Fred Funk and showing some Skins on the golf course

Fred Funk is a friendly guy. Great name, for sure. Part button-down, part soul music.

Everywhere the professional golfer goes, people follow like he’s the pied piper. He’s not big and strapping like some of these dudes who bash the little white golf ball so far you can’t stand next to them by the tee markers and follow the flight until it lands 350 yards away in the fairway.

According to the PGA Champions Tour’s official web stats, Funk stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 165 pounds. He turned professional in 1981. The native of Takoma Park, Md., was the golf coach at the University of Maryland before he got good enough at the game to make a living playing it instead.

He attended the big university in College Park, too. That’s where my first story here on the Blog of Funny Names gets a little funkier. I, too, went to the University of Maryland.  At the same time as Fred Funk.

 

His driving length earned Fred Funk the nickhame Poof Poof. (Getty Images)

His driving length earned Fred Funk the nickhame Poof Poof. (Getty Images)

I can surely remember the day the spunky little dude with the blazing blue eyes and the funny name came up to my roommates Greg and Mike and I at the tee, introduced himself, and joined us. For a couple of holes, here’s how it went.  Fred Funk hit the fairway with his drive and found the green with and iron and stroked his putt into the hole. We’d smack our drive somewhere and search and whack our second shot somewhere and scratch our heads and he’d even help me look for my ball and I’d skull a wedge over the green and eventually, finally,  miraculously somehow  sink a 30-footer for triple-bogey.  Then Fred Funk politely said he had a class  up shortly enough and continued onward by himself.

That class likely was the next morning, yet we did not blame him a bit, so good was he and so regular-hacker were we.

Fred Funk will not recall any of this, I am sure. I wish I could say I remember it because of that great name, the one that rolls right off the tongue, never left my head. But the tale goes more like this: After I graduated in 1979 I became sports editor of the newspaper headquartered in College Park and assigned a reporter to write a story about Fred Funk, local guy and aspiring golfer.

Fred Funk’s golf game got better, but slowly. He made the PGA Tour to stay in 1989 at the age of 33, a late bloomer for sure. He won his first PGA tournament, the Shell Houston Open, in 1991. By then, I worked at the big daily in Syracuse, N.Y., and began making sure that I attended the B.C. Open in Endicott, a suburb of Binghamton, to follow Fred Funk around all four rounds. I met and made friends with his dad, Stan, and after I told him of my (small) Maryland ties with Fred, he made sure Fred knew who I was. We all ate lunch together in the caddie trailer. We rode to and from the driving range in the players’ only van.

Fred Funk won the B.C. Open in 1996, this little guy with a big heart (and funny name). But every year it seemed he had the biggest crowds following his group. I was standing next to Stan the day Fred shot his best round ever, a 61, and was next to Stan at the green for Fred’s hole-in-one, which brought tears to his dad’s eyes.

Fred Funk, left, and Jeff Sluman won this baby as a team. The saw must be in the background. (Getty Images)

Fred Funk, left, and Jeff Sluman won this baby as a team. The saw must be in the background. (Getty Images)

In total, Fred Funk won eight tournaments on the PGA tour, and then nine on the champions tour, where he’s still playing at the age of 58. Get this. Fred Funk has won more than $31 million in official money on the PGA and Champions tours. Remember, though, Fred Funk was a friendly guy before he won a dime and his collection of interesting looking trophies.

Here are stories that add to the legend of his name.

His galleries, the fans that follow him around at tournaments, liked to call themselves Funk’s Punks.

At some tournaments, Funk’s Punks would split up on either side of the green. One side would yell “Fred.” And the other would yell “Funk.” This in a sport where marshalls hold up signs that say shhhhhhh.

When Fred Funk played with Fred Couples, he would point out himself that big driver Fred’s nickname was Bam Bam, and he was more of a Poof Poof.

During the Skins Game, Funk made a bet with Annika Sorenstam, the top woman golfer in the world who was part of that year’s foursome, about who would drive the ball longer from the tee.

He lost.

Make a bet with a really good woman golfer and here's what happens. (Getty Images)

Make a bet with a really good woman golfer and here’s what happens. (Getty Images)

And to settle the bet, Fred took the skirt Annika pulled out of her golf bag, pulled it on over his golf pants, rolled up his pants legs, and continued to play the hole of the nationally televised event.

One afternoon in Endicott, N.Y., as we stood by the side of a hole, Stan told me about another, less successful pro golfer by the name of Fred who’d introduced himself to Stan years back and told him he’d changed his name before trying to make it on the tour. Stan told me to guess what the guy’s real name had been. He let me squirm, too, as I ran through Bob and Joe and Harry. Stan shook his head slowly for the punch line. Nope. Last name. The guy had been named Fred Funk. Two Fred Funks … no way! The one we have is an original.

Mark Bialczak,  avid Terp.

Mark Bialczak, avid Terp.

This is Mark Bialczak’s debut post for BoFN. He posts daily about music, movies, sports, life and many things at markbialczak.com. Through November, he’s hosting team Nano Poblano a collective of bloggers for NaBloPoMo.

