MAXIMUM GOLF DECEMBER/JANUARY 2001

 

18 with... Bill Bellamy & Jerry O'Connell

The odd-couple stars of next month's Buying the Cow wreak udder destruction on the course

"Is Jerry driving a rental?"  "That better be a rental."

As Bill Bellamy and his road manager, Emery, climb out of Bellamy's champagne-hued Mercedes with black-tinted windows, they're discussing the plain white Bronco that Jerry O'Connell has just driven into the parking lot of Beaver Brook Country Club, near Clinton, New Jersey, about an hour due west of New York City.  "We gotta talk to that boy," Emery continues.  "He's at least gotta get that thing rimmed up or something."

"Jerry doesn't know what 'rimmed up' means.  He's no BS " Bellamy says.  "You know what he drives?  A Buick Centurion convertible with maybe one strip of chrome on the door, and that came with it.  Jerry's like, 'When I'm making $20 million a movie, then I'll get into that stuff, but now I'm keeping it real.' "

O'Connell trots toward us with the eagerness of an unleashed puppy.  His hair bounces out of a blue visor.  With the sun catching his blond highlights, he looks like...a movie star.  In fact, he'd be a shoo-in for the role of Ken if they ever make The Life and Times of Barbie.

"New Jersey is beautiful," he says by way of greeting.  "I was lost in this little town right near here, with a white church and covered bridge.  If I were ever there at Christmastime, I'd just cry."

In a brand-new Tommy Hilfiger sweater (he ripped the tags off as we were standing there), gray nylon workout pants, and black running shoes, Bellamy is not an obvious pick as O'Connell's golfing buddy.  O'Connell is probably most easily remembered as Vern, the pudgy kid in Stand By Me who posed the memorable query, "You think Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman?"  Since then he has appeared in almost two dozen television shows and films, including Jerry Maguire (he was the coveted all-American quarterback), and was the star of the TV show Sliders.  Bellamy spent five years as the face of MTV's hip-hop coverage.  And although he quit as a full-time video jock in 1998, he is one of the few former VJs who haven't fallen into a black hole since leaving the network.  These days, he travels the country to sold-out performances of his stand-up comedy routine and has appeared in such movies as Any Given Sunday and How to Be a Player.

Despite the apparent mismatch, the two recently finished shooting a movie about love and relationships called Buying the Cow.  "This movie was so much fun to make because everyone got along so great," says O'Connell, who plays Bellamy's best bud.  "It was one of those rare things where after we wrapped every day, everyone was like, 'Okay, where are we going out tonight?' "

Long after the filming is done, Bellamy and O'Connell are still hanging out - even playing golf together, which is the plan today.  Just a few days earlier, they hooked up for Puff Daddy's White Party out in the Hamptons.  "It was so cool," O'Connell says.  "The invitation just said, 'The White Party, No Beige, No Excuses, No One Admitted Without Proper Attire.'  I guess I'm down with the crew now."

"There were some women at Puffy's," recalls Bellamy.

O'Connell can only come up with two words:  "Oh, Man."

O'Connell has an avowed weakness for the fairer sex.  "I did this movie for the same reason I got into acting," O'Connell says about Buying the Cow, which comes out next month.  "Each woman was better looking than the one before."

He has a point.  The female parts are played by a shorts-tightening trio:  Annabeth Gish, who appeared with Ashley Judd in Double Jeopardy; Alyssa Milano, one of the stars of the WB series Charmed; and Bridgette Wilson, who played Adam Sandler's main squeeze in Billy Madison.  Wilson and O'Connell portray buddies who come face-to-face with the daunting question of marriage and turn to their equally confused friends for help.  O'Connell even has a sex scene with Wilson, who in real life is married to tennis star Pete Sampras.  "It was great," he says, "except Sampras was standing right there.  We had this running joke when we were getting ready to shoot the scene.  I kept saying, 'Look out for low-flying Spaldings!' "

According to the starter, the three tee times behind us are open, which mean we should be able to take our time and have some fun.  Soon, O'Connell is long in the trees on the left side, Bellamy is short in the trees on the right, and yours truly is long in the trees on the right.  Then Emery decides to take a crack at one. 

Emery is six foot five and goes maybe 290, with shoulders as wide a golf cart.  He's wearing size-14 lug-soled boots, and in his hands my 46-inch-long driver looks like something you'd stick through an olive and drop in a martini glass.  After a few complete missed, he connects.  The ball jumps to the right at an unnatural angle that brings to mind the breaking of Joe Theismann's leg.  As is whistles through the air, I figure the speed and trajectory will put it two, maybe three fairways over.

Later, halfway up the second fairway, Bellamy and Emery are taking turns advancing their balls about 10 yards at a time when a golf cart approaches from the tee box behind.  The old man in the passenger seat is maniacally waving his arms.  Did I mention we had a half-hour cushion?

