Feelin' right at home

Stephen Ames watches his shot on the 7th hole during the Blackhawk Challenge yesterday where four...

Stephen Ames watches his shot on the 7th hole during the Blackhawk Challenge yesterday where four of the PGA Tour's most entertaining players played a round of golf at the Blackhawk Golf Club. (Edmonton Sun/Jason Franson)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

It says a lot about a golf star when he can walk into a room full of strangers and in 10 minutes make everyone in the place feel like a regular in his foursome.

Fred Couples, Craig Stadler, Peter Jacobsen and Stephen Ames came to Edmonton yesterday to show off their games, and didn't disappoint with 300-plus yard drives and pin-point approach shots that spun back 10 feet, but they wound up making their biggest and best impressions off the course. And we're not talking about Jacobsen's hysterical impersonations of Arnold Palmer, Ray Floyd and a flabbergasted Stadler.

During a question and answer session, hour-long clinic and 18-hole exhibition at Blackhawk Golf Club, they made 2,300 fans feel like comfortable old pals.

"It's as much about us enjoying you as it is you enjoying us," Jacobsen told a room full of fans before the round. "It's fun for us. I love this."

These guys did it great. Stadler comes across on the course as gruff and short-fused on TV, but is really a laugh riot who can bring down a house with his dry wit.

"It's always fun for us to come into a community that's fairly golf starved, I guess, as far as the PGA and Champions Tours go," he said. "It's special to come into a place that looks forward to seeing us and gets excited about us being there."

It showed. In an era when many pro athletes look at fans with contempt, if they bother looking at them at all, the four were engaging, funny and totally at ease. The pre-round clinic was more like four goofballs you grew up with clowning around before the company scramble.

'FRED GIVES GIRLS LESSONS'

They took shots at each other, and the crowd, let fans come up and hit balls, gave pointers here and there, flirted with a young lady ("When Fred gives girls lessons," said Jacobsen, "he usually starts them off with the irons and works them into the woods.") and laughed themselves silly at the thick prescription glasses Jacobsen borrowed from a spectator for a Tom Kite impression.

When a guy from the crowd stepped to the tee and said he shoots in the 70s, Stadler took one look at his awkward-looking swing, rolled his eyes and said, "obviously a great putter."

Seeing PGA Tour players hit the ball was a treat, but the personalities stole the show.

Asked by a fan about the evolution of golf equipment during the morning Q and A, Stadler looked at his expanding waistline and explained it this way: "I'm about 30 yards longer off the tee than I was 10 years ago. I haven't gotten any younger and I haven't gotten in any better shape, so I'm narrowing it down and assuming it might be equipment.

"But with Fred and I, it's great that the ball goes longer, but we're not the greatest drivers so we just hit it deeper into the (crap), basically."

- Couples explaining how his greatest moment in golf has nothing to do with him, but rather Jack Nicklaus winning the '86 Masters: "I was just finishing on the 18th hole and he birdied No. 9 and 10. The roars, it was the most unbelievable thing I've ever heard."

Jacobsen on the same tournament: "I was on the 15th tee. I just eagled 13 and birdied 14. Nicklaus birdied 10. I thought 'This is cool, Jack and I are now tied.' As I hit the water on 15, I looked over at the scoreboard and just as one guy was finished putting up the 'S-E-N' (in Jacobsen), the other guy was taking down the 'J-A-C.' "

MAKESHIFT ROCK BAND

- Jacobsen on the makeshift rock band he had with the late Payne Stewart: "We weren't any good, we didn't have to be good. It was a pro-am. We got up here with Glenn Fry and Steven Stills ... and we sucked."

- On his lack of a PGA major: "I did win one major, I beat Kevin Costner and Don Johnson in Tin Cup."

By the time the players even took the course, the 2000 people who paid $99 each and the 300 VIPs who were in for $1,250 had their money's worth. "It's a fun day," said Couples. "This is what we look forward to doing."


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