Nelson develops a passion for the game


EDITOR'S NOTE: Following is another installment in the monthly series "Shooting with the Stars," in which PGATOUR.COM contributor Michael Arkush plays a round of golf with a celebrity in the field of sports or entertainment. Today's subject is actor Judd Nelson.


By Michael Arkush

PGATOUR.COM Contributor


RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif.-- While hanging out at the house in Maine that belonged to the grandfather he had loved and lost three years ago, Judd Nelson came upon a special possession in the garage.

The discovery stirred a thought, which, it turns out, has stirred a passion. They were his grandfather's golf clubs.

"It seemed like something I'd want to do," says the 41-year-old actor, known for the Brat Pack films of the 1980s ("Breakfast Club" and "St. Elmo's Fire," among them) and his role on the sitcom, "Suddenly Susan."

From the start, Nelson knew he'd have to make some adjustments in his personality to enjoy the game. He's not a very patient person, which is exactly what golf demands. In fact, during his first year of playing, he could tolerate only nine holes at a time.

It was, though, a big change from his early perceptions of the sport.

He used to feel that golf was "less athletic than what I was ready for." Whenever someone would put it on television, he wondered: "God, there's got to be a sporting event on." These days, he loves watching the pros. "I'm just stunned at the complexities of the game, how disciplined the players must be and how scary it is that from a distance where I would use a 4-iron, they're using a 9-iron," Nelson said during a recent round at the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Trails Golf Club.

Nelson sounds like he might even become a regular on the pro-am circuit. At the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic earlier this year, he played with, among others, Curtis Strange, Justin Leonard and Peter Jacobsen. He had a blast.

Once he developed the patience to play a full 18 holes, Nelson has, predictably, gotten better. He went from shooting in the 120s to going, on occasion, into the low 80s. But don't expect Nelson to set up camp in that lofty territory. He admits he doesn't have the work ethic to attain any real consistency.

"It would be fun to find a good teacher," said Nelson, who has never taken a lesson. "But will I become a driving range grinder? No."

Besides, his goals are less ambitious.

"I want to be able to consistently break 90," he said, "whether I'm goofing around or not. My expectations [for scoring] are quite low, but my expectations for the enjoyment of the day are quite high."

Golf, he acknowledges, can help him be a better actor.

"Anything that adds to your general well-being and to your imagination and to your discipline can only help in whatever your job is," said Nelson, who will be appearing later this year in Kevin Smith's new film, "Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back."

Nelson does have one regret.

"I'm just sorry I didn't pick it up sooner so I could have played with [my grandfather]," he said.


June 26, 2001