Stories behind the walk-up music
An inside look on how teams at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans picked their songs for the No. 1 tee
April 24, 2018
By Mike McAllister , PGATOUR.COM
- Metallica's "Enter Sandman" is a popular walk-up choice. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Music to pump you up? Or music to crack you up? That was the dilemma for several teams when choosing their walk-up selections for this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
In a first at a PGA TOUR event, each of the two-man teams making the cut this weekend can have walk-up music played as they step onto the first tee at TPC Louisiana. Like a batter going to the plate or a football team taking the field, the 10-second snippets will -- in theory -- reflect a team’s personality or background.
Zach Johnson and his partner, Jonathan Byrd, had been carefully weighing their options for a few weeks. “Do we go for funny and kind of dumb, or do we just go for motivation on the first tee and get a good rhythm going?” Johnson recalls.
That went for motivation, then narrowed the choices to as AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” Pearl Jam’s “Alive” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Since Johnson cheers for the University of Iowa -- and the Hawkeyes football team uses AC/DC’s “Back in Black” at home games – the duo opted for the other AC/DC walk-up classic.
“Zach’s our team captain, so he has the final decision,” Byrd says. “Actually, we joked that his wife Kim really has the final decision.”
Still, both wonder if they should’ve gone the funny route. Byrd says some of his church friends suggested Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” with its unintentional golf reference. Johnson, meanwhile, says he considered “Surfin’ Bird” by the Trashmen. It was released in 1963, but if you’re a fan of the TV show, “Family Guy,” you likely know the song.
Evidently, his caddie Damon Green doesn't watch “Family Guy." He tells Johnson he’s never heard the song.
“Yes, you have,” Johnson insists. Then he starts singing the song.
A-well, a bird, bird, bird
Bird is the word
It’s a perfect set of lyrics – especially for Green, famous for his birdie dance whenever Johnson posts a red number. “We might change our song,” Johnson says with a sly smile.
If Johnson-Byrd stick to “Thunderstruck,” they won’t be the only ones. The team of Shawn Stefani-John Rollins picked it, too. “It’s the first song on my phone,” Stefani says. “Any time I want to get pumped up, that’s the song I put on.”
Still, Stefani also considered the song “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous” by his friend, country music star Tracy Byrd. “It was going to be the funny one, making fun of us out here,” says Stefani, whose career earnings in 134 career PGA TOUR starts is $5,080,132.
One team that definitely went the fun route was Harold Varner III-Robert Garrigus, whose selection of “Ebony and Ivory” is certainly the most visually obvious for any team.
Others seeking the adrenaline rush leaned on classic rock bands. Van Halen was a popular source, with Sam Saunders-Matt Every going with “Running with the Devil” while Tom Hoge-J.J. Henry went with “Right Now.”
Metallica was equally popular. The team of Chez Reavie-Lucas Glover selected “For Whom The Bell Tolls” while at least two teams – Ryan Armour-Johnson Wagner and Ben Silverman-Matt Atkins -- opted for “Enter Sandman,” the song made famous by New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera as he strode to the mound.
Rivera, however, was not the inspiration for either choice.
“Johnson went to Virginia Tech and that’s what the football team comes out to,” Armour says. “I wanted the Darth Vader Imperial March. But it’s OK. I was all right giving in this time because it has meaning for him. And I like the song.”
Silverman says the choice was golf-related for him. “Not too long ago when I working with my swing coach on adding a few extra yards with the driver, he was putting on a bunch of different music to try to get me pumped up and swing faster,” Silverman explains. “’Enter Sandman’ was the one that got me pumped.”
Asked what Atkins thought of the choice, Silverman replies, “Whatever I wanted to choose was good for him. I think I’m teeing off on the first hole, so that will work for me.”
Joining the heavy metal lineup was Chris Kirk-J.T. Poston, who opted for Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.: This time, it was inspired by a baseball star.
