Steve Spurrier makes no secret of the fact that, next to family and football, his No. 1 passion is golf. But South Carolina’s coach insists that he doesn’t mix his sports seasons; when fall arrives each year, the clubs go in the closet, not to be seen until, hopefully, after a bowl game.
That needs to be noted here, because Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Golf Channel, viewers (including Gamecocks fans) will see Spurrier’s non-football side. The coach – who currently is busy with his struggling, 1-2 team – will be the guest on “Feherty,” Golf Channel’s eponymous talk show hosted by David Feherty.
Spurrier and Feherty, whose post-playing TV career has displayed his talents both as a commentator and freelance comic, recorded their show during the July 4th holiday at the coach’s vacation place in Crescent Beach, Fla. The two men talked golf, football and even baseball, and shot footage at one of Spurrier’s regular courses.
This all took place long before USC’s losses to Kentucky and Georgia, and before Feherty, a staple of CBS’s golf coverage for 19 years, left the network to join NBC/Universal, which also owns Golf Channel. Summer likely was a calmer time for both.
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So why feature Spurrier on a show that has profiled Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Judy Rankin and other giants of golf? Feherty said he looks for “interesting” subjects, and felt Spurrier fit the bill.
“My subject has to be interested in golf, and I knew Steve was a mad-keen golfer,” he said this week. “Anyone who wears a visor has to have something to do with golf; you don’t see it anywhere else – maybe occasionally in tennis, or playing cards.”
Feherty doesn’t limit his guests, or topics, to golf, though. Alabama coach Nick Saban, an upset loser to Ole Miss last week, will appear on “Feherty” Sept. 30. Talk about dubious timing.
Potential guests are suggested by his staff, Feherty said. “(Executive producer) Keith Allo was a Florida guy. He said, ‘How about Steve Spurrier?’ – that’s how that came about.”
Turns out Spurrier and Feherty were a good match. “It was fun for Steve; he just thinks (Feherty) is wonderful,” said the coach’s wife, Jerri. “It’s like when you’re with (country musician) Kenny Chesney,” another Spurrier pal. “It was easy to like him.”
That was the case for Feherty, too. “I always think it’s interesting to see someone you have a perception of, based on what you see on TV, and then you hear from someone else that they’re actually not like that,” he said.
“(Spurrier) was one of my favorite interviews, having had that perception of Steve only from what I’ve seen. A lot of people would think he’s frustrated all the time. He’ll go berserk on the sideline, jumping up and down on his visor, and (you think) ‘Oh jeez, that poor man.’ This must be driving him up the wall.
“But it doesn’t. It’s certainly a big part of his life, but there are a lot more important things than football to Steve Spurrier.”
Family most of all, Feherty said. He and his Golf Channel crew spent three days on the shoot, including a day on the golf course, and were around Spurrier’s extended family (four children and a dozen grandkids). A revealing moment came, Feherty said, when “I asked the kids questions about their dad, and they weren’t shy about talking about their dad in front of their dad.
“He’s kind of the godfather of that whole clan. It’s interesting to see a man’s family stick to him like they have, and to be married as long as he has been – you’re talking about a person who’s worth knowing.”
Feherty says he also enjoyed being with Spurrier during dinner out with the coach’s family. “Everybody at the restaurant knew him, and that’s another thing I appreciate about people in the public eye; he’s very approachable,” Feherty said. “He doesn’t have this aura of magnificence, where people are afraid to go and say hi.”
As for the golf, “We played one hole,” Spurrier said with a laugh. “I hit a pretty good tee ball, but then it took me about four tries to hit the green (on his approach shot). I did hit one to about eight feet, so I suspect that’s the one they’ll show.
“It was a fun thing to do. He’s an interesting guy. We had a good time that day.”
In fact, said Feherty, “I showed him how to hit a little checking chip, and he chipped it straight in the hole (Spurrier’s regular golf partners take note). He took instruction very well (and) hit a bunch of good shots on a windy day.”
When the two sat down in “my sort-of little trophy room down at the beach house,” Spurrier said, their focus became his collection of baseballs – not footballs – from his Science Hill High School days. One ball, from his state championship season, evoked a detailed recollection of Spurrier pitching – and also driving in the winning run – in a 5-4 win against Kingsport, Tenn.
“That’s one thing I’ve noticed about successful people,” Feherty said. “Jack Nicklaus remembers every single shot he hit in every win … but he doesn’t remember a (darn) thing about losing.
“Steve can tell what’s important to him. It’s not that he doesn’t learn from having lost, but he’s convinced you don’t need to remember it. You just move on.”
Good advice for the coach, and his counterpart at Alabama. Seeing themselves soon on “Feherty,” both might want to remember that.