Golf Buzz

May 10, 2017 - 10:38am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rickie Fowler
@GolfChannel on Twitter
It may have come a day before it actually counts, but Rickie Fowler isn't going to argue about making a hole-in-one on one of the most iconic holes in golf.

Sure. It's only a practice round, but any time you can say you aced the par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, that's pretty special.

And, it's precisely what 2015 Players Champion Rickie Fowler did on Wednesday.

Thankfully for all of us, Golf Channel had its cameras rolling at the most famous island green in all of golf:

Fowler's playing partner and good buddy Justin Thomas didn't seem too pleased about the ace:

There's something about holes in one when Fowler and Thomas when they play together. The pair had back-to-back aces in the Par 3 Contest at the 2016 Masters.

Remember that?

Fowler's history on the par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass is better than anyone in recent memory too.

He birdied the hole three times in a row on his way to victory in 2015 -- once in regulation and twice in the playoff.  

May 10, 2017 - 9:08am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Sign Boy, Matt Griesser
mattgriesser on Instagram
'Sign Boy' rose to fame through FootJoy ads over an eight-year period beginning in 1999. We caught up with him to see what life has been like since the campaign ended in 2007.

If you’re an avid golf fan of a certain age, the “Immature Cheese” voice from Cheez-It commercials might sound familiar.

Give a listen:

 

That’s the voice of actor Matt Griesser, known affectionately to golf fans as “Sign Boy” from those FootJoy campaigns that had a remarkable eight-year run beginning in 1999.

“Sign Boy” was an over-the-top standard bearer who followed the PGA Tour week in and week out and was totally obsessed with all things FootJoy and the players who donned the gear.

Arnold Worldwide out of Boston was the creative agency overseeing the FootJoy campaign. The auditions were held in 1998 with a specific goal in mind: Compete with Nike for the younger audience that the Swoosh brand was dominating after its signing of Tiger Woods.

FootJoy had always been known as a top brand for golfers but with Nike’s signing of Woods, it was time to get younger, hipper and a little more fun.

Ron Harper, the senior art director at Arnold Worldwide told senior vice president Jamie Graham – a quick-witted Scotsman – about a friend who was recently a standard bearer at a PGA Tour event and wouldn’t shut up about how cool it was being inside the ropes and walking the fairways with the best players in the world.

That’s where the concept for Sign Boy was born. But, they still needed an actor who could pull it off.

Hundreds auditioned for the part, including Griesser.

He knew it was for something in golf, but wasn’t sure what.

Then, Griesser, who was an avid golfer, got excited when he started to see names in the script like, “Philly Mick” and “DL3.”

He knew those nicknames. The actors in the waiting area for the same audition didn’t.

“With a gig like this, you need to take advantage of any little thing you can when you go in for an audition,” he told us during an in-depth interview to find out what ever happened to Sign Boy. “Those guys didn’t know who Philly Mick and DL3 were. I wasn’t going to tell them. When it started to sink in that there was a chance I’d be working with Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III, among others, I was jacked.”

Even better for Griesser, the character wasn’t much of a stretch from his real life.

“Sign Boy was basically Matt Griesser cranked up a notch,” said the now 47-year-old. “I went in and did the copy that was written, but then started riffing. At the time, David Duval – he was either No. 1 in the world or close to it – I went off on Duval’s swing. ‘How does he even hit it?! He’s not even looking at the ball!’ And I imitated the swing.’ They said that Duval deal nailed it for me because I knew golf stuff. That’s what got me the part. Going in, being loose. When you audition for something, I’ve learned, you need to commit to the idea you think works well. Roll the dice and go to your strengths and make it your own. I knew when I read I wanted to be the character.” 

From there, nobody could have predicted the success that would be the Sign Boy FootJoy campaign. An eight-year run for a sitcom is impressive. But a commercial character? Almost unheard of.

“He was kind of a man-child,” Griesser said. “There was no harm, he just couldn’t contain himself.”

Among the scores of great ads there were two that stuck out for him as favorites.

The first was this “Car Trunk” spot with Justin Leonard:

 

The beauty of that particular commercial, Griesser told us, is it was shot the day after the miracle U.S. comeback in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline, where Leonard holed one of the biggest putts in the game’s history.

“You’d be amazed at Leonard’s acting chops,” Griesser said. “We watched him finish at Brookline the night before. We thought if they lose, guys may not want to come out and film. Incredibly, they won and Mickelson and Leonard showed up in time to shoot the next morning.”

