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Ashton: 'I usually break a club, swear and hit my opponent'

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

John Ashton isn't a big, Hollywood star. He's a character actor who you have probably seen, though you may not be familiar with the name. He's been in movies like "Midnight Run" with Robert DeNiro and the "Beverly Hills Cop" movies with Eddie Murphy, in which he played Sgt. Taggart.

He's also done a lot of TV work, like "Judging Amy" and "Fantasy Island." He took time out from starting a new production company, Cherry Creek Productions, to play in Tom Dreesen's celebrity golf tournament.

Q: Do you play in a lot of celebrity golf events?

A: Yes, I do. I've played in probably 10 or 12 on the Celebrity Players Tour and I also play a lot of regular charity events.

Q: When did you start playing golf?

A: Unfortunately, I took it up too late. I was 28 or 29, and I was going to school at USC, where I got my degree in theater. I had a bartending job and a lot of cops used to hang around there. One of them walked in one day and said "my wife bought me a new set of clubs for my birthday. Anybody want to buy a set of clubs?" I said "how much?" He said 75 bucks. I said okay and bought them and they sat in my apartment for about six months. One day I was sitting around and said I think I'll go out and hit those things. I wish I had started in junior high school.

Q: What's your handicap?

A: Eight. I'm all right. I can get it around the golf course. I have my 92 days and I have my 72 days.

Q: What's the best score you ever shot?

A: One-under.

Q: What's the best part of your game?

A: Right now, its my short game. I'm putting real well. I got a new putter at (John) Elway's tournament about a year ago. Some rep from a company came up to me, and I looked in his bag and I said 'that's a cool-looking putter,' so he took it out and said 'it's yours.' It's a Sonic 4000 and I'm putting lights out with it. I'm a little older than some of these athletes, like Elway and (Jim) McMahon and these guys. They bomb it 320 yards and I'm out there 250-260 and I'm happy. The only way I can catch them is with my short game, so I've got to work on that.

Q: Who do you usually play with?

A: My club is about a mile from my house. I could literally walk to my club if I wanted to. I just play with the local guys. We have a group at noon every day so if you're available and you want to play you just show up, you choose teams and we go. I've been busy, so when I want to get away I just go over to the course.

Q: Who is your dream partner?

A: I've got to go with (Jack) Nicklaus. I'd love to play with Freddie Couples some day, too. I mean, Freddie's just got a great swing. My third choice, if he was still alive, would be Payne Stewart. Both he and Couples had the greatest swings and the greatest attitudes. My favorite guy on the tour right now is Retief Goosen. He's got veins of ice, a great swing and nothing bothers him. I just love watching him play.

Q: Favorite course?

A: I think the mecca of all the golf courses that I've played is Cypress Point, outside of Pebble Beach. Spyglass is beautiful, I love Spyglass. But, Cypress is just unbelievable.

Q: Who's the best celebrity or famous athlete golfer you know?

A: I tell you what. Rick Rhoden is a great player. I played John Smoltz' tournament down in Atlanta, the last round on Sunday and we were in one of the final groups with John Brodie. This was about five years ago, before he had a stroke, and the last day he shot 68 to win it. At that time, he was in his mid-60s and he just played a phenomenal round of golf. We were just flabbergasted. He made phenomenal shots. He had a par on the 18^th hole, a par-5. He hit his tee shot in a fairway bunker, hit it out of the bunker, short of the creek, knocked his third shot right at the pin. It took a bad hop in the creek, and he walked in the creek, hit it right on the green and sunk a 30-footer for five. The most incredible five I ever saw. We were just happy to play with him. Even though we were playing against him, it's great to watch a guy play that well.

Q: What's your demeanor on course? What do you do after a particularly bad shot?

A: I usually break a club, swear and hit my opponent. (Laughs) No, when I first started playing, when you don't know what you're doing, you get more frustrated. I used to get really frustrated, really pissed off, but now it's just like, "OK, next shot." That attitude is very hard to learn, you know, because I'm an athlete: I played football in high school and college and baseball and basketball, hockey back east. When you start as an athlete and you start to play (golf), you get frustrated because you think you should be good, and you're not that good. You've got to understand that. Golf's a tough game, so I had to learn that.

Q: Do you have a favorite insult when one of your partners dribbles it off the tee?

A: If it's really a nice manicured tee box area, and if he tops it off the tee, I usually just say "nice 'out' out of that shit."

Q: Would you rather be an actor or pro golfer?

A: Oh man, professional golf's tough, but acting ain't easy, either. We just played three tournaments in a row, and it's tiring - all that traveling and playing. I'm thinking these guys, a full season of that - man, how do they do it? The guys like Tiger (Woods), he's got the private jet and the valets, but how about the other guys? They're driving to every tournament and sleeping in their cars. It's got to be grueling. But, I've done the same thing acting: working 16-18 hours on the set, out in the woods, out in the mud and stuff ain't fun either. That's a tough question. That would be a toss-up.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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