SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — When you think of celebrity golfers, Jerry Ferrara isn't the first that comes to mind, which is why you'll be surprised if you see him strolling around Shinnecock's grounds this week at the U.S. Open. The actor, best known for his role as Turtle on the HBO series Entourage, is at the Open as an ambassador for American Express, but also as a fan. He's become obsessed with the game, something he credits to the encouragement of co-star Kevin Dillon, also known as Johnny Drama, and the fact that he and the rest of cast had a simulator they spent a lot of time hitting from on set.
While Ferrara will always be known as Turtle, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native has found plenty of success in his post-Entourage career, and not only as an actor. We caught up with him at Shinnecock and talked about his love of golf, the time he got to play with Wayne Gretzky, and whether or not Tom Brady still sucks balls, as he famously tried to tell him in one of Entourage's best golf-related episodes.
So, what brings you to Shinnecock?
Jerry Ferrara: Fortunately, for me, American Express has been working with the U.S. Open for awhile, and I’ve been working with American Express as an ambassador going back to the NBA All-Star Game. When they invited me to this it really wasn’t a hard decision to come and watch some golf, and their fan experience is pretty neat. We got the 10th green right here, the card member’s club is the most ideal place to watch. It’s a golf fan’s dream experience.
Better than the NBA All-Star Game?
JF: Different experience entirely, both cool for their own reasons. These are all things I would want to do anyway, so to get a chance to do it on these terms is pretty amazing.
Do play golf? Follow the PGA Tour?
JF: I play the game a lot, I follow the game a lot. I am not very good at the game, but I still love it like most recreational golfers. I have my good days, but more often than not I have my bad days. But I’ve been playing and watching probably since 2009.
JF: Obviously I love what Tiger brings to golf, but I’ve been watching the younger, well, there not so much the younger generation anymore. I remember when (Jordan) Spieth and (Rory) McIlroy and (Justin) Thomas burst on the scene. I had a chance to meet Rickie Fowler years ago when he was 21 years old. I love the young generation, but I’m rooting hard for Tiger.
So you were born and raised in Brooklyn, but where do you spend most of your time now?
JF: I lived in L.A. for 18 years. If you want to talk about probably the best place to live for golfers, it's there and Florida. All year round, and there’s some amazing golf courses in L.A. But most recently I’ve been working on the show Power for the last four years and I’ve moved back to New York. It shoots all over New York City, so my wife and I came back in September and just decided to stay. My family’s is still here, my wife’s from Cleveland, Ohio, so it’s a lot easier to get to here family from here, so we’re back on the East Coast.
How often do you make it out to Long Island?
JF: Not as much as I would like, I’ve been actually playing a lot of golf out in Westchester. A lot of people have asked me today ‘did you ever want to play here, you should come out.’ I am so terrified of this place, looking around at how hard it’s set up and then the wind, it feels like it would break me.
Where do you play in Westchester? Winged Foot?
JF: Never Winged Foot, although one of my oldest friends and co-stars Kevin Dillon, his family has been members of Winged Foot for a long time. He’s played a lot of golf there. Kevin is a good golfer, I am not. I played Pelham Country Club, Knollwood Country Club, Tamarack Country Club. A good buddy of mine, Dom Lombardozzi who was also on Entourage—also in The Wire—he lives out that way. So I go every Friday and we’ve got a little standing foursome.
So let’s talk about some of your upcoming projects. Your IMDB page says you have something in the works with two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis
JF: Well, he has a show coming out that I did guest star on, and I’ve known Baron for a long time. He played for the Knicks for awhile and he lives out in L.A., so yeah, we’ve got a few things in the works.
Speaking of Baron Davis playing for the Knicks, how are you feeling about the Knicks this year?
JF: We got optimism, I believe. It might not be right-away optimism, but I love the way it’s being run, I love what (Steve) Mills and (Scott) Perry have done and obviously I love (Kristaps) Porzingis more than anybody—big Porzingis fan. I really hope he recovers well from his injury and I think he will. This draft coming up is big for us. If not this year necessarily, I think in the next one to three years. I think the future is bright, I really do.
What about the David Fizdale (new coach of the New York Knicks) LeBron James connection? Do the Knicks have a chance at landing the King?
JF: I think you always have a chance. I think the NBA is such a fluid situation, things are changing daily. There’s moves that are probably being set up that may have been years in the works that we just didn’t see as fans. I love the connection. I think Fizdale gives us the leadership that we need that a lot of free agents might look at the Knicks and say, OK, I want to go play for coach Fizdale, I want to play with KP (Porzingis). I think the culture is all coming together.
Giants, Yankees, Rangers?
JF: Big Giants fan. Rangers. I got the chance to go to this NBA2K event, I’ve been helping out with the Knicks gaming team and we had a charity event with The Players Tribune and some of the Rangers came to play some 2K. So I got to talk with Jimmy Vesey a little bit. I’m going to get to some more Rangers games next year for sure.
So besides the Knicks gaming team, the Baron Davis project, what else you got going on?
JF: Power. Season five is dropping July 1st, and season six will start shooting in August or September like it normally does. The 2K and the gaming stuff is really taking up a large part of my life, it’s way more work than I realized it would be being part of a gaming team. It’s an 18-game season, we hired a coach, we practice, we’ve got a gaming facility in Long Island city, we stream every game live on Twitch, it’s a big operation. I really want to bring a championship year one, it’d be awesome.
Best golfer from the “Entourage” cast, besides Kevin Dillon?
JF: Besides Dillon, it’s probably me because I play the most. Kevin Connolly rarely plays, although, he has one of the greatest shots I ever saw in my life, in person. We got invited to play golf with Wayne Gretzky at Sherwood Country Club, which, who wouldn’t want to seize that opportunity, it’s the Great One. We went to his club to play, me, Kevin Dillon, Kevin Connolly and Doug Ellin, who created Entourage. Adrian Grenier had not learned to play golf yet, so I don’t think he joined.
The way I remember it, and I think this is pretty accurate, there was a few foursomes out and Gretzky was bouncing around and playing with everyone, being charming. Gretzky was up near the green going to play his next shot and Kevin Connolly is in the fairway, I think hitting his third, maybe second, and I want to say he’s 99 yards—it might have been 98 but 99 sounds better for the story. He hit a little pitching wedge and it looked good from the moment it left the club. Gretzky walks on to the green and the ball takes like two hops and rolls out and goes right in the cup. Gretzky takes the ball out, I want to say he even signed it “99” and gave it to Kevin. I’ve never been more jealous of a Kevin Connolly golf shot as that one, great moment.
There's so many great golf scenes in Entourage but the Tom Brady one is by far the best. How often do you get asked about that?
JF: It’s probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get, or I’ll just get people shouting out “Tom Brady sucks!”, they’ll quote me. Entourage is what really got me started in golf. We had a simulator we would shoot at in between scenes when we’d have hours to kill. I graduated from there and Kevin took me to a par 3 course, so I took baby steps and then got out on a real course and I’ve pretty much been obsessed ever since.
So, does Tom Brady still suck balls?
JF: It’s really hard to say that at this point. The Giants fan in me wants to, but I really don’t have facts to back up that argument. Honestly, he was really, really humble on the set and he was so cool with the crew and everyone. He’s a great dude, it was great to have him on. And I’m one of the few people that got to tell him to his face (he sucks) and he couldn’t punch me in the face or anything, so it was awesome.