Episode 5 - The Presleys Family

Secret Golf's Steve Elkington visits Branson, Missouri to talk golf with the Presleys', and catches up with Rocco Mediate.


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[MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: On this episode of the Rural Golfer, Steve Elkington heads to the live entertainment capital of the world-- Branson, Missouri, where some folks golf in their own backyard.

-We've never thought of playing the cart path out here.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

That's a great idea.

[LAUGHTER]

Now I can get that 51 over there.

NARRATOR: We take a tour around the new home of the Champions Tour's oldest event.

-I've got to give this course nine stars, and there's only five stars in the star bank.

NARRATOR: And Steve and Rocco take you behind the scenes of the legends.

-Oh, it'll certainly be fun. I love-- the alternate shots are cool. Is it true alternate shot?

-Mm-hmm.

-The Rural Golfer is headed your way.

THEME SONG: One, two, three, fore! We got the Big Show revvin', our eyes are on the map. Where we're goin' next we just can't say. So grab your clubs, let's hit some balls, we're makin' friends and playin' golf. The Rural Golfer's coming your way.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: There was a time when the southern half of Missouri lay dormant. The area, which comprised Stone and Taney Counties, was quiet until the early 1900s. Harold Bell Wright's book, The Shepherd of the Hills, published in 1907, changed all that. His description of the rugged beauty of the area was credited by many as transforming the Ozarks into a national tourist destination. Enter the Presley family, who, in 1963, started the area's first live musical theater in a cave. Yes, a cave, which became known as The Underground Theater, a lively mix of country music, southern gospel, and Ozarks comedy.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

When they became the first to move their show, the Presley's Country Jubilee to Highway 76 in 1967, the seeds of Branson's promise blossomed. And today, the Jubilee's unique show includes four generations of Presleys.

-(SINGING) Travelin' 'round the country on my merry way, I've been in crowds and felt I was alone. But when I feel like braggin', I just up and say I'm a native son of San Antone.

NARRATOR: The Branson, Missouri of today is home to more than 50 live performance theaters, 12 championship golf courses, museums, and, of course, shopping and dining. The promise for Branson continues. It even has its own golf tournament, the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf Presented by Bass Pro Shops. Fitting that the event which gave rise to the Champions' Tour now calls Branson home.

-We got a serious golf ahead. Now would you tell the story about your son about when he shot seven under?

-We were playing at, uh, Leadstone Golf Course here in Branson, just the two of us, and, um, the course record is eight under par from the back tees, and it was set by a pro. We were going into the 17th hole, he was nine under-- nine under-- and I made him put everything,

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

-Yes, he [INAUDIBLE] really was.

-You know, I'm dad, I made him put. Well, his wife called him going into the 17th hole and she said I need you to come home. He was getting ready to leave. I said Eric,

-Well.

-You know.

[LAUGHTER]

-I said Eric, you can't do this. You're nine under. The course record is eight under. He double bogeyed 17, brought him back to seven, and then he part out the eighteen.

-So I want you to explain to me, tell me--

-Yeah.

---that your lo-- what your love of golf is? What, I mean, how long you been playin'?

-Yeah, I--

-Why did you get good?

-I started playin' here in the back yard even when we were-- when I was a little boy and the show would do road shows all winter, travel over the Midwest in a bus. In the top, of above the seats in the bus was always golf clubs, was always wiffle balls, golf ball wiffle balls. Whether it be a school they were playin', yard, whatever, school yard. They would be out hitting golf balls. And that's kind of my very first memory of golf.

-Now I've probably played golf every day that I've been able-- I'm 51-- all day, every day, since I've been able, since I've been 12. And I still think of the same thing every day. And my son, 17, he does the three-on drill too.

-Yeah?

-Yeah.

-That's right. Do you still love it like you used to?

-I do, I do.

-Yeah.

-I've done that, and dad just [INAUDIBLE] I've done that on stage since I was five or six--

-You just keep--

--every night--

---just keep doin' it.

