38: The Clown Prince of Golf

38: The Clown Prince of Golf

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

The Clown Prince of Golf

Pro-ams take two basic forms: the normal week-to-week events populated by local businessmen who fork over the fee to play with Greg Norman or Nick Price—or players far less famous but, they often find, just as much fun. Then there are the celebrity Pro-Ams that mix business people with actors, politicians and athletes. These tend to be major yuck-fests, personified in recent years by Bill Murray, who has become the dominant figure at Pebble Beach.

Several years ago, Jeff Sluman found himself in Murray’s foursome. A big Murray fan, Sluman was looking forward to the experience. It was a memorable week for Sluman but, he admits, he had some trying moments. “On the first day I three-putted three holes on the front nine,” he says. “I just kept missing short ones. We get to the eleventh hole (at Poppy Hills), and I hit my tee shot about forty feet above the pin. As we’re walking off the tee, I hear Bill say to [partner] Scott Simpson, ‘Now we’re really going to find out about him.’ I knew I was in trouble.”

Sluman left his first putt about six feet short and could feel the yips coming on as he lined up his second putt. He got over the ball and was about to draw the putter back when he heard Murray say, “Ladies and gentlemen, I need some love for this man. Right now, can you all say ‘love!’”

Sluman stepped back while the crowd, coached by Murray, yelled, “We love you, Jeff!” several times. Sluman put his hand over his heart to show how touched he was, then began lining the putt up again. Sure enough, just as he was about to start his stroke, he heard Murray’s voice again. “This man needs more love. More! Can I hear you, now!”

By now, Simpson had all but dissolved into a puddle of laughter near the edge of the green. This time, as all the love washed down on him, Sluman pretended to cry. The third time, much to his surprise, Murray let him putt. And, even more to Sluman’s surprise, the putt went in. “I think I got a bigger roar than on the eighteenth hole when I won the PGA [Championship],” he says.

He deserved it.

~John Feinstein
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul

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