Barkley-Nealon pairing short good strokes, but not on laughter
Saturday was moving day in the middle round of the celebrity golf championship and Charles Barkley and Kevin Nealon had nowhere to go but up.
As the tournament’s two-worst opening-round players, the former NBA All-Star and Saturday Night Live’s longest-running cast member found empathy and sympathy for one another.
Both players give away more shots than a bartender. When Nealon pulls woods out of his bag that’s usually where his ball travels. Barkley, who has a swing that resembles PGA veteran Jim Furyk’s, also sprays his tee shots and occasionally hits his driver like he has a sand wedge in his hands. “Sir Charles'” most accurate shot is when he angrily flips his putter toward his erect golf bag and knocks it over. But Barkley looks like he knows what he’s doing as he changes clubs more than a head professional and tosses a blade of grass into the air when there is no wind.
“I wish Charles could have come over and putted for me a couple of holes because he’s not a bad putter,” said tournament runner-up Rick Rhoden. “People love Charles. We can wait and play in between laughs.”
But fans don’t follow these guys for golfing tips. With one of the largest galleries of the tournament, Barkley and Nealon are attractions because of their spontaneity and quick-witted humor.
Some samplings from Saturday and Sunday included:
— “Hey, I’m trying to work over here,” Barkley said to a crying baby just an ear shot away after teeing off on the par-5 third hole.
— Did you all see those guys’ faces that are 8 and 9 under. We don’t want to be under that type of pressure,” said Barkley as his colorful group passed the lead pack during the final round. “You’ve got three kids and get laid off, that’s pressure. I’m 38 and I’m retired. How can I feel pressure?”
— Barkley: “I’ve been up for two straight days.” Nealon: “What have you been doing?” Barkley: “Golfing and gambling.” Nealon: “You don’t look like it.”
— “You guys look good, I’ll give you that,” Barkley barks to the well-dressed Kordell Stewart, Roy Green and Jason Sehorn after they leave the fifth tee. “But Kords, let me tell you, you’re a close second behind me.”
Green gave Barkley some of his own medicine after hitting his wayward tee shot into the rough to the right of the green on the fifth hole. “Charles, you’d pay to be right there,” he said.
After Green and Co. left, Nealon poked fun at the fans following them.
“How many here are for me?” he asked.
“OK, how many are here for Charles?” Nealon asked.
Not getting much of a response, Nealon finally inquired, “Then how many are here for the walk?”
After making the par-5 hole look tougher than the par 3 at Amen Corner at Augusta National, the duo fired each other up on the next tee.
Barkley: “Let’s finish strong.”
Nealon: “It’s too late for that.”
Nealon: “OK, let’s just finish then.”
With Barkley constantly serving up insight of what is transpiring in his life, fans didn’t hesitate asking him the big one: “Are you coming back next season?”
Sure enough, Barkley had an answer.
“Nothing good can happen. All that can happen is you can get hurt and be criticized,” he said.
If you can handle Barkley’s sporadic temper tantrums and odd way of bringing up his mother’s name after a bad shot, then it’s a fun pairing that spectators will likely see again and again.
Barkley fired back-to-back 94s on the weekend to avoid finishing in last place. That distinction belonged to his playing partner, Nealon, who closed with a tournament-worst 114, leaving him 32 strokes behind Barkley.
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