-And it's the same thing. And today, at the Pro Am that was in town, I was on the first tee and I was a nervous wreck. Uh, in the last week, we've probably tried four or five new jokes on the show.

-Oh, he's so skinny he can put his watch on in any direction. I'll tell you-- that way, I've seen him pull it on hear. Everything.

[LAUGHTER]

-It's pretty nice [INAUDIBLE].

-As I was getting ready to go out on stage for that new joke, it felt exactly like that first tee today. It really does.

[LAUGHTER]

-Oh, yeah.

-Oh, yeah.

-And you're either gonna-- you're either going to go out and it's going to sell and they're gonna laugh, or I'm going to go out and I'm going to shank it.

-What does Frieda always say? That when life give you lemons, make a lemon funnel cake and eat it.

[LAUGHTER]

-That's right, eat it as soon as you can with the whipped cream on top.

-I've got to be able to make the ball curve exactly the way I want.

-Yeah.

-Oh sure.

-And t--

-So--

---and distance and everything.

---I like to fade. I like to fade the ball.

-Oh, do you?

-Yeah, I like to hit a little fade.

-Let me ask you-- on your fade, do you hang on a little longer? Do you open your stance?

-I do.

-I'm going to demonstrate it right here.

-OK.

-So if I came in here and I'm hitting at the fac-- I'm hitting at the tractor, and everything being equal, I'm coming down t-- to hit the ball in that square right there at 12 o'clock?

-Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

-If I delay that-- that was a great question. I delay that about a degree open.

-OK.

-I hold th-- the degree open right there.

-Mm-hmm.

-And I'll play that-- I'll play that fade shot.

-And there it is, just soft.

-Just soft right there.

-Yeah.

-Just like that much, you know?

-Back hundreds of years ago when they did St. Andrews, they built a course that the ladies could play on, because they didn't let ladies play the golf course back in the 1700s. And it was called a putting course. Its nickname is the Himalayas. What we're looking at here, I think Tom Watson designed this course with Johnny Morris. And I think we've got a replica here of th-- of the, uh, of the Himalayas. And I love this. I built one of these when I did the Fish Creek course in Houston.

This is where kids come and they just learn to love golf. I'm going to hit a putt up this severe slope. Come on, baby. Here we go, here we go, here we go. Come on, baby. Here we go. OK, go in the other hole, do something crazy. [LAUGHS] And, of course, top of the rock, they've already got the slope in here. They didn't have to build anything. All they've done is basically put a green carpet right over what was already here.

Come on, Come on. So you can spend all day here, really, just practicing your putting, and I just love putting courses like this. Everyone loves put-put. Well, this re-- this is the real put-put right here. That one there looks like you just go right through the saddle and almost straight up there. Now they keep this green pretty slow just so the ball won't roll completely off the golf course. Look at that one up there, you can't even see the whole flag. It's so in a-- I'm gonna see if I can bang one all the way up there.

Hey, that's pretty good. [LAUGHS] OK, I'm going for the crazy one one more time here. Out on the peninsula there, the little-- laying on the edge right there. I've got to-- I've got to judge it just right at the steeple. Can you see the steeple up there? Right up there, up to the steeple. Up over the top, coming down-- oh, that's pretty-- that's pretty good put. Not bad.

This is a driving range. You can shoot over there. And all these bunkers right here, that's white grass for contrast. But how good would you be if you were a golfer and you came out here and you just wanted to practice your iron shots? Let's say you have a fear of just hittin' across water, or hittin'-- you can stand here and hit four buckets over water, and then after that you'd be fine. But is there anything more magnificent looking and the driving range than that right there? I mean, seriously, is that just not the greatest vista in all of golf? Top of the rock, baby.

That's a bird. Well, I've got to give this course nine stars, and there's only 5 stars in the-- in the star bank, so I just don't know how I-- how anyone could put any more into a par three course. And it's got-- it's got everything.

