“Hey Alex, you have a caddy?”
“No, they said I didn’t need one today,” Smith replied.
“You want one?”
“Sure. Come on.”
With that agreement, John Ferens ducked under the rope separating the fans from the players, slung the golf bag over his shoulder and strode down the fairway alongside Smith.
“I saw a celebrity picking up his bag and I asked if he wanted a caddy and he said yeah,” Ferens said. “At that point I was kind of committed, so I went. It’s been nice. He’s a really nice guy. It’s just been an awesome day out here. It’s beautiful. It’s been going real good. It’s been a good time.”
For Smith, who was swarmed by fans donning San Francisco jerseys all day and spent much of his time signing autographs, it was a good chance to socialize with fans.
“There’s a lot of Niners fans, which is great,” Smith said. “I think everybody was ready for last season and it’s showing with the support here. There’s a lot of excitement coming off of last year and the fans are certainly excited, so it’s been a fun offseason. It’s fun. It’s great. We’re out here just having fun with no expectations. We get to interact with the fans on a different level, especially now during this time of year because they are so pumped for the season, as we all are. There’s a lot of energy.”
While most fans were not lucky enough to accompany their favorite stars for 18 practice round holes at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, many are still able to mingle with the athletes and other celebs they usually only get to see on their TV screens.
Last year Green Bay Packer die-hards Micayla Nichols, 17, and Shannon O’Hair, 16, met their NFL idol Aaron Rodgers. It is a day they still brag about.
“We were crying and we were shaking,” Nichols said. “He was really nice. He took pictures with us and signed stuff we wanted signed. On Facebook, he has his own album.”
The same feelings were echoed by O’Hair.
“It was the best moment of my whole life,” O’Hair said. “He talked to us and he was friendly and gave us hugs.”
It is not just fun for the spectators though.
“It’s really good because Wednesdays and Thursdays are the chance where you can really hang out and sign autographs and people can get close to you,” former NHL All-Star Jeremy Roenick said. “Friday, Saturday and Sunday it’s more competitive.
“For me though, my whole career was based around the fans and I love this aspect. They can get real close. They can hug. They can touch and take pictures. It’s a much more personable atmosphere to be in because it’s a lot closer. There’s no glass separating you, which is great. I love taking pictures with kids and doing the good things to help give people an uplift and give them something to talk about for a long time.”
While Roenick is a regular at the celebrity tournament, the trip to Tahoe was a first for a number of players, which left some with jitters.
“To tell you the truth, I’m a little bit nervous,” Oakland Raiders Pro-Bowl kicker Sebastian Janikowski said. “I’m more nervous than I am on the football field. It’s not my sport. My sport is kicking footballs so I’m not that good at golf. If I hit it bad, then I hit it bad and switch clubs. It’s just all over the place. It’s fun though. It’s my first year, so I’m just learning. I look around and see what the other guys are doing.”
For a pro who has been a part of the championship tournament since it began, there is no amount of jitters that can spoil the week at the lake.
“I’ve been to all 23 of these events so it’s always nice to see the fans,” former Chicago Bears QB Jim McMahon said. “There are a lot of people that come here as many times as I have so I always get to see the same faces every year and it’s always fun. Just being out here is great. It’s a beautiful place. You can’t beat a spot like this. Along hole 17 is always fun. All the boats get out there and the people go crazy. That’s probably the liveliest spot on the golf course, but everywhere else is good too. It’s fun. It’s a beautiful place.”
Roenick reiterated McMahon’s stand on Tahoe.
“I don’t think there’s enough time to go over all of my favorites here, but I mean look around. What you see is what you get.”