San Jose Mercury News

Originally Published: February 05, 2000

Alice Cooper - from rebel musician to golfer

Author: Sam Farmer

Alice Cooper lives to shock people. In the 1970s, during the height of his popularity, his rock-'n'-roll show was a circus. On one tour, he pretended to decapitate himself with a guillotine. On another, he strapped himself into a mock electric chair and threw the switch.

"I was the king of all rebels," he said.

Now, at 52, Cooper has managed to pull off his most jaw-dropping stunt ever...

He has developed a country-club golf swing.

"I think it's funny when I can come in and shoot 74, 75 and beat the dads of my younger fans," Cooper said Saturday after finishing his second round in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. "If you beat the dads, they can't say anything. They can't say, `Alice Cooper, what a jerk.' It's like, `Dad, he beat you by six strokes.' I love beating them at their own game."

Cooper, who has a 9 handicap for the tournament but says he plays closer to a 5, is in the hunt to make today's pro-am cut. After two rounds, he and pro Rocco Mediate are tied for 18th with a 12-under 132, seven shots off the leaders (Tiger Woods and Jerry Chang). About 25 of the 180 pro-am teams make the cut.

It doesn't hurt Cooper's cause that Mediate is playing so well. The 15-year pro shot a 69 at Pebble Beach on Saturday - matching his two-day score at Poppy Hills - and is tied with Mark Brooks for fourth at 6 under.

"Alice is a pretty good player,'' Mediate said. ``We're having a lot of fun. Then again, if you can't get along with me, you have a serious problem. I'm about as easy to get along with as anybody."

On their final hole Friday, No. 9 at Poppy Hills, Mediate and Cooper had a memorable exchange. It was Cooper's birthday, and Mediate was standing over an impossibly long birdie putt.

The banter went something like this: "Hey, Alice, you want another birthday present?"

"Sure."

"Well, here it comes."

Then, with his long putter - one that sports-radio host Jim Rome referred to as a boat oar - Mediate smacked the putt up two tiers in the green and watched the ball curl into the cup. He marched off the putt at 105 feet.

"I could have stayed there from then until now and not made another one," Mediate said Saturday. "It was one of those things."

Cooper knows something about birdies. Last month in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, he played four rounds and collected 13 birdies (not factoring in his handicap).

Cooper sprays his share of shots, too. On the eighth hole Saturday, he misfired on his second shot and struck a spectator, Ray Testa of San Francisco, on the forearm. Testa was watching through a pair of binoculars and never saw the ball coming. Cooper apologized and checked to see if Testa was OK, which he was.

"Did I getcha?" Cooper asked. "Good. I like a man who can take a punch."

When it comes to wending his way around a golf course, Cooper is hardly an overnight success. He took up the sport in the 1970s while on tour with his band.

"I've always been very competitive," he said. "I was a pretty good baseball player, a good singles, doubles hitter when I was a kid. So I just got so bored of being in hotel rooms when I was on tour. One of our guys one time said, `I'm going to go outand play.' I went out with him and nailed a 7-iron right down the middle. From that moment on, I was addicted. It seems like I've played five times a week ever since."

His best rounds include a 67 at Camelback, near his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a 69 at the TPC course at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas, where the GTE Byron Nelson Classic is played. For the past five years, he has had a sponsorship deal with Callaway.

His ability might surprise some people in the gallery, but more and more are learning his game is for real.

"I've got a rep now," he said. "I'm not saying I'm a great golfer, but they know I'm a 5, 6 handicap. So I can't just walk into a game and sucker them. But it used to be that way."

Likewise, fans of his music have changed.

"When I was in my peak of my Alice-ism, I was like the scourge of rock-'n'-roll and the world was going to hell,'' he said. ``Every one of my fans now are like doctors, lawyers. The guys who were teenagers then are like the business community now. But they're still rock-'n'-rollers."