-You know, here we are nestled.

-Nestled. [LAUGHS]

-Nestle--

-We are nestled.

-We are nestled in Missouri, and I want to roll the clock back just a little bit, because you and I have a fair amount of history together.

-Mm-hmm

-We're partners together this week, of course, in the Legends event. And we know the Legends event started in Jackie Burke's office with Jimmy Demaret. They decided that they were going to put a tournament on, and they were gonna call it the Legends. Jimmy Demaret owned Onion Creek over in Austin that he built, and that was the start of it. This week, Rocco and I are going to-- we're playing together as partners in the legend. This is a little different tournament this week. We've got a par three course. They've got us playing alternate shot. They've got us playing this, that, and the other, but at the end of the day, it's all going to come down to hittin' good shots, and--

-Period. It's on. It's gonna be fun. I love-- the alternate shots are cool. Is it true alternate shot?

-Mm-hmm.

-Oh, that's even better. Now here we are--

-How many years? What, 70?

-We went together in the tour school in 1996.

-Yep.

-So 30 years later?

-30-- it's coming up on 30 now. '85, eight-- fall of '85, yeah, eighty fi-- '86. I--I went-- my first was '85. We played the last round at tour school.

-At-- at--

-PGA West.

-PGA West. And Jonesy won, you finished second, I finished third.

-That's right.

-Bang zoom, right up the line. And if I recall on the last hole-- and I'm still mad at you about this.

-I had a chance to beat you then. Back then we played for money. There was money involved.

-There was money, but you were one ahead going to the last. Did-- Jonesy won, right?

-Jonesy won it.

-Yeah, you finished second. I dro-- I think I birdied, whatever. I drove first. I drove right down the pike. And then you-- [LAUGHS] you and Jonesy hit it in the lake.

-We did?

-Yes, you did. So I'm like all right, I wasn't, I'm like all right, we're all making it. But I'm like maybe I'll sneak in and finish second now, right? Or win.

-It was worth like $10 grand.

-You guys both hit on the green. You may like a-- I hit it like 15 fe--

-I remember that.

-You made a bogie. I had like a 15 footer for birdie. Of course, I missed after you made that. And everything worked out perfect, though.

-And that was my birthday that day.

-That was unbelievable.

-8th of December, 1986 or something. I scoured the course today, and I think I should be hitting off the odd holes.

-OK, you tell me. I'm good.

-There's one pin that's, um, to the right of this oak tree that you can't get to.

[LAUGHTER]

-I can't go around and it?

-You can't go around.

-Over there.

-There's a bigger tree.

[LAUGHTER]

So I decided OK, I told-- I told your caddy--

-Yeah, he told Martin. Yeah, he goes-- you can't do that. I said ah, whatever he wants is fine.

-I said I got to go even because I can go over that way.

-[LAUGHS]

-Now I can't make it go in like on the fourth and this other hole, the fifth, but--

-That's funny. What's over there? Another tree? OK, good.

-I gotta go that way.

-I can't wait to see it.

-Yeah, it's gonna-- it's gonna be fun.

-I'll see it tomorrow morning.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

-Is there such a thing as a cross-hand guitar player? I mean, if you get the yips--

-I'll cross-hand

-Is there such a thing as getting the yips with a guitar?

-Yeah.

-There is?

-Yes.

-Really? This, by the way, is-- this is breaking news, because no one has ever asked anyone if a guitar person gets the yips, but you're saying it actually--

-See, I'm not a real guitar players, so I'm telling you. The get the yips like crazy.

[LAUGHTER]

-Really?

-Oh, yeah.

-There's no-- there's funky grips, and there--

-Oh, you talking about guitar playing?

-Yeah.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

---if anyone gets the yips from the guitar--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

-Yeah, I'm gonna you why, where it happens.

-Really?

-It's when you have somebody-- a real great guitar player in the audience with you.

