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Star Power

Actor James Caan takes on a supporting role to help revive Glendale College golf program.

By MICHELLE FLORESPublished: October, 2007

Jerry and Dean. Laverne and Shirley. Abbott and Costello. PGA pro Greg Osbourne and actor James Caan aren't quite in the same league. But in due time (and perhaps with a reality TV show), the frequent charity tournament partners might break into the big time for their fierce, yet fond, bickering on and off the golf course.

But first things first: bringing serious golf instruction and steely competitiveness to Glendale Community College's resuscitated golf program.

Osbourne played golf at Glendale in 1981, before the program fell victim to budget cuts and was eliminated. When he got wind that the program was being renewed, he applied for and got the position of head coach in February.

"I don't want this to be a little program. I want this to be a big program," said Osbourne, who has set his sights on developing a competitive team in the tough Western State Conference.

Along with sparking a dynasty, Osbourne wants student-athletes with a desire to earn transfer scholarships to a four-year university or college of their choice.

"It's a certain type of kid I want," he said. "Their grades are good and their parents are involved. When the parents are involved, the kids are more into school."

One of his first moves as coach was to recruit film and television star Caan as an assistant coach, though Caan is quick to downsize his role to volunteer assistant.

"Obviously, this is something I haven't done," Caan said. "I'm not a great golfer like Greg. I can't do the things he can do, but I can see them. I'm a student of the game. I know the basics and I can see the bigger mistakes someone is making.

"I believe I'm an asset to the kids in that I know what Greg's trying to say and maybe he doesn't say it right or he says it in a way that the first guy gets it, but it doesn't mean anything to the second guy."

Osbourne thinks Caan's golf in-stincts are right up there with his acting chops and that he can help instill camaraderie, competitiveness and sportsmanship into the Glendale squad.

"As an assistant coach, he really is good," Osbourne said. "He gains the students' respect. They see that he does know what he's talking about. He's a decent golfer and we've worked together so much that we see the same [golf mechanics] in others. We may yell and scream at each other, but it's all part of a great friendship."

Osbourne and Caan met a decade ago at a San Fernando Valley course where the pro was teaching and the actor was seeking lessons. They quickly bonded over their shared passion for golf and their experiences as collegiate athletes and actors. Osbourne, who teaches at DeBell Golf Course in Burbank, appeared in several TV commercials for Titleist in the 1980s and '90s. In addition to golf, he played football for Glendale College (with current Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid) and at Cal Lutheran, where he was an All-American golfer.

Caan burnished his image on the American psyche as the sensitive tough guy and anti-hero in the luminous roles of Sonny Corleone in "The Godfather" and Brian Piccolo in "Brian's Song." The Academy Award- and Emmy Award-nominated actor recently enjoyed another wave of popularity in his portrayal of casino security chief Ed Deline in "Las Vegas."

What's less known about Caan is that he played football at Michigan State and competed in other contact sports, such as tournament karate. As a father of four sons (the youngest is 9), Caan has helped coach youth baseball, basketball and soccer.

When "Las Vegas" took off four years ago, Caan - who as of this season is no longer with the show - arranged for Osbourne to be considered for a role. (Osbourne already was visiting the set to help Caan work on his game during breaks.) A card-carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild since his TV commercial days, Osbourne joined the cast as a security guard named Greg.

Certainly, acting is a fun gig, but it pales in comparison to the satisfaction Osbourne finds in returning to the place where his golf career started.

"I can't describe the respect I have for the players who have come to play at Glendale College with me as coach," Osbourne said. "There are so many options available to them, but I guarantee them that I'm going to work with them as best I can with the idea that they will earn scholarships to four-year colleges. I want to help them pursue their educational and athletic goals."

The college's amenities and playing privileges at several nearby courses ensure that team members can work on their games every day of the week, Osbourne noted. The college offers a "tremendous" fitness center, a huge hitting net and eight stalls, along with a practice putting green.

Osbourne said one student transferred to Glendale from a four-year school in order to play for a year on the team. Osbourne is betting that a strong performance by squad members, not just athletically but academically, will forge a reputation for the community college as a positive stepping stone to a university golf program.

Or, as in Osbourne's case, a step toward a professional golf career.  SG

To find out more about Glendale College's golf program, e-mail Greg Osbourne at osbournego@hotmail.com or call him at (818) 636-1161.