Golf Rescues Easy Rider Hopper

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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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