Johnson, Gretzky team up at Monday After the Masters

04/16/2013 10:41 AM

04/18/2013 1:01 PM

Returning to Hootie & the Blowfish’s annual Monday After the Masters celebrity pro-am following a one-year absence, PGA Tour star and local product Dustin Johnson resumed his role as one of the headliners and fan favorites at The Dye Club a day after finishing the Masters in a tie for 13th place.

But on Monday, he wasn’t the biggest name in his own group.

Johnson teed off with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, which made for perhaps the day’s most interesting pair of playing partners. The Coastal Carolina alumnus and Columbia native is dating The Great One’s daughter Paulina. Thus, neither the NHL Hall of Famer nor the 17th-ranked golfer in the world could escape the cameras without taking a few non-sports questions before their round.

“It’s great,” Johnson said. “Obviously, me and Paulina have a really good relationship and I’m very good friends with Wayne and Janet (Jones Gretzky). We’re really close, so it’s really nice for them to come over and support this charity and this cause and have some fun today.”

The Gretzkys were in attendance in Augusta over the weekend, supporting Johnson as he shot a 2-under 70 Sunday to secure his best finish at the Masters. Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, said he and Johnson had played a few rounds together before — including at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am — and at the golfer’s request, Gretzky made his Monday After the Masters debut.

“Those guys are really incredible athletes,” Gretzky said of the event’s pro field, “and they play the game of golf at a whole different level than the rest of us. So, actually, it’s really fun to watch and be around.”

As for his daughter’s boyfriend, Gretzky shared his approval.

“I had a chance to spend the last few days with his family – his mom and dad and grandparents. Really nice family,” Gretzky said. “We come from sort of similar backgrounds — blue-collar families. My mom and dad worked hard, and my wife’s mom and dad worked hard and you can tell his upbringing is really good. Yeah, we had a tremendous time the last five days.”

The weather cooperated well enough as the celebrity long drive contest teed off at 10 a.m. followed by the start of play. Actor Alfonso Ribeiro of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” fame won the long-drive contest with a drive of 307 yards.

Meanwhile, Hootie & the Blowfish front man and country music star Darius Rucker stood in the back of the tee box taking it all in while again marveling at the continued strength of the event.

“We started this 19 years ago just to have fun and meet some people. I can’t believe it’s been 19 years,” Rucker said. “The fans keep coming out, the celebrities keep coming out and the pros keep supporting it. When you look at Golf Digest, they do a top-20 pro-ams (list) and you’re right behind Pebble Beach and the Bob Hope, that makes you feel proud (to) know you’re doing something right.”

Rucker said the event has raised around $3 million in its time on the Grand Strand. The money supports the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation — a variety of charities including a focus on South Carolina education causes — and the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation.

 ” he said. “It’s a cool thing.”

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