More Tebowmania at charity golf event

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, right, performs the Gator Chomp after being interviewed by The Weather Channel's Stephanie Abrams on the red carpet for an event before the Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic on Friday in Ponte Vedra Beach. (The Associated Press/The Florida Times-Union).

Published: Friday, April 13, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 12:10 a.m.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — The walk on the red carpet was chaotic, a far cry from the scene a year ago for Tim Tebow's golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass. In 2011, there were only a handful of media on hand for interviews prior to the dinner and silent auction.

On Friday night, there were dozens of radio and television broadcasters doing live reports.

“Jeannie, he's still not here, but we're looking out the door and a car has pulled up! That could be him! No, I don't know who that is. Back to you, Jeannie.”

People magazine had someone there. So did the New York Post and Us Weekly. Stephanie Abrams, a UF grad, had her Weather Channel crew there.

Tebow was asked about the Jets, his decision not to return to Jacksonville, his faith and whether or not he has a girlfriend.

“I'm still single,” he said.

A year ago, Tebow was a local hero whose ears had been dampened in the NFL waters. Now, he is a phenomenon who is a daily fixture on ESPN, even during the off-season. And when he came through the door of the clubhouse, it was as if Elvis had entered the building.

It wasn't long after Tebow started doing interviews and posing for pictures (it was crazy, I tell you) that another famous athlete walked in behind him. While Tebow was nattily attired in a sports jacket and dress shirt, this athlete wore a blue checkered, long-sleeve grungy shirt and blue jeans. His hair was long and disheveled and he hadn't shaved in a few days.

Bubba Watson looked less like a Masters champion than the lead singer for Alice in Chains. This is part of the persona for the inventor of Bubbagolf.

Two of the most famous athletes in America right now finally caught each other's eye and moved toward each other, embracing like two long lost brothers. Which in a way, they are.

Watson had a gift for Tebow. When each golfer checks in at Augusta National to play in The Masters, he is given a number and a badge that identifies the golfer as a participant in the “toonimint.”

Watson was assigned a badge with No. 15 on it. When he gave it to Tebow, Watson started to weep.

“It was emotional,” Watson said. “I got player badge No. 15 and I knew I'd see Tim in two weeks and I told my caddy, I said I'm going to keep it unopened and I'm going to hand it to him. I don't know if he really wanted it, but I just felt like I should give it to him because it's his football (number) and winning, I thought he might even want it more now because I did win.

“Hopefully he thinks it was special. He can throw it away if he wants to, but I gave it to him just because — it's a random thing. It's not like you go out and pick that number, so it was so random that I got his number. I just felt like I should give it to him.”

The gesture wasn't lost on Tebow.

“It was very special,” Tebow said. “He didn't need to do anything like that. He's just an amazing guy. He's been so supportive of me and my foundation and really cares about giving back and making a difference. He just wanted me to keep it private, and it was something very special.”

Watson has had fame thrust upon him in a short period of time. Tebow's had been more of a gradual buildup of giant leaps to insanity. So I asked Watson if he could get some tips from the former Florida quarterback about how to deal with fame.

“That's why I wanted to be here,” Watson said. “Obviously watching him perform, watching him show his character, his true colors, it's awesome to watch. It's awesome to see and you learn from that. Everybody can learn from Tim.”

Tebow laughed off the question.

“Bubba's gotta be himself,” Tebow said. “Bubba's gotta be Bubba. He can't let anyone change him, and I don't think he will. That's why people love him.”

And why they love Tebow. Even when he chose the New York Jets instead of the Jaguars, his hometown couldn't begrudge their favorite son.

“Tim's mission, his journey, having a platform like New York is God's plan,” said former Jaguar and former Gator Fred Taylor.

Tebow will be back in New York on Sunday for workouts and bonding with his new teammates. But for this weekend, it is a chance to raise money to help his foundation and have some fun on the golf course.

“Bubba's already talking trash,” Tebow said.

The celebrities came through the door, one after another. An older couple dressed in resort clothes accidentally opened the door and nearly fell backward when they saw the media crush. There's Fred Durst. And Artis Gilmore. And Lindsey Vonn, the skier. Is that somebody in the BMW? Oh, it's the valet.

Will Muschamp made his way in late.

“Tim's done so much for all of college football,” Muschamp said.

And then there was the guy who came in to not a lot of fanfare. In fact, someone earlier had confused an ESPN producer with Florida's second Heisman Trophy winner.

Danny Wuerffel was once a national champion, multiple award winner and, well, a pretty big deal. He was also the blueprint Tebow used to guide his life as a young man. In other words, I joked with Danny, this is all your fault.

“This is beyond comprehension,” Wuerffel said. “From the pond of the SEC to the national stage and the international stage. It's like this Tebow thing more than it is the Tim we all know.

“The thing about Tim is he handles everything so well. Things have happened to him that would have upset me if I were in his shoes. But he takes his celebrity and makes something great of it. He leverages all this stuff to help other people.”

And so the night kicked off with the golf to follow today. It was crazy Friday night. Crazy in a good way. Isn't it always with Tebow?

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