Darius Rucker’s ‘crazy night’ with Tiger and the Stanley Cup
9 Min Read
The award-winning singer, who is the PGA TOUR’s first Brand Ambassador, has plenty of great stories involving his love of golf
Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour
If there’s anything Darius Rucker likes as much as making music, it’s playing golf.
The three-time Grammy Award winner with that distinctive baritone plays to a 6.4 handicap. He’ll be partnered with his good friend Kenny Perry this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where the two will try to make the cut for the second straight year.
The 52-year-old Rucker has also taken on a wide-ranging set of new responsibilities as the PGA TOUR’s first Brand Ambassador.
You’ll be able to hear him as a commentator on PGA TOUR Live, as well as on other TOUR digital channels, and see him in-person at events. And when Rucker tours with Hootie and the Blowfish later this year, look for him to wear vintage T-shirts on stage that showcase the PGA TOUR’s “Live Under Par” campaign.
“It was a no-brainer for me,” Rucker says. “I'm just a proud to be a part of the PGA TOUR -- proud they wanted me to be out there representing them in a different way. It's going to be a lot of fun.”
Before he headed off to play golf in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, last Thursday morning – “I’ve got to get ready for Pebble,” he says with a laugh – Rucker took time out for this Q&A.
Q: Which is harder, playing golf in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am or performing a medley of your hits before a packed house?
RUCKER: “Playing golf at Pebble. I've been playing music for as long as I can remember so that's old hat. But playing at Pebble; well, golf is nerve-wracking, especially with people watching you -- and you could hurt them (with an errant shot).”
Q: Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself when you play at Pebble or in other pro-ams on the PGA TOUR?
RUCKER: “No. That's the one thing that I'm really good at with golf is never really expecting too much. I'm that guy who goes to No. 1 and says to himself, OK, let's go play well, but remember, you do suck.”
Q: How did you get interested in golf?
RUCKER: “When I was 14, my best friend (Rick Johannes) and his dad was in the Navy and they used to go play golf all the time. One day I was over at the house and Mr. Johannes said, we're going to play golf. And he looked at me and said, ‘Hey, Darius, do you want to go?’ I was like, ‘I'd love to go’ and a couple of months later he gave me my first set of clubs. And my love, my love has been there ever since.”
Q: What was it that attracted you to the game?
RUCKER: “Back then, it was a sport that I hadn't played before, and I loved playing sports. So I just wanted to do it. Back then I thought it was me against the ball. Now I know it is me against the course, but you know, you're just trying to get that ball in the hole. And the more we played, the more I loved it and the more I wanted to play.”
Q: How quickly did you take to it? Were you good at it immediately or was there a learning curve?
RUCKER: “Goodness, no. I'm not good at it now. We were only playing once or twice a month back then. So, you know, I’d go and just try to play and then when I got to college, I had a couple of friends that played, so we tried to play a lot. But I really, really, really, really wanted to get good once Hootie started to make it. I got tired of stinking it up.”
Q: You’re starting your “Group Therapy Tour” with Hootie and the Blowfish in May. How often do you get to play when you are on the road?
RUCKER: “I play every day. After we're done with the show, I'll get in my bus and we'll go off to the next town. When I wake up that morning, I'm parked in the parking lot of a golf course. Yes. Every day.”
Q: That’s amazing. Do you search out the golf courses ahead of time or do you have favorites?
RUCKER: “We've been doing it so long, we've got favorites in a lot of cities. But you know, it’s one of my tour manager's jobs to make sure I have a place to play golf.”
Q: Do you play that much when you are at home in Charleston?
RUCKER: “My son (Jack) is 14 and he wants to play college golf. So he and I play a lot. He's starting to beat me now, too.”
Q: Do you remember the first time he beat you?
RUCKER: “I remember the first time he beat me, yes. He shot 76 and I shot 78. He still hasn't let me forget that.”
Q You have a monthly radio show on SiriusXM called “On Par with Darius Rucker.” Do you have a favorite interview that you’ve done so far?
