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Stick to the day job, Mr Celebrity

ESPN staff
February 8, 2013
"A true Cinderella story, coming out of nowhere..." © Getty Images

This week sees the famous Pebble Beach Pro-Am, a unique golf tournament - first popularised by the legendary Bing Crosby - that brings together celebrities and successful figures from around the world to play alongside some of the best professional golfers in the game.

The result, at least back in Bing's day, was an unforgettable week on the California coast where the great and the good of American high society hung out in the clubhouse until the early hours exchanging cocktails and tall tales. The modern equivalent could never hope to live up to that romantic ideal and, with wider TV coverage, now what the casual fan sees more than anything else is the questionable standard of play of the non-professional golfers.

So, in the spirit of those celebrities who this week will gamely shank, duff and slice their way around some of the greatest golf courses in North America, we take a look at some big names who tried their hand - to mixed success - at different sports:

Bill Murray - golf (and baseball)

Considering this list is inspired by the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, then it is only fair we reflect on the celebrity who, more than anyone else, has ensured the continuing relevance of the tournament over the years.

An avid golfer, Murray's on-course antics - irreverent without being cheesy, frequent without quite becoming wearing - have lightened up the event for many years (he has also been known to appear at the European equivalent, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship). Then, in 2011, the Caddyshack star actually went and won the tournament, alongside journeyman pro DA Points. A true Cinderella story, indeed.

Not only is Murray a huge golf fan, but he also dabbles in baseball. A part-owner in a couple of minor league baseball teams, his official title with the Charleston RiverDogs is 'Director of Fun'. Unsurprisingly, it is a responsibility he takes very serious.

Vanilla Ice - boxing

A Wikipedia page we cannot recommend highly enough - Celebrity Boxing. The Fox television show apparently ran for all of two episodes in 2002, with Vanilla Ice one of the many 'celebrities' to listen to their jaded agent's bare-faced lying and agree to take part.

According to the Wikipedia page, Ice fought acting titan Todd Bridges. The report of the three-round bout reads, "Bridges was in control throughout nearly the entire fight, flooring Ice in rounds one and two. All three judges scored the bout 30-27 in his favour."

To see Vanilla Ice knocked to the canvas twice? Fox viewers never knew how lucky they were...

Elton John - tennis

Did you know that Elton John hosts a charity tennis tournament every year? Did you also know that the famed musician plays doubles with a famous ex-player?

Maybe you did know, maybe you didn't. But you probably could have guessed that the man behind Rocket Man isn't that good at the game - as this YouTube clip indicates. Although, in fairness, maybe hard court just isn't his surface.

Boris Johnson - football

The current Mayor of London makes this list for THE BEST tackle you will ever see. Pity the poor German, Maurizio Gaudino, on the receiving end.

Johnson, who warned before the game that he had not played football since he was 18, was unapologetic about a tackle that even Roy Keane wouldn't have unleashed on Alf Inge Haaland.

"There was no malice in my actions," Johnson, who was described in one newspaper as moving around "like a slightly rusty blond helicopter", insisted. "I was going for the ball with my head, which I understand is a legitimate move.

"I felt an enormous sense of achievement every time I actually touched the ball."

George W Bush - cricket

Back when he was president of the free world - seriously, how did Americans let that happen?! - George W Bush took a visit to Pakistan in 2006, where he tried his hand at the national pastime, cricket (although it might have more fun to watch had it been kabaddi).

A huge fan of America's own national pastime, baseball, Bush reportedly thought the skills would translate across the divide. Apparently they did not, however, as the Texan managed to hit just two balls bowled at him, while also taking one on the shoulder.

"I don't quite have the skills yet," Bush said afterwards. His bowling hardly looked much better.

Vernon Kay - American football

Watchers of Sky Sports' coverage of last weekend's Super Bowl will already be aware that Kay - who actually spoke remarkably insightfully about the game when invited into the studio - is something of a gridiron nut.

A safety for the London Warriors, Kay has been to the Brit Bowl twice - although he has not yet won the big one. Considering the standard of some of the other players in the team (a few ex-semi-professionals still run out), Kay might just be the best player on this list. Although that might just be damning with faint praise.

Justin Bieber - basketball

He may be better known as a popstar, but did you know Bieber actually has an NBA All-Star game MVP award on his CV? Okay, so the award came in the 2011 Celebrity match during All-Star weekend, but it still counts (sort of).

In the early years of his fame (although back then, if you were like us, you were already hoping they were the later years), the then 5'5" Bieber showed good skills - especially for a Canadian - in the game; as he had eight points, four assists and two rebounds for the West, although they ultimately still lost.

Nevertheless, other players were impressed. "He has the softest hair," said former LA Lakers player Rick Fox.

"He played pretty well," added the Chicago Bulls' legendary Scottie Pippen, "but he has an ugly shot."

The official NBA.com report noted breathlessly, "Bieber, who turns 17 next month, will be eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft." Wait, that's THIS YEAR! Will Bieber be the big draft pick that turns around a struggling franchise in 2014?!? We'll have to wait and see (he almost certainly won't be).

Kiefer Sutherland - ice hockey

Another great Wikipedia page (albeit in a more minimalist style than 'Celebrity Boxing') - NHL All-Star Celebrity Challenge.

What it reveals, unbelievably, is that none other than Jack Bauer agreed to compete in an event that sounds like a bad idea in pretty much every possible way. Yes, Kiefer Sutherland turned out for 'Bruckheimer's Bad Boys', a squad managed by the famous film director. And you know what? The Bad Boys eventually won, 11-10, too.

Personally, however, the one thing we really just can't believe is that Frank Gehry wasn't even drafted for either team. What's a world-class architect gotta do to get a little respect around here?!

Tom Cruise - Formula One

"Tom Cruise stars in secret F1 test", read the headline on the OFFICIAL FORMULA ONE WEBSITE. Yeah, a real secret that must have been. So top secret it was published to the world. Almost, almost like it was all a brazen exercise in PR...

Anyway, by all accounts the Mission Impossible star - among countless other films - was not even that bad, cutting 11 seconds off his lap time over the course of his testing at the Willow Springs circuit in California.

"Tom's the real deal," ambassador David Coulthard told Red Bull's website. "I was surprised that he picked it up so quickly and is such an accomplished driver. His recall was incredible considering how complicated driving an F1 car is. He's a guy who really pushes the envelope in real life.

"This day was not green screened. He thoroughly impressed me."

It was not all good, however, as Cruise suffered a mild spin towards the end of his run (see the end of the video, above right). He brought the car back onto the track, however, with Coulthard noting: "The impressive thing is he went off the track, but he had the presence of mind to get the car back on track."

Cruise, meanwhile, observed of the RB5: "It's not as good on the dirt as it is on the track." We can only hope Sebastian Vettel's feedback is similarly nuanced.

Sir Patrick Moore - snooker

This is a complete cheat, really - the late, great astronomer did not actually play snooker in this ... but rather sat and watched as professional partner Alison 'Buttons' Fisher represented him on the Big Break.

Which, from our recollection, was an unbelievably great show - but call us liars if we can't admit that YouTube has ensured it has been unable to age gracefully. Why ever was John Virgo in some sort of cat costume?!

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