Bill Murray takes on So-Called Expert in Week 8 of NFL Challenge

By Randy Youngman,

Another week, another celebrity guest prognosticator who e-mailed me a golf story in the hope he would be chosen to challenge the So-Called Expert.

How could I turn down a request from the great Bill Murray?

“I enjoy your work,” Murray said when I called to give him the good news.

Naturally, I told Bill I also enjoyed his work, especially in “Ghostbusters,” “Groundhog Day,” “Caddyshack” and “Stripes.”

“That’s a fact, Jack!” Murray, said repeating a famous line from the Army comedy “Stripes.” Surprisingly, Bill did not start singing, “There she was, just a walkin’ down the street, singin’ do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do . . .”

As you probably guessed, the Bill Murray who sent me a three-page essay on the late Cypress Golf Club in Los Alamitos, alternately his favorite and least-favorite course in Southern California before it was demolished in 2004, is not an actor and comedian but rather a longtime tax accountant who lives in Long Beach.

“But it’s a rare day I don’t get a comment about my name,” Murray said. “Yes, it’s my real name, as it was my father’s and grandfather’s, so I’m the third.”

Oh, and by the way, Murray says, there was once an uncle in the family named Donald Duck.

Seriously.

“He was 40 when Disney came out with the character,” Murray said, laughing. “He lived in Guam and when we wanted to call him over there, we had to warn the overseas operator that we were going to say a (funny) name and not to hang up.”

For what it’s worth, the tax accountant from Long Beach also says, “The famous Bill Murray is the better actor, and I am the better golfer.”

Having watched the famous Murray hack it around in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am over the years, I am not going to dispute that assertion. Besides, the Long Beach tax accountant is still a 7 handicap at age 60. And back when he played Cypress with his buddy Larry Brown (a university professor, not the nomadic basketball coach), Bill once carried a 0.5 index.

Bill and Larry were members who paid $450 a month for unlimited golf privileges and Bill estimates he played Cypress at least 600 times before it closed and was ultimately replaced by a church.

I can also testify that the not-so-famous Bill Murray is a very good writer, who described his love-hate affair with Cypress Golf Club, where he became a member after the course was redesigned by Perry Dye and transformed from a par-66 executive course into a diabolical par-71 championship course by new owners in 1992.

I’ve never played a Pete Dye course I wanted to play again, and Murray points out that Pete’s son, Perry, used most of the usual gimmicks to trick up Cypress: railroad ties, deep rough, tight fairways and water, water everywhere.  “It was penal golf,” he said of the Cypress course that was constructed on both sides of the Los Alamitos Race Track, with a few connecting underground tunnels (perhaps to bury the body bags).

How penal was it?

“For starters, there was water lurking on 14 of the 18 holes,” Murray wrote. “Management once proudly told me that every six months over 4,000 balls were removed from the lakes at Cypress. . . . Also, partially for safety between holes and partially because he was apparently potty-trained too early, Dye created huge mounds on the sides of the fairways and covered them with elephant grass.”

I don’t know why they call it elephant grass, but perhaps because it was so tall at times you could lose an elephant in it. It was brutal. And the thing I remember most about those grassy knolls is that they obscured what was happening on adjacent holes, making it the most dangerous course I’ve ever played, with balls flying at you from every direction. And no one yelling “Fore!” because they couldn’t see you.

Maybe that’s why there were few complaints when Cypress shut its clubhouse doors in August 2004 to prepare for the wrecking ball.

“In a moment of pure, divine irony, that swampy site that might have been the Capital of Swear Words was replaced with a new mega-church,” Murray wrote.  “Was I sorry to see the demolition of Cypress Golf Club? It was a difficult call, but I have decided that for my own mental health, the closing was positive.

“Cypress was not Formula One, it was Demolition Derby. Cypress was not ‘running with the bulls’; it was getting trampled in a soccer riot. Cypress was not Miss America; it was the ‘before’ pictures at a Weight Watchers meeting. . .. Cypress was mean golf, angry golf,in-your-face golf. .  . It was like a freeway warrior who cuts you off and then gestures wildly at you for not getting out of his way. A bully who enjoys his work.

“Oh, Cypress, I’m glad I knew ye . . . but miss ye? Are ye crazy?

“Cypress Golf Club – RIP.”

Amen.

And now that the dearly departed Cypress is not an option, Murray has become a member at Candlewood Country Club in Whittier. And for being chosen to pick the NFL games this week, Murray also gets to play ultra-exclusive Shadow Creek in Las Vegas this weekend.

OK, somebody else invited him, but it sounds good. And hopefully Murray was too distracted to do research for his NFL picks before he left. “My picks are a combination of analysis, unsubstantiated conjecture and prayerful consideration,” he said. Perfect.

