PGA Professional/Professional Actor Greg Osbourne Spreads Gospel of Golf From Both Sides of the Camera as Teacher, Security Guard on ‘Las Vegas’ TV Series
If you watch television, you’ve probably seen PGA Professional Greg Osbourne – even if you don’t know him by name. He’s the guy with the modeling-agency good looks and a golden golf swing who starred in Titleist golf-ball commercials during the 1980s and early 1990s. He also has begun shooting his fifth season as “Greg, the security guard” on the hit television series “Las Vegas” while continuing to star as a golf instructor at DeBell Golf Course in Burbank, Calif.
If you’re a movie or television aficionado, you’ve undoubtedly also seen Osbourne’s most famous friend and golf student – actor James Caan. He’s the guy who played alongside John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in the western “El Dorado” (1966); starred as Chicago Bears’ running back Brian Piccolo in “Brian’s Song” (1971); was nominated for an Academy Award for his work as Sonny Corleone in the mafia epic “The Godfather” (1972); played opposite Alan Arkin in “Freebie and the Bean,” and 35 movies later ascended to television stardom as casino security chief “Big Ed” Deline on the TV series “Las Vegas,” which began in 2003.
Osbourne, who played football at Glendale College in California with current Philadelphia Eagles Coach Any Reid and achieved All-American golf accolades at Cal Lutheran in 1984, has owned a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card longer than his PGA membership card. But golf has been the universal key that has opened a shag bag of career doors for the 49-year-old Osbourne, who has not only become a golf instructor of the stars in Southern California, but also become something of a celebrity himself while helping Caan, Sylvester Stallone, Cheryl Ladd, “Las Vegas” TV series heartthrob Josh Duhamel and a litany of “Las Vegas” guest stars perfect their golf swings.
“I wouldn’t know one one-hundredth of the people I know, if it weren’t for golf,” assures Osbourne, who was enrolled in the PGA Golf Professional Training Program for several years in the 1980s, but didn’t complete the coursework to earn PGA membership until the 21st Century in the Professional Golf Management (PGM) program. “Golf has opened a lot of doors for me and helped me develop a lot of great friendships and relationships. Now, I’m a full-time golf instructor, part-time coach and part-time actor. Golf has been an important part of my life ever since I was very young, when my father introduced me to the game. Everything I’ve ever done has been based around golf.”
Osbourne met Caan more than 10 years ago when the PGA Professional was teaching golf in California’s San Fernando Valley while running a transportation business to put some coin in his coffers. The two hit it off and began practicing and playing golf two or three times weekly. They would often close down the range at L.A. Country Club, joking with each other that “that one sounded pretty good” while hitting balls into darkness late at night. Caan, a 10 handicapper with a perfectionist attitude, and Osbourne have become a favorite team attraction at charity-celebrity golf events. When Caan lived in Park City, Utah, they won a tournament at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Park Meadows Country Club (Caan’s home club at the time) while needling each other throughout the round.
“We have a unique relationship on the golf course,” chuckles Osbourne. “We yell at each other and challenge each other to play better. At Park Meadows, we were yelling at each other and then we stopped and posed for a photographer who was taking pictures of the teams. That photographer probably thought we were going to kill each other, but that’s just how we communicate with each other. We have a lot of fun.”
After the television pilot for “Las Vegas” received rave reviews and the series went into production, Caan demanded two things on the set of “Las Vegas” in Culver City, Calif. – PGA Professional Greg Osbourne and a hitting net, so the star actor could work on his game during breaks. Caan then arranged for central casting to consider Osbourne for a part in “Las Vegas.” After all, Osbourne had “starred” in 15 television commercials for Titleist and he was a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
“The day after the Las Vegas pilot aired, Jimmy Caan and I played golf at his country club all day long,” recalls Osbourne. “He turned off his phone and the whole world was trying to reach him. He must have had a hundred messages when he turned his phone back on. His voice mail was full. That tells you about his devotion to golf. When I mentioned to Jimmy that I had my SAG card, he said ‘I’ll take care of you.’ The very next day at 8:30 in the morning, I got a call from an assistant director for Las Vegas. Two days later, I was on the set playing a security guard named Greg. Later that first season, I got my first speaking part and I started doing some stand-in work for Jimmy, too. It’s been a great experience.”
As the “Las Vegas” series begins shooting its fifth season, Osbourne has appeared in 65 episodes and had 10-12 speaking parts. Behind the scenes, he and Caan have remained loyal to the game they love. In fact, hundreds of technicians, actors and directors were prepared to shoot a long, climactic scene two years ago when the director looked around and noticed Caan was missing in action.
“Everyone was in position to shoot an important scene and everything was a go, but nobody could find Jimmy,” recalls Osbourne. “I said, ‘Hold on a minute, I might know where he is.’ I went back behind a big staging and props area where we had our hitting net and there he was working on his swing. He said, ‘Hey, Greg, take a look at this, will you?’ So I start talking to him about his takeaway while walking him back to the set. Finally, we get to the set and the director says, ‘Thank God. I won’t ask where you’ve been because I already know.’ Jimmy stepped right in, shot the scene as smooth as silk, and then he went back to the hitting net and continued working on his swing. Absolutely amazing.”
