Despite my sometimes obsessive attitude towards golf, I do manage to find the time for other interests. One of my favorite television shows on the air right now is the NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation. A recent story arc on that series is the introduction of auditors who have been sent to solve the budgetary woes of the Pawnee city government. One of those auditors is played by an actor named Adam Scott, who is of no apparent relation to the most recent winner on the PGA Tour.
As far as I know, there’s no specific term for the phenomenon of one person sharing the same name as another person. Seeing as I grew up wondering how my state’s senator also managed to sing with Art Garfunkel, though, there probably should be. Anyhow, here are five players who happen to have identical names (or at least strikingly similar ones) as other noteworthy people outside the golf world. Are the golfers on this list worthy of being considered “the” ones with their respective names over their non-golfing brethren?
Number Five: Adam Scott
Who he is: The 29-year-old Australian is fresh off of a victory at the 2010 Valero Texas Open, his seventh official victory on the PGA Tour. Also a six-time winner on the European Tour and 2009 Australian Open winner, Adam has been ranked as high as third in the World Golf Ranking.
Who he isn’t: Having appeared in 60 films and TV series, the actor Adam Scott currently (and perhaps most notably) stars in the Starz comedy series Party Down.
Who owns the name? While Scott the actor is a rising star in Hollywood, only one Adam Scott is dating Ana Ivanovic. The nod goes to the golfer.
Number Four: Heath Slocum
Who he is: Heath’s underdog victory at the 2009 Barclays propelled him into the public’s consciousness, but he had already won twice on the PGA Tour before. One of the best ballstrikers in professional golf, Heath currently leads the tour in driving accuracy.
Who he isn’t: Heath “Heathcliff” Slocumb is a retired major league relief pitcher, whose career highlight was an All-Star appearance as the Philadelphia Phillies’ closer during the 1995 season. Heathcliff pitched for eight teams during a ten-year major league career.
Who owns the name? Slocum (no B) will be remembered in golf circles as the guy who outplayed Tiger Woods at Liberty Nationals; Slocumb (with a B) is best remembered in baseball circles as the guy Seattle traded Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to the Boston Red Sox for. The nod, once again, goes to the golfer.
Number Three: Jim Thorpe
Who he is: Arguably the greatest black golfer not named Tiger Woods, Jim won three times on the PGA Tour, but became a force on the Champions Tour, where he has earned 13 victories. Unfortunately, the IRS decided that Jim didn’t pay taxes on the $13 million he had won on the senior circuit (where he is seventh on the all-time money list), and he was sentenced to a year in prison for tax evasion earlier this year.
Who he isn’t: Jim Thorpe was sports’ first superstar. From a Native American background, Jim won the decathlon in the 1912 Olympics, but had his medal stripped for playing minor-league pro baseball. As a football player, he was a key figure in the foundation of what is now the NFL.
Who owns the name? The early-20th century Thorpe was such a legend that a Pennsylvania town changed its name to “Jim Thorpe” for no reason. No golfer can top that. The nod goes to the non-golfer.
Number Two: Bill Rogers
Who he is: Almost inexplicably, Bill had one of the better golf seasons of all-time in 1981. In addition to winning the British Open, he scored three victories on the PGA Tour, the Australian Open title, and finished runner-up at the US Open, all of which propelled him to Player of the Year honors. Despite a bright future on tour, the grind of tournament golf burned Bill out, and he was out of the pro game by the middle of the decade.
Who he isn’t: Bill Rodgers is the greatest American marathon runner ever. During the late 1970s, Bill won the Boston and New York marathons four times each. Only the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics prevented Bill from claiming a gold medal of his own.
Who owns the name? As the last significant American long-distance runner, Rodgers (with a D) is still revered by running enthusiasts. Rogers’ (no D) achievements came between years when Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson each won multiple majors. The nod again goes to the non-golfer.
Number One: George Burns
Who he is: The 1981 U.S. Open was a good year for golfers with the same names as more famous people. The aforementioned Bill Rogers shared second place with George, who won four times on the PGA Tour between 1979 and 1987.
Who he isn’t: Though his real name was Nathan Birnbaum, the man who became known as George Burns had a show business career that spanned for eight decades. A star of stage, radio, film, and television, George remained a highly active performer until his late nineties.
Who owns the name? Let’s be serious: there’s only one George Burns. The nod goes to the non-golfer.