Lessons from a life of celebrity

In my life, I’ve appeared in the crowd of the classic Chicago Cubs movie “Rookie of the Year,” held a door for former ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, controlled the ESPN College GameDay Twitter account, and even had a single-show career as a professional model.

The accomplishments above, I assume, are the reasons I was asked by the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau to serve as one of 32 “celebrity” golfers at its annual Catch Des Moines Celebrity Golf Classic on June 17.

That or celebrity numbers 33 through 114 on their list were out of town. 

At any rate, I gathered my entourage, alerted the paparazzi, choose my finest luxury vehicle and headed to Copper Creek Golf Club in Pleasant Hill.

For the 18-hole best-ball tournament, I had the pleasure of being paired as the celebrity fifth golfer with the city of Grimes team. The team consisted of Grimes Mayor Tom Armstrong, American Diabetes Association’s Iowa/South Dakota/Nebraska region Executive Director and brand-new Grimes City Councilman Doug Bickford, principal owner of FOX Engineering Associates Inc. and Grimes City Engineer John Gade and Septagon Construction Co. Inc. Des Moines office President Brad Leonard.

But let’s fast-forward about six hours, past all the winning, great shots and glory of the main tournament, to the “Celebrity Shootout” portion of the event. 

I was paired with fellow Business Record celebrity, columnist Dave Elbert, for what essentially was a 16-team best-ball event, in which multiple teams are eliminated on each hole.

I ripped a drive into the middle of the fairway, hit our second shot on the par-5 first hole just off the green, before Dave chipped us within three feet of the hole for an easy birdie opportunity and passage into the next round.

By this point I was showing cracks from the pressure of living the celebrity life. The constant media attention, countless autographs and interview requests were too much. Sweat pooled on my forehead. A strange craving to drive fast and behave badly overtook my body.

I putted ...

It lipped out. I cursed, tossed my putter, verbally assaulted Dave for missing his own attempt, made an obscene gesture or three to the cameras (assuming there were cameras, of course), before Dave finally pulled me aside and recommended I head straight to rehab.

Or, I calmly sighed in quiet disappointment and walked away.

I’ll let you be the judge.

Alas, all the fame and pressures of being a celebrity had gone straight to my head. 

I tore off to the parking lot, only to bump into Jimmy Small, the new president of Iowa Speedway in Newton. As a fellow celebrity, who also was eliminated on the first hole, I assumed he would be as sour as I. Yet, he seemed to be doing just fine. 

Secretly I worried. He was to be featured on the cover of the Business Record in a few weeks, and frankly being on the Business Record’s cover is a big deal that comes with big responsibilities. As a new celebrity, I hoped the pressure wouldn’t be too much.

Perhaps there was something to be learned from my celebrity experience that I could pass along. 

We chatted briefly, then he said goodbye and sped away in what I assume was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s loaned-out No. 88 Chevy. My brain was flooded with visions of Small breaking under the pressure and leading the new ‘Cops’ camera crew on a three-hour chase involving only left turns. 

I popped the trunk on my Ford Taurus and tossed in my clubs, grabbed a beer - of the A&W variety - and headed for home, reflecting on my seven hours as a celebrity. 

Here’s what I learned:

I learned the little blue dot on my nametag denoting me as a celebrity was really helpful for all my fans.

But, I learned people really only call you a celebrity if you make birdie putts for your team - thankfully, I did for my Grimes team.

I learned it’s good to have a canned response to the question, “So, what makes you a celebrity?”

I learned that the Mayor’s Cup, which goes annually to the best city team, had only previously gone to three cities - West Des Moines and Ankeny multiple times and I believe Windsor Heights once.

I also learned that a staffer in one of the cities once took an old Cup with him when he left town for another job.

I learned my Grimes team really wanted to win this year’s Mayor’s Cup - and did, by one stroke.

I also learned there might have been a scoring mistake, and that perhaps Mayor Steve Gaer’s West Des Moines squad actually won. All I know is I left that course believing I was a champion, and that Mayor Armstrong and his trophy might be hard to find.

I learned more about the rapidly expanding Grimes area. Lately the city has been popping up in our publication more frequently. Read two stories here

And no, it’s not because I paid them off with coverage in return for spreading the word about my golfing abilities.

I learned CVB President Greg Edwards can’t make a putt - at least for the two teams I’ve been on. Curiously, we heard a lot of cheering when West Des Moines’ team played the final hole, at which Edwards traditionally takes a putt for each team.

I also learned Edwards should stick to what he does best - entertaining a crowd and knowing how to crack jokes that get awfully comfortable with the “appropriate” line.

I learned it’s always great to get paired up with someone on your team who recently sent a complaint to one of your reporters. And yes, I always throw the reporter under the bus.

As a result I learned a bit about Septagon Construction. If you see a giant 200,000-square-foot Brownell’s in Grinnell just off Interstate 80, that’s Leonard’s company’s work.

I learned Armstrong can spot a Rainbow Play System in a backyard from 400 yards away, just by seeing the slide. I believe there are 78 along the Copper Creek golf course.

I learned from Bickford that diabetes isn’t as big a problem in Iowa as it is in other states, which runs counter to many health issues in Iowa - we’re ranked 23rd in terms of prevalence of diabetes. And no, Bickford doesn’t take credit for that. 

In fact, diabetes will be an even greater problem in the future, and last year Iowa saw a significant jump from 8.2% to 9.7% of the population being diagnosed with diabetes. 

I learned yelling at the ball to go in the hole actually works - thanks for the birdies, Gade. 

I learned you shouldn’t give out one-ounce samples of beer when it’s 93 degrees - it makes golfers cranky.

I also learned that this might be due to some new crackdown on an old rule that’s never been enforced, which limits distributors to providing just one ounce in free beer samples. We’re looking into this.

That being said, if you must abide by the new rule, don’t give out one-ounce beer samples of Miller Lite. 

I learned the Iowa Nice Guy, Scott Siepker, really is nice. He’s hoping to be brought back on with ESPN to continue his hilarious series next fall. What a great showcase for Iowa talent. Watch him here.

I learned that Iowan and NFL referee Scott Helverson, who refereed Super Bowl XLII, is going to be on the same crew this year as the insanely muscular Ed Hochuli. I’d still take Hochuli in a fight, but not by much. Here’s a piece I helped write for ESPN on Helverson’s thoughts about David Tyree’s Super Bowl-winning catch: http://es.pn/1mBw6JU 

And lastly, be careful with compliments. If, for example, you compliment a CVB staff member’s hot-pink heart-shaped glasses, you will be forced to wear them. 

Regrettably, here is the photo

Thankfully, I pulled the look off - perhaps it’s time to revisit my modeling career.