We all get those first-tee jitters. You know, the ones that come with an early morning tee time and a few too many eyeballs near the clubhouse watching your first swing of the day. “Don’t chili dip this thing” may be an inevitable swing thought— for the moment anyway.
Now imagine those nerves if Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, funny man Will Ferrell or Hall of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers was watching. The heart may beat a little faster.
When teeing it up in San Diego or Temecula, you never know who you may cross paths with as many celebrity golfers have been spotted over the years at JC Golf courses.
Gene Littler, the 29-time PGA Tour winner and 1961 U.S. Open champion, is a regular weekend player at Encinitas Ranch. So is Dave Campbell, former Padres infielder and ESPN announcer. Chargers safety Eric Weddle and Rodgers also play there during the offseason.
Rod Laver, whose 200 singles titles are the most in tennis history, lives nearby and plays Encinitas Ranch on occasion.
Charlie Joiner, former Chargers star and NFL Hall of Famer, plays at Encinitas Ranch and the Rancho Bernardo Inn.
Speaking of the resort and star athletes, a number of them have traversed the golf course, including Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones, former Chargers Ryan Mathews and Seyi Ajirotutu, and Fingers.
Comedian Chris Tucker has cracked a few jokes at Rancho Bernardo Inn, but perhaps the funniest moment on the course occurred when Ferrell smacked a rotisserie chicken off the first tee during a charity event.
Other notables include Christopher Knight, who played Peter on “The Brady Bunch,” and Stedman Graham, best known as Oprah Winfrey’s longtime partner. No word if Oprah teed it up.
A number of celebrity athletes have played at Temecula Creek Inn, including Barry Bonds, David Justice, Terrell Davis, Vince Coleman and former Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo. Rickie Fowler, who grew up in Murrieta, has played there a number of times. So has Champions Tour player Tom Pernice, Jr.
“They don’t show up with an entourage and the paparazzi isn’t following them,” said one golf shop attendant. “We’re low key here, so they just like to come out and enjoy some golf.”
John Mason remembers when the Stanley Cup made its way into the pro shop at Encinitas Ranch. The course’s director of instruction said one of the players from the Anaheim Ducks, which had just won the NHL title in 2007, brought it with him during his round.
Mason does remember the name of the player who shot 62 (27 on the back nine) to grab the course record. It was PGA Tour player Ben Crane, who fired the course record at a Buick Invitational qualifier in 2001.
“I guess that was a precursor for things to come,” said Mason of Crane, who has gone on to win five tour titles, including the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in 2010.
Marc Figueroa is a freelance writer who has been covering golf in San Diego for more than 20 years.