-Oh, and then you start looking at him.

-And then-- well--

-They know.

-Your hands start tightening up a little bit.

-So that's like when we set up and Jack Nicklaus is sitting on the range right next to us.

-Same-- same thing.

-You may find this interesting, but when the guys have gone to the claw and all that--

-Yeah.

---to me--

-Uh-huh.

---and Terry and I have talked about this is when they go to claw and they turn the hand this way, what it does-- upside down, is they make a big wedge. There's a big flying wedge here.

-OK.

-And that flying wedge becomes real quiet to 'em.

-Yeah. Yeah.

-And-- and that's why they can put that way. They think it's-- no anatomical great advantage to having your hand upside down, I wouldn't think. Well, maybe there is. I don't know.

-Some people like.

-They do, but what is it doing atomically is it's quite in the wedge. There's no more-- you can tweak, you can't twitch that.

-I see. That's--

-You know, if you got this, you can tweak-- twitch that, right?

[MUSIC PLAYING]

-I want to ask you, you guys started this show in cave?

-It was a cave in Springfield, Missouri called Fantastic Caverns, and this was the early 60s.

-You're talking about like you go in under the rock?

-Oh yes, it was-- I mean it's a couple of miles back underground. In the early '60s, a lot of people didn't have air conditioning. Cave-- a cave is always cool. Well, it was a summertime show, so people would not only get to come in and listen to us play--

-Were you alive?

-No, he wasn't around then. But it was not only they could get into-- get to come in and listen to music, they got to come and cool off.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

-All right.

-I'd not played a show in there in 50 years. We went back, uh, this past November?

-It's still there?

-Oh, the-- oh yeah. It's still-- it's a huge attraction in this area. But we went back in November of this past year and we did our whole, full, two hour show in there.

-We dragged dad back to the cave, and it was the best experience of my life.

-We was both massage therapists.

[LAUGHTER]

-OK.

-Downtown at the spa.

-Down at the spa.

-Yeah, but they fired us.

-Well, how come they fired you?

-They said we rubbed people the wrong way.

[LAUGHTER]

-So that was a-- awesome for you, and [INAUDIBLE].

-Well, I said I ain't been here in 50 years.

-50 years.

-Acoustics work and all that?

-Perfect, because there's no-- the walls are still all uneven--

-Yep.

-So the sound can't bounce around.

-It became so popular that they thought you should bring this to town.

-Well--

-Is that-- is that-- is that--

-Well, not really. We were--

-What's the exchange there?

-Well, there's a reason we ended up here in Branson. We had another show in another cave, which was over close to Silver Dollar City?

-You upgraded your cave?

-No, there's a smaller cave.

-Worse cave.

-So what we did--

-You downgraded--

-Downgraded the cave.

-This is confusing. The show--

-You paying money? You pay always to go in there?

-Oh, we get-- the people, uh, they paid like $1.

-$1.

-$1.

-This is in 19--

-62. We built the first real theater in Branson.

-Tell him why you built is that theater.

-That's it. Same location, but we've remodeled probably seven times. We've-- the first theater seated 363 people. Well, nobody knew if a show would work in Branson because it had not been done.

-Branson was a-- a-- a--

-Was a fishing--

-Fishing place.

-So we built the floor in the theater flat, put big double doors on the back in case the show didn't work we could park boats in there for people in the wintertime. We can rent-- rent--

-So you hedged your bet--

-Well, that's exactly.

---with storage.

-So, so, so, now in all these years we haven't had to put one boat in there so far. But that's a true story. This is my first car.

-No kidding.

-My first car. I bought it in 1966. It's just pretty much original everything.

-I drive one of these, these guys.

-Oh, yeah.

-And it will still run 100 miles an hour.

-Will it? Really?

-Yep.

-All right, you got this car when?

-Well, right before we were married.

-Mm-hmm.

