Justin Timberlake is a six-time Grammy-winning singer, an actor, a songwriter, a record producer and an avid golfer. He’s also the 14th celebrity in the history of the PGA TOUR to host an event, joining the likes of Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. The Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open will take place October 13-19 at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nev. Timberlake recently took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with members of the media and discuss his golf history, his love for the game and his new event.
On his golf background…
Q. When did you start playing golf, and when did you discover you had a passion for it?
TIMBERLAKE: I started playing golf about 5 or 6 years ago while I was on tour, and I had done 3 or 4 shows in a row. We were playing indoor arenas, and I started getting cabin fever. My stage manager and my crew got me out on the golf course. And that first round I hit like a perfect drive and then a pretty good approach shot on I think hole 18, and I was instantly hooked.
Q. How often do you play?
TIMBERLAKE: Not enough. I don’t get to play enough. I play whenever I can, but it’s a double-edged sword because if work is good, then work is good. That means you can’t have any time to play.
Q. What is your golf handicap?
TIMBERLAKE: Well, that depends on who I’m playing with (laughter).
No, I’m a single digit. I range, depending on the time I get to play, I go anywhere from an 8 to a 4, somewhere in that range.
Q. What are your favorite courses in the U.S. and then the courses outside the States?
TIMBERLAKE: That’s tough. Augusta (National) is pretty amazing. I have yet to play Pine Valley, but just from seeing the photos of it that looks pretty amazing. Spyglass is a great course, and of course, my new course. My team would be mad at me if I didn’t say Miramichi Lakes which is our new course opening next summer in the hills of Woodstock, Tennessee, outside Memphis.
Q. Building on that question, can you talk a little about that?
TIMBERLAKE: Miramichi Lakes. If I can rewind a little bit, my dad did try to get me into golf when I was 10, and I obviously didn’t have the attention span for it. But it was the first place. It was a course called Big Creek. Originally it was called Woodstock Hills, and it was the first place my dad taught me to hit a ball. And last year we found out they were going to auction it off and turn it into a development. So we thought it was such a landmark for the community, we’d scoop it and save it. And we did. We were able to before it was auctioned off. After we had the golf course we said why don’t we refurbish it and make it even nicer for the community. Then I asked questions about what we could possibly do, and we found out we could actually make it a «green course». So when it’s finished this summer it will be a Platinum LEED certified green course. The first in the United States of America, so that’s pretty exciting that you could take all that land and make it eco-friendly.
On his new tournament…
Q. Tell us a little about your partnership with Shriners Hospital for Children and how that came about.
TIMBERLAKE: The partnership with the Shriners came about when I was trying to get involved with the PGA TOUR because I’m such a fan. We approached them and said if there’s anything that comes up, a Pro-Am, celebrity tournament, charity tournament or anything, let us know. And the Vegas spot seemed like a good fit for me and for celebrities alike, and it was already a Pro-Am, so we tacked onto that and obviously in the process we got involved with the Shriners, who is the beneficiary of the tournament. And so it’s great. Come out for a week every October where the weather is actually good in Vegas in October and play golf and raise some money for Children’s Hospitals.
Q. Tell everyone what they can expect in Vegas, like a couple of the things you’ll be doing.
TIMBERLAKE: Vegas is going to be fun. I’m going to try to spice it up a little bit while still keeping the respect for the game. Wednesday is going to be the Pro-Am, and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday we get to watch the real guys do their thing. It’s a real tournament. But Wednesday will be a Pro-Am. We’ll have some celebrities out there and sports stars in other fields. It’s going to be fun. We’re going to try to mix up the format a little bit and have a little fun with it. The whole week will be full of activities. I’m actually going to host a show with a concert, and we’re going to have stuff all week long. We’re basically going to take over Vegas. It’s Vegas, baby!
Q. You obviously are one of the best known marquee golfers as far as a celebrity goes. Your love for golf is becoming known to the masses. How do you expect to take this event and really make it a marquee event, especially as it comes later in the year on the PGA TOUR?
TIMBERLAKE: I mean, I don’t want to overshoot our hopes. But, I mean, obviously if I come into this, I aim high. I would be lying if I didn’t say we’d love to make it part of the (FedExCup) points race. But also, I mean, I think this first year around, we’ve got some cool things planned for the pro-am and obviously for the week with the players, their families, all the celebrities that attend.