 

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About markbialczak

Mark Bialczak is a veteran journalist. He started his blog, markbialczak.com, in February, 2013, to write about music, entertainment, sports and life.
This entry was posted in funny names in golf and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Fred Funk and showing some Skins on the golf course

  1. Pingback: For my first entry to the Blog of Funny Names, I offer Fred Funk | markbialczak

  2. Liz says:

    Mark is here, yay! I know nothing about golfers (except for I think Adam Sandler played one on Happy Gilmore and Bob Barker was a part of it, too), so you are providing a fine education. Love that Double F has a sense of humor and can laugh at himself by donning a floral pink skirt and play a manly sport. His name brings to mind one of your groovy jazz greats, too 🙂

    • markbialczak says:

      FF has a good sense of humor about a lot of stuff, but watch out when a putt doesn’t go in and he’s in contention. He only gets steamed at himself, though, Liz. He wouldn’t fight Bob Barker like Happy Gilmore — yup, Adam Sandler. Good call there, non-golfer. Thanks for the welcome to yur BoFN writer roster, Liz.

  3. kerbey says:

    Way to go, Mark! Funky debut for you, and a personal account as well. I’d never heard of him, as the ignorant-of-golfers only know Palmer, Nicklaus, and Woods. Now I know four! That pic of him in the middle looked to be a coffin at first, and I thought, that’s pretty bad-A to have a buffalo on top of your coffin. In any event, that skirt makes him look boxy, not foxy.

  4. Oh, that is truly an unfortunate name! lol

  5. laflor5233 says:

    I certainly won’t forget the name. Good job Mark.

  6. wdydfae says:

    Luckily, I got my sports metaphor algorithm working on my blurb generator!

    “. . . with amazing confidence and assurance for an inaugural post, Mark Bialczak drives the eight ball clear across the field goal and scores a triple play . . .”

    “. . . we haven’t seen a debut post like this since Kerbey carried the pigskin over the green and spiked it onto home plate . . .”

    “. . . like a slam dunk dribbled down the fairway, Mr. Bialczak deftly swings the mallet and knocks this baby straight over the bogey line . . .”

  7. Arto says:

    Fred Funk! A great name to start off your BofN career, Mark!

    I loved that he taught people how to play golf “until he got good enough to make a living playing it instead”.

    I’ve never played golf, but I enjoy the attire and the personalities involved, so I’m sure we’ll have more featured on these pages eventually.

    To try a blurb myself, “…that’s a home-run-in-one!…”

  8. Dave says:

    Great debut Mark! Great post, with tons of funny anecdotes!

    I didn’t know you were a Terps fan! I always thought Maryland Terrapins was one of the best mascots in college sports, up there with the S. Carolina Gamecocks and The Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens. Wake Forest Demon Deacons is way up there too!

    So great to have you here!

    • markbialczak says:

      Thanks, Dave. We Terps love our shelled mascots! Of course, though, when our squads choked (ahem!) my roommate and I would look at each other and say, in unison, “big heads, little necks.” That’s our beloved turtles. Gamecocks and Blue Hens are good, yes, but they don’t have a Steely Dan song named after them like Wake Forest does in “Deacon Blues.” The verse. “They got a name for the winners of the world. I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon Blues.” Love me Fagan and Becker. Now you have me rolling, Dave. Glad to be part of the BoFN team!

    • Liz says:

      Ah-hem–Dave. Can you come over here a second so we can chat without anyone else hearing? *Dave joins Liz in virtual corner* So then, wondering why Mark wasn’t formally introduced to the BoFN-dom by you, their great and magnificent (and overworked and terribly busy, I know) King? Mark is worth it, don’t you think?

  9. ksbeth says:

    what an excellent debut, mb! you’re a great addition to the funny names team. love the funk story and funk’s punks and his spirit. i’m sure you taught him everything he knows on the course, kind of you to let him take all of the glory )

  10. Fabulous debut post, Mark! Welcome aboard the BoFN team.

    Now about those points we are accruing, I’m certain some day Dave will open the BoFN gift shop for you to spend all those newly accumulated points. Liz can bring snacks, you and Diddy can orchestrate the music, we can make it a party for the grand opening.

    Love the Funk Punk groupies. We have a local famous person in the Pacific Northwest and everyone says, “Honk for Fonk”. Wonder what would happen if they ever met? Poof, Poof and Honk . . . 😉

    • Liz says:

      awesome, Fannie. You’re good with poofs, honks, funks, and such 🙂 And heck yeah I’ll bring snacks (and cocktails) for the gift shop. When did Dave say it was opening?

      • Ooooh, and cocktails, maybe some poptails if it’s in the summer time.

        Since Dave has never committed to an opening date, I’ll just keep the pressure up by mentioning it every once in a while. ‘Cause I’d love to spend my points on the miniature Horsey award. 😉

  11. Pingback: Here’s to King Dave, who taught me about more than funny names | The Blog of Funny Names

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