The whole trunk concept was already in place, displaying the goodies Sign Boy had “collected” through the years. But as they were prepping everything, Griesser noticed that Leonard had his Ryder Cup bag with him. When he saw the headcover and recognized its significance given what had happened a day earlier, he asked the group, “What if we have Justin’s headcover in the trunk too?”

Leonard thought it’d be a great idea and that’s what they did. 

“I still think the ultimate vibe is stealing the Leonard Ryder Cup headcover,” Griesser said. “I thought that scene, the trunk, all the swag, was awesome. We did so many takes. Ron Harper, I can’t even tell you, he was so detailed with all that swag he put together. It was artwork. It was incredible. That was Sign Boy in his element and he gets caught by Justin and brushes it off as, “I was looking for you!”

Another favorite of Griesser’s was the commercial where he and Tim “Lumpy” Herron are eating hot dogs and staring in a window… watching Jesper Parnevik on an exercise bike:

“We had a spit bucket for that one because we bit into so many hot dogs,” Griesser said.

"I had a 102 fever that day and kept laying down between takes. That was one of Lumpy’s first commercials and he kept asking me for tips. But he was a natural. We became good friends through that. It’s still one of my favorites from concept to shooting.”

With the Sign Boy gig came plenty of perks. Griesser said his golf clubs prior to Sign Boy consisted of a set of knock offs. That changed immediately.

Then he was meeting big-name people left and right.

One time on a commercial shoot, he told Mickelson he’d love to get a photo with him before the day was over. As they wrapped, Griesser hadn’t yet gotten that snap with Lefty. Griesser was walking off the set and noticed Mickelson was on his cell phone and decided to leave him alone.

As he walked away, he stopped when he heard Mickelson say, “Hey, Matty! We never took that picture. You want to do it now?”

Then Griesser heard Mickelson say, “Amy (his wife), hang on just a minute,” and took the photo.

Griesser’s best friend to come out of the FootJoy spots was Peter Jacobsen. The two still talk, “if not every week, then every other week,” said Griesser, who has attended both of Jacobsen’s daughter’s weddings.

The laundry-list of memorable moments to come from the Jacobsen friendship includes pretty regularly rubbing elbows with Arnold Palmer, playing Jacobsen’s sidekick on the Golf Channel show “Plugged In,” and spending a couple of days in the fall one year playing Augusta National.

“Peter went to bat for me on the Golf Channel show,” Griesser said. “They knew I could do Sign Boy, but what about being a regular on the show? From what I’ve heard, Peter pretty much said, ‘if he’s not my sidekick, we don’t do the show.’ For an actor that isn’t very well known to have a guy like that go to bat for him is awesome.”

And that Augusta trip?

“I had been to the Masters a couple of times,” Griesser said. “In 2013, Peter calls me and says, hey – can you get away for a couple of days to meet me and play golf. I told him I’d look into it. A couple days later, I called him back and he said it was to go play Augusta National. I was like, ‘Dude! Why didn’t you say that to begin with?! I’m there!”

Griesser said he flew into Augusta to meet up with Jacobsen and a friend of the seven-time PGA Tour winner who was a member at Augusta National.

Griesser stayed in a cabin to the left of the 10th fairway, “near where Rory tanked it.” He played the big course the first day, making his lone birdie of the day on the par-5 15th to earn the nickname “The King of Firethorn” by the Augusta member.

He also reminisced about teeing it up at the famous par-3 12th.

“On 12 I had to back off,” he said. “I started to smirk and couldn’t get it out of my head. I can’t believe it! I’m hitting a tee shot on No. 12 at Augusta National! Peter said, ‘Hit the ball!’ To stand on that 12th green -- and that’s the place where the players aren’t around the crowd -- to look back on the bleachers, oh my God. It’s the only place you’re away from everything. It was a crazy feeling. I think I thank Peter six different times a year and that was four years ago.”

After the round, Jacobsen retired to the cabin to ice his bum knee. Griesser played the par-3 course with the member and shot a nifty little 30.

“Everything worked. I was close to par. It just blew my mind,” Griesser said, remembering the par-3 experience. “It’s such an incredible place to see. I’ve been twice as a patron, but our host took us around the whole campus. To be there on a day with maybe six groups on the course blew my mind. The hospitality was mind-blowing. We played another round the next day and then flew away. I still get chills thinking about it.”

