Hollywood faces grace American Century: Jack Wagner leads the pack of celebrity golfers in contention at tournament
STATELINE No other actor puts his golf game on display like “The Bold and Beautiful’s” Jack Wagner.
The embarrassing missed short putts and wayward drives are caught by NBC cameras and relayed to millions of people around the country. Yet, celebrity golf fans often see Wagner break par.
In a nutshell, Wagner doesn’t stop entertaining when he leaves a production set for the golf course. Unless they have a self-deprecating sense of humor other Hollywood types provide little theater with their golf games.
No other Hollywood star has Wagner’s golf game and his results. He finished runner-up in the 2003 American Century Championship and among his celebrity wins is the 2002 Mario Lemieux Invitational title. The former “Melrose Place” star has also captured six Bel Air Country Club titles in Los Angeles.
When is the last time you saw Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, Kevin Costner or Adam Sandler play tournament golf? They all play, but apparently not well enough.
“To play and count everything, I don’t know if they want to do that,” said Wagner, confiding that Dennis Quaid is one of the few that will. “The Craig T. Nelsons, the Thomas Gibsons, guys who can actually play a little bit, I don’t think they want to put their game on the line because you’ve got to count all the strokes.”
Quaid placed 48th in the ACC in 2003, the first year that the Stableford scoring method was used. In Stableford scoring, players receive positive points for pars, birdies and eagles and only lose points when they double bogey a hole. They can also save further humiliation by picking up their golf balls after reaching 2-over par on a hole.
Only John O’Hurley, best known for his J. Peterman role on “Seinfeld,” has done better than Quaid, placing 41st during 10 appearances in Tahoe.
“There aren’t too many guys who play enough,” O’Hurley said. “Kenny G is a good golfer and Alice Cooper is also someone I enjoy golfing with. I invited him up many years ago, but he hasn’t been able to make it up. Of course, he’s always on the tour.
“That’s probably it. It’s impossible to get away. I literally have to build this into my schedule and just tell myself that nothing happens during this time.”
Quaid reportedly is a 7 handicap, while Stallone, Costner and Douglas are 10, 12 and 15, respectively. Maybe Adam Sandler needs to take a running start on the tee like his “Happy Gilmore” character, as he carries a 16 handicap.
“Nobody wants to be embarrassed and I think a lot of guys think it’s a little embarrassing,” Wagner said. “If NBC has invited them and they don’t play, I just don’t think they feel comfortable playing in them. I think they see 85 (for an 18-hole score) instead of 75.
“I don’t know a lot of guys who can shoot par on a course like this with TV cameras and galleries. And that’s really what it comes down to, shooting par or better.”
ACC rookie Cheech Marin has arrived in Stateline this week to prove Wagner wrong.
“There are plenty of good golfers that are actors,” said Marin, who became a star for his comedy work in a series of Cheech and Chong movies. “I guess their schedules don’t allow them to come in just for that. But I’m here and I’m damn good.”
Wagner’s game slipped a bit the past few years as steady work ate into his playing time. He finished 15th in 2004 and an all-time worst 27th last year – an anomaly for someone who has 13 top 10 finishes at Edgewood.
“In the last few months I’ve played, and I’m a lot sharper this year than I have been,” he said.
Wagner’s rededication to golf has coincided with his oldest son’s rising interest in the game.
“I’m playing better now than I’ve played in a long time, only because my 15-year-old (Peter), we’ve played almost every day for a couple of months,” Wagner said. “He’s becoming a good golfer and he’s able to say the right things to me to keep my right focus. I don’t know if it’s years of undetected ADD wearing on me.”
Peter will caddie for Wagner during the 54-hole championship that begins on Friday.
“He inspires me to do better and play well,” Wagner said. “It’s no fun for me to come out and shoot 3 or 4-over par, that’s just not competitive with these good golfers out here. He helps me grind. I used to be great at recovering, but it got to the point that I hit too many bad shots and couldn’t recover. I feel like I can compete again.”
An entertainer has yet to win the ACC, and if one did, Wagner would be the oddsmakers’ choice to do so.
“Actors, we have to hit our mark and know our lines, and sometimes we get more tries than one. Golf is a different animal. I just think athletes, with their competitive edge, are just much more natural fit for a tournament like this,” Wagner said.
To give Hollywood’s stars something else to shoot for, Wagner must control his game by doing the necessary work between the ears.
“I probably should have won this a few times. But I’m my worst critic,” Wagner said. “I could never close the deal. I basically just choked down the stretch. The guys that have won this tournament have been the mentally toughest that week,” he said.
The past disappointments haven’t stopped Wagner from bringing his game out of Hollywood. He’s ready for one more run at that elusive title.
“The majority of people in the business in Hollywood are behind me,” Wagner said.
– Tribune staff writer Jeremy Evans contributed to this story.
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