-But-- and then we moved from Springfield, Missouri down here. Well, this was the middle of nowhere. And I still work in Springfield, Missouri. And I would drive this back and forth every day, and I couldn't afford the gas. So I sold it. And meantime, I bought a red Volkswagen exactly like that.

-[INAUDIBLE]

-Told the guy i-- if you ever sell it, call me back.

-Call me back.

-Called me 10 years later, said I'm gonna sell it.

-That was about 1977.

-[INAUDIBLE]

---tomato read almost.

-You see the color of our building?

-Yes, sir.

-A lot of red around here.

-Got it.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

-You're a tourist attraction.

-Yeah, we're not just in the music business. We're probably a tourist attraction first.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

-Not many people know that--

-You're the most popular show in Branson, you have been for 50 years--

-Well--

-And you're the-- you're the stalwart of Branson. Everyone that comes here, everyone that I've spoke to, every piece of history that I've asked everyone about, your show is one that no one misses when they come here. Is that right?

-Well, we have-- we have big crowds, and thank the good Lord they're still showing up.

-All right, now show me your put.

-Oh, you want to see.

-We're gonna- we're gona-- we're gonna follow you over to the theater tonight and we're going to--

-All right.

-What's the-- what's the break here? Up to the right lip?

-You know I moved away from the high side over there, so. I believe I can get this. [GROANS] [LAUGHS]

-That's got a chance.

-I hope that goes in.

-It's in. It's in. [LAUGHS]

-We have to go to work.

-Yeah, let's go.

-Time to go.

-[INAUDIBLE]

-That may have been the best put I've ever seen [INAUDIBLE].

-That was, yeah.

-How neat was that?

-Yeah.

-Once we get on the stage, now that's fun.

-Yeah, that's-- it's getting ready.

-It's getting all the prep work done.

-That's true.

-Yeah.

-That's true.

-Come in.

-Now this is all your weapons, right? This is a tools right here?

-Yeah, that's part of 'em.

-Dad collects guitars. He hasn't got a new one since--

-I got a new one since, what, day before yesterday?

-[LAUGHS]

-The guitar I bought day before yesterday was a 1951 Gibson.

-Each one got a personality, is that right?

-Oh, sure.

-Yeah.

-Yeah, abso-- and the-- but the main thing is I just like 'em.

-Yeah.

-It's g-- I guess it's kind of like a guy with too many girlfriends.

-Girlfriend. Yeah, well--

[LAUGHTER]

---get you in trouble [INAUDIBLE].

-You get too many girlfriends.

-Do you collect anything?

-Nah. Golf clubs-- a whole lot of those are mine. But yeah, that's always been my thing.

-That's my oldest son, Scott.

-Steve, Steve Elkington. I saw the show the other night. Thank you, it was great.

-He's our guitar guru.

-Yeah, he's the-- you ask who's who, you said who's the musician.

-So you basically come off the golf cour-- you come in here, you--

--right through the door.

-That's it?

-That's it. Yeah. -Uh, this is serious out here.

-It is.

-I-- this is-- hey, this is the time that I got to get-- this is your course. I'm out-- I'm outta here.

[LAUGHTER]

-OK, y'all. Thank-- thanks very much. Good luck. Thank you.

-Branson's first family of entertainment proudly presents Presleys' Country Jubilee.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

-This is interesting, because this is a part of golf that doesn't challenge me. So just to see the other side of the spectrum, the big side of the spectrum.

-Right.

-Stadium course is once in a lifetime. This is twice a week.

-I wanted the people that don't have the access to these fanciers clubs to have a chance to learn how to play golf and enjoy the game.

-I'll show you the subtle differences between a blue crab and the Swiss army lobster that's on your shirt.

-[LAUGHS]

-We'll put a crab box out there and back off about 60 or 70 yards and practice chippin', see who can put the most balls on the green.

-Oh, that was close.

-Tell 'em who usually does, Austin.

-This guy.