Celebrities dish on why they love golf, LPGA Tournament of Champions nerves and lessons learned from the best women in the world

ORLANDO — The Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions awards LPGA players who have hoisted trophies over the past two seasons. But it’s also billed as the biggest party on tour, with 56 celebrities playing alongside 29 LPGA pros. There’s a DJ next to the 18th green in the mega hospitality build, and nightly concerts are held in the shadow of the official player hotel.

This year there were 14 newcomers to the celebrity field, which features a blend of professional athletes and entertainers. Notables include past champions Mardy Fish (2021), Derek Lowe (2022) and John Smoltz (2019, 2020).

Here’s what some had to say about why they love this game, dealing with pressure and what they learn from the LPGA’s best:

Taylor Twellman, MLS All-Star and television analyst

Taylor Twellman as seen during the first round of the 2023 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at The Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Fl. on Thursday, January 19, 2023. (Photo: Scott Miller/Hilton Grand Vacations)

“Quite honestly, it was the one thing that brought I think balance to my life. I’m not telling you I don’t get competitive, but it is 180 degrees different than anything I did in high school on a basketball court, baseball field, football field, or soccer field.

“There is an appreciation for golfers, female and male. I don’t think people fully understand it’s you against the course. As a soccer player, I could blame all my teammates all I wanted to. Now, looking around, there is something individualistic I love about that. I love it’s you against nature.

“I can’t slide tackle the pin or slide tackle the bunker the way I used to as a soccer player.”

Alfonso Ribeiro, actor and television host

Alfonso Ribeiro as seen during the first round of the 2023 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at The Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Fl. on Thursday, January 19, 2023. (Photo: Jason Miczek/Hilton Grand Vacations)

“What I truly take from (LPGA players) is their tempo. They just have, I think perfect tempo. It’s actually closer to our own golf swing as an amateur, where the guys on the PGA Tour, they swing as hard as you can imagine. None of us could ever do that.”

Dylan Dreyer, NBC News Meteorologist

Dylan Dreyer as seen during the final round of the 2023 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at The Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, FL. on Sunday, January 22, 2023. (Photo: Manuela Davies)

“It’s different. When I’m in the studio, you could throw any curveball at me and I can talk through it, that’s my wheelhouse. That’s what I can do, whether it’s a storm, whatever. This, I can’t pull myself out of it.

“Having my husband as my caddie is really awesome because he knows how to lighten the mood. He’s like, ‘Listen, nobody is here to see you win this thing. Just be friendly to everybody you see,’ and I am of course. It’s wonderful to get to see everybody out here on the course in a different way. It’s kind of like the Plaza, it sort of feels that way to take picture and get to talk to people.”

Mark Mulder, MLB All-Star

Mark Mulder as seen during the Third round of the 2023 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at The Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Fl. on Saturday, January 21, 2023. (Photo: Scott Miller/Hilton Grand Vacations)

“I love playing with the girls. Whether it’s today with Anna (Nordqvist), we work out at the same gym in Scottsdale, so I’ve known her for quite a few years, whether it’s past years playing with Nelly (Korda) or Lexi (Thompson) or Brooke (Henderson), I’ve played with kind of all of them over the years.

“As straight as they all hit it – Anna, she didn’t miss a fairway today. It’s fun to watch. I get it. They’re not hitting it 300 yards, but on a course like this, she whooped my butt today .”

Brian Urlacher, NFL Hall of Famer

Brian Urlacher as seen during the first round of the 2023 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at The Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Fl. on Thursday, January 19, 2023. (Photo: Scott Miller/Hilton Grand Vacations)

“You don’t want to embarrass yourself. When you get in these events you don’t want to go out there and lay an egg, but it’s challenging because the courses are – these are set up a little harder than the ones we play in Tahoe and some of the other events, so it’s a little bit more difficult when it comes to that.

“But it’s fun. I try and practice as much as I can leading into it, but you’re never ready when you get there. My game changes every day, so whatever game shows up on the tee box is what I’m going to go with that day.”

Jeremy Roenick, NHL All-Star

Jeremy Roenick as seen during the Third round of the 2023 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at The Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Fl. on Saturday, January 21, 2023. (Photo: Scott Miller/Hilton Grand Vacations)

“I think just their poise, the way they go about every shot. It’s almost methodical. They sit there, read it, see the shot, they’re patient. You know, for us, as amateurs/other sports, we want to get up there and hit it because we’re so excited to hit it. They’re much more methodical. They think about the shot, analyze the shot.

“So the more that you watch them, if you bring that into your game – like today was a perfect example of me staying patient and not getting ahead of, myself. That’s because I’m watching players like Maja (Stark) hit great shots and just nothing seems to bother her.”

Derek Lowe, MLB pitcher

Derek Lowe plays his shot from the 15th tee during the third round of the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club on January 21, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

“To talk about nerves, like I think everyone sitting here will tell you the same thing. We are really good on the range. I’m talking about tomorrow. You go to the putting green, and then you go underneath and you get the scorecard and you’re still fine.

“Then you stand on that first tee and you’re like, uh-oh, this is real. They start announcing people’s names. I (think) back to last year. On Saturday, I’m playing with Nelly (Korda) and Annika (Sorenstam) and they announce both of them.

“I’m like, it’s my turn and you’re shaking. I mean, I didn’t roll it, but it went about 150 yards, the drive. I was like, thank you. Just move.

“Again, that’s what I think everybody loves about this game. It brings out a different type of nerve and we’re all competitive and want to do well.”

Story originally appeared on Golf Week

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