Although I already know the answer, I consider sending Emery over to talk to the old man, figuring that the sight of Emery carrying a blunt object would quiet things down pretty quickly.  Instead, I leave O'Connell to deal with the tweaked senior and encourage the others to at least take fewer practice swings between whiffs.  Having collectively determined that driving white-haired men in argyle sweater vests to the point of apoplexy is a surefire path to a medical emergency, we decide to wait at the third tee and let the geezers play through.  During the layover, Emery decides to call it a day, and O'Connell proposes we play best ball from tee to green.

"I'm so going to crush this," O'Connell says when we finally tee it up at the third.  He says this, or something like it, just about every time he addresses the ball ("I'm so going to hit this down the middle," "I'm so going to put this on the green").  Truth is, he's often right.  An 18-handicap who has been playing since his early teens, he wraps his right hand almost completely underneath the club and starts his motion with a slightly Kramden-esque dip of his left knee, but most of the time he hits a nice, high draw.  Bellamy's story isn't quite as happy.  He has clearly been shown the basics (head steady, left arm straight), and although he says he likes the game, his schedule has allowed him to squeeze in only four rounds in the past two years.


"I'm in this phase now where I'm going through a bunch
 of these two-month relationships..." - Jerry O'Connell


 

Still, Bellamy does make his case for simply being a slow starter.  At the elevated tee box on the fifth, a 403-yard par-4 with a slight dogleg left, he's clearly misaligned.  I consider telling him this, but the way he has been hitting the ball, I figure it won't matter much anyway.  Sue enough, he drills on dead straight and long - right into a cluster of condos out of bounds.

As we ride down to get his ball, three deer scamper across the fairway. "It's like Michael Jackson's house," says Bellamy, who visited the gloved one's Neverland Ranch last July for papa Joe Jackson's 70th-birthday party.  "See all this valley here?  That's like Michael's front yard.  He's got deer running around and you take this train around the grounds and the speaker system is like, 'Shhh... Welcome to Neverland.  These are my deer, now please pull down your pants.' "

At the par-3 seventh, an uphill 182-yarder, Bellamy tags a 3-iron onto the right side of the green.  "Oh," he says, "you see that?  I hit it on the green.  Three-iron.  That's sexy."  O'Connell, though, has the last laugh.  From the left fringe he chips to within a few feet and knocks down his par putt while Bellamy and I both three-putt for bogeys.

The sequence is indicative of our improved play.  Not only are we approaching something resembling bogey golf, but we're keeping pace with the group ahead of us.  At the turn, Bellamy goes for his second hot dog of the day, O'Connell grabs two glasses of milk and a few Power Bars, and I run to the pro shop to pick up a box of Top Flites, just in case.

"We are all so going to crush these shots right down the middle," O'Connell says on the 15th tee.  Over the past few holes, fatigue and his funky grip have turned his pretty draw into a pesky snap hook, but he's as optimistic as ever.  And, really, why wouldn't he be?

He's 26, famous, handsome and well paid.  There's hardly a person in Hollywood who hasn't seen him and his brother, actor/model Charlie, out on the town drinking and skirt chasing.  His next movie, Down and Under, a Jerry Bruckheimer production, will take him to Australia for three months.  Last night, he had a date in New York City with a six-foot-tall 22-year-old with a 6 handicap, and tonight he's hanging out with a famous news broadcaster's daughter.  "The great thing about spending time with her," he says, "is that every 30 minutes you get a news update."

Finally, I have to ask, "So, Jerry, just how much action are you getting?"

"I'm in this phase now where I'm going through a bunch of these two-month relationships," he says as he lines up a putt.  "The tough thing at this age is that a lot of women are at the point where once you've been together for a while it's ,'Well, where is this all going?' The worst part is that by coincidence I've been breaking up with them right before their birthdays."

"That's the perfect time," Emery chimes in.  "Then, or right before Christmas."

The conversation could have been ripped from the script of Buying the Cow, and Bellamy takes it as his cue to launch into a riff about why women always want t get married.  After running through his material, he tags on an aside: "It doesn't matter if that marriage only lasts a year.  It means that at least once somebody wanted them."

By the time we reach the middle of the fairway on the par-5 17th, the joking is over.  Bellamy pulls out his now beloved 3-iron and spanks an arching shot over 200 yards.  "Niiiice," O'Connell says, as usual celebrating someone else's good shot even more than his own.

One hole later, Bellamy is still basking in the glow of that 3-iron.  "When you write the article," he says, "just write about that shot.  All that other stuff didn't happen."  This seems like my opportunity to council Bellamy on the eternal verities of golf:  to tell him that he shouldn't feel bad about the way he's performing, that this game has brought better men than we whimpering to their knees.

Before I can say a word, though, O'Connell pulls up, whips out his wedge, and announces to the world, "I'm so going to put this on the green."

 

-Jim Gorant

-Photographs by Ronnie Andren

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