Because of golf, Griesser has also forged a friendship with Dweezil Zappa (scratch golfer), the son of the legendary Frank Zappa. Years ago, Griesser was interested in taking up the guitar. He made a deal with Dweezil: I’ll get you a new driver and you get me a guitar.

The next thing you know, Griesser found himself in Frank Zappa’s study with Dweezil picking through roughly 70 guitars before settling on a beautiful Kramer guitar that his father may or may not have used to give to Griesser.

Griesser was blown away considering he was only half-joking when he offered to trade a driver for the instrument – he didn’t expect Zappa to hold up his end of the bargain.

Over the years, Griesser never took to the guitar and decided he wanted to return it to Zappa. They had lost touch, but were able to connect thanks to social media. Zappa had a show coming up in Los Angeles, where Griesser lives, and they decided to meet there.

Griesser has a cousin in a band out in Denver. He invited him along so the cousin could meet Zappa.

“He was like, ‘How do you know Dweezil?!’” Griesser said. “Golf, dude. Golf.”

So why did the Sign Boy campaign come to an end?

“My understanding is that basically the ad agency was thrilled,” Griessr said. “It’s hard to get a character with that presence. I think the marketing people at FootJoy thought it had run its course. I was shocked when they said they weren’t going to renew. We – the creative – we had so many ideas. At one point, we had a full directed DVD movie concept put together for the journey of Sign Boy, his life, going to home of golf at St. Andrews, etc. Direct to DVD or low-budget Netflix and incorporate players. They felt, in-house, it had done what it was going to do.”

Griesser wishes the character could have been wrapped up with a funny storyline – maybe Sign Boy heads off to the European Tour or off to St. Andrews – and leave it open ended. But, it just stopped in 2007.

“I still have people coming up thinking it was 3-4 years ago,” he said. “Time flies.”

If there were ever a chance to rehash the Sign Boy campaign, Griesser would be there as fast as he committed to the Augusta trip with Jacobsen.

“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “I’d have done it for 20 years.”

There haven’t been any talks about bringing Sign Boy back, but anything can happen.

Griesser pointed to the “can you hear me now?” guy who was previously with Verizon (a character, incidentally, Griesser once auditioned to be) before making a move years later to resurrect the character with Sprint.

For now, though, Griesser is having a blast with his Cheez-It commercials – renewed minutes before we spoke – and continuing to audition for small parts elsewhere.

It’s been a fun career for Griesser. He’s appeared in the movie “Almost Famous” (a co-pilot for PSA), “Murphy Brown,” “The Flinstones,” “Family Tree,” and the Netflix movie “Mascots” by Christopher Guest, among others.

But there was nothing like Sign Boy.

“I’m never saying never,” he said. “I’d love to do it again. If there’s a chance to bring Sign Boy back in all his glory, it’d be a lot of fun. Improv has been my thing from the beginning and that was a blast.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: Below is a sampling of more Sign Boy ads. They're the best quality we could find. If you know of better ones out there, let us know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 9, 2017 - 11:43am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
hail, golf, golf course
Lakewood CC on Facebook
On Monday, hail caused a significant amount of damage to Lakewood Country Club, a Donald Ross course near Denver.

Mother Nature can be cruel at times.

On Monday, a prestigious Denver area course designed by the legendary Donald Ross, was pounded by a hail storm that caused serious damage to Lakewood Country Club.

A tweet sent out by course general manager Lance Scheele notified members that the course would be closed on Tuesday for repairs. He also showed off the size of the hail (h/t John Strege at Golf Digest):

Here's a photo from the club's Facebook page. Check out all the hail damage on the practice green, which looks like hundreds of ball marks that were never replaced:

The damage, obviously, wasn't limited to the course.

Check this out:

May 9, 2017 - 9:31am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Jason Day
HeadSpeed Golf on Instagram
There are countless examples of what exceptional players the top golfers in the world are. This shot by Jason Day is just one of those.

Jason Day will be at TPC Sawgrass this week to defend his title in the Players Championship.

The former world No. 1 -- currently No. 3 -- hasn't teed it up since missing the cut with teammate Rickie Fowler at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Ever since, no surprise, he's been working on his game.

Check out this video posted on May 4 of Day splitting the uprights of a tree from the rough:

That was a tiny, tiny window and he lashed at the ball as if there was nothing in front of him.

What makes the video most impressive to these eyes, is that he's hitting that ball and pulling off this shot from what looks like some pretty thick and hairy rough.

I sure wish we could see where the shot ended up!