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Rock, roll and golf with Alice Cooper

By Joel Zuckerman, Contributor

Happy 57th birthday, Vincent Furnier.

The name may mean nothing to you, nor should it. But Vincent Furnier is a rock-'n'-roll legend, a heavy metal icon. His stage name, the name of his band, eventually became his legal name. He's Alice Cooper, one of the pioneers of "Shock Rock" some 30 years ago. He's also become a celebrity golfer of note, which is why we offer him birthday wishes here on the 4th ofFebruary.

He was just a few years past 30 at the time, but in certain ways, Alice Cooper was like a newly-minted retiree. He took up golf because he had so much time to kill. "I stopped drinking in the early '80s," Cooper said. "I took up golf instead. My wife says I traded one bad habit for a worse one," he says with a small laugh. "I think she's kidding."

What wasn't funny was a quart-a-day whiskey habit, an addiction that almost cost him his life. "I would wake up some mornings throwing up blood,"Cooper said. "Then I'd reach for the whiskey bottle again." After the inevitable stint at rehab, the musician had to find a new hobby. "When I gotout of the hospital, I realized that my worst enemy was going to be time," Cooper said. "When you're a drinker, you sit around thinking about alcohol. Either the act of drinking, recovering from drinking or preparing to drink occupies much of your time."

Living in Phoenix certainly helped facilitate the transition from grog togolf. "I'd get up at seven in the morning, and be on the tee by 7:30," Cooper said. He "rehabbed" for nine hours a day on the golf course, spendingvirtually every waking hour on the links. "For a year straight I played 36 aday, usually accompanied by several of the pros at the golf course, who helped me start to understand the game," Cooper said. "It was basically a nine-hour daily lesson."

He was a four-year letterman in track and field during his high school days, but the transition to golf wasn't seamless. "You would've thought I could become an excellent player with that type of tutelage," he adds with ashrug. "But at the end of that year I was about a nine handicap. A solid nine, though," Eventually he got much better than that. At his best he was atwo handicap and now, he's a comfortable four. A staple at celebrity golf events around the nation, Cooper claims "I like to represent the long-hairs,the metal guys."

Cooper has noticed a sea change in the perception of golf amongst his peers in recent decades. "The guys that you would least expect - the metal-heads with the tattoos and the piercings - are the guys who are getting into it more and more," Cooper said.

His indoctrination was one of necessity. But Cooper theorizes that many touring musicians gravitate to the game because of the daily grind. "Musicians spend so much time on the road with nothing to do," he said. "Youcan only go to the mall so many times. Many of these guys were athletes and it's an aggressive sport. It's fun to go out and hit a ball. Even if you're no good, it's still fun to go get after it as best you can."

Dweezil Zappa quickly comes to mind as a golfer within Cooper's orbit. "It's kind of funny, because his late dad, Frank, was the first guy to sign our band to a contract many years ago," Cooper said. Adrian Young, drummer for the band No Doubt, is another. "Dweezil's probably a 10 handicap, and Adrian's a good seven," Cooper said.

Although their musical styles have about as much in common as the physiques of Jesper Parnevik and Tim Herron, Cooper is quick to credit country star Vince Gill. "He's tough to beat. Vince is a solid one or two. But he's country, so he doesn't count," he says, laughing.

Now living is Scottsdale, Cooper is surrounded by hundreds of courses. But he can pick favorites from around the golf globe. "If I was to play just one course the rest of my life, it would be Muirfield Village in Columbus, Ohio," Cooper said. "I love the Golf Club of Georgia. You can't do much better than Spyglass Hill in California, particularly if you want to beat yourself to death. Of course I have to mention Pebble Beach."

Cooper claims the prejudice he used to encounter due to his decidedly non-standard appearance is pretty much a thing of the past. "When I first started I went to the Los Angeles Country Club, one of the most conservative clubs in the country. I had cut-off jeans, a T-shirt and a beer bazooka. I don't think they appreciated me too much," he said with a sly grin. "The Brits are so proper. They actually think golf is a sport! They don't have carts, they want you to walk. I don't get that. I'm not there to get healthy. Anyway, they might be pompous at the beginning, but when you show up later after shooting 75, they change their tune. They'll tell you, 'please come back and see us again, won't you?'"

Although Cooper dabbled in the game pre-sobriety, he was as focused on the beer as the ball. "I didn't even keep score, it was just a party," he said. But he got serious later, looking to become the best player he could. By recreational standards, just like he did throughout his offbeat but commercially viable musical career, he's succeeded beautifully.

Joel ZuckermanJoel Zuckerman, Contributor

Joel Zuckerman is based in Savannah, Georgia and Park City, Utah. He is the author of five books, and his golf and travel stories have appeared in more than 100 publications around the world, including Sports Illustrated, Golfweek, Travel+Leisure Golf, Continental and Golf International.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Alice still rocks

    Sandy Scott wrote on: Aug 18, 2005

    Alice has a new album out called Dirty Diamonds which is very old school sounding. The guy is a great golfer and still the king of rock.


  • "Coop."

    Michael Barton wrote on: Mar 2, 2005

    About 15-16 years ago, I had the absolute pleasure to play a round with "Coop."
    We played at Ancala C.C., Scottdale, AZ. Teed off around 8:30. The pro shop let us off and held other tee times until 9:00...so we wouldn't have anyone too close behind us.
    First off, I am a musician and got the invite to play because one of my Wife's friends routinely played with Coop and when he found out I played the game, thought I would like to meet Alice. I was delighted! First off I have to say he shot a 76 on a very hard course! He was so laid back and a blast to be around. He at the time was all excited because he was being considered for a role as a Klingon in an upcoming Star Trek Movie...He told me he was "Born to be a Klingon!"
    After we teed off on the first, we all got out into the fairway and found our balls, he jumps out of his cart and yells, "Grab your long irons boys, were going into the salad (What he called the desert or OB) and rootin and snootin for balls!" When I asked why the long irons, he replied, "Snakes! Oh, and by the way, if you see one, let me know...I'm auditioning for the show!"
    Coop loves to look for and find lost golf balls! At the end of the day, he proudly showed us his shoe-box of his ball-bounty! He said, "Look! Got at least a dozen or so!"
    I had much fun, he was/is such a class guy and I even got his autograph! (I also found out I knew his drummer, Ken Merry, so we could start our "Golf relationship" on some common ground)
    He's cool. And a very fine golfer!
    Michael Barton


    • RE: Coop

      Thomas wrote on: Mar 30, 2005

      I read your story with interest about your game with Coops. I'm actually an avid golfer from Melbourne Australia and am a member at two of the best courses in the country. Alice is actually coming "down under" in late June 2005 and after reading all his stories about golf I thought he might say yes to a game on our prefectly manicured fairways in Aus ! We even have the odd snake in the rough !!
      Do you know how I would get in tough with Mr Cooper ?
      Thomas Condell


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