Haney, Limbaugh start off on right track

Hank Haney, left, and his newest pupil, Rush Limbaugh. The two will appear in Season 3 of "The Haney Project" on Golf Channel.

After hitting a few range balls, Hank Haney’s newest student wanted some feedback.

“Those are just soft, easy swings, and they’re all going much further right than I think I’m aimed,” Rush Limbaugh said.

Haney informed Limbaugh that he was, in fact, aimed to the right.

Well, duh?

The irony seemed to be lost on both men, but their on-camera chemistry still makes for good viewing on Golf Channel’s “The Haney Project.” The first episode of the third season will air on Jan. 11 at 9 p.m.

I’ve generally been cool toward reality television, including Golf Channel’s attempts at the genre. But I’ve been willing to give “The Haney Project” a go on a case-by-case basis. Yes to Charles Barkley in season one, but no to Ray Romano in season two. (Then again, I was the exception to the rule that “Everybody Loves Raymond,” even though I was, like the lead character, a sportswriter who used to work in New York.) But as an unabashed Dittohead, I’ve been looking forward to the third season. I suspect most people are like that: If you find Haney’s student interesting, you’ll watch; if not, you won’t.

Limbaugh, who took up golf 13 years ago, seems humbled, even vulnerable – adjectives not normally associated with his public persona. He claimed to carry an 18 handicap, but admitted it’s probably closer to 28.

“In golf, it’s the only place, Hank, in my life where I assume everybody knows more than I do,” Limbaugh confided. On the golf course, the man who commands an audience of 20 million listeners, more than twice that of his nearest competitor, is racked by an unfamiliar feeling: uncertainty. He’s worried that he might be “a waste of (Haney’s) time.”

After futile efforts to coach up basket cases such as Charles Barkley in season one and Ray Romano in season two, Haney knows a waste of time when he sees one. In Limbaugh, Haney sees cause for optimism.

“He’s got some athletic ability, he’s got some (swing) speed, and he’s smart. . .,” Haney said. “He doesn’t trust what he knows, but he’s got the right idea.”

Haney seems a bit too phlegmatic, though perhaps that’s just in contrast to big personalities such as his wife Suzanne, who figures prominently in the first episode, and Limbaugh. Still, Limbaugh gave Haney a qualified thumbs-up following their first lesson. Haney might not be Reagan-esque in stature, but at the outset, at least, he seemed to have earned Limbaugh’s trust.

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