By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports
I don’t know what it was that made me drive the golf cart across the fairway and introduce myself. Curiosity, I imagine. It’s not like I put a lot of thought into it. In fact, I had no idea what I was going to say when I got to his golf cart.
There I was, in the middle of the 17th fairway at Huntington Park golf course, introducing myself. “Hi. I’m Harriet Prothro Penrod. I’m with the Shreveport-Bossier Journal, and I was wondering if I could do a short Q&A with you after your round.”
He looked me right in the eyes, held out his hand, smiled, and said, “Are you related to (College Football Hall of Fame coach) Tommy Prothro?”
“No,” I said, “but it is spelled the same way.”
He said sure, he’d be happy to sit down and visit after the round. “Well, okay,” I replied. “I’ll meet you in the clubhouse.”
It was on this same course two years ago – playing in the Ebony Golf Tournament – that I saw O.J. Simpson. Actually, I heard him first and recognized that voice. There was no doubt about the identity of the large man bending over to find his golf ball in the high grass on the other side of the 15th green.
He hung around the clubhouse after the tournament, but I had no desire to go up and talk to him. Perhaps now – two years later — that I was writing for the SBJ (which didn’t exist then), I felt the journalistic urge to interview the (in)famous individual. Maybe people would be interested to know what he was doing in Shreveport.
Think what you may about him.
Growing up, my favorite sport was football. I spent endless days in the front yard – in pads and helmet – playing with my cousin, younger brother, and any of the boys from the neighborhood who wanted to play. When my cousin, who was “all-time QB,” wasn’t playing, that meant I got to be quarterback. When Jeff was there, I’d play wide receiver.
More than once, there would be a knock on our front door and my mom would answer to hear a young boy say, “Can Harriet come out and play quarterback?”
Believe me, that’s not what my mom wanted to hear. But I digress.
I say all that to say this: I loved football – playing it and watching it. And I grew up watching O.J. Simpson play football – at USC and for the Buffalo Bills, where his quarterback was Shreveport’s own Joe Ferguson.
Maybe that’s what made me want to talk to him. Whatever the reason, last Sunday I cut my own round short and waited in the clubhouse at Huntington, wondering if he was actually going to come in and sit down to talk.
If he did, what would I ask him? I hadn’t prepared a “Q&A” or anything else to ask him. I’d just wing it – bring up some topics and see what he had to say.
And in he walked . . .
And so I said . . .
“I saw you at the Ebony tournament here a couple of years ago. How often do you get to Shreveport?”
Every two to three years, I come for a family reunion. We’re having our reunion this weekend. We own property in Greenwood – it was deeded down to our family. My kids didn’t make it this year. My two younger kids both have kids under one (year old).
“How are you spending your time these days?”
Between golf and fantasy football, I stay pretty busy. Golf has kept me sane through the years. It gets me up, keeps me moving. I just turned 75. I’ll usually play Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday (in Las Vegas). Sometimes people in town want to play, so I’ll play more. We’ve got a golf group in Vegas called “In the Cup.” There are about 12-13 guys from the Shreveport area who come play. Eventually, we’re all going to come down here and have a tournament – maybe at Squire Creek (outside of Ruston in Choudrant).
“What do you do when you’re not playing golf?”
I’m on Twitter. I’ve had over 900,000 followers. I try to stay out of politics, but that’s almost impossible. I try to keep it in sports and history.
“Who do you think are the best running backs in the NFL today?”
King (Derrick) Henry (Tennessee Titans) and Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts). And Saquon Barkley (New York Giants) is definitely in the top 5 – he just can’t stay healthy.
O.J. talked some more about football – how he and (Pro Football Hall of Famer) Eric Dickerson would be attending, and had a bet on, this year’s opening NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams. He talked some more about politics – how he thought either California Governor Gavin Newsom or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would be the next President of the United States.
Before leaving, I told O.J. I had one last question: “So, generally, how do people treat you out in public?”
Generally, very well. Rarely do people say something out-of-line.
It was then that a gentleman walked across the clubhouse and asked O.J. if he could have his picture taken with him. You see, as a 10-year-old, he had watched Simpson play in Buffalo and had even gotten O.J.’s autograph after the game.
A football fan . . . like me.
Contact Harriet at email@example.com
Photo by GINA WOODWARD