For father-son bonding, you couldn’t pick a sweeter venue, but in Timberlake’s charmed life, merely playing at the home of the Masters wasn’t enough. Along the way, he eagled the famed 13th hole, holing-out a 9-iron from 135 yards.
Once merely thought of as a lightweight boy band crooner, Timberlake has emerged as one of the 21st century’s most protean pop culture figures. But for all of his high-profile success as a singer, actor, producer,”Saturday Night Live” funnyman and serial dater of starlets, Timberlake’s real passion is golf. His single-digit handicap is only one manifestation. Timberlake is simultaneously making golf both cool and eco-friendly.
Through regular appearances at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Bob Hope Desert Classic, Timberlake has injected a much needed youthful vitality into two of the PGA Tour’s oldest tournaments, and his cutting-edge on-course fashion has forever shattered the image of golf as a haven for bad plaid. Through his pro-am cameos Timberlake quickly became an indispensable asset to the Tour, and in 2008 he was awarded his very own tournament, the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The eponymous host took a moribund event played among Las Vegas tract houses and instantly made it the sexiest stop on Tour. The highlight of the tournament week is a benefit concert Timberlake hosts to raise money for the Shriners. In 2008, the 3 1/2-hour jam session lasted until 1a.m. and included a lineup of some of the biggest acts in pop music: Rihanna, Leona Lewis, the Jonas Brothers and the group that inspired Timberlake to first pick up a microphone, ’90s sensation Boyz II Men.
Timberlake blew the roof off with a raucous closing set during which at various times he shared the stage with Adam Levine of Maroon 5,Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent and, not least, Lionel Richie. Among the many professional golfers in attendance was Stephen Ames, who told me, “This concert is the whole reason I played this tournament.”With a nod to his sons who were underfoot—Justin, 12, and Ryan, 10—Ames said, “There’s no way they were going to miss this.”
Timberlake’s latest golf-related labor of love is Mirimichi Lakes, the course he owns near his hometown of Memphis. The same piece of earth used to be Big Creek Golf Course, a public track where Timberlake learned the game. In 2007, Big Creek was going to be plowed-up and turned into a housing development, so Timberlake swooped in and bought the place for $800,000.
Some $15 million in improvements later, the course was rechristened—Mirimichi honors Timberlake’s Native American roots and means “place of happy retreat.” Timberlake not only built a world-class public course but also a model of ecological responsibility. Captured rainwater is used for irrigation, and native grasses planted just off the fairway cut down on the course’s overall thirst. The 43,000- square-foot clubhouse—home to Justin Timberlake Enterprises—is largely solarpowered.
For all these efforts, Mirimichi was the first golf course in the U.S. to receive Audubon Classic Sanctuary certification from Audubon International.
Timberlake may be remaking golf in his own image, but his attraction to the game is the same as everybody else’s: the thrill of a purely struck shot.Timberlake can trace his love of the game to one swing.
“I remember I hit one amazing shot off the tee, straight down the middle,” he told Golf Digest. “I got to thinking, maybe I could play this game. The golf swing is very, very rhythmic. There’s a certain tempo to it, just like in music. It just made sense to me.”