“Let’s see that ‘Sexy Back’ swing!” Kacey Adams, of Roseville, shouts to Justin Timberlake as he prepares to tee off. A wave of laughter ripples through the gallery swarmed around hole No. 6 at Edgewood Tahoe.
Timberlake, wearing a trim-fitting polo, khakis and Air Jordans, doesn’t react — not a smile, not a smirk, not a chuckle.
JT — arguably the biggest star playing in the American Century Championship golf tournament — is laser-focused. Plus, it’s no doubt the 8,000th time the 10-time Grammy Award winner has heard “SexyBack,” his 2006 lead single off of “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” punned on a golf course.
Narrow-eyed and tight-jawed, the singer/dancer/actor triple-threat is acting like a professional golfer on this sun-splashed Friday at Edgewood Tahoe for round one of the American Century Championship.
Indeed, Timberlake is not your average celebrity golfer. He’s not just hitting the links for giggles. Playing in his fourth ACC, Timberlake’s best finish from three previous appearances is 21st place (out of nearly 100 participants) in 2016. Further exemplifying how serious JT is about golf, the chart-topping artist is wearing a ball cap with the words “Big Creek Golf Club” — a golf club in Arkansas, per a Google search — stitched on it.
As he tunes out the song title puns, Timberlake takes practice swings. A few feet away, Tony Romo, next to the tee after JT, is taking practice swings of his own. Their swings are practically mirroring each other.
Adams, Corona in hand, can’t help herself. She lofts another pun in Timberlake’s direction.
“It looks like their in sync,” she shouts.
Steeping up to the tee, the former member of NSYNC, a ’90s boy band with countless smash-hit singles, smashes his drive.
“Keep going … now stick!” Timberlake commands the white dimpled sphere as it sails toward the pin. The ball obeys, sticking deep on the fairway of the Par 4 hole. He went on to sink a par-saving putt.
like i love you
Following along Justin Timberlake on a golf course for nine holes is like following along a king who is walking through the city square outside the kingdom. If Jordan Brand, which has collaborated with JT on shoes, inexplicably made a “Justin Timberlake” jersey, it would probably outnumber the sea of Steph Curry and Aaron Rodgers threads being worn at ACC.
Shouts of “I love you Justin!” — from men, women and children — shower the Reigning King of Pop at every hole. Truthfully, it’s probably the most common thing overheard during the ACC. It’s a greeting JT probably hears more often than “hi” when he’s in public. He must hear “I love you” so often that it quickly becomes white noise when he hears it from someone who isn’t Jessica Biel.
At least that’s how it appears early on during the first round. Timberlake is showing nothing but his game face.
For Sophie Jacobo, of Stockton, California, watching JT drive and putt is a much different experience than watching him sing and dance.
“This is the first time I’ve seen him not perform,” said Jacobo, who’s seen JT in concert more than 20 times. “It’s so different. I was telling my mom … ‘I know he’s super competitive, but you could really see it.’”
An avid fan of Timberlake’s dating back to his Mickey Mouse Club days, Jacobo, wearing a JT “Man of the Woods” t-shirt, said one of the reason she’s such a fan is because he’s “good to his fans.”
CAN’T STOP THIS FEELNIG
OK, JT is starting to loosen up. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, he’s sunk two pars and a birdie on his last four holes.
After teeing off at No. 7, Timberlake leans forward and blows a kiss at a woman in the crowd who, like many on this Friday morning, is professing her love to the pop star. She hoots and hollers in response. He shakes his head and flashes a quick smile.
A hop is in JT’s step. He’s not quite dancing, but his feet are shuffling and shoulders shimmying with every strong shot. Almost like he’s teasing the mass of people who are hoping he busts out a choreographed dance number in the tee box.
Rose Held, of Reno, who joked to the Tahoe Daily Tribune that her name was “Mrs. Timberlake,” is doing everything in her power not to duck under the boundary rope and run to meet him.
“I’m a sane person — but still, I really want to do it,” Held said through giggles. “It’s exciting to see him. It’d be more exciting if I could get a little bit closer, but I got a pretty close picture. Almost close enough to touch him. Almost.”
Perhaps if she were an adoring young fan, Held would’ve had her chance.
Timberlake is dolling out high fives to kids as he walks the fairway on Nos. 8 and 9. Upon penciling in his first nine holes, Timberlake breaks his stride as a young girl approaches him with her iPhone. He bends down for a photo with the girl, who nervously snaps a selfie and says, “I love you, Justin.”
He’s smiling bigger than ever now.