The A List: Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench Joins Writers at The A Position to Pick Celebrity Captains for the Presidents Cup

Golf overflows with Cups. Ryder Cup, Curtis Cup, Solheim Cup, World Cup. So it’s not surprising that the youngest of these, the Presidents Cup—which will be played November 17-20 at Royal Melbourne in Australia—is often overlooked by golf fans.

Not anymore, thanks to a new idea put forward by The A Position (TAP), golf’s leading website. To perk up interest in the Presidents Cup, TAP suggests appointing celebrity captains who can inspire the teams and bring in the fans. (Sorry Fred and Greg, it’s nothing personal.)

The writers at The A Position were asked to nominate star-power captains for one or both teams. Showing just how confusing the Presidents Cup can be, some of the writers chose a European to lead the International Team. (Europeans can’t play in Presidents Cup competition. That’s what the Ryder Cup is for.) Others chose fictional characters. But those A Position scribes who got it right showed rare solidarity, a number of them choosing the same foreign captain, the ultimate autocrat, for the International side. Hello? Pyongyang?

Our guest picker this month is a baseball legend who appreciates the value of team play: Johnny Bench, Hall of Fame catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. Now a motivational speaker and avid golfer, Bench knows a class act when he sees one and picked two very classy gentlemen to inspire the teams, stars who won’t need bats to pump up their players.

The A is a network of websites featuring the world’s best golf and travel writers. The term “The A Position” refers to the idea place a golfer can land his tee shot. On the web, it refers to the site readers will want to land on for great golf and travel journalism.

You have to look for people with a passion for golf. For the U.S. team, the ultimate guy would be Clint Eastwood: He wouldn’t try to overshadow the event, he’s admired and respected by everyone, and he’s a passionate golf fan. And the team would all have “Make My Day” on their bags. For the International Team, even though he’s from Britain, Sean Connery would be fabulous. Like Clint, he has stature and quality, loves golf, and is a gentleman. And can you imagine the two of them standing on the first tee? How big would that be?

—Johnny Bench (shown with current U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples)

You want to spice up the Presidents Cup Matches? I nominate as Celebrity Captain for the International team: Elin Nordgren. And my choice to lead the U.S. contingent: Chris Evert. Each would obviously serve as a terrific antagonist to her respective ex-paramour on the opposing team. Just having them on-site at Royal Melbourne would be a ratings bonanza and competitive wrinkle the likes of which golf has never seen. Further, their participation in this capacity would also strike a blow for WAGs everywhere—WAGs being those “wives and girlfriends,” celebrity and otherwise, who are routinely dragged to sporting events likes these, dressed in feminized versions of team outfits, and obliged to act interested. Dream scenario? Chris and Elin would show up for the opening ceremony then disappear on Friday afternoon for a weekend together at some exclusive ranch/spa, from whence they would strategically leak news of their own romantic involvements. With pictures.

—Hal Phillips,

The captain I would like to see for the American team is FootJoy “Sign Boy” mascot Matt Griesser (right). Loveable super-fan Matt would absolutely relish this, although he might have a coronary from elation and be unable to perform his duties. But imagine the enthusiasm he’d bring. On the International side, there can be only one choice, a man who once shot a 38 for 18 holes including 5 hole-in-ones during his first round of golf—a world record. How can the Internationals lose with North Korea’s Kim Jong Il as its playing-captain? And visualize the team in brown uniforms complete with his trademark four-inch platform shoes. Besides, North Korea’s pint-sized dictator is a master of propaganda and social manipulation and would guarantee his team a victory. Or else!

—Bob Fagan,

Let’s face it: The Presidents Cup is a made-for-TV event, and as such should have TV personalities for its captains, not over-the-hill golfers. I would name German supermodel Heidi Klum captain of the world team, and aw-shucks cutie Reese Witherspoon captain for the Yanks. Both would undoubtedly dress their teams more stylishly than any previous Cup captain—Ryder, Presidents, or otherwise. And if the golf got ugly, viewers would at least have something soothing to look at during interviews. Both are mothers in their 30s, so they’ve got plenty of experience dealing with impetuous children. And who knows what kind of pep talks the guys might get from them? We might see some really inspired golf for a change.

—David DeSmith,

For the U.S. Team, Deepak Chopra, the reigning poet-prophet of alternative medicine and self-help guru extraordinaire. This Indian medical doctor will do what he can with Tiger, who is broken in body and spirit. He gives him a signed copy of his book, The Secret of Healing: Meditations for Transformation and Higher Consciousness. To the others, he reads aloud from his classic, Golf for Enlightenment: The Seven Lessons for the Game of Life. His mantras: Be of One Mind. Let the Game Play You. The Ball Knows Everything. For the International Team, the Dalai Lama. Yes, we know he’s a big hitter. Long. And he’ll have the flowing robes, the whole bit. But the serenity His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama brings to the team, coupled with his extraordinary compassion and sly sense of humor, enables a disparate group of players drawn from Australia, South Africa, South Korea, and Japan to join together as a single unit. This self-described “simple Buddhist monk” is also a brilliant tactician. “Be kind whenever possible,” he tells the team. “It is always possible.”

