FARGO — Josh Duhamel stood in brown muck near the Red River, about to hit his golf ball on the 18th hole at Fargo Country Club. There was a good chance the actor, who seemed particularly popular among the women in the small gallery allowed on the course, was going to be sprayed with sludge when he took his swing.
This moment led to the line of the day, when a male observer leaned nearer your intrepid correspondent and whispered: "Is somebody that pretty allowed to get mud on them?"
Also this, from a different male in the vicinity: "Will the hunk get hunks of mud on himself?"
The answer was, as you'll see on your television or computer screen May 31 when WDAY-TV and InForum broadcast the "Bell Bank Play It Forward" charity golf match, yes. Duhamel splashed his shot toward the green and yukked it up as he made his way back toward the green grass of the fairway.
It wrapped a day during which the tall, tanned, perfectly graying 47-year-old from Minot, N.D., found himself showing flashes of golf brilliance mixed with pandemic- and work-induced rust. There remains an athlete in the former Minot State quarterback's lean frame, but it's getting crowded by the middle-aged actor. Duhamel had to apply strips of black electrical tape to a nasty blister on his right heel, rubbed raw by walking in golf shoes.
"I'm also dealing with a shoulder and a hip thing right now, so I don't know if it's inactivity or what. And I am the oldest one here," the affable Duhamel laughed after the match. "But you know what? I hit it better for the most part than I thought I would because I just haven't played. It was such a beautiful day. A lot of it has to do with the group you're playing with. It was just a really fun group."
Duhamel teamed with LPGA golfer Amy Olson of Oxbow to take on PGA Tour player Tom Hoge of Fargo and former longtime NHLer Matt Cullen of Moorhead in the made-for-TV event that Forum Communications Co. co-sponsored and will televise statewide in North Dakota. While the uber-competitive pro athletes were at times grinding to the finish line, Duhamel kept things mostly light. He chatted with fans, cracked jokes and mugged for the WDAY cameras.
- Hoge, Olson get into competitive golf again with Cullen, Duhamel to benefit charity
- When PGA resumes for Hoge, events may look similar to the 'Play It Forward' challenge
All the golfers were having fun, but the Hollywood actor, not surprisingly, knew how to play to a camera.
"When they asked me to do this, I didn't know what to expect. I thought, yeah, we'll just go out and play. But this felt like the real deal. It wasn't quite Phil (Mickelson) and Tiger (Woods), but it was competitive," Duhamel said. "It was a beautiful day. I wasn't embarrassing myself too badly and I made some shots."
That included a chip-in that elicited a serious fist pump and an in-the-moment high-five with Olson that quickly led to semi-awkward apologies over social distancing.
Duhamel viewed the invite to play golf for charity in Fargo as an excuse to come back home and a way to keep busy during the coronavirus shutdown. He started the pandemic at his place in Los Angeles, escaped to his 54-acre getaway in the remote woods of northwestern Minnesota and then returned to L.A.
"The first 2 1/2 weeks of when all this stuff started happening, I looked at my girlfriend (Fargo Davies graduate and former Miss World America Audra Mari) and said, 'We should probably go back home.' I don't like being in L.A. at times like this. So I took my son and her, and we just sort of jetted out here just to get away, because you don't know if things are going to go sideways out there. And it can, quickly," Duhamel said. "Part of the reason I built this cabin out there was for reasons like this. It's sort of my doomsday prepper compound, if you will."
Wait. Josh Duhamel is a doomsday prepper?
"I'm not going to lie, because I have this plan. Living in L.A. is always a little bit of a concern because I've seen when little things happen, things can go sideways quick. So I was always, 'How do I get out of here and where do I go?'" he said. "Part of it is that, part of it is I just love being out in the woods and having stuff to do all day long. So any excuse to come home and see the family and be a part of something like this is so much fun."
Duhamel finished some projects prior to the pandemic, one of which should be coming out soon. A movie titled "Think Like a Dog," a family comedy starring fellow "Transformers" alum Megan Fox, is scheduled for release June 9 on Blu-ray, DVD, digital and on-demand.
"It's a family movie that I did last year. It's a cute little movie about a boy who invents this device that allows him to hear his dog's thoughts and they can have conversations," Duhamel said. "It's a cute family movie."
He's also starring in a Netflix series scheduled for release in 2021 titled "Jupiter's Legacy." It's about superheroes and their children who struggle to live up to their legendary feats. Shooting wrapped in Toronto prior to the pandemic.
The future of Duhamel's pet project isn't so clear. He wrote, directed and starred in the film "Buddy Games," completed last year. It was supposed to be released on 300 screens nationwide in March, but the coronavirus scuttled that plan. After being pushed to July, Duhamel might now have to wait until August, December or even next year for his movie to go public.
"It's a movie based on what me and my buddies come out here and do every year called the Buddy Games. It's a weekend of crazy events with these guys. It's more or less an excuse to get together every year. It's a wild, dude comedy," Duhamel said. "I'm like, why can't we just deliver it now when everybody's at home? But it's all kinds of contractual stuff that just drives me crazy. I'm like, let's just let all that go and put the damn movie out already. Because it's really funny, it's outrageous and it's completely politically incorrect. I love stuff like that. It's like 'Hangover' and 'Old School,' movies like that."
When the world starts moving again, Duhamel has some video game voiceover work lined up. He voiced a "Call of Duty" game a couple of years ago. In the meantime, like many others, he's waiting for the pandemic-related shutdowns to ease.
"For me, I'm looking at this whole thing and, as scary as it can be, I just want to come out of this having not sat on my hands and having accomplished something, having done something," Duhamel said. "For me right now, if I can't be out shooting anything or making anything, I'm building this place out at my cabin that's not just for me, but it's for my son and my son's kids and whatever other children I hope I have some day. That's where my heart is. Even when I'm in L.A., my heart is here. It's in North Dakota, it's at my cabin in Minnesota. That's really where I feel most at peace really."
The golf course offered some peace this week, too, despite Duhamel being blistered and muddied.