I think every year’s a learning process and you go in and sort of learn from each year. But I think from the get go, we’ve made it more enjoyable for the players. I mean, A, we put the tournament on the same course, so you’re going to get a lot lower scores. I think the pros are going to appreciate that. As a matter of fact, I’ve talked to a number of them, and they appreciate that.
Also I’ve eliminated too much pro-am play while the players are actually counting their scores ‘cause I just believe in that. I made a comparison, I believe it was already used in the press, but I’ll make it again. I sort of said Phil wasn’t going to come up and try to do karaoke while I’m doing my show. So for me to chip balls out of a bunker while he’s trying to win a tournament is not exactly you know, it’s a Catch 22. I think eliminating that will help the players out, as well.
Like I said, it’s Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. I want to make sure we make it a classy tournament, but also unique and youthful to the city and its environment.
Q. Is it nice knowing your celebrity status, hosting this event, all these people will come out, it’s got your name on it?
TIMBERLAKE: It’s exciting. It’s exciting. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. I sort of had a glimpse of it when I saw the first logo on one of the flags. I saw one of the flags they were making. It had the logo. I was kind of like, Wow, this is really happening. It’s kind of been a small dream of mine to host an event. The first time I ever played a Pro-Am in golf was at the Bob Hope in the desert. I had a great time. I thought to myself, it would be amazing if one day I could be able to, A, host an amazing event and, B, raise some money for charity. The Shriners Hospital, obviously we’re going to do some great things for them in raising money with this week coming up in October. So I’m excited. I’m really, really excited about it.
Q. You mentioned TPC Summerlin. What makes it special to you? Do you have any specific features or holes that stand out for you when you play there?
TIMBERLAKE: Well, forgive me, because I’d have to go back and look at the layout to tell you my favorite holes.
The thing I liked about it the most is for the pros, I think there’s a drivable par 4 for a couple of the long guys. So that’s great. There’s risk/reward opportunities on that course.
I think you’re gonna see that the winner is going to go for four rounds, I mean, somewhere 25 under or up. I would expect that from the pros, especially the fact that they get to play at the same course for four rounds. I know in the past it’s been four different courses. That just becomes a little bit tougher. But I think it’s a shorter course for the pros and I think that it presents a lot of birdie/eagle opportunities.
Q. Katie Walker, the tournament ambassador, she said she got a chance to meet you. Who won when you played against her? What was she like?
TIMBERLAKE: Katie is a sweetheart. I love having her as an ambassador for the tournament. She’s a great representative. She’s an obvious case of not letting anything get you down. It’s actually amazing to see how well she hits the ball. She obviously has a prosthesis for a leg. She’s a sweet girl and an inspiration to me. So I love having her as a representative. She’s an amazing representative for our tournament.
On his love for the game…
Q. What do you like to do when you are in Las Vegas besides golf?
TIMBERLAKE: I like to go and every once in a while I like to go and see the shows. There’s great restaurants in Vegas. I definitely like to eat. But, you know, usually when I get to Vegas I usually block out a couple of days to play golf, relax by the pool. I’m not a huge gambler. I enjoy the entertainment in Vegas.
But I will say, I mean, it’s fair to say that 80 percent of my time if not thinking about it will definitely be on a golf course in Vegas.
Q. Do you have a good luck charm that you wear or carry when you golf?
TIMBERLAKE: I don’t. You know, it’s funny, I don’t I have all kinds of different irons that I use. I don’t really have a lucky anything. I will say that I sort of keep going back to the same putter, but I don’t know if that’s a luck thing. I think any golfer would tell you that. But, yeah, no, I don’t know. I never really gained any type of superstition about golf or using a certain golf ball or certain ball marker. I hear that a lot of pros and a lot of players do that.
But, I don’t know, I just kind of I will say that I played golf this year, and maybe I should try this a little bit more, although I don’t think they would let me, I played golf in Mexico and played barefoot. I probably played better than normal. So I don’t know. I don’t think they’ll let me do that in the tournament, though.
Q. Who would be in your dream foursome if you could only pick out of the current PGA TOUR golfers?
TIMBERLAKE: Well, let’s see, the current PGA TOUR golfers. I mean, I think anyone would put Tiger in there. I guess I’d put Tiger, you know, Phil and probably Adam in the same group. I thought that that was pretty cool the first couple rounds at the U.S. Open that all three of those guys played together, being they were the top three in the world.
