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Colonial and the Cliburn: the best reality shows in town


14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Preliminary rounds begin 11 a.m. Friday, semifinals 1:30 p.m. June 1, finals 7:30 p.m. June 6; winner announced June 9.

Bass Hall, Fort Worth

$10-$20 for preliminary concerts, $25-$65 semifinals, $40-$135 finals, $30-$50 for awards presentation

Full competition pass: $430-$860.

For tickets, call 817-212-4280 or go to www.cliburn.org, where you’ll also find full schedule information.

Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial

Thursday through Sunday

Colonial Country Club, 3735 Country Club Circle, Fort Worth

$45 per day, $15 ages 13-17, free age 12 and younger; $100 pass

817-927-4280; www.crowneplazainvitational.com

Colonial or Cliburn? Which one will you visit?
Posted 7:24am on Thursday, May. 23, 2013

In the year 2013, nobody can fault you for viewing the world through the prism of reality TV.

Whether it’s cooking or canoodling, singing or surviving in the wild, we have turned just about every aspect of modern life into a camera-ready competition with heroes and villains, breathless drama, and theme music.

So why should Fort Worth’s two signature competitions, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial golf tournament, be any different?

Both will be captivating audiences in Cowtown this weekend — the PGA pros tee off Thursday, and the pianists begin rocking Rachmaninoff on Friday at Bass Hall. And we can’t wait for all the high drama on the fairways and Steinways.

Just in case you need a little convincing that a golf tournament and a piano competition are capable of generating the kind of intrigue that you’ve come to expect from American Idol, The Voice or even Chopped, consider just a few similarities:

• The stakes are high. The Colonial winner gets $1.152 million. Cliburn gold comes with a $50,000 prize, three years of concert dates and career management, and a recording contract.

• The competitors are talented but temperamental. And the competitions couldn’t be more cutthroat. Miss one key note or putt and you’ll be heading home.

“You’ve been Chopin-ed!” “You are the weakest on the links. Goodbye!!”

Over two-and-a-half weeks, the Cliburn judges will winnow the field of 30 to 12 semifinalists, then six, and finally one gold medalist. No ties, this time around.

At Colonial, nearly half the field of 132 golfers won’t make enough birdies to hang around for the weekend, which means they go home empty-handed. Thanks for playing.

• The fans at Colonial and the Cliburn will up the ante. Colonial can be a giant outdoor party, but Sunday afternoon, a hush will fall over even the 13th green, aka the Party Hole, as the leaders approach. And during the closing recitals at Bass Hall at the Cliburn, don’t dare cough or you’ll get stared out of the tribe, Survivor-style.

Add to that the spinning globe of personalities and cultures coming to Cowtown this weekend, and both the Cliburn and Colonial come alive with possibilities.

Will the Italian stallions steal the show at the Cliburn? Can South Korea’s Sang Moon Bae make it two in a row (he won last week’s HP Byron Nelson tournament in Las Colinas)?

So, as difficult as this may be, we want you to step away from the latest episode of Storage Wars or Hillbilly Handfishin’ and get hooked on the two fascinating reality shows playing out right here at home. And to get you started, we’ve put on our producer hats and cast some of the characters from both Colonial and the Cliburn in familiar roles.

The rock star: Rickie Fowler

The 24-year-old has matinee idol looks and a jewel thief’s nerve and cuts an indelible figure in his neon outfits and flatbill Puma caps. He’s even an actual rap star, making up one-fourth of the Golf Boys (with Bubba Watson, Ben Crane and Hunter Mahan). Their videos have more than 14 million views on YouTube.

He is also a pretty terrific player. Like Tiger, Phil and Rory, Rickie can become one of the one-name wonders of the PGA Tour, which is why Colonial sponsor Crowne Plaza has made him the centerpiece of its ad campaigns the past two years. But Rickie has to play a little smarter if he’s going to contend on the tight fairways at Colonial. If not, he’ll just be another guy in loud pants.

Rickie Fowler wins Red Bull Off Course event in Dallas.

The hothead: Rory Sabbatini

The swashbuckling South African, who has a home in Fort Worth, has won six times on the PGA Tour, including the 2007 Colonial and 2009 Byron Nelson. But he’s probably best known for his temper, which famously flared at the 2005 Booz Allen Classic when he became frustrated with Ben Crane’s slow play and walked ahead to the next hole. (That’s a big golf no-no.) He also tore into a marshal at the 2011 Northern Trust Open and got fined later that year for getting in an argument with playing partner Sean O’Hair at the Zurich Classic.

Ragin’ Rory has his fans, though, and you’ll spot some Rory’s Rowdies in the galleries at Colonial. Just don’t look for his biggest defender for years — his wife, Amy. The couple is going through a messy divorce, and we suggest you don’t mention any of Amy’s recent tweets. You’re liable to end up with a 5-iron wrapped around your neck.

Bud Kennedy's Eats Beat gives you the skinny on places to eat around the Colonial.

The hot mess: John Daly

The 47-year-old’s career has all the makings of a reality show. He won two majors early in his career, but his talent got overshadowed by his substance abuse, gambling problems and turbulent relationships. In fact, Daly did his own reality show, Being John Daly, briefly in 2010 on the Golf Channel. Not his finest moment.

But fans love Long John for his unvarnished honesty, his shock of blond hair, his Loudmouth pants, his new svelte figure after lap-band surgery and his towering drives. If Daly contends this year, cigarette in his mouth and 2-iron in his hand, Colonial will get totally swept up in his unlikely comeback story.

Mr. Cool: Zach Johnson

Colonial champ two of the past three years, the kid from Iowa has quietly put together one of the best records on the PGA Tour in the past 10 years. He has won nine tournaments, including the 2007 Masters. He has shot 60 twice on tour and has been on Ryder Cup teams, and he’s 3-0 in playoffs. So nothing rattles Johnson, who has just enough swagger to pull off a Colonial trifecta.

