A Duffer's Dream
Fantasy Golf Camp at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Pairs Amateurs with Top PGA Tour Players
From the Print Edition:
Ron Perelman, Spring 95
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If you merely want to ogle your heroes from a thrillingly intimate perspective, there's plenty of opportunity for that, too. Unlike the typical pro-am event, where the pros are fulfilling a contractual obligation to the tournament sponsor, at Fantasy Golf Camp stars like Kite and Strange and Peter Jacobsen don't merely say hello at the first tee and good-bye on the 18th green, they're your pals. They slap you high fives. They help read the break on your putts. They tell you dirty jokes.
Fantasy Golf Camp is very much like your normal weekend outing with a foursome of friendly companions. Except here the odds of one of your foursome being among the top 200 players on Earth are a lot better.
This proximity to star power can be unnerving. For most of the male hackers in attendance, standing on the tee-box with visiting camp celebrity Jane Seymour, television's beautiful Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, induces less heart-quickening anxiety than having Davis Love watch them hit a drive. It's not that Love, three-time World Cup Champion, is critical; on the contrary, he's among the nicest superstars you'll ever meet. But in addition to being one of the PGA's leading cigar aficionados, he is also one of the longest hitters on the tour, right up there with John Daly. Having Davis Love inspect your tee-shot is like having Michael Jordan supervise your jump shot. Guys who normally bring their home course to its knees can easily be reduced to dirt-digging chunkmeisters when Love--or Wadkins, or Strange, or any divine swinger--is standing nearby.
Which raises an obvious question: Isn't Fantasy Golf Camp depressing? Doesn't the vast gulf between muddler and master reinforce the futility of the duffer's quest to play the maddening game somewhat respectably? No. Based on the abundance of belly laughs, smiles and mesmerized stares coming from the campers, Fantasy Golfers are content simply to admire the sublime beauty of a Davis Love drive, or a Tom Kite wedge, or a Lanny Wadkins 3-iron.
"Spend a few hours with these pros and you see they're just regular guys," says Brendan Murphy, an affable Canadian who dropped from a 27 to a 14 handicap after last year's camp. "I think the pros are having as much fun as the amateurs."
Indeed, after Robert Wrenn gives one high-handicap camper a valuable swing tip, converting a wicked slice into a soaring missile, it is hard to tell who is more pleased with the result, student or teacher. "That's looking awful good," Wrenn tells the camper. "You better start getting ready for the Senior Tour."
When the pros aren't instructing or inspiring, they're entertaining. During Fantasy Golf Camp's putting contest, conducted on Angel Park's superb 18-hole miniature course, Wrenn lets loose a litany of on-the-green phrases you never hear him utter on ESPN. To a ball speeding past the cup: "Grow a beard!" To a ball reluctant to fall into the hole: "C'mon, ball, don't be afraid of the dark!"
Peter Jacobsen, known on the tour for his sense of humor, delivers his "impressions" of famous golfers, including Severiano Ballesteros, Player and "the walrus," Craig Stadler. Even the exaggerated upright follow-through of a certain leading money winner is fair game in Jacobsen's act--and the campers love every second of it.
Art Sellinger's routine, which he performs around the world for thousands of astounded spectators, leaves most of the campers shaking their head in wonderment. Sellinger hits a golf ball farther--and in more different ways--than anyone you've ever seen. As part of his Fantasy Golf exhibition, he "warms up" by poking a few 9-irons about 190 yards. Then, unbelievably, he hits his putter more than 250 yards. He leaves a new ball in its sleeve, inside its box and drives it close to 275 yards. Seated on a chair, he hits a ball more than 200 yards. And after blasting a tee-shot through a piece of plywood, hitting a ball off a three-foot-tall tee and swatting rolling balls into the stratosphere, Sellinger gets down to the serious business of long-distance driving.
"How far did that shot go?" one camper asks Gary Koch, after Sellinger unleashes a mighty wallop.
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