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.
February 4, 2005
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!