ORLANDO, FLORIDA | Dylan Dreyer, who floats into living rooms across America several mornings each week as a popular, perky meteorologist for NBC’s “Today” show, knows the value of a well-spun story. And right about now, standing outside the tony clubhouse at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club holding a golf club that has been snapped into two pieces, she wishes she had one.
Alert the headline writers. Dylan Dreyer, the just-put-a-tray-of-cookies-in-the-warm-oven neighbor next door, has an explosive, need-to-curb golf temper, like the rest of us do? Wouldn’t the tabloids love that one.
“Well, we were driving [in a golf cart] under the ropes, and we thought we cleared the ropes,” said Dreyer, seated in the cart alongside husband Brian Fichera, an NBC producer (and Dylan’s caddie for the week). “We’re riding and we’re like, ‘What’s that sound? Can you imagine if we broke a club?’ And somebody said, ‘Um, I think you broke a club.’
“My 5-wood, from my own set,” Dreyer said incredulously. “It’s a club I need, too.”
Dreyer, whose radiant smile easily brightens a cold and gray Orlando morning at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, where she is competing for a second year beginning today, concedes that her broken-club story probably lacks for drama.
“It’s not as exciting as it could be,” she said, laughing. “I need a better story.”
Despite unseasonably crisp Florida weather that requires her to don a thick wool cap, Dreyer, 42, is in heaven playing golf this week alongside some of the world’s best LPGA golfers at Lake Nona. Those players whom she follows never cease to amaze her. Dreyer is, and isn’t, in her element. She isn’t because she is a novice golfer who loves to play, but simply doesn’t have the time, not with her and Brian keeping a watchful eye on three little boys at home in New York. Playing golf in front of a decent-sized gallery out to watch LPGA pros and Dreyer’s fellow celebs this week can, well, be a little intimidating.
But soon people are starting to surround her following her pro-am round, asking Dreyer to sign an autograph, or pose for a picture, and clearly, she is 100 percent in her element. “I watch you every morning,” more than one fan will tell her, leading into some twisting story to which Dreyer listens with saintly patience. When it comes to being a people person, Dreyer is a plus-handicap, happy to listen to stories that remind her that, seated next to Savannah, Hoda, Craig and Al on the NBC set, she has become as integral to viewers’ mornings as a second cup of coffee.
“To get out of your comfort zone and to complete the task at hand, I think it makes you stronger, and you’re actually able to do things. Nobody is here to watch me play golf, but I’ll shake their hand, and get to meet them. And it’s really special to do that.” — Dylan Dreyer
So, here’s a novel idea: Dreyer will take what could be an uncomfortable situation and transform her beautiful setting this week, a championship golf course, into her own NBC Plaza. Between her golf shots – and there will be many – she’ll take the week on as one oversized meet-and-greet.
“I think we are putting ourselves out here, because we are not professional golfers, by any means,” Dreyer said. “I’ve got little kids at home, three little boys, so I don’t get to play much. These are the opportunities that I look forward to, because I get a chance to play. Folks at work ask, ‘How do you do it? … because you’re not good.’ ”
The 50 celebrities and entertainers in this week’s field include some very good players. Mardy Fish played tennis for a living, but the celebrity golf circuit has given him a pretty lucrative side hustle. A year ago, he won the celebrity division of the Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona, just as he had when the event was staged across town at Tranquilo a few years back.
Celebrities play a modified Stableford points format – 5 points for an eagle, 3 for a birdie, 2 for a par, etc., down to 0 points for a double bogey or worse. Players such as Fish, or John Smoltz, good enough to make it to the final stage of PGA Tour Champions qualifying last month, can pile up the points. In Dreyer’s opening round a year ago, she walked away with 1 point. One. Single. Point. And she loved every bit of the experience.
Why was her game “off” some that day? Simple, she answered playfully. Clearly, there wasn’t enough beer to get her swing going.
But turning more serious, Dreyer, who played sports in high school, believes there is personal growth to be had for a celebrity or television personality such as herself to exit her safe, comfortable bubble and step forth into what is anything but a situation of comfort.
“I think what’s so special about events like this is that it’s more than about golf,” Dreyer said. “I have so many young girls and people coming up to me and saying, ‘Thank you for being out here. Thank you for showing that, you know what – when something is hard, you can put yourself out there and you can do it.’
“If I look back at all the times I’ve done exactly that, it certainly has helped me grow as a person. To get out of your comfort zone and to complete the task at hand, I think it makes you stronger, and you’re actually able to do things. Nobody is here to watch me play golf, but I’ll shake their hand, and get to meet them. And it’s really special to do that.”
Dreyer relishes the old friendships she is able to rekindle this week and the new ones she will make. And she will keep a close eye on the LPGA players with whom she is paired, always trying to learn something. (“They are petite, and consistent, and hit it perfectly straight,” Dreyer said. “So good.”)
She looks forward to a day when she, Brian and their three sons get to spend quality time on a course together, expanding what they do now on a little par-3 course close to home. All three boys – even the youngest, at 2 – already love the game.
Though a few of her shots undoubtedly will be shown over four days of tournament telecasts, Dreyer gets to spend most of her time at Lake Nona “off duty” and off-camera. The exception: Thursday morning she had a scheduled live hit to do during NBC’s third hour of “Today.” Dreyer pretty much knows the reaction she will receive from her fellow morning stars on the show in the midst of icy New York City.
“They just call this a boondoggle,” Dreyer said, smiling once again. “They’re all going to rag me, and tease me. And I’ll be like, ‘That’s fine, make fun of me all you want. Because I’m out here playing golf. In Orlando. And having the best time.’ ”
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