Courses & TravelNovember 23, 2008

Exit Row With Affleck . . .

At LaGuardia Airport in New York, if you fly on a commuter Delta jet, sometimes they bus you out to your airplane. I was on my way to Savannah, Ga. and the bus driver dropped me and the rest of the passengers off in a freezing 30 mph windstorm. Another passenger and I ducked behind the front of a bus for protection and I thought, hey, this guy looks like Ben Affleck. He was about 6'3", had an old carry bag over his shoulder and didn't act famous (whatever that means). We stayed out of the wind until the rest of the passengers boarded the plane and then took our seats next to each other in the exit row. He had the window, I had the aisle.

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Sure enough, it was Ben Affleck. I'm allergic to conversations with strangers on planes (and I'm sure he is too) so I put on my noise-reduction headphones and did a little "work" on my computer. As we landed and were taxiing to the terminal, I couldn't resist.

I asked him if he was a golfer. He said no. I explained I was a travel writer for Golf Digest and I do a Q&A with an athlete, celebrity or tour player every month and we talk golf and travel. It was clear he would not be a worthy subject because he didn't play golf.

He told me he was on his way home and that he and his wife (actress Jennifer Garner) had a house in Savannah. He was coming back from Rwanda, where he's working on a documentary.

What golf and travel we could discuss, Affleck said he thinks foreign travel is actually easier than domestic travel. He thinks airlines and airports outside the United States have passed us by in terms of security scanning, quality of restaurants in the airports and general efficiency.

I'd have to agree. I just had two bottles of wine confiscated because I didn't want to pack them in my checked luggage. I treated some lucky security guy to two expensive bottles of grape juice.

They take my wine, and any other sharp objects such as a fingernail clipper, but in business and first class on American Airlines they give the passengers metal forks and serrated knives. It makes so much sense.

As for golf, Affleck says he couldn't fit another new thing on his plate. He says his friends started awhile ago and that if he started now, "They'd be quite a ways down the track and I'd still be back at the starting line."

I told him he probably has a lot better things to do with six hours of his life than get frustrated trying to learn how to play golf. He laughed and said, "A round of golf would take me eight hours."

As I was wheeling my bags towards the rental car counter I thought it was remarkably normal that Garner and their daughter, Violet, were there to pick him up.

--Matty G.

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