Golf Rescues Easy Rider Hopper

By Rich LernerJanuary 3, 2008, 5:00 pm
He rode a chopper stuffed with drug money from L.A. to New Orleans in 'Easy Rider.'
Almost 40 years later the ultimate counterculture figure cruises Kapalua in a luxury automobile playing the ultimate establishment game. Bill and his pal Wyatt would have blown funny smelling smoke in the face of the man who made a career out of portraying iconoclasts.
On this cool Hawaiian morning, though, Dennis Hoppers not interested in perpetuating a persona, just hitting one solid hybrid before GOLF CHANNEL cameras stationed on the range at the Mercedes Benz Championship.
Were measuring his swing specs with Trackman, a device powered by Doppler radar gauging speed, launch, spin and carry. Dennis believes he hits his 22-degree 150 yards. A soft shove to the right registers 102 on the monitor.
Hes focused, impervious to the line of talent warming up next to him'Stricker, Choi, Mahan and Singh. Finally, after a rash of heavy hits, Hopper catches one flush and the read tallies 118.
Amateurs have no idea how far they hit it, says the young operator of Trackman.
Samuel L. Jackson saunters by, Dennis cracking, I was so bad that you could be really bad and you wouldnt touch me.
I got that covered, Jackson fires back, sounding just like the Samuel L. weve seen and heard in so many movies.
They share more in common than too frequent misfires. Jackson and Hopper fell into drug addictions dark hole. They climbed out onto a golf course.
I was 50 when I stopped drinking, says Hopper, now 71.
Willie Nelson took me to his 9-hole course in Austin and told me, we dont have lessons but just aim at the flag and keep hittin it until the turkey gobbles. Golfs nice because it gets you outside with friends.
Two months sober he made 'Hoosiers,' in the ironic role of the alcoholic father of a star player. He delivered vintage Hopper as foul-mouthed Frank Booth in David Lynchs 'Blue Velvet.' In sobriety he also became a whacked out drug dealer in 'Rivers Edge.'
Everything became easier, explains Hopper of his decision to put down the mind-altering substances. The paranoia and the schizophrenia seemed to just go away. The acting gets better. Everything gets better.
Except golf, which he initially thought was a sissy game. Now, he admits, theres nothing quite as good as hitting a ball correctly.
Hoppers a 23 handicap out of Riviera in L.A. logging a couple rounds each week.
He recently finished five pictures. Hes a father to Charlize Theron in 'Sleepwalking' and a democratic presidential candidate in Kevin Costners 'Swing Vote.' In another he plays death. Not a drifter or a CEO or a coach, but death.
For Hopper its no more a stretch than Tiger pouring in a 4-footer for par.
I can relate to his intensity, he says. That fierce concentration is something you need for acting.
I hope I act better than I golf.
With that, an official taps the Easy Rider on the shoulder. A drivers waiting to take Mr. Hopper to the first tee.
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    McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.