“J.T. and I are both big [Atlanta] Braves fans and that’s always been Chipper Jones’ walk-up song pretty much his whole career,” Kirk says. “I’m not close to Chipper by any means, but I’ve gotten to know him a little bit. I haven’t told him yet that we’re doing it.”
Nods to hometowns, home states and home countries inspired many of the choices.
Two teams of California natives – Charley Hoffman-Nick Watney and Brendan Steele-Jamie Lovemark – made Tupac Shakur’s “California Love” their primary choice.
“It’s a play on the California thing and obviously Love for Lovemark,” Steele explains. “It has a very distinctive intro, so we just thought it’d be kind of funny. It was a mutual decision.”
Steele says a few of his friends suggested “Love Shack” by the B-52s, while Lovemark had proposed a Marilyn Manson song. Steele, while not a rap guy, thinks the Tupac song works. “I’m more into stuff that was with me in college – a lot of Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Linkin Park, Rob Zombie – but that didn’t necessarily fit what we wanted to do," he says.
On the other side of the country – the Biggie Smalls East Coast side, if you’re know your rap-feud history – are Keegan Bradley-Jon Curran. They grew up in the Northeast, specifically New Englanders, each having attended Hopkinton High School outside Boston.
Their decision was easy – “I’m Shipping Off to Boston” by the Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys. It’s been heard at Red Sox and Patriots games, and has filtered into pop culture in many places, including an episode on “The Simpsons” and the movie “The Departed.” Essentially, it’s the de facto go-to song when anyone needs a hard-edge, Irish-tinged beat.
“Pretty appropriate,” Bradley says. “I don’t know those [band members] well, but I’ve met them a bunch of times and hung out them. They’re great guys.”
“Those guys are golfers as well,” adds Curran, “so hopefully they see a clip of us going to the tee.”
(Incidentally, while neither Andrew Landry nor Talor Gooch are from the East Coast, they actually did opt for a Notorious B.I.G. song, “Big Poppa.” Given that Landry just won his first PGA TOUR event Sunday at the Valero Texas Open, the song title seems especially appropriate.)
A slightly more mainstream Irish band than the Dropkick Murphys is U2, so it makes sense for Irishmen Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry to choose “Beautiful Day.” The Scottish duo of Martin Laird and Russell Knox are using a bagpipe-only version of an unofficial national anthem, “Flower of Scotland.” The Korean duo of K.J. Choi and Charlie Wi are using “Gangnam Style” by Psy.
Canadians Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Conners selected “Big League” by Tom Cochrane and Red Rider. Their choice has a significant, deeper meaning – it’s a popular tribute song in Canada when junior hockey players lose their lives, and Hughes-Conners wanted to honor the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, which suffered a tragic bus accident earlier this month in Saskatchewan that killed 16 members and injured 13 others.
Australian players Greg Chalmers and Cameron Percy, to no one’s surprise, selected the former No. 1 hit “Down Under” by Melbourne band Men at Work. Chalmers-Percy did consider joining the “Thunderstruck” crowd – AC/DC, after all, is from Sydney. But they worried it might pump them up too much on the first tee.
“You’ve got to work that out,” Percy says, suggesting that “being funny, being silly” could also help relax any first-tee nerves. In fact, Percy proposed using the theme song from his favorite Australian rules football club, Collingwood.
Chalmers quickly squashed that idea. “No one would know it,” Chalmers says with a grin. “I’m the captain – we’re not doing that.”
At that point, the other Aussie duo in the Zurich field, Jason Day and Ryan Ruffels, had yet to announce their choice. Would they go with Men at Work? “It’s a little out of their era, so they may go for something younger,” Chalmers says. “Maybe a boy band or something.”
No such luck. A few days later, Day-Ruffels called in their choice: “Down Under.”
South Africans Retief Goosen and Tyrone Van Aswegen opted for the 1983 No. 1 hit “Africa” by the American band Toto. “I had a few South African bands I really like that have some good songs, but I thought I’d better go with something everybody knows,” Goosen says. His back-up choice doesn’t have ties to his homeland but would’ve been a good call too – “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors.
