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Kid Rock adds star power to city’s first Rocket Mortgage Classic

Susan Whitall
Special to The Detroit News

It was a subdued, classic Kid Rock who teed off in the Area 313 Celebrity Challenge Tuesday: White stingy brim hat, black shirt and white shorts. He could’ve been Cary Grant in the 1930s, if Cary had a ponytail and a goatee. Where are the American flag pants?

“There’s always tomorrow,” the Romeo-born rocker said, chatting before play began. What, no long pants?

Jerome Bettis and Kid Rock on the 15th green.

He gave a long look. “Bob Ritchie isn’t playing tomorrow. Kid Rock is playing. It’s like, I was playing with Jack Nicklaus down at his club in Florida, I’m a member there, and I don’t know — I was wearing some clown outfit. He looked at me. I said, Bob Ritchie knows how to dress for golf. Kid Rock is playing.”

As Bob Ritchie, Rock is a proud member of the Detroit Golf Club — it’s not far from his Detroit house, on the river. He also has a home in Northern Oakland County, and his place in Nashville. “Don’t have to do cold winters anymore.” But he spends much of his summer in Michigan. He was happy to help his friends out at Quicken, and make several appearances during Rocket Mortgage Classic week at the historic club, along with Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, local and national athletic celebrities and three PGA pros: Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.

Fowler said he liked the course, “I love old school courses.” And he like the way they modernized it by lengthening some of the holes.

“There were a lot of Spartans out here today,” Izzo said, and his reception at each of the three holes was as fervent as those for the homegrown rock star.

More: 'It was a thrill': Tom Izzo, other celebrities tee it up with pros at Detroit Golf Club

Although there was no sign of Johnson’s on-off partner, Wayne Gretzky’s daughter Paulina, or other celeb types, Rock’s brother, Billy Ritchie, did accompany him to the event. On Wednesday, Earvin “Magic” Johnson is expected to be a spectator at the Rocket Mortgage Classic pro-am event.

Emily Gail, as in “Say Nice Things About Detroit,” was in the media scrum, wearing the brightest yellow shirt on the course, with her evergreen Detroit slogan emblazoned on the front.

She’s always loved golf, tried out for the LPGA as a young woman, and worked as a golf writer for some time. “Golf has always been s part of my life, But I gave it up for a long time because they were so conservative in the Midwest about what you could wear on the course.”

After years living in Hawaii, Gail now splits her time between Hawaii and Detroit, where she hangs out in the lobby of the Foundation Hotel. “We encourage anybody to come hang out in our lobby, you don’t have to be staying here,“ said owner Bob Lambert, who took a rare day off work to attend the Celebrity Challenge with Darrough Collins.

The Detroit Golf Club has its own celebrity culture; Levi Stubbs, lead singer of Motown’s Four Tops, lived just off one of the greens, and his groupmate Duke Fakir lives nearby.

Rock knew that. He’s also proud of the fact that Marvin Gaye reportedly hung out at his Detroit house, back in the day.

While he’s a fair golfer for a musician, Rock says the two best are Alice Cooper and Vince Gill.

There’s no pressure in the celebrity events, he insists. Not anymore.“They’re not here to see me play golf,” he grinned. “They’re here to see a pink elephant.”

Grounds tickets for Saturday and Sunday are already sold out, but ticket options for other days are still available for spectators online at RocketMortgageClassic.com or at the Rocket Mortgage Classic box office at the Detroit Golf Club.