LUTZ - No Starsky, no Hutch.
How in the world is one to cope?
I am standing near the 15th tee of the TPC of Tampa Bay, and the heat is overpowering. That's a little bit of a surprise. When you consider the complete absence of star power around me, you might think there would be frost on the greens. Oh, don't get me wrong. There are golfers all around. Great golfers. Superb golfers. Golfers you've heard of.
Evidently, that isn't important enough. Not here, not anymore. Not at the Outback Steakhouse Celebrity Cruise and Golf Tournament, where a once-proud golf tournament has found itself transformed into a half-am event.
Around here, what is important is star-searching.
Except that, around here, we're going to need a bigger telescope.
No Janet, no Justin.
And who have you seen today?
First things first. I'm not crazy about the silly new format of the Outback Pro-Am, which has entirely too much am and not enough pro for my tastes. Not to knock pro-ams which, in general, are nice little slap-and-giggle days that precede a golf tournament. They keep the players in touch with many of their fans, and often, they raise a lot of money for charity.
But for the love of Bobby Jones, not to mention Barnaby, can't we limit them to Wednesday the way the angels intended?
It seems like a simple enough concept to me. A team can let anyone shag balls during warmups, but once they start keeping score at a major sports event, those who don't belong should get off the field.
Hey, this isn't fantasy camp. The appeal of professional sports is the fan gets to see the best players in the world compete against each other. The purity is that you cannot buy your way in.
To be fair, a lot of pretty good amateur golfers paid a lot of money to play alongside the pros during Friday and Saturday's rounds; a lot of causes will benefit. But is that really the point?
Put it this way: What if Garth Brooks, huge baseball fan that he is, were to offer $10-million to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for the chance to play second base for a three-game series? Hey, it would do a lot of good, and besides, who would miss Enrique Wilson? Suppose, given the success of the Lord of the Rings series, the Padres were offered the chance to field an all-Hobbit infield and help save the seals?
But, Gary, you say, this is golf. There are other events, Pebble Beach and the Bob Hope just to name two, where celebrities such as Bill Murray and Kevin Costner and Michael Bolton play alongside the pros. That's sort of the feel the Outback was aiming for, only without Michael Bolton.
Frankly, I'm not crazy about those events, either. It waters down the competition to the point of a glorified exhibition. Hey, the sport should be enough. We don't need the putter of the network stars.
On the other hand, I'm not completely out of touch. There is something positively delightful about leaning against the ropes and hearing the guy next to you say in a loud whisper: "Look, isn't that the guy who played Bud in Married With Children?"
Well, no. The guy on the course was Chris O'Donnell, the actor. You remember him. The last time you saw O'Donnell was in the fourth Batman movie, Batman Reeks. O'Donnell played Robin, and in his finest scene, he became tied up in the undergrowth and darned near drowned.
What a coincidence. That's exactly what happened to O'Donnell on the 17th hole Saturday. I'm not saying O'Donnell hit a lot of balls into the water, but if Aquaman was here, O'Donnell would have killed him. When O'Donnell arrived at the green, they wouldn't even let him putt.
"It was deeply emotional," O'Donnell said.
I don't want to pick on O'Donnell, who seemed like a good guy. Besides, if a game of Hollywood Squares had broken out at the TPC this weekend, and this is a frightening thing to say, then O'Donnell would have been center square.
As for the all-important bottom left square, I'm going with Ronde Barber for the block. Barber seemed very pleased with his play. "I haven't hit anyone," he said before teeing off.
If you do, I told him, here's the plan. You have your caddie yell, "Darn it, Tiki. I told you to be careful." That way, the victim would sue the wrong twin.
To be honest, however, the stars were not exactly studded. By my count, there were seven players you could accuse of being celebrities. There was O'Donnell and his fellow superhero, Kevin Sorbo, who played Hercules on television and, as such, should have been very good off the tee. There were Derrick Brooks and Barber from the Bucs. There was William Floyd, the former 49ers fullback. There was Robin Roberts, who is in the baseball Hall of Fame. There was Vince Gill, the country singer.
(Also, there was Sen. Tom Lee, who isn't exactly a celebrity. Nevertheless, Lee is important because he's in charge of the district that includes the pasture where my car is parked.)
Seven celebrities? Seven? Who is doing the booking here? Jimmy Kimmel? Or, better yet, Yul Brynner?
That's it. Nice guys, but if you're ranking them as celebrities, it should be pointed out that People isn't calling. If you put the whole lot of them on the Love Boat, Isaac wouldn't serve any of them.
There's your choice, then. Either the Outback Pro-Am needs fewer amateurs, or it needs more of them.
What in the world was Dave Barry doing this weekend? Jimmy Buffett? Gallagher? Hulk Hogan? Where were Burt Reynolds and Tom Petty and, for that matter, Steve Spurrier? Did Dan Marino commit and then, days later, withdraw? Has anyone heard from Mel Gibson lately? Maybe he could use the publicity.
Either way, a choice has to be made. Either this has to be about the game or about the fame.
No Jay, no Silent Bob.
What a shame.