Sugar Ray Golfs in the Genesis Open

by Sue Pascoe

Boxing great and former Pacific Palisades Honorary Mayor Sugar Ray Leonard played in the pro-am event at Riveria Country Club Wednesday morning. He was teamed with Adam Scott, currently ranked No. 7 in the world; Erwin Raphael, general manager for the Hyundai Genesis brand; and businessman Marc Garvey.

Unlike the next four days, when a missed stroke in the Genesis Open can cost a pro dearly, the atmosphere at a pro-am is relaxed. At almost every hole, someone asked for a photo or selfie with Sugar Ray or Scott—and they obliged. One man even asked Leonard to sign boxing gloves, which he did.

Sugar Ray Leonard and PGA Pro Adam Scott played together during the pro-am on February 15. Credit: Sue Pascoe
Sugar Ray Leonard and PGA Pro Adam Scott played together during the pro-am on February 15. Credit: Sue Pascoe

According to “How Do PGA Pro-Am Tournaments Work?” in Golfsmith magazine, “PGA pro-ams usually are a win-win-win situation for ordinary golfers, the PGA Tour and the charity connected with the tournament. Ordinary golfers get to play with a tour player and sometimes a celebrity as well.”

Amateurs pay to play and most of that money goes to charity. According to Golfsmith, “Most pro-ams are one-day affairs that are played on Wednesday, one day before the PGA Tour event starts.”

In the Sugar Ray Leonard foursome, the men joked and laughed on the course, but also gave each other kudos on long putts or good drives.

If you ever wanted to shoot par 72 on the Riviera course, the pro-am would be your wisest strategy. The News asked the person scoring the foursome how score is kept. “The best score on every hole is recorded,” he said. “And for amateurs, a bogie or above is recorded as a par.”

After 18 holes, Sugar Ray was asked how long he has been golfing. “Too long,” he joked, and then admitted he had been swinging a club for about 30 years and has a 19 handicap.

He was asked if he had ever competed in a pro-am before and said, “This is my first and it was great. Adam gave me a few pointers.”

When asked why he chose the Genesis for his first pro-am, he laughed and said, “The course is across the street from my house.”

Leonard’s amateur boxing career included three National Golden Gloves titles, two Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championships, the 1975 Pan-American Games crown and a 1976 gold medal in Montreal. During his popular 20-year professional career, he won world titles in the welterweight, junior middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight divisions. He was the first boxer to win world titles in five different weight classes.

Leonard, 60, has worked as a boxing analyst for ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, HBO and EPIX and in 2011 even appeared on “Dancing With the Stars.” He was “mayor” of the Palisades in 2011-2013, and has been the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk for a Cure.

He and his wife, Bernadette, founded the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and its annual Walk for a Cure.

Scott, who will tee off at 7:32 a.m on Thursday with 2016 Player of the Year Dustin Johnson and England’s Justin Rose and was asked the best thing about playing in a pro-am.

“There are several things,” he said. “It’s a great event to be able to see the golf course the day before the tournament. Not all of the players get to do that.” (Of the 144-player field, only 48 golfers were selected to play with amateurs.) “It also gives us a last chance to see how the course will play.” And, Scott said, the pro-am helps attract sponsorship to the PGA Tour and the host charity for the tournament (this week, the Tiger Woods Foundation).

“It was a real treat to play with Sugar Ray today,” Scott said in an interview with reporters afterwards. “Anytime you get to spend some really good quality time around a champion of their sport, you’ve got to take advantage of that.

“We talked about peaking for events. Obviously, they have to peak for a fight, but I’m glad he enjoyed it out there. I’m thrilled he enjoys playing golf and I’m sure it’s a lot less stressful than what he used to do.”

Scott was asked to rate Leonard’s game. “He may not have played his best today, but we joked that there’s always one or two shots that bring you back in golf even on your not-so-good days.”

Scott, a 37-year-old Australian, attended the University of Nevada and has enjoyed good success at Riveria. Last year he tied for second with Jason Kokrak, a stroke behind Bubba Watson. In 2013, Scott tied for 10th; in 2012, he tied for 17th; and in 2008 he tied for 14th. He finished second in 2006 and won in a playoff in 2005, but it didn’t count as a Tour win because rain shortened the tournament to two rounds.

He was asked about the heavy rains predicted for Friday. “I hope it won’t be that bad this time [as in 2005],” Scott said. “I’d like to get some golf in this week.”

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