LA QUINTA, Calif. – The thing about amateur golf: you never quite know who you're going to be paired up with on the first tee.
That's particularly the case at the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship, where 42 states are represented and ages ranging from 14 to 83, not to mention a variety of occupations and backgrounds.
Evident at Nationals every year is that public figures have a knack for golf competition as well. Recent past entrants have included baseball players Mark Moulder and Orlando Hernandez, as well as Olympic figure skater Todd Eldredge.
In this week's event at PGA West, actor Frankie Muniz is in the field, competing in the Hogan flight (handicaps 8.0-11.9). You probably remember Muniz from his starring role in the TV sitcom Malcom in the Middle. Making its on Fox in 2000, it was one of the most popular midseason replacements of its time and lasted seven seasons.
Muniz, now 29, has a kind of Rickie Fower-esque type facial scruff these days to go along with a new jones for golf competition. He enters round three of the 2015 National Championship in 44th place in his flight (out of 158) after rounds of 84-88. Chris Goodwin, of Gilbert, Ariz., leads by one shot over Tommy Stokes, from Riverside, Calif.
Muniz was introduced to golf by his grandfather at age 10, but only played "a couple times a year" until very recently. The Phoenix resident joined Am Tour this year and competed in six events.
"It's a totally different beast," said Muniz. "You get out here where everything matters, it's a little more nerve-wracking. You're not as comfortable as you are at home."
Muniz admits that golf under pressure sometimes makes him feel like he's getting worse instead of better. But a glance at his Am Tour player card in 2015 reveals a pretty steady game. After a 90 in his first event in Las Vegas, he's carded two rounds in the 70s and no round under 85. He ultimately qualified for Nationals in the last event of the year, thanks to a 6th place finish in the Phoenix Tour Championship highlighted by a second round 78.
While he lives in an area of the country with scores of high-end private clubs, Muniz prefers to take advantage of the Phoenix-Scottsdale area's variety.
"I'm not a member anywhere because there are 230 golf courses within 30 minutes of my home," said Muniz. In fact, he says he particularly likes to play a little muni in downtown Phoenix, Encanto Golf Course.
"I love it because the greens are good and you can work on stuff," he said. "You can work on shaping shots and you're not penalized when you lose balls."
When Nationals ends, Muniz will return to Phoenix, where he is currently shooting a film titled Another Day in Paradise. After recent stints racing cars and as a drummer in a band, he's currently considering his next focus.
"I'm figuring out what I want to do," Said Muniz. "Maybe politics."