Chris Young, Branch & Dean at ACM Celebrity Golf Classic

April 19, 2015 

By: Chuck Dauphin


Country music artists showed off their putting skills yesterday at the ACM Lifting Lives Celebrity Golf Classic, held at the Brookhaven Country Club just north of Dallas. The event, which was hosted by Darius Rucker for the fourth straight year, brought out a mixture of artists and industry professionals to benefit the Lifting Lives charity wing of the Academy of Country Music.


The artists approached the day with a shared sense of humor. Rising duo Branch & Dean joked that they had to revisit the math of the game. “We were pretty excited as we started practicing a little bit in Nashville, and we thought, ‘Man, this game is easy. All you’ve got to do is just keep driving the score up,'” joked Dean Scallan. His partner, Steve Branch, added, “What fun is it to hit right down the middle where there are no trees? We like to play where we have some obstacles.”


Chris Young told Billboard that he was ready for the challenges of the day – but was realistic about his finishing odds. “I’ve been lucky that I know so many people who enjoy playing that I get invited to all these nice courses and get to play at places that people would dream of playing. I feel kind of bad about it because I suck,” he said with a laugh. “But I enjoy it. It’s one of my favorite things to go do.” J.T. Hodges – who will be releasing a new single, “Ray-Bans,” this week – said that the day might not turn him pro, but it would be good for the soul. “I’ve worked with ACM Lifting Lives before, and to be able to do something that is beyond yourself makes you feel good," he said. "We’re probably going to go 40 over par, but we’ll have a fun time doing it."


Scallan also shared thoughts on the day's serious undercurrent. “Everything people can do to give back is so important, because at the end of the day, that’s all we have,” he said. “That’s what we’re all put here to do. A lot of people know our story with cystic fibrosis," he added, referring to Branch's son, who passed away from the disease. "Anytime we can give back, we’re ready to do it.”

ACM Lifting Lives organizer Hannah Martin was basking in the glow of the beautiful Lone Star morning – and the success of not just the golf tournament, but the organization’s star-studded gala on Friday night at the Omni. “I have chills thinking about it," she said of the evening. "I can’t believe how many amazing artists came together and created such a memorable night. We’re so grateful to Garth [Brooks] and Trisha  [Yearwood] for hosting it and being such a big part of it."


One of the musical highlights was when The Band Perry joined forces with a group from last summer’s ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp to perform a song they wrote together at the event. “It was the most heartwarming experience,” Martin said. “The song was called ‘Bright Eyes,’ and it was a total surprise that the campers were going to be there. Kimberly led into the fact they had written a song with all of the music campers, and they walked out on stage. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”


The past few weeks have been extremely busy for Rucker, the event’s host. His latest disc, Southern Style, debuted atop the Country Albums chart. Rucker says the project represents a shift in his sound. “We wanted to make it twangier and a little more countrier than the other records,” he said. “We were lucky that we got the songs that we were able to do that with. This was a step in the direction that I wanted to take, and it got me really fired up about making the next record.”


As far as his game goes, Rucker said he's making steady progress. “It’s been better, but it’s my favorite thing to do," he said. "My wife says she doesn’t worry about what I’m going to do when I’m retired because I’ll be playing golf every day."



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