Monday, February 19, 2007

Bill Murray: Actor, Comedian, Golf God

This tournament organizer is swept off her feet by Wild Bill

Evidently I missed a lot of things this weekend while I was spending all day Saturday at the Little League field and all day Sunday at the Outback Champions Pro Am: five people died in avalanches out west; 3 more hikers went missing on Mount Hood (which could bump Anna off the news for a couple of days); and Britney Spears finally went insane.

But pardon me if I let all that stuff slip my attention, for I was busy being entertained by one of the greatest actors of our generation, a man known just as well as Carl Spackler, John Winger, Dr. Peter Venkman and Steve Zissou (true Billophiles will know in which movies he played these characters)as his by real name.

Of course I'm speaking of Mr. William James Murray.

But his millions of friends just call him Bill.

Murray entertained thousands of spectators at the TPC of Tampa Bay course in Lutz this weekend, and I'm not just talking about his stellar golf game. The Oscar nominee (Lost in Translation), Emmy & Golden Globe winner not only won the Pro Am event with partner (and incredibly good sport) Scott Simpson, but he signed about 450,000 autographs (some even for free-more on that in a minute), mugged and played for the cameras, and joked with everyone from his playing partner to the fans to the beefy sheriff's deputies assigned to protect the silly star.

I've been to quite a few major golf tournaments and plenty of baseball games, spring training and regular season, and I can honestly say I have never seen anyone, celebrity or athlete, sign more autographs and interact with the public more than Murray. Minutes after my buddy Butch and I got there (BTW-thanks for the tix, Butch and FedEx) Murray and Simpson were coming up to 18, where our FedEx suite was located, because they teed off early at the 10. Of well, we thought, we missed him tee off but we'll be right here when he comes up the fairway to 18. About 10 minutes (and two free beers later) Murray and his group start approaching the 18th tee box. How could we tell? By the Tiger-esque gallery that raced to the box minutes before any golfers were sighted. "Must be Murray" we brilliantly surmised.

Minutes later Murray, clad in black jacket (it was 50 degrees with 30 mph winds on a blustery day in Tampa Bay), black pants and black shoes with neon purple soles (I kid you not) sauntered up to the hole and unleashed a wicked drive that landed right in the middle of the fairway. Everyone was saying that Murray, a Pebble Beach Pro Am regular who had never won, was playing the best golf of his life, and that drive seemed to solidify that fact.

Although he three-putted the hole when he came off the green was when the true Bill Murray showed up. A large throng of fans had gathered along the ropes lining the exit to 18, right along side the giant Outback Steakhouse Party Tent, and I assumed Murray would have quickly signed a few autographs and hurried off, like many others do (such as Buccaneer Derrick Brooks.)

Instead Murray stood in front of the masses and signed for at least a dozen people, starting with a young boy who handed him a T-shirt with a picture of Murray on it. "And where did you get this shirt, son?"
"Target" the boy replies.
"So you went to Target and bought this shirt just to bring it here to have me sign it?"
"Yes" the boy says without hesitation.
"Well I'm gonna have to charge you for that" Murray responds as the crowd roars in laughter.
"How Much?" the boy asks.
"Five bucks" Murray tells him.
The boy turns around and says "Dad, can I have $5.00" as the crowd erupts again.

While the boy's back is turned a man alongside him says "I'll pay his $5.00 if you sign my picture,too", to which an apparently appalled Murray briskly turned and walked to his awaiting cart and partner. The crowd expressed its displeasure with the greedy gentleman, but Murray sauntered back and tossed the shirt back to the kid, stared down the guy who made the offer, and kept the boy's money. As he signed for a few more people he bantered with everyone the whole time. A couple of older ladies from a local charity in front of me asked to borrow a pen, and just as I obliged Bill came over and signed her paper. After scratching a few more John Hancock's he said "whose pen is this?" I told him it was mine and he said "I suppose you want something signed?" I removed my visor and he auto'd it, but I didn't have the balls to ask him if he was going to charge me.

Thankfully he didn't. But when a guy next to me handed a DVD of "Ghostbusters" towards him, Murray told him "$25.00 and meet me at the next hole." Then he (finally) got in his cart and sped off.

I later learned that Murray was taking "charitable donations" in order to sign certain items, i.e. "shit that would wind up on eBay 60 minutes later." Those items included shirts, DVD's, 8x10 glossies, dancing gophers (no lie), posters, etc... One guy said he was charging $35.00 to take a picture with him, although I never witnessed that therefore cannot verify it as fact. But I believe it. My guess is that his charity was the Bloomin' Onion girls at the Outback tent later. For people he thought were just wanting his signature for the thrill of it, on personal items like hats, programs, and tickets, he signed his arm off. He literally walked over to the ropes after driving on #9, his final hole, signed for about 12-15 people, then sprinted to catch up to his foursome who were waiting for him to hit his second shot. It was amazing.

As the gallery grew to witness his final hole he narrowly missed a 20-ft putt from the right of the hole and the crowd groaned audibly; when Simpson stepped up to attempt his short putt Murray said "these guys are really gonna go nuts when you make this putt". Simpson short-putted it to the mock delight of the crowd and angst of Murray, who put his hands in his head as if to say "how could you let me down like that, Scotty?" After making his final putt to finish at -20 Murray threw his ball into the crowd and entered the scoring cabin. Again a huge crowd amassed, awaiting the master showman's final performance. Minutes later he emerged, joking with the cops and chatting with a couple of "important" fans behind the ropes.

Then the man who launched a thousand memorable lines came over to the public and once again began his long signing ritual, joking, posing and collecting money for "charity" all the while.
"Bill, you are The Man!"

NOTE: I did not bring my camera, due to the large "no cameras permitted" warning on the back of the ticket, yet everyone & their brother had one. My mistake. These photos are from the website


Anonymous said...

You said nothing about the Vinny sighting!!!!!!!

J Rose said...

My bad, Butchie. In all the hubub around Bill I forgot top mention that we bumped into NHL leading goal scorer Vinny Lecavalier. He was enjoying a beverage with his buddies and walking the path near 18 without a single person noticing him (except me.)

Shows how popular the NHL is, huh?