Home » Feature Story

Roger Clemens: An ace collects aces as he talks retirement

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

PALM DESERT, Calif. - After the U.S. team's stunning elimination loss in the World Baseball Classic March 16, Roger Clemens issued a statement that concluded, "For me, right now, it's goodbye."

Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens gets support from his fans at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
«
Roger ClemensMatthew McConaugheyRoger Clemens
»

Still, it remains to be seen whether Clemens has really called it quits as a major league pitcher. He's acknowledged that previous "retirements" didn't take (including the "official" one after his last pitch for the Yankees that included George Steinbrenner's infamous ceremonial gift of a Hummer). Clemens cannot sign with any team until May 1, so goodbyes in March hardly seal anything.

But it is safe to say what the 43-year-old future Hall of Famer is going to be doing once he does finally step away from the mound. The same thing he's doing a lot of now: golfing.

Recipient of a record seven Cy Young Awards, only the third pitcher in history to surpass 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts, the legend who recorded two 20-strikeout games and once hurled Mike Piazza's splintered bat bits at the Met in a World Series game ... he's a golf nut. A certifiable one. Clemens loves golf so much he gives up sleep for it, devotes entire off days too it (it must be 36 holes, 18 is not enough), pours every bit of that legendary Rocket intensity into it (watch out on the fairways, Piazza!) and loves to wager on his own success at it.

Sound like anyone you know?

Unlike you, though, Clemens is freaky good at it. The man with seven Cy Youngs has five holes in one. On the tee as on the mound, Clements plays to win - though it's hard to imagine anyone having more fun with the game. When TravelGolf.com caught up to The Rocket at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, he dominated the scene with a big kid attitude.

Even in a field that included Samuel L. Jackson, Justin Timberlake and Terrell Owens' Monday Night Football squeeze Nicolette Sheridan, Roger Clemens loomed as the most commanding presence around.

Box-office star Matthew McConaughey cooked him steaks. Late-night talk-show host Carson Daly called him "the giant winner." Mike Eruzione, captain of the "Miracle on Ice" 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, offered to negotiate him a stake in the Green Monster if Clemens returned to the Red Sox.

Even amid this A-list Hollywood scene Clemens was the center of attention, the guy the other celebs wanted to be around. McConaughey even broke into our interview for some more Rocket banter.

Q: You're competitiveness is legendary on the mound. How competitive do you get out on the golf course?

A: I'm pretty competitive. I want these guys to have a good time and I think they did. Anytime you can win a pro-am of this magnitude, it's a great time.

Plus, we had a lot of side bets. That was really, really important.

Q: So you're lining your pockets pretty well even when you're not under contract with a major-league team?

A: I think so. It's a good time.

Q: Getting back to the competitiveness: If one of your partners misses a putt in one of these team scrambles, are they getting that Rocket glare?

A: We grinded these guys. Made these guys grind. They have to work. I think I owe them a free drink now.

Q: You've won the celebrity-field portion of the Bob Hope two years in a row now, last year playing with Carson Daly. This year, you had Matthew McConaughey and Mike Eruzione on your team. Who's on the three-peat squad in 2007?

A: I might have to step aside.

I don't know what's going to happen now. I asked Carson and [fellow 2005 playing partner/hedge-fund manager] Jeff Altman for a hall pass this year. I knew if Matthew was going to come I'd play with him. Make sure he had fun. He had a blast. I think the fans enjoyed seeing him out here. He played some great golf. Signed a lot of autographs.

We all want to shoot a couple of good numbers and make a few plays in front of the pros. But the bottom line is we're out here to make it fun for the fans and to stay out of the pros' way.

Q: Can you imagine inviting Phil Mickelson to stand out near the mound with you in a major-league game? Letting him throw a few pitches in between batters?

A: Again, the pros. I can't say enough about the PGA guys who want to play in the celebrity part of it and in this atmosphere with us. We're in their office. We try and stay out of their way and yet we want to have some fun.

Q: Speaking of fun, five holes in one for you now. One at Pebble Beach, one in the Bob Hope. Is this some kind of aces vs. Cy Youngs competition?

A: We were sitting around talking about this when Matthew was cooking steaks for us. Matthew and I both had four aces in our lives. We made a bet who would get No. 5 first.

[Clemens collected career hole in one No. 5 the day after making that bet over steaks, knocking it in on the 180-yard par-3 second hole on the Classic Club course.]

Q: So you won the bet in less than 24 hours?

A: I did.

[A grinning McConaughey saunters over, wearing an orange Longhorns polo shirt that matches Clemens'.

McConaughey: Hey, Five-Four. What's up Ace! What's up Five-Four!

Q: What was that ace worth in side bets?

[Clemens grins, ignores the question.]

A: That's what's really cool about this event. You get to come out here and watch these [PGA] guys work. We actually had a little fun along the way.

Yesterday we had Matthew and Mike's phones lighting up, buzzing off the hook because they both got shot of the day [on TV].

Q: Is your golf game going to affect your baseball retirement?

A: I'd play a lot of golf if I retire. But I play a lot of golf now. If I get to bed at 2 a.m. the night I pitched, I'll get up at 6 a.m. if it's an off day to get in 36 holes. You have to chase that little white ball around.

Q: Mike Eruzione said that the Red Sox should offer you a stake in the Green Monster to get you to return to Boston ...

A: Mike would be a good agent.

Q: Who's the worst celebrity golfer you've played with? The athlete who you've thought should find another game?

A: [Clemens' Yankees and Astros teammate Andy] Pettitte.

Nah, I'm kidding. Lefty's good. I'm trying to get him out to play in one of these.

Q: But you've taken money from Pettitte too, right?

A: Let's just say Lefty's bought me a few drinks.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment

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

Dates: January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014
The golf course at the Arizona Grand Golf Resort & Spa in Phoenix -- which Golf Digest awarded four stars -- features panoramic views of the desert landscape, dramatic elevation changes and breathtaking mountain vistas. Package includes: Upgrade to Premier suite with golf course view, one round of golf per person, club rentals, $25 per person dining credit, Happy Hour pricing in lobby bar with scorecard, resort fee included.
Price range: $279