The less said about last week, the better, but the So-Called Expert lost to golf company exec Mark Scheibach of La Quinta by one game – instead of winning by one game – because Tampa Bay had touchdown passes disallowed on the final two plays in its 35-28 loss to New Orleans.  One Bucs receiver had a toe on the back line, and another receiver was pushed over the end line before coming back in to make the catch. (Scheibach’s 11-2 record maintained his overall lead in California Golf’s “Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge.”)

Yes, I believe in conspiracies, but there was no Zapruder film to examine before California Golf needed my prose this week.

Ready or not, it’s time for this week’s NFL predictions, with a lot of golf balls on the line, as usual.

Here are the So-Called Expert’s picks and comments, noting the three games on which Murray and I disagree:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2): Vikings. Strange matchup for a nationally televised Thursday nighter on NFL Network. Maybe the Bucs will have a chance if their wide receivers don’t step on or over the back line of the end zone while catching passes. (Yes, I’m bitter.)

San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (1-6): Chargers. If blowing a 24-0 lead at home against Broncos wasn’t enough to get Norv Turner fired, do you think a loss to NFL’s worst team this week would do the trick? Norv better not tempt fate.

Oakland Raiders (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5): Chiefs. Chiefs are benching Matt Cassel and starting Brady Quinn this week; too bad, because I would have liked to see ex-Trojans Carson Palmer and Cassel do battle. Did you know Cassel backed up Palmer during his Heisman-winning season in 2002 and that they were USC roommates?

     San Francisco 49ers (5-2) at Arizona Cardinals (4-3): 49ers. Remember when Arizona was 4-0? I don’t, either. But if Cardinals can win this “Monday Night Football” showdown, they can move back into a tie for division lead. Dream on.

Atlanta Falcons (6-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3):  Falcons. (Murray picked Eagles.) Falcons are fortunate to still be undefeated, but I’m going to ride ’em until the streak ends. Besides, Michael Vick usually finds a way to self-destruct.

New England Patriots (4-3) vs. St. Louis Rams (3-4) in London: Patriots. Will someone explain to me why these teams had to leave the country to play? Maybe if we’re lucky, Bill Beli-cheat will be detained at the border and New England will be forced to decide to stay in Old England permanently.

Indianapolis Colts (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (3-4): Titans. Slowly, the Titans and RB Chris Johnson are creeping back to respectability. Did you know Tennessee was the only underdog to win last week? And it took a 15-yard TD pass on 4th-and-9 with 1:03 left. (Yes, I’m bitter.)

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Green Bay Packers (4-3): Packers. As if Jaguars didn’t have enough problems, RB Maurice Jones-Drew is out with a foot injury and QB Blaine Gabbert is dinged up. Why is Aaron Rodgers salivating?

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New York Jets (3-4): Jets. (Murray picked Dolphins as his Upset of the Week.) Miami is coming off a bye week and Jets are coming off a draining overtime loss to Patriots, but I’m going with the home team.

Seattle Seahawks (4-3) at Detroit Lions (2-4): Seahawks. Despite their hard-fought loss to division-leading 49ers, Seahawks impressed me enough to pick them on the road against disappointing Lions.

Carolina Panthers (1-5) at Chicago Bears (5-1): Bears. Will someone tell Cam Newton to be a team player and admit he hasn’t been good enough to get Carolina over the hump? The Carolina GM already lost his job, and Coach Ron Rivera’s head could be the next to roll if Newton doesn’t play better with the game on the line.

Washington Redskins (3-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3): Steelers. Both teams have played better than their records indicate, and Skins QB Robert Griffin III has been a revelation, but I’m going with ever-resourceful Ben Roethlisberger at home.

New York Giants (5-2) at Dallas Cowboys (3-3): Giants. G-Men will be motivated to avenge season-opening home loss to Dallas, which hasn’t won a game against a team with a winning record since then.

New Orleans Saints (2-4) at Denver Broncos (3-3): Saints. My Upset of the Week. (Murray picked Broncos.) Saints have won two in a row since an 0-4 start, so I think Drew Brees has them headed back in the right direction. Peyton Manning can’t keep leading comebacks, can he?

Byes this week: Baltimore Ravens (5-2), Buffalo Bills (3-4), Cincinnati Bengals (3-4), Houston Texans (6-1).

Last week: Mark Scheibach, overall Football Pool leader, 11-2; So-Called Expert 10-3.

Season totals: Guest prognosticators 60-44, So-Called Expert 59-45.

Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge winner: Rick Baumgartner (13-0!) won random drawing among four contestants with perfect records. Other perfect marks: Jake Morrissey, Sulpicio de Guzman and Mark Plinneke.

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