It’s not enough that Darius Rucker has lived a seemingly charmed life over the past 20-plus years – first as the lead singer for the South Carolina-based rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, and more recently as a Grammy Award-winning solo country music star.
Now the Charleston native has figured out a way to indulge his other passion – golf – on-air, no less, and even improve his own game in the process.
This past July, the affable singer’s monthly golf talk show, “On Par with Darius Rucker,” debuted on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio. In three hour-long airings so far – the fourth is due out later this month – Rucker has chatted with PGA Tour players Kenny Perry and Pat Perez, both long-time friends and pro-am partners.
“They (Sirius XM) had asked me to do it for a while, so I finally decided to do it – and I love it,” Rucker said from his home in Charleston. “The thing is, I’ve been interviewed a million times, but I’d never really done interviews (with others).
“I always thought, ‘Man, 20 minutes, that’s a long time to talk, it’ll take forever.’ But the guys I’ve interviewed … Pat Perez, you ask him a question and stand back.”
He laughed. “They make it so much easier. They have a lot to say, and I love it.”
Rucker has plenty to say about golf, too. He took up the sport as a kid, but being an internationally-known music star will open a few country club doors. He’s played in pro-ams with Columbia native Dustin Johnson and has recently become buddies with Rickie Fowler, two of the game’s biggest names.
He also gives back to golf. He and his Hootie mates host the Hootie at Bulls Bay men’s collegiate tournament – his alma mater, USC, is always in the field – and he has his own women’s college event, The Darius Rucker Invitational, at Long Cove on Hilton Head Island. He says when college coaches tell him that his events are some of the best they play, “that makes you feel like you’re doing something right.”
Rucker usually records his radio show –which airs the fourth Wednesday of each month at 3 p.m. EST and repeats over the next four weeks – practically in his backyard, working out of studios on U.S. 17 near Mount Pleasant. “I’ll tape (the upcoming installment) there, and it’ll air in about a week,” he said. That lets me work the show around music travel and family – and, this time of year, USC home football games.
“This is all brand new for me,” said Rucker, who majored in broadcast journalism at USC. “I did a couple of things for classes and stuff like that, but never like I’m getting to do with the PGA show.”
What he believes had made the show work is its laid-back approach, “really more of a conversation than an interview. It’s just me talking about golf, about golfers; it’s me trying to bring a more human side to the players – what kinds of music do you like, which movies, what’s affecting their lives.”
After going solo the first show “because I wanted to introduce the show, talk about golf and my game,” his first on-air guest was Perry, “and it was a lot more relaxed than if I was talking to someone I didn’t know. Pat Perez, too; those are guys I’ve known a couple of decades, and that makes it easier.”
Now, after his trip to the recent Presidents Cup near New York, Rucker says he’s ready to bring in some of the game’s young guns. Besides the media-savvy Fowler – “I love him,” Rucker said – and the Johnson brothers (Dustin and brother/caddie Austin; “we go way back,” he said), he’s also met Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who both quickly hit it off with the singer.
“P. Reed and I instantly connected, first at the (2016) Ryder Cup and now the Presidents Cup,” Rucker said. “A lot of the older guys know me” – some 20 years ago, Hootie & the Blowfish did a music video with Jay Haas and Fred Couples, among others – “but I’ve been lucky to get to know a lot of the younger guys, too.
“At the Presidents Cup, they were saying, ‘Hey man, I dig your show,’ and (I’d say) ‘You want to be on?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah.’ So it’s really cool.”
Rucker also discovered, to his delight, that Reed is perhaps his biggest fan among PGA Tour players. “On his (PGA Tour) bio, he says his favorite singer of all time is Darius Rucker – that was kind of wild,” he said. “And then I met him, and he’s a great guy.”
There’s a side benefit all this golf bro-mance: “My chipping has gotten so much better because of talking to those guys,” Rucker said. “I was an awful chipper until a couple of months ago, and now I’m doing well.” A tip from Dustin Johnson about using his shoulders in his chipping swing was the key; “If (the players) are hitting balls or whatever and you ask, they’re always ready to help.”
Looking back now at nervousness before the show’s first installment, Rucker says he can’t help but laugh. “It’s come at the right time for me,” he said, “but I do look back and think, ‘Man, I should’ve done this two years ago.’”
Not exactly his toughest gig, for sure.