Another appropriate Africa-themed song is "Circle of Life" from the musical/film, The Lion King. That's the choice from a couple of Alabama alums, Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley.
The tournament’s location played a factor in some of the choices. Zac Blair-C.T. Pan are going with “Halftime (Stand Up & Get Crunk!)” by the Ying Yang Twins. That’s what the New Orleans Saints play after they score a touchdown. The suggestion was made by Blair’s caddie Ron Levin.
“Some buddies of mine used to play for the Saints and I was playing golf with them,” Levin says. “Zac texted me and I asked them and they said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to play that song.’”
Add Blair: “The beginning part has some whistles, and everybody goes nuts. Just thought it’d be hilarious. Hopefully people will like it.”
Sam Burns was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and played collegiately at LSU, so being in the field at TPC Louisiana holds a special place for him. Consequently, teammate William McGirt left the choice up to Burns – with just one caveat.
“I said as long it’s country. We’re not listening to crap rap,” McGirt says.
Burns’ choice was perfect – “Callin’ Baton Rouge” by Garth Brooks. That just happens to be the first song on the first disc of Brooks’ Double Live album. “One of my favorite CDs,” McGirt says. “That’s one of those you could put in the car and drive 12 hours and never get tired of hearing it.”
“Callin’ Baton Rouge” is a back-up possibility for Cody Gribble and John Peterson in case their first selection bombs. There’s a good chance it might. “Careless Whisper” by George Michael, while a great song, seems a bit risky as a walk-up tune.
“We wanted something with good rhythm, going to get momentum going, but not something too harsh,” Gribble explains. “We wanted to get something on the side of corny.”
The song was released in 1984 – six years before Gribble was born. “I’m a young guy but an old soul,” he says. “I’m not really into the new genre of music these days.” Probably explains why he and Peterson also considered another 1984 hit, “Smooth Operator” by Sade. “A great song,” he says. “And maybe some women might like it.”
Some teams held plenty of discussions about their final choices. Others apparently didn’t.
Kevin Tway spent a lot of time mulling over the decision. Or as he describes it, “I was grinding, trying to find the perfect song.” That’s when his teammate Kelly Kraft, told him, “Dude, you’re taking too long. I’m just doing it.”
And so Kraft made the call -- “Gucci Gang” by Lil Pump. Don’t worry, it’s the clean version.
When Daniel Summerhays was asked last week how he and partner Tony Finau arrived at their choice, Summerhays replied: “I don’t think we’ve quite decided yet.”
Told the latest list had them booked for “Doo Wa Ditty” by Zapp & Roger, Summerhays looked confused.
“What was it?” he asked.
Doo Wa Ditty. Are you familiar with it?
“No. How do you spell that?”
D-o-o W-a D-i-t-t-y.
“It may be some rap song. Tony likes himself a little rap. Who did it?”
Zapp & Roger.
“I’ll look it up on Spotify. It’s either something really old or really new. You’ll have to get back to me on that.”
While Summerhays doesn’t know that song, Keith Mitchell doubts many people at TPC Louisiana will know the song he and Stephan Jaeger have chosen: “Pizza Guy” by Touch Sensitive.
“I’ve yet to meet anyone that Steve and I haven’t personally told or shown them the song that’s actually heard of it before,” Mitchell says. “I think it’s going to be fun for everybody. Our little secret – but it’s quite the build-up song.”
Not every team has selected a walk-up song – and not every team that selected one will get to hear theirs. The music will only be played on the weekends, meaning that to hear their song, teams must make the cut of top 35 and ties.
For those who will be standing on the first tee, as well as those fans who’ll be behind the ropes, it will be a scene unlike any other.
“I think it’s great,” Keegan Bradley says. “Zurich has really turned the momentum around. The tournament has turned into an event that not only us players look forward to, but the fans do as well. With such a long season, you really have to do stuff to stand out – and they’ve done that.”
Check out some of the songs that were selected as walk-up music by teams at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.