KELLY ROHRBACH TAKES HER DRIVER BACK WITH A RELAXED AND FLUID TEMPO, pausing almost imperceptibly at the top of her backstroke before swinging her hips to the left – “Like shutting a car door,” she says – and bringing her driver down on the ball with surprising pop.
For golf purists, it’s a swing that speaks for itself. For the myriad fans who stalk her on social media – writing things like “I hope I get to see you and meet you either here or in heaven” on her Facebook page – it’s added evidence she is sent from above. For Rohrbach, it’s a key reason her driver is her favorite club.
Amid a field flush with two-way talent – which this year includes the likes of NFL Man of the Year Larry Fitzgerald, seven-time Grammy nominee Toby Keith and 11-time Surf League Champion Kelly Slater – she brings a unique resume. She can claim Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue rookie of the year (officially, in 2015) and AT&T Pro-Am rookie of the year (unofficially, in 2017). She once shot a 68, the golf equivalent of a 1500 on the SAT. Her SAT score, meanwhile, was high enough to get her into Georgetown, where she earned a scholarship to play golf, and she proved sharp enough to get into lofty London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
She helped carry Team Bill Murray to a win in the 3M Celebrity Challenge a year ago, winning the second hole and earning $10,000 for her charities of choice, homeless-abating Los Angeles Mission and anti-poverty Robin Hood Foundation. She’s been linked with A-listers like actor-environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio and All-Pro NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who will also play at the 2018 AT&T Pro-Am himself), but as People reports, still gives hope to everyday dudes when she says, “I think humor is the best thing to impress a girl. Everybody loves to laugh, so to be with somebody who makes you laugh all the time – what a treat.”
Her big screen breakout came with Baywatch last May (her quieter debut happened with Wilt in 2012, followed by a rash of appearances on TV shows like The New Normal, Broad City and Two and a Half Men), and while the movie is painfully bad, she still scored the Rising Star Award from the Maui Film Festival. Not bad for a young woman who started her acting career by Googling “How to get an agent.”
“She’s a walking smoke stack but more importantly she’s smart, tough and funny,” her Baywatch co-star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson writes on Instagram. “Just the way we like ‘em.”
Her next film is a Woody Allen comedy, A Rainy Day in New York, alongside Elle Fanning, Jude Law and Selena Gomez, slotted for later this year.
And if the acting thing doesn’t explode, her modeling career provides a formidable fallback: Her work through IMG Worldwide includes major campaigns with brands like Gap; some 1.1 million followers fawn over her every pose on Instagram.
She declined pre-tournament interviews, but those she has granted historically always seem to end up on the fairway.
In an interview with GQ – wherein she shares her top golf tips including “Keep your head down” and “Don’t try to overhit it” – she credits the sport with everything she’s accomplished.
“Playing golf led me to Georgetown, and when I got to Georgetown I found acting, and through acting, modeling,” she said. “So I guess I can say I’m here today because of golf.”
She’s obsessed with the sport despite the fact she nearly ended her romance with the game early.
Fortunately for her charities, her father (who doubled as her first instructor) convinced her to stay after it, and today she describes the game as one of her favorite things to do – and “a great way to spend time with my dad” (per the U.S. Golf Association).
Of late she’s adopted the unconventional practice of keeping her eyes on the hole while putting – a la tournament favorite Jordan Speith (see story, right) – and it apparently it’s working: She enters the AT&T with a serious-game 7 handicap.
Her dexterity on the greens pairs well with that impressive power off the tee.