RUCKER: “Jack Nicklaus. Jack and I have become friends over the years. And I asked him to do the show and he says yeah. Such a great guy. ‘Sure, I'll do it’. And then so you have two 15-minute segments. Sometimes you use them all, sometimes you go over. So, the second segment, we're coming out of commercial or something and we're talking to Jack and I said, ‘Hey, Jack, when in '86 [entering the Masters], did you think you can win this thing?’ And he said to me, ‘Well, Darius, on Wednesday’ and then he went day-by-day and on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, he's going shot-by-shot. Not just his shots but like he's talking about when Greg Norman hit this or that shot and all of it. And I'm sitting there with my producer and our mouths were agape, because we're, like, this is not really happening. So, he does this whole thing. Fifteen minutes talking about Augusta -- and when he got off, I said to my producer, ‘Now we have a golf show.’ That was awesome.”
Q: I’m sure you’ve made a lot of friends in the game. Do you have any favorites?
RUCKER: “You know, I do. I’ve got a bunch of friends and you're always pulling for your friends when they're in contention and everything. But Tiger's my favorite player. He's probably my best friend out there and he's also, my favorite player. There's not a lot of things in sports that gives me more joy than watching Tiger Woods play.”
Q: Then you must have loved the TOUR Championship last year.
RUCKER: “Oh man, loved it. Loved it. Ever since the first day he stepped on the PGA TOUR, I have this thing that Saturday night, if he's in contention, I’ll send a nice text. Or you text him something encouraging. At the TOUR Championship, I did it again -- and just, just the text I got back, I turned to a buddy of mine and I said, ‘He's going to kill these people tomorrow.’”
Q: Do you remember the first time you met Tiger?
RUCKER: “Oh God, that's a great story, OK. When Hootie and the Blowfish was starting to have some success, we were still playing clubs and then the bigger places started booking us. They wanted us to cancel the club dates and we told them that we wouldn't because the clubs were so good to us coming up and we didn't want to screw them. We're going to play them all out and then start the other tour. So we're finishing up a string of clubs and we're playing this club in East Lansing, Michigan. … We'd play a show and then we'd go out to a bar called Rick’s American Café. We were sitting at the bar and I look over the bar and I'm like, ‘Isn't that that Tiger Woods kid that everybody's talking about?’ He's 18. And he was going to Stanford and (our bass player Dean Felber) says like, yeah. So I went over and I said, ‘Are you Tiger Woods?’ and he says, ‘Are you the guy from Hootie and the Blowfish?’ and I sat down and we just hung out all night. But the thing that tops the story, I'm sitting there with this kid Tiger Woods, 18, and we're sitting there and then somebody (a former Michigan State hockey player) comes in with the Stanley Cup. It was his week. Here I am in the bar with Tiger Woods and sitting on the bar was the frigging Stanley Cup. That was a crazy night.”
Q: Do you have any favorite courses?
RUCKER: ‘I’ve got a favorite course. People always say, what are your top three courses? Augusta. Augusta and Augusta.”
Q: How many times have you played there?
RUCKER: “Well, I'm lucky. I'm lucky. I get to play a couple times a year and it's just, still, every time I play it, it's like the mecca in the golfing world. When I'm there, every time I drive on to the road, I can't believe I'm getting to play Augusta.”
Q: Are there any courses you want to play that you haven't?
RUCKER: “I'm lucky with being a golf guy going all over the country and all over the world. You get to play all the courses you want to play because you're known as a golf guy. But my last course I really, really wanted to play was St. Andrews and this summer I toured Europe and I got to play it with my son. It was unbelievable. This is, I guess, a humble brag. We were going to Europe and we had four rounds in seven days and our four rounds were, we played [TPC] Sawgrass, Augusta, St. Andrews and Carnoustie. Four rounds in a row in seven days. That was awesome.”
Q: So which course did you play the best?
RUCKER: “I played the best at St. Andrews, which is shocking because the wind was blowing 45 miles an hour. I think I shot 83 at Augusta that day, but I played really well at St. Andrews.”
Q: So, what brings you more joy -- playing music or playing golf?
RUCKER: “Oh, goodness gracious. Wow. I've never been asked that question. It's different kinds of joy, I think. I will say this, though, the most joy I have between those two things is when my 14-year-old is playing good and him and I are on a golf course. It is my favorite time in the world.”