—Brian McCallen,

Robin Williams captains America’s team. He understands the game, as anyone who has watched the video of him explaining golf’s origins knows. Maybe he was wrong about whacking the ball into a “gopher hole”— Scotland has badgers, not gophers. Bogey there. But he nails the spirit of the game. Golf is unconquerable, and therefore frustrating, and thus perfectly reflects the Scottish view of life. Aye. Which leads to the obvious choice for the Internationals: North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il (right), head of the one country in the world that officially has no problems. And, according to a report from 2004, reflecting the North Korean media’s facility for plausible propaganda, the “Dear Leader” also “enjoys golf, having shot multiple holes-in-one during his first try at the game. He reportedly aced five holes and finished 38 under par.” So Kim’s got that lowest handicap ever going for him, too—he’s got to be at least a +30. That should impress even Vijay Singh.

—John Strawn,

It’s perfectly plausible to revel in the scintillating golf and intense competition of a Presidents or Ryder Cup and still wonder: Can anyone possibly argue that nationalism has ultimately done more good than harm? Nothing wrong with rooting for your team, but I’d like to focus on the purer aspects of golf, less on the fist-pumping and flag-waving. This isn’t to advocate political correctness; actually, my approach would be the opposite. Have celebrity stand-up captains—say, Lewis Black for the Americans, the Aussie comic Jim Jeffries for the Internationals—entertain during pre- and post-tournament festivities. Their admittedly raw styles would have the cumulative effect of taking the piss out of everybody simultaneously. Who knows? It could even improve the quality of play. After all, athletic competition has its place in tempering cross-cultural tensions, but as Mark Twain put it, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

—Tom Harack,

If I were picking a celebrity as the captain of the U.S. team for the Presidents Cup in Australia,
my choice would be Bill Murray, who played the part of Carl Spackler in Caddyshack,
absolutely the best golf movie ever made. Murray is an avid golfer who finally broke into the
winner’s circle in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. I’m sure his antics could loosen up the
American golfers and guide them to victory even if he had to resort to some of his actions
in the movie.

—James McAfee,

I’d go with Cate Blanchett for the Internationals and Cameron Diaz for the U.S. squad. And it’s even possible (if not entirely probable) to look beyond the usual sexist reasons, though there’s no denying that both are babes. Blanchett is an Aussie, which will lend her beaming smile home-court wattage in Melbourne. And it’s not like she’s never had a club in her hand: In her role as Katherine Hepburn in “The Aviator,” Blanchett did her actorly training for a golf scene with Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, not that we ever quite detect her swinging the club.  As for Diaz, she’s been quoted as saying that golf is more addictive than crack cocaine. True, not a slogan Fred will want to sew onto the team blazers, yet indicative of her magnetic zeal. But should boyfriend A-Rod (shown with her, left) join her down under, Fred should keep him away from the practice range: Last big swing A-Rod took was a whiff.
—Tom Bedell,

Call me impractical, but if this year’s President’s Cup is to prove anything more than a good snore-fest, I’d like to see the American and International teams captained, respectively, by Bart Simpson and a kangaroo. Nobody better embodies the American character than Simpson (and I don’t mean Scott Simpson or even Webb Simpson), who blends snarkiness and a devil-may-care attitude with youth and flexibility. Plus he’s got the Jesper Parnevik haircut. A kangaroo provides the perfect symbol for the locale (Australia’s Royal Melbourne) and can likely perform under pressure better than Greg Norman without the distractions of wineries and private jets and endorsements for watches. And if all goes well with this line-up, Bart will replace Tiger Woods with Krusty the Clown—a competitor with a far better reputation.

—Jeff Wallach,

My nominee for celebrity captain for the American team would be The Amazing Kreskin. With his phenomenal psychic powers, he would know in advance who would win each match and pick accordingly.

—Jamie McWilliams,

For the American side, since Michael Jordan doesn’t feel he can leave the country because of the NBA lockout, the only logical person to replace him is the man who is to the golf swing what Elaine Benis was to dancing, Charles Barkley. He’ll keep the team loose, and do some serious damage in the bars of Melbourne. And if the Americans are going to select someone who is famous for his inability to conquer the game, the Internationals should choose the man who mastered it in his first time out: Kim Jong-Il.

—Jeff Neuman,

In honor (make that honour) of the matches being played in Australia, which currently has a female Prime Minister, I nominate two women to captain this year’s teams. For the U.S. team, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is an avid golfer, was provost of Stanford University (maybe she can get Tiger in line), and is already on a book tour so can get her airfare paid by someone else. For the International team, it’s the world’s slam-dunk number-one player, Yani Tseng (right), from Taiwan, who knows how to win with seven victories on the LPGA Tour and another four around the world already this year. Plus, she’s thinking of playing in a men’s tour event soon, so the experience of dealing with male pros can only help her prospects.

—James A. Frank,

“I should be Honorary Captain of the U.S. President’s Cup Team. After all, I was elected President of the United States of America. Global Warmest Regards, Al Gore”

Sent by email through the Internet, which I invented.

—Casey Alexander,

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