Nov
5
2009
The Evolution of Rickie Fowler
By Stephanie Wei under General

Yesterday afternoon I dropped by Chelsea Piers for a press event centered around Rickie Fowler, 20-year-old Wonder Boy Who Will Save The PGA Tour. It was supposed to be “really informal” but after being there for five minutes it was obvious that “really informal” doesn’t exist within the Rickie 2.0 hype machine. Basically, I got to see Rickie Fowler paraded around like a well-groomed poodle at the Westminster Kennel Club.

Last week a PR rep asked me to give the general gist of what I was planning to ask him, so Rickie wouldn’t be caught off guard. Question 1: “Do you have a girlfriend?” PLEASE DO NOT ASK THAT. (But that was conveyed very nicely, of course.) Just “stay away from more personal stuff,” the PR lady explained, unless it “comes up naturally.”

I walked in the top deck of the driving range and I was greeted by the two PR people running the show. Small talk, small talk, nice-to-meet-yous ensued and then came Rickie, who politely introduced himself with a welcoming handshake.

“Hi, I’m Rickie.”

He’s confident, personable, and Southern California chill.

I asked him about his Q-school status. He smiled and said, “Well, it’s kind of confusing.” But his explanation was clear:

With the money I’ve earned the last two [starts], I’m within last year’s top 150 [on the PGA Tour money list] which takes me to the second stage [of Q-school]. And then if the amount of money I’ve earned stays inside this year’s top 150 at the end of the year, I’ll be exempt for the finals. Right now, it looks like I’ll head straight to finals. [But] I have one more week, which is [the] Disney [Classic.] Depending on how I finish there, I have a chance to move into the top 125 and not have to go to Q-school.

He added he’d probably need a top-ten finish at Disney.

Then it was back to the hitting station, where his entourage of handlers (seven-ish) hovered.  After he pounded some drives over the net into the Hudson River, he was reminded by the PR Lady (politely, of course) that drivers aren’t allowed at Chelsea Piers because Chelsea Piers has this weird rule where you’re not allowed to hit your driver because if a ball lands in the Hudson, then it could kill a seagull or some dolphins or something. I guess. But really? Who’s going to yell at Rickie Fowler?

The show switched to a chipping contest with the entourage. Lots of “OOOOH, he got it!!” and “Rickie is my homeboy” cracks. Yes, some people actually said “Rickie is my homeboy” out loud. Why?

Yep.

Next, I met Rob Walters from YouTube’s golf channel and BunkerShot.com. I was his “talent” for the interview with Rickie. The camera was ready to go. Rickie checked his hair in the mirror. Oh, I guess I should, too. (Stay tuned for the video.)

I also got to chat with him one-on-one or basically as one-on-one as you can get with Rickie Fowler since he always has people surrounding him like any sports star would.

Afterward one of his handlers said, “So, I hear you were a good golfer. Hit some balls, let’s see your swing.” I couldn’t resist. I kicked off my ballet flats, grabbed a wedge and warned them I hadn’t touched a club in months. Rickie turned around to watch. Pressure. Decent contact made (phew). Better on the next few.

Where did you play [in college]?” Rickie asked. I went to Yale — yeah, not really comparable to a top-tier golf program.

“Well, it’s definitely a top-tier school. I went to Oklahoma State, so I didn’t have to study much,” he said, half-joking. As soon as the little sliver of 20-year-old-kid truth eked out, one of his handlers quickly smashed him in the back of the head with a lob wedge before he could say anything else. (Kidding!)

Oh, I learned more about this “Rickie 2.0” thing. Rickie’s website is developed to fully integrate the digital experience for sponsors, fans and clients. You know, branding, and it’s a better way for his sponsors to track and monetize their golden investment.

I liked Rickie. He’s a genuinely good guy. He’s charming, funny and “edgy.” I just hope his personality doesn’t get stifled as Rickie 2.0 continues to grow.

By the way — for the record — Rickie does indeed have a girlfriend. Sorry, ladies.