become the new chic refuge for Arizona-based pros.
"It is just an incredible course and they are so generous to have me out there," says Barnes.
Barnes larger in life: Barnes is still listed at 6-foot-1 in a player profile at ESPN.com. Not only is Barnes not 6-1, he's much taller than he appears on television. Barnes towered over McMahon and must tip the tape at 6-4.
Players rave about Cassique: What do rock stars, ex-jocks and PGA Tour players all have in common? On this day, it was an adoration and respect for the Tom Watson-designed Cassique. The private, linksy layout opened in 2001 and has been meeting with rave reviews from national golf magazines and Internet publications ever since.
"This is great course. One of the better ones I've played in a long time," says Adrian Young, drummer for the popular band No Doubt.
Hey, this guy can play: Young, at the urging of the crowd on hand at the Sunday night Kiawah Pro-Celebrity Challenge mixer, took over on drums for the house band's rendition of "Brick House." Band members, totally oblivious to Young's day job, looked on in awe as he provided perfectly timed percussions.
For a good cause: An estimated 3,000 people were on hand to watch PGA Tour players and sports and entertainment celebrities compete in the annual event. All tournament proceeds benefit research and education at the MUSC Children's Hospital. Since its inception in 1994, the event has generated more than $1.3 million for the hospital.
October 23, 2003