'I was one of the weirdos': Lizard McGee to appear on extreme mini-golf TV show 'Holey Moley'

Joel Oliphint
Lizard McGee

Lizard McGee first heard about extreme mini-golf reality show “Holey Moley” from an old friend in New York, who recommended McGee put in an application. Which may seem strange if you only know Lizard as the longtime frontman of Columbus band Earwig.

But in addition to writing and performing hook-laden rock songs, McGee also made a nine-hole golf course on his remote 5-acre property in southern Ohio. In fact, several years ago he created his own DIY golf tournament — the Silver Baby Cup.

So last fall McGee took his friend's advice and applied to “Holey Moley” online, putting together asubmission video and pitching himself as an eccentric rocker-golfer hybrid — a persona that honestly didn’t need much embellishment. The producers liked it, asked for more videos and strung him along through the fall and winter. Finally, in February, they flew him out to Los Angeles to be a part of the second season of “Holey Moley,” which debuts this Thursday, May 21, at 9 p.m. on ABC.

“A lot of the people on the show are semi-pro golfers — people who have a big golf pedigree. So the competition is really stiff. But I was one of the weirdos on the show,” McGee said.

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To prepare for the show, McGee readZen Putting and other books to up his mental game. The show also required him to get a daunting doctor’s note. "I knew that I couldn't go to some normal doctor with this, so I went toRandy Sharma, the rock doc. I had to do a physical with Randy, and he had to sign off on a paper that said I could withstand electric shock, I could withstand fire, I could withstand dropping 50 feet into cold water and that I knew how to swim,” McGee said.

At times, the whole process gave him pause. “There were a couple of times where I had little moments of, ‘Why am I doing this? What if I actually die or am crippled? Am I just some fame-hungry numbnuts from Ohio?’” McGee said. “But honestly, with the golf tournament at my house and with Earwig, whenever there's a chance to do something out of the ordinary that's fun and amazing, I'm like, ‘Hell, yeah.’ That's the reason to be alive. That's what I'm here to do. I don't want to be the person that says, ‘I got to maintain all the normalities of life. I can't deviate from my normal path.’ I want to be the person that says, ‘The deviations from the path are the roads you're supposed to take.’ And luckily, my wife and my family are all supportive. When I had questions about going on the show, they're like, ‘Of course you're going to go on the show.’”

When McGee arrived to the “Holey Moley” filming location in Santa Clarita, contestants were sequestered in a tent where they waited for their turn to compete. “I showed up at 3 p.m., and you do interviews and other costume things, and I was supposed to play golf at 8 p.m., but all these things went wrong. Someone ended up going to the hospital, and they had to reconfigure everything. So that gives you an idea of how dangerous it can be,” he said. “My first hole was at 5:30 in the morning. It was about 13 hours from when I showed up on set to when I actually played."

In the tent, McGee and the others weren’t able to watch how each contestant performed, but in the distance they could see the show’s iconic giant windmill turning. “We were trying to time how fast you could get through these windmills. They had a crowd over there watching, and I would hear everybody cheering. I could tell that people, when they were faced with going through the windmill, they would just stand there and wait and wait and wait. A minute or two minutes would go by, and everybody in the tent would think, ‘Just run through it! Why are you waiting?’ But then when you're actually faced with it, it's terrifying. You're standing there looking at it, like, ‘There's no way that this is not going to nail me,” he said.

Right away, McGee had to adjust his expectations. “I was really wrapped up in thinking, ‘I've got to do this perfectly and avoid getting knocked into the water.’ But you have to walk across this 30-foot beam over water — like a telephone pole, and it's slippery — and they're spraying you with five water cannons to knock you off while you try to run across this pole. So you're not going to make it,” he said. “I remember the moment of realization, this Zen awakening, when I got knocked off, and I was like, ‘Oh, OK. The world happens and there's nothing I can do.’”

McGee isn’t sure which episodes will feature his golf skills, and he isn’t allowed to say how far he got in the competition, but he wasn’t sent home right away — he stayed in California for 10 days. “I’m really happy with how I performed,” he said.

After returning from the trip, McGee went to work finishing up a new song with his goofy golf-rock duo, The Müligans, a band he formed with friend and Tennessee songwriter Trapper Haskins. “Heart Shaped Bruise,”available now on Bandcamp, has its roots in golf, of course.

“Two years ago, when the Silver Baby Cup tournament was at my house, someone hit my wife with a golf ball. It's all good-natured fun; accidents happen. But she posted the bruise on Facebook a week later, and everybody was sentimental. They're like, ‘Oh, that looks like a heart,’” said McGee, whose own golf injuries added another layer of meaning to the song. “People take pretty huge hits at ‘Holey Moley,’ and I took a spill and got a very strong hit to the chest. I came home with a big bruise on my chest right next to my heart, so when I hear that song now, it definitely makes me think of ‘Holey Moley.’”