- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

BETHESDA (AP) - Nobody ever laughs much during U.S. Open week.

Small wonder.

Howls, curses, grimaces and groans, players doubled over with heads in hands _ those are the familiar sounds and sights that hold sway during golf’s toughest test, beginning with the moment players set eyes on the brutal championship layout and lasting until the last putt drops mercifully on Sunday.

Not this year.

In what could charitably be called a pre-emptive strike on the game’s most buttoned-down event, Ben Crane and pals Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan released their send-up of a boy-band video titled “Oh Oh Oh” earlier this week _ poking fun at everything from how players dress to the exaggerated manners on display from tee to green.

To celebrate the launch, Crane, the band’s leader and chief provocateur, arrived for the tournament’s final practice session turned out in pink accents from the tip of his cap down to his saddle shoes.

“All these guys asked at some point if they could do a video and wanted to be in one and so, it just kind of fell into, you know, a boy band-type deal. So we became the golf boys,” he chuckled. “It was kind of hot.”

Judge for yourself on YouTube, where the two-minute long clip had already generated more than 130,000 hits by mid-afternoon Wednesday. It’s not the kind of video you can imagine Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer ever taking part in, though they once posed together in a famous photo wearing women’s wigs.

But as Crane’s manager, Tommy Limbaugh, noted, “I can’t imagine Jack not laughing when he saw it.”

No doubt.

Crane, who’s released a handful of goofy videos previously, wears a crash helmet and bright orange body surfing suit in this one. Watson, playing barefoot, opted for bib overalls and Fowler donned black jeans and jacket with an array of scarfs in typical boy-band style. But it’s Mahan who’s likely to grab the costuming Oscar for his tiger-stripe pants and sleeveless Alpaca vest.

Asked whether he ever imagined golfers promoting their sport that way, the 66-year-old Limbaugh simply shook his head.

“You’re talkin’ to an old football coach when you ask that question. Absolutely not. No way to foresee this day coming,” he replied. But a moment later, he added, “It’s good.”

So good, in fact, that Limbaugh hasn’t found the time to respond to any but a few of the hundreds of e-mails rolling in, nearly all of which have been positive, let alone keep up with requests from media outlets to put Crane on the air. He did appear on a segment at The Golf Channel, where former player Frank Nobel, one of the show’s over-40 hosts, gave the video a hearty thumbs up.

In this era of Twitter and social networking, younger fans expect to see the curtain pulled back on just about every endeavor, including golf. As Crane made his way from the range to the first tee, fans called out “loved the video” on either side of him. He politely said thanks and squelched any talk about the video transforming him into the game’s version of a rock star.

“Just a golfer,” he said pausing. “A golfer who likes to enjoy himself.”

If the blue blazers who run the U.S. Golf Association had any problem with the video, they held their tongues during the organization’s annual “State of the Game” news conference. The PGA Tour, on the other hand, is in the business of merchandising their golfers, which might explain why the video was prominently posted on its website.

Crane made no apologies, saying the timing was intentional.

“We planned it for this week. Everybody is excited about golf this week,” he said. “I thought the timing was good.”

If Limbaugh’s inbox and voicemail count is any indication, Crane is spot on.

“I think genuine interest _ this is interesting to me _ is how many people are crying for more. Just that simple statement: We need more of this in golf. If there’s a constant theme, that’s the theme I’m hearing. …

“I think fans are dying to know golfers _ to really know them. What they see between the ropes is focused on one thing, not showing much emotion, whereas this is really opening up the personalities,” he said, “in a way they’ve never seen them.”


Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org

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