HOUSTON – Peyton Manning held court as he did on so many Sundays during an incredible career in the National Football League that spanned 18 seasons and included Super Bowls for two different franchises.
And while he wasn’t the only celebrity at a private event held on Wednesday at Truth BBQ, just a few miles from Memorial Park – the site of this week’s Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open – he was certainly the biggest. PGA Tour star Keith Mitchell and Manning’s former teammate Owen Daniels were among the others floating around the room, but Manning was undeniably the focus of attention.
And while standing up in these scenarios, Manning is far from amiable and even begins his appearance by filling out a name tag and attaching it to his lapel as if those who showed up weren’t making him stand out from the crowd.
Manning’s life after football has played a lot of golf – he’s a member of Augusta National, among others – and his appearance on The Match with Steph Curry was an entertaining showcase for his golfing talents.
In pictures: Peyton Manning’s golf life
And now Manning, Mitchell, tennis star Andy Roddick, Jim Nantz and a host of other partners are in full swing as the group’s 9-hole Sweetens Cove has become one of the golfing favorites and often considered a must-see for them in the area. The group began distilling bourbon and is hoping to expand into multiple markets under the guidance of CEO Mark Rivers, who was also in attendance on Wednesday.
The partners brought in Marianne Eaves from Tennessee as master blender. Known as Kentucky’s first female master distiller since Prohibition, Eaves spent time at Castle & Key and Brown-Forman and was named one of America’s Top 40 Tastemakers by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Golfweek caught up with Manning during the crowded event to talk about golf, bourbon, football, and his memories of Houston.
Q: You said earlier that you are a scratch beer drinker and a 14 handicap bourbon drinker. How is this taste for you?
Occupation: I am still probably not qualified to give you the correct terminology. I just like the story that goes with it. Just start with the golf course. It’s kind of hard to find, hard to get, but when you get there it’s worth the time and effort. You think it’s similar. It’s not super accessible.
But when you go out of the way to find it and get it, it’s like, wow, it’s really special. So I just like that. Obviously, I care about Tennessee, and so you know that every time I’m in the state of Tennessee, I have this peaceful, easy feeling – not to quote The Eagles – and when I think of Sweetens Cove I see the bottle, know you? , I see ‘volunteer to share’, I have fond memories of my time in Tennessee and the people there.
And now that I’m in this second chapter, what I miss most about football is my teammates who are on that team. And so now I find myself in different teams and it’s fun to be part of the Sweetens Cove team.
Q: Why was Texas an important market for you? And how did that go for you?
Occupation: Yeah, obviously I just think that you probably know the answer is that Texas is only critical in this area when you, you know, take it seriously and we weren’t sure how to do it.
You know, this started out as a kind of fun project with the golf course because of this tradition we saw before our eyes, that people have a whiskey before they take their first shot. Leaving the group’s bottle behind – a completely organic, informal tradition.
Maybe we should start our own (bourbon) – still fun. And then suddenly we make an authentic connection to Marianne from the area, from the Chattanooga area, again, maybe that can be real, you know, I told someone, football critics are tough, but Bourbon critics are downright tough.
I don’t hate the term ‘celebrity spirit’, but I don’t think it is. It’s Mariannes. But it hurts (reviewers) to have to give us a good rating because they don’t think you are spending the time and effort on it and if they give you a good rating they think, wow, maybe people like it.
Q: Speaking to Keith Mitchell, these guys on tour are ambassadors for many products, and believe it or not, you’ve received an endorsement or two in your time. (Manning smiles) So Keith turns to me and says, ‘Yeah, I’m not here for any of this (expletive). I’m here because it’s fun. It’s really fun. We have a golf course that is fun and playable and a bourbon that tastes great. ”What is it like to see athletes and other people in this field who are just really looking forward to something and not doing it because they are have to?
Occupation: Well, I think it’s great, especially in these times when you weren’t allowed to be together and you couldn’t have fun in that kind of environment. I think it speaks of how it all started.