Q. In that same vein, if you could pick from celebrities who play golf, who would be in your dream foursome?
TIMBERLAKE: Well, I do enjoy playing with Sam Jackson. We always have a good time. I’d put Sam in there. Let’s see. I also enjoy playing with Andy Garcia. He’s a good friend. I’d put him in there. And then maybe somebody like Will Smith. I think we’d all have fun together.
Q. You sound like you’re a bit of a golf historian with what you said about Bing Crosby. Have you brushed up on the talents of a lot of well known players? I know the Rat Pack had a lot to do with golf in the heyday of Vegas. Are you a big historian?
TIMBERLAKE: Obviously I’m a huge fan of the Rat Pack. I’m sure that became very apparent probably in the attire I’ve started wearing in the last couple of years. I do know that Bing (Crosby), from what I was told, was a really good golfer and actually respected and loved the game. So, yeah, I’m kind of intrigued by the fact that maybe we can bring that type of synergy and that type of style, that type of legend about the game in modern day. I just have to find three or four other guys who can really get out there and play and who love it, who can play the part and dress the part.
Q. Speaking of golf attire, you’re certainly well fashioned out on the course. Most of it looks like it’s JL. What is your relationship with J. Lindberg fashion for golf?
TIMBERLAKE: Well, most of the time I do have an endless supply of J. Lindberg stuff. Johan and Marcella, husband and wife, the Lindbergs, actually design for my clothing brand named William Rast. We’re good friends. They actually design for another line of mine. So that’s the bonus, as well. When you get on the golf course, you have an endless supply of JL clothing.
Q. I know when you played the Torrey Pines course at the U.S. Open, it was set up exactly how the pros had it set up. How difficult was that course? Was it difficult playing in front of cameras?
TIMBERLAKE: Actually, that’s a lie. Seriously, the pros got to play 200 yards shorter than we did every round. We played every back tee. So we actually played 200 yards longer than the pros played.
It was tough playing in a foursome. That was the other thing, is the pros all played in a threesome, so they got to play a lot faster. It took a long time. I think that obviously shot everyone’s handicap up by probably 6 to 8 strokes. For instance, in the practice round I played by myself. I shot like an 83. Then I barely broke a hundred.
Q. I know Butch Harmon was on your bag for that tournament. Is he also a swing coach of yours? What is your relationship?
TIMBERLAKE: Butch is a good friend of mine. I met him through obviously all this process. He has a close affiliation with the Las Vegas tournament. Yes, I’ve taken two or three lessons with Butch. I guess it’s fair to say that he has finagled my swing a lot and probably brought my handicap down by probably 4 strokes, 5 strokes.
Q. What was the biggest thing he was working with you on?
TIMBERLAKE: Well, Butch is a one swing playing coach. That’s what I sort of needed. I sort of had a lot of extra movement in my swing, and he sort of took that out in the first couple lessons, kind of got me able to kind of slingshot that ball rather than swing across it, which gets you that weak fade. Doesn’t always come out like that ‘cause I’m not as good as the pros. But I will say that it’s helped tremendously just hearing what Butch says about the golf swing, seeing yourself on videotape. This year was the first time I saw myself on videotape really swinging. It’s a huge eye opener.
Q. When was the last time you took a mulligan?
TIMBERLAKE: Let’s see. Well, I think it’s pretty obvious I work a lot, so I don’t get to play a lot. The last time I took a Mulligan was probably about a month ago. The last time I played, I was just in Arizona and played, I was only able to play nine holes a day because I was busy doing something. I just played last weekend and shot pretty well. I think the last time I probably took a Mulligan was probably about a month ago.
Q: With golf, is there kind of a tranquility you can’t get with anything else, the ability to just relax and enjoy the outdoors and everything that comes with it?
TIMBERLAKE: Absolutely. I grew up in Tennessee. I love doing anything outdoors. So there’s that. But also I have a million things always going on. When I’m on the golf course, it seems to be the only place where I can shut it all off, just go out there and hit a little ball at a hole 450 yards away. You know, I get lost in the beauty of the courses I play. I get lost in the game. That’s when it really hits you that it really is the greatest game ever played.
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