The brat: Hunter Mahan

The Colleyville resident and former Texas State High School golf champion is a five-time winner on tour and one of the more outspoken players out there. He once made the mistake of saying the players were treated like “slaves” during the Ryder Cup, which didn’t earn him any points with golf traditionalists. But he is one of the Golf Boys, and he’s married to former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and Dallas Mavericks Dancer Kandi Harris. So he’s got that going for him.

The crowd-pleaser: Jim Furyk

While some of the PGA’s other big names have forsaken Colonial, Furyk plays here every year, which makes him a Fort Worth favorite. You can often find him at Railhead after a round, and last year we bumped into him at the Montgomery Street Target. Furyk usually plays well here, but he has never hoisted the trophy, coming oh-so close in 2007 but losing in a playoff to Sabbatini. Expect big crowds following Jimbo, who could use an extra jolt of his beloved 5-hour Energy to finally conquer Colonial.

The Most Interesting Man on Tour: Angel Cabrera

The big man from Argentina has won two majors — the 2009 Masters and the 2007 U.S. Open — and nothing else in the U.S. But El Pato strides around the fairways like he owns them. He almost won a second Masters this year, losing in a memorable playoff to Adam Scott, and he contended last week at the Nelson. So it seems Cabrera means business. He has also been known to enjoy a cigar on occasion, and is dating Argentinian singer and model Coki Ramírez. Stay thirsty, my friends.

The whiner: Vijay Singh

Long revered as one of the hardest workers on tour, Singh is now suing the PGA, which makes things just a tad awkward in the locker room. In a Sports Illustrated article, Singh admitted to using deer-antler spray, which triggered an investigation and threats of suspension from the PGA. When the tour later determined that antlering up didn’t qualify as performance-enhancing drug use, it dropped things. But Vijay didn’t.

The natural: Sang Moon Bae

The 26-year-old from South Korea has won 11 times on the Asian tours, but his first title on U.S. soil came Sunday at the Nelson. Now everyone is on Bae watch. Golf commentator Nick Faldo marveled at Bae’s textbook swing and tempo last week, and his mental toughness to pull out the victory over Keegan Bradley. Moon, as his friends call him, has a million-dollar swing and smile, and if he can pull off golf’s North Texas two-step, he can up that figure to $2 million.

The Texan: Alex McDonald

Every reality show needs at least one Texan. Born in north Dallas, Alex lives in Plano and teaches at Texas Woman’s University in Denton. No wonder he told Cliburn webcast host Jade Simmons that the area is “like one big suburb anyway.” That’s what you want — a reality-show star to say something sorta controversial. Only problem: He might not sound “Texan” enough for reality-show producers, who think we all wear cowboy hats and speak with drawls. Maybe he can play it up by wearing spurs on stage.

The All-American girl: Lindsay Garritson

Garritson, who was born in Illinois but divides her time between Florida and Connecticut, cares about fashion and looks elegant, making her a reality producer’s dream. Oh, and she sings, too. Garritson is also the one most likely to get a spinoff, as her father, mother and two older sisters are also musicians, and Garritson plays violin as well as piano. Suggested title: Groovin’ With the Garritsons.

The man seeking redemption: Alessandro Deljavan

Deljavan is the only contestant who competed in a previous Cliburn (2009), during which he received the John Giordano Jury Chairman Discretionary Award. He told the Star-Telegram recently: “My mission in Fort Worth is not finished yet.” Can’t you just hear the dramatic music swelling in the background?

Miss Congeniality: China’s Fei-Fei Dong

A critic once referred to her as the happiest contestant at a competition. And with a name like Fei-Fei (pronounced fee fee), you gotta be perky, right? “I am a really happy person,” she told the Star-Telegram, “and I’m at my happiest when I’m performing.”

The rocker chick: Sara Daneshpour

This American girl grew up listening to Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other rock, pop and jazz artists. But her favorite composer is Rachmaninoff, so maybe she’s the Rach-er chick.

The fun guy: Italy’s Luca Buratto

He looks a little like a young Roberto Benigni, and he’s as fun-loving as they come. He says it’s important to not take life or classical music so seriously. “In Milan, we also try to renew music with a little jest, with nontraditional recitals for families and kids, in places as far as possible from a classical theater,” he told the Star-Telegram. “I think classical music should knock herself off her pedestal.”

The funny guy: Italy’s Alessandro Taverna

“It’s not true that classical musicians don’t have any sense of humor,” Taverna told the Star-Telegram. “Music is of course a very serious thing, but we should never take ourselves too seriously!” (Producers’ note: We see a potential bromance between Buratto and Taverna!)

The pitmaster: Jie Yuan

The Chinese-born pianist moved to Fort Worth at age 18 to attend TCU but since 2009 has lived in New York, where he studies at Juilliard. He has been known to cook his version of Texas barbecue for his friends. Yuan says he misses good barbecue, which he says he can’t find in New York.

The legacy: Russia’s Nikita Mndoyants

His father, Alexander, tied for fifth in the 1977 Cliburn. (In reality TV, second-generation contestants are important.)

The steady-as-a-rock guy: Steven Lin

The American-born pianist didn’t miss a note of Haydn’s Sonata in C Major last year when an earthquake struck during one of his recitals in Japan. Seriously. You can watch it on YouTube.

The outdoorsy dude: Marcin Koziak

The Polish-born TCU student is into mountain climbing, cycling and walking around Lake Benbrook. (Reality-show producer note: He has a girlfriend who’s a violinist! And she has won eight major competitions! And they’re in a chamber-music ensemble together! We smell a spinoff!)

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