By Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal sports columnist
When he donned a $5 crash helmet and a red wet suit from Goodwill for his first Internet spoof, Ben Crane never dreamed he’d have to worry about cleaning the nasty neoprene.
But since his Oh, Oh, Oh Golf Boys’ music video has gone viral on YouTube, the outfit he deemed “ridiculous” has practically become his trademark.
“Now I’m having to clean the thing out and spray it down so it doesn’t develop too much bacteria because I’m doing a lot of performing in it,” Crane said. “Whether I like it or not, it’s in a safe place.”
The video’s participants should get a rousing welcome this week during the $8.5 million World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. Crane, however, failed to qualify through the top 50 in the world rankings, finishing 56th. Hunter Mahan, the video’s rock and roller, is the defending champion.
Crane, a 35-year-old resident of Westlake, Texas, who has three PGA Tour victories, was previously best known for his slow play. But aided by Sam Martin, a childhood friend whose father was a business partner of Crane’s dad in Portland, Ore., Crane launched his first video, a workout parody, on his website last December. Martin, who writes songs for Atlantic Records, was merely trying to help Crane show his personality. That one has reached nearly 700,000 views.
“That one really surprised me,” Crane said. “I thought we might get 100,000 hits on it, but never in a million years this. With my personality and my image it was kind of the perfect storm.”
The “Golf Boys” boy band was born early this year in a brainstorming session over dinner with Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Ryan Palmer. Fowler and Watson wanted to be in a video. Mahan soon joined the mix. No one said what happened to Palmer.
“I put Sam to work on it and asked the guys if they’d have an open mind and be willing to go for it,” Crane said in a telephone interview before the British Open. “They all got excited about it. It was just as much fun to make as it was to see the final product. We had fun encouraging each other and cut loose.”
The video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM2N ocuEihw) was shot on May 23, the Monday after the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, and launched just before the U.S. Open on June 16. As of Monday morning, it had more than 2.25 million views on YouTube and is also available on iTunes.
“It’s definitely taking off,” Fowler said at the AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club. “It’s a fun little thing we can do on the side.”
Crane said he has been stunned by the response.
“I had no idea the way things go viral,” Crane said. “Someone likes it and sends it to 30 people on their email list. We thought people might like it, but we didn’t think it would be as big of a hit as it’s been.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say they’ve watched it a number of times. I love the repeat customers.”
Mahan is just as amazed.
“We just made a video,” Mahan said at the AT&T National. “We don’t know what we have as of yet. We’re still trying to figure out sponsor-wise, charity-wise, fan-wise what can we do to maximize the exposure we’re getting.”
As if the lyrics to the alleged “song” and the “dance moves” weren’t oddball enough, the clothes added to the outrageousness. Watson is dressed in denim overalls with no shirt. Mahan sports a fur vest and animal print pants. Fowler epitomized urban cool in a black hoodie, hat and scarf.
“Rickie’s was kind of poor in a sense of plain,” Mahan said at the AT&T National. “Ben’s is extremely off the wall. Bubba’s makes sense. Mine definitely stood out, which I was happy about.”
But Fowler, known for his bright orange Puma clothes and shoes, didn’t seem wild about his outfit.
“It was kind of set up in a way,” Fowler explained. “We had a choreographer/instructor who was an actor in the video. He picked out our clothes on the spot and we went along with it.”
Martin was the producer, while another of Crane’s Portland buddies, Ty Andre, played their coach on the accompanying outtake segments posted on bencranegolf.com.
“That fake French accent, there were a number of retakes on losing character. He’s a pretty funny guy,” Crane said.
Mahan still hasn’t forgotten what it took to cavort in pants that looked more appropriate for Steven Tyler.
“They were more than tight,” Mahan said.
The video also has a charitable aspect. Watson won the 2011 Farmers Insurance Open, and Crane captured the same tournament in 2010 and is now sponsored by the company and its parent, Zurich Financial Services. Farmers agreed to take on some of the cost of making the “Golf Boys” video. For each 100,000 views on YouTube, it donates $1,000 to charities associated with Crane, Farmers, and its golf tournament.
“It was a great fit for them because they’ve gotten a lot of exposure out of it,” Crane said.
But the Golf Boys see it more as a chance to show their other side.
“When you’re on the golf course it’s tough to interact a lot with fans,” Crane said. “The nature of the game is challenging that way. We don’t get that much of a chance to showcase the things we like to do and the fun we like to have.”
Mahan also loved breaking the rules.
“Golf in a sense is boring,” Mahan said. “We’re out there trying to keep our cool, trying to get not too high or low. We’re just trying to do something creative and off the wall. We’ve had an unbelievable response and it’s been 99 percent positive.
“It shows you golf doesn’t need to be so white collar. It can be fun.”
It seems likely there will be a sequel, but it could be a few more months in the making.
“We’re definitely considering it,” Crane said. “Nothing’s set in stone. I think if everyone’s on board, we’ll probably move forward and do something else. There’s no real direction we have for the next one, whether it’s another song or whether it’s something a little different, I’m not sure.”
Mahan is hoping Golf Boys II will showcase something that didn’t survive the director’s cut.
“I had something that was pretty awesome that didn’t make it,” Mahan said.