“Greg is insanely passionate about golf and teaching golf,” observes Caan, “and I really like that. He gets more pleasure out of seeing somebody make progress with their game than anything. He's a maniac. He gets so much joy when you do it right, and he knows he can let me know when I don’t do it right. He has transferred his passion for the game to a lot of people over the years, including myself and anyone who has ever visited the set of Las Vegas.”
As Osbourne receives more air time on “Las Vegas,” he can use that as an icebreaker with his students at DeBell Golf Course in Burbank, Calif.
“The scope of a television series like Las Vegas is amazing,” says Osbourne, who captained the cast of Las Vegas to a resounding victory over the cast of the TV series “Crossing Jordan” in a golf tournament. “Every time I have a speaking part, I receive hundreds of text messages, e-mails and phone calls from students, friends and my fellow PGA Professionals saying they saw me on the show. When I’m trying to get a new golf student interested in lessons, I’ll always ask them if they watch Las Vegas, and they usually say yes and warm up to me after they realize they may have seen me on the show. It’s a fun way to reach people.”
Another story about Caan and Osbourne on the set of Las Vegas is becoming legendary. While shooting a scene in the narrow back alley of the set, with buildings, windows, trees and luxury cars along each side, the free-spirited Caan throws down a wash cloth in the middle of the road and tells Osbourne he’s going to hit a 7-iron straight down the alley and over the cars, trees and buildings at the end.
“I couldn’t bear to look,” laughs Osbourne. “Jimmy’s been known to hit it a little sideways occasionally, and I was pretty sure he was going to break something. But he hits that 7-iron off the wash cloth just dead solid perfect. The ball goes straight down the alley, perfect trajectory, up over the trees and buildings. It was a perfect shot. I told him it was the best shot I ever say him hit. He said thanks for the backhanded compliment.”
The Osbourne-Caan relationship has grown in golf to the point where Osbourne recently accepted the head golf coach position at Glendale College in California, hoping to revive a college program that was discontinued in the late 1980s amid budget constraints. Osbourne quickly enlisted Caan to serve as his volunteer assistant. Caan played football at Michigan State University, but he can take it deep on the golf course, too.
“I think college kids will get a kick out of working with Jimmy Caan and myself,” says Osbourne. “Jimmy communicates well with everybody, and he has developed a real passion for golf. Heck, he tells me what I’m doing wrong now. I think we can help a lot of young players improve and qualify for scholarships to four-year universities.”
As a PGA Teaching Professional and actor, Osbourne is comfortable on both sides of the video camera.
“I still give as many lessons as I possibly can; teaching golf is still what I do and what I gain the most gratification from,” says Osbourne, whose golf teaching techniques are chronicled in Cheryl Ladd’s recent book entitled “Token Chick.”
“Ever since I went to work for (PGA Master Professional) Carl Welty at La Costa in the 1980s and began using video to augment my teaching, I have learned how effective video teaching can be in helping students see and understand their swings,” say Osbourne. “Today, with computers, you can show all the positions of a swing and show a student immediately what they can do to improve. I’m a strong fundamentalist who likes to emphasize how a proper setup and finish determines the success of your golf swing. Video and computers have made it very easy to demonstrate those principles. It certainly simplifies the communication process.”
Osbourne sees many similarities between the characteristics it takes to become a golf professional and a professional actor. He admires Caan’s ability to memorize scripts and act out the scene naturally, sometimes eight or 10 different times so various camera angles or lighting effects can be captured. Meanwhile, Caan admires and respects Osbourne’s ability to develop a reliable, repetitive swing and execute a variety of different golf shots on demand.
“Teaching golf and acting are similar in that you really have to dedicate and discipline yourself to be good at either one,” analyzes Osbourne. “People respect that I’m a PGA member. It tells people I’m a professional teacher. When Jimmy Caan goes up to Sly Stallone and introduces me as his friend and a PGA Professional, it’s a great feeling when Sly Stallone says, ‘Wow, so you’re a golf professional. Can you help me with this or that?’ It’s instant credibility to show that PGA crest and PGA membership card. When we go on location once in a while to shoot Las Vegas, I’ll call up in advance and tell them I’m Greg Osbourne, a PGA Professional. I ask if my friend Jimmy Caan and I can get a tee time later in the week. I’ve never been turned down as a PGA member. Similarly, I have a great deal of respect for actors and what they do since I have been part of the cast of Las Vegas. Some days, Jimmy must memorize pages and pages of script, and then he has to deliver that dialog right on cue, or he has to do it again and again until the director likes it. It’s not that easy, I’ll tell you that.”
For PGA Professional Greg Osbourne, he is mastering the art of acting while continuing his career as a teaching professional. He has a standing bet with his friend and fellow golf aficionado Jimmy Caan. Will Jimmy become a PGA Professional first, or will Greg get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame first?