We started in the middle of COVID in April 2020. I wouldn’t recommend starting during a pandemic but we did it and here we are. You know, I think every time we have these meetings – we’ve been to New Orleans, Denver, Indianapolis, Dallas, and now Houston; I have a little more visitors than Andy, but there is no need to say that – I love being together. I love to be with people. Like you said, you smile and have fun and see that they really like it. I mean, I can kind of tell if there is someone now who really thinks it tastes good and who doesn’t just say it because I’m there.
Q: It is said that Jim Nantz occasionally drives around playing game after game when the folks at Sweetens Cove are on the tees. Did you ever think it would be something like this? You are a golfer. They love it. But think of Jim Nantz calling golf shots on your golf course. Did you see that?
Occupation: No never. I never mean And to hear Rob Collins (lead designer at King-Collins Golf Design), who built the course, talk about Sweetens Cove before we even got involved and where it belongs is fun.
I mean, you know Jim Nantz related my friend’s 7-iron or 8-iron to my friend Case at # 9 – it’s like you making it up, right? You make it up. And only Nantz can do that: “A little wind is blowing from the east. What do you have there, Nick? I think he has a seven. ‘
I mean the videos are amazing. Jim does it because he loves it. That was cool and Jim is a passionate, romantic guy. He loves the little things and he loves history too. It’s a fun connection to him.
Photos: The Match III – Phil and Chuck vs. Steph and Peyton
Q: Would you have thought that you would have so much fun in retirement? The television, the golf course, the bourbon. Watch you and Eli having fun on Monday night. It’s funny. I mean, except when you dressed Josh Allen and bewitched him, everything else seems great. Did you think it was going to be so much fun?
Occupation: No i agree. It was so much fun. I enjoy having fun. I like to laugh. I enjoy interacting with people. That’s why I did team sports, you know, and I got drawn to team sports and you know, it’s interacting with people and it’s been really fun being part of that team and that’s just the word you’re talking about know people are excited about it.
You have fun. We’re all kind of curious about where it’s going, you know, we’re excited. Everyone is very passionate about it.
Q: We’re here for the Houston Open. Give us some memories from Houston. What do you think of when you come to this city?
Occupation: I have a buddy I went to high school with who’s out here in the crowd – he lives in Houston – and I remember coming to a Houston Dodgers game. Mike Scott hung up. Fernando (Valenzuela) was pitching. (Pedro) Guerrero played. We drove over and I went to AstroWorld.
My father (Archie) played for the Oilers. I was six but we didn’t move here. We stayed in New Orleans. Tuesday is something like your general day of rest, so he took a $ 37 flight southwest on the Monday after your workout and came home to have dinner with us Monday night. He would take us to school on Tuesday and then come back here.
We have to come over too, and I have to be a ball boy for a game here – a Steelers game – and I have to serve Gatorade to the team. So these are my early memories of Houston.
Then when the realignment happened, when the Texans came into the league, we were a little lucky, we benefited from the fact that we got out of this brutal split with the Patriots, Dolphins, Bills and Jets, who were all good at the time. Back then, they all made the playoffs – like three of them in a year. And so we got moved to AFC South and I had to come down and play Houston, which, look, if you’re a new franchise, there will be growing pains.
But in 2002 I remember coming here and it was fun because all of my New Orleans friends came here for this game. Mr. McNair was a great, great man. Someone I met, so I have fond memories of Houston. And my father has fond memories of playing for the Oilers.
Q: Speaking of Owen Daniels – I spoke to him out there and he tells me that he just put a huge simulator in his garage. His wife told me that he goes out every day to hit balls. Where do you stand with that? Do you play a lot And by the way, he says he hasn’t played Sweetens yet. You have to get him out of there.
Occupation: I know i do. I mean, a lot of people want to go play. I’m all for guys like Owen playing there.
In Denver, I played two 65-degree playoff games in January. There they keep the pins all year round. I’d rather play outside, you know, with a couple of buddies – but my weekend golf is gone. I train children’s sports and that’s over. So if I don’t get out on a Wednesday, I probably don’t go out during the week, but I still love to play.
I love organizing a golf trip. I love the itinerary. I’m a great voice memo guy. I am only sending a 14 minute voice memo with the entire itinerary.