Actor and comedian Alfonso Ribeiro played in the Prairie Meadows Pro-Am during the 2018 Principal Charity Classic.
An avid golfer, he was playing for the first time in three weeks after traveling to Italy for a vacation with his wife (and Iowa native), Angela.
Ribeiro is best known for his role as Carlton Banks on the hit TV show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” He also won season 19 of “Dancing with the Stars” and hosts “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
RB: Have you been to Des Moines much?
AR: I’m mostly out of eastern Iowa, but I’ve been to Des Moines. Actually, many, many, many moons ago they used to have a car race here in the city through the streets and I came here for that maybe a couple decades back (the Ruan Greater Des Moines Grand Prix in 1993).
RB: Do you ever get asked where you wife is from and then you day, Swedesburg, Iowa, and they ask where that’s at?
AR: I pretty much never say Swedesburg because 90 percent of Iowans don’t even know where Swedesburg is. I just kind of go north of Mount Pleasant, south of Iowa City. It’s the easy answer, I think, for everybody concerned. Her grandmother started the Swedish American Museum there in Swedesburg, so it’s a really cute little town and it’s always nice to go back. It’s different from growing up in the Bronx, but I enjoy coming back.
RB: How does a guy from the Bronx take up golf, and how long until you took up the sport?
AR: I started playing at 18. Some friends of mine were like, ‘Hey, let’s go to the driving range and hit some golf balls.’ And I was like, ‘What’s that?’ I didn’t even know what golf was at that time. My first swing, I hit it straight over the fence at the driving range, and they couldn’t understand how I was able to do that. I don’t know how I was able to do it, either, but I fell in love and continued to play. Then in my 30s I got serious about it.
RB: You’re a brand ambassador for the PGA TOUR Champions. Why is it appealing to you to be connected with that tour?
AR: I’ll tell you, what I love about the PGA TOUR Champions is the history of the game in these players. The difference between these guys and the guys on the Tour is perspective. Before the Tiger (Woods) era, guys had to do a lot out there and they had to grind to make it to the next week. You had to make the cut. You weren’t automatically in the next week’s field. So these guys have such a great perspective and they have such a great connection with the fans, and that’s something that really rings true for me. I feel like it’s so important when you have the opportunity to really connect with the fans that are out there because that’s what keeps the game going. It’s what keeps your career going.
RB: It looks like you embrace fans on the golf course. Is that something you had to learn?
AR: Years ago, I had a very different perspective dealing with fans and I could never understand it. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten a greater perspective of their side and understanding the other side. You know, they might have one opportunity to meet someone that they enjoy watching on TV and why take that moment away from them? Why not give them that moment and allow them to enjoy it for the rest of their life and make a memory? It only takes a couple of seconds out of my time to do that. Why not?
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter