Samuel L adds glamour to PGA Champs
Samuel L Jackson has played the bad guy, the good guy, the bad cop, the good cop, drug addicts, action heroes and more recently, a slave. By his own admission, he’ll do almost anything to get a laugh, but Jackson will never play the fool on the golf course.
And the popular Hollywood screen legend was all business when he pitched up at the Telkom PGA Championship Pro-Am on Tuesday, jumping at an invitation from Sunshine Tour chief executive Selwyn Nathan to join the action at Country Club Johannesburg.
“I got the call from Selwyn and what can I say, here I am,” said Jackson, who has a special clause in all his film contracts that allows him time off to play golf. “I never pass up on the chance to play golf, especially when I get to play at a top course like this.
“I played here before many years ago and I like this course. It’s straightforward, it’s honest and if you hit the ball where you are supposed to, you can score.”
Jackson once stated that the golf course is the only place where he can “go dressed as a pimp and fit in perfectly”.
“When I’m playing golf, I like to look the part,” he said. “I like tartan, or maybe a bright pink or yellow ‘cause it helps people find me when I’m lost in the rough.”
When it comes to chasing a bad guy on screen, the 64-year-old actor might let a stunt double take the punches, but when it comes to chasing after a little white ball, Jackson is a Jedi-powered golfing machine.
True to form, he made a bee-line for the driving range as soon as he arrived.
“Sam is very, very competitive,” said playing partner James Kamte. “A few years back we scheduled a practice round together before the Alfred Dunhill Links. That day the wind was howling and it was pouring. Everyone else pulled out, but he was there with bells on.”
One of Hollywood’s highest grossing stars, Jackson’s movie credits include such blockbusters as Jungle Fever, Pulp Fiction, Shaft and the recently critically acclaimed Django Unchained. He is currently filming the live action remake of the 1998 Japanese anime film Kite in Johannesburg, but jumped at the chance to take a break from the set and get out on the golf course, even if he didn’t expect to play to his usual standard.
“Actually, I don’t expect to do to well today,” he said. “I’ve been playing Titleist all my life, but I met these guys from Taylormade and they knew I was coming out here, so they set me up with these clubs. They take some getting use to.
Jackson played the first in regulation, but carved his tee shot at the second into the right rough. A frisky six-iron saw him on the dance floor in two. “Man, I love these Rocketballz,” he gushed.
“These irons can fly, although I would attribute that to the altitude here, as opposed to my golfing ability. I can’t wait to give them real test and find out what they play like at sea level when I get home.
“Just for the record, though, that tee shot went exactly where I intended it to go. The guys told me to take the short cut and Tiger line it to the green. They just didn’t realise I’m not Tiger.”
A proficient golfer who plays off a tidy six handicap, Jackson didn’t waste any time contributing to the team’s score and, combined with former professional Nathan, the pair soon had Kamte playing some of his best golf this season.
“I had a great birdie streak from the sixth to the eighth, but it hardly mattered because Sam and Selwyn are chewing up the golf course,” the Queenstown golfer said.
“I might as well not be playing, but it does feel good to be making some long birdie putts again. This has been the perfect fourball to get me into fighting form for the tournament. With them being so competitive, they are forcing me to bring my A-game. I can’t have them outplaying me.”
In addition to Kamte, the field for this week’s R3 750 000 Telkom PGA Championship includes world number 50 Richard Sterne, defending champion Keith Horne, three other former champions and more than 20 Sunshine Tour winners.
But none of them could match the presence of Jackson, who charmed everyone from caddies, to players, scorers and rules officials.
“The people here in South Africa are great,” he said. “It looks like they enjoy seeing me there. I guess I’m a lot more recognisable than I thought (laughs).”