What's worse than fawning over a celebrity? Maybe not realizing you're meeting one in the first place.
That happened to longtime PGA Professional Hanc Spivey, who recently retired as Head Golf Professional at Dretzka Park Golf Course in Milwaukee. He gave a golf lesson to baseball's home run king -- Henry Aaron -- and didn't recognize him.
In honor of Hammerin' Hank's 82nd birthday on Friday, the story is too good not to retell.
"It was a humbling experience and an embarrassing experience," Spivey said. "I didn't know who he was."
The chance one-time meeting occured a few years after Aaron retired from baseball, Spivey recalled. It was sometime in the early 1980s, and Spivey was busy giving lessons at the course.
Aaron, who started his Major League career in Milwaukee with the Braves, and ended it two decades later with the Brewers, had gotten interested in golf. So it wasn't a surprise that Aaron might be in Milwaukee with clubs in tow.
"I was just starting my next lesson -- he might have been my 10 o'clock or 11 o'clock lesson," Spivey said. "I saw the guy coming up, with the pull cart and wearing bermuda shorts, red tube socks, tank top, hat on. I started to give him a pre-interview, and asked him his name -- and he said 'Aaron.' "
Well, Spivey admits he wasn't a big baseball fan, so a middle-aged man wearing street clothes might not have caught his attention. But after Aaron hit a few shots, Spivey knew he was teaching someone with athletic ability.
"I asked, 'Aaron, how long have you been playing? What kind of scores do you shoot?' The normal routine," Spivey said. "I asked him to hit a few shots, and he hit a few 7-iron shots, about 220, 230 yards out there."
Aaron always downplayed his golf abilities. For example, here's one of his best-known quotes about the game: "It took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits in baseball. It took one afternoon on the golf course."
So it was no surprise the man with 755 career home runs didn't bring a lot of attention to himself on the range. Still, others began to notice what was taking place.
"We went ahead and conducted the lesson," Spivey said. "I prescribed some fixes to his swing and he left. Maybe 30 seconds later, some of the range kids came running up and asked me if I got an autograph.
"And I thought, 'Autograph? From who?' Why would I get an autograph?"
Why, Hank Aaron, of course. Spivey immediately realized his gaffe. But it took more than two decades to rectify the error. And "Aaron" was just as gracious the second time as the first.
"We played in the Hank Aaron fundraiser here in Milwaukee and I had an opportunity to meet him," Spivey said. "The guy who had brought Hank to the driving range back in the early '80s brought Hank over to my table and asked him, 'Hank, do you know who this fellow is?' And he looked at me and said, 'Yeah, that's the little guy who gave me the golf lesson and didn't know who I was.' "
Spivey said Aaron was more than willing to share some time.
"He took pictures with me and signed a baseball and bat," Spivey said. "I'm going to cherish that for the rest of my life. It was a little embarrassing but a lesson learned."
It's not every day a teacher gives -- and receives -- a lesson at the same time.