Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Better than Par!

Obviously, I am a non-golfer but as of a few days ago, I am a golfer wanna be. Bob and I and my sister, Lou, and brother-in-law, Rog, had the opportunity to watch three days of the PODS PGA tournament in Tampa Bay, Florida in unseasonably cold, windy weather. If you are a golfer, you can stop reading right now. For one thing, I was not even sure of the terms “birdie” and “bogie” before this past weekend. However, since arriving at home, I have chosen the golf channel on TV twice over Jeopardy and Price is Right, mind you! So for non-golfers, I will share this non technical info to better inform you should you happen upon this same opportunity.

Lou and I talked about volunteering at a PGA tournament sometime. We found out that the volunteers have to pay for their shirts but they do get a voucher for one drink, one sandwich and one bag of chips. We kept looking for the perfect volunteer job but never quite found it. We think our arms would get tired lifting the QUIET sign for the golfers. The best jobs seem to be driving carts around but I am not sure what that job actually is called. We would not want to stand at the gates and pat people down. That reminds me of something worth knowing. You cannot take a cell phone or camera or really just about anything in with you to the tournament, leaving you feeling a bit naked. That explains why we have no photos of any famous golfers. Also, you cannot go out to your car and make calls and come back in again. Your ticket is good for one entry per day.

At the tournament, each morning you receive the pairings schedule based on the prior day. The better golfers started from the first tee and are the last to tee off. The second half of the golfers started from the 10th tee also in reverse order of their scores. It was amazing to me that after four days of the tournament, the best golfer was only 10 strokes ahead of the last golfer. That was out of 140 golfers!

Our options were to either follow a particular golf pair—or in this case three golfers around the course and watch them at each hole or sit at one hole and watch how various golfers did at that particular hole. We chose to do some of both options. Finally on the third day, Lou and I signed up for a credit card even though my hubby thought it was not a good idea. The gift was a cute little fold up chair and it was great for sitting at the holes where there were not grandstands. Neither Lou nor I had any identification when we signed up for the credit card because like I said earlier, pretty much you could not take anything into the tournament with you. I think on the last day of the tournament, they were desperate to fill their application quota. This is how they checked Lou after she handed in her application. They asked her for her birthday that she had just written on the application. They checked me by asking me the spelling of the first and last name on my application. I think if we had failed, they would have given us another opportunity.

With my nifty little red chair with a mesh carrier, I preferred watching at the hole rather than watching the drives at the tees because I couldn’t really see where the ball went and I could not even pretend to know if it was a great swing. Watching through binoculars did me no good at all as I could never track the ball. It was much easier at the hole, because it is pretty obvious whether the ball goes in the cup or not. Also, the weather on the last day was absolutely perfect so we could choose sunny spots in order to get some vitamin D!

I had always smiled when golfers talked about golf being great exercise. But I was enlightened! The golfers really moved between holes. It seemed mostly uphill—I don’t know how they did that. Most of the golfers were lean and tall. I felt sorry for the caddies! A few looked like they had just come out of a sauna. The bags looked like they would exceed the airline limits. They must have to truck them in.

There were times when we did camp out for awhile at the 9th hole or the 18th hole—for three reasons. There were grandstands so we could sit. That is where golfers were finishing—those starting on the 10th tee ended at the ninth hole. There were large video screens that told lots of interesting information. Lou, the mother of all sports fans, sat in the cold and with dust from a sand pit blasting her for several hours on Saturday. She did see lots of exciting action. What that really means is that about every 10 minutes, another group would come into sight. Then twice or maybe three times in four hours, you saw someone “birdie” and got to cheer for that person.

I camped out in at the 18th because there was a much better windbreak and the wind was in the opposite direction of the sand trap and the screen was much easier to read. I did not get to cheer. A lot of balls went right to the edge of the cup and sat there instead of dropping in. I was able to stifle a desire to go pound that cup in a little farther. I sympathized with golfers that pounded the ground a bit with their clubs.

Another thing that I noticed was how some golfers were very meticulous about the greens—using a little pick to pull up the grass and then carefully patting it down again with a club. We didn’t talk about it but I think Bob understands those golfers. Some golfers would practice their shot and then look in the distance probably imagining exactly where the ball would go. They did this over and over again. I would look for the ball also only to realize they were just visualizing. I was fooled in that way many times.

The leader through most of the tournament, Cink, fell apart on Sunday. That was sad because from all reports, he is a very good person. Shipnuck a Senior Writer, at Sports Illustrated sadly wrote, “He’s too nice for professional golf.” What does that mean?

The winner was a 25 year old, O’Hair. He dropped out of high school and turned pro at age 17. His father pushed abusively hard for O’Hair to make the PGA. They do not have any contact with each other any longer. O’Hair credits his father-in-law, often his caddie, with encouraging him to believe in himself. He is married with two small children. Because of his win, he now gets to go to the Masters.

After we got home, I discovered that Kevin Streelman was in the tournament. He graduated from WWHS the year after my son, Brad. Kevin was one of the nine players that got eliminated on Saturday because he shot 84 on that very windy day. The Tribune said that he finished in 79th place and made $9,646. So far in 2008, he has made $102, 250 in eight tournaments and is ranked 128th. Hmm, maybe I should have pushed golf a bit.

One of the fun activities of any event is people watching. On Saturday night, the tournament was called for darkness before 7:00 p.m. We stayed, of course, until the last shot was taken. On the shuttle back to our condo, we rode with several people. One was a young spirited woman that thought that every time the driver talked on his walkie-talkie, he was speaking to her. He asked for some help on an intersection and the woman stood up and said, “I’ll help. You need help? What should I do?” Her friends pulled her down. Another young male volunteer worker had forgotten where he had parked his car and had been to all of the parking lots on another shuttle. Apparently he had someone, a she, waiting somewhere for a ride home. It was dark by this time and he had no idea where to look. He had already checked if the car had been towed and it had not. The shuttle driver reassured him, “Trust me, it has not been towed.” The driver asked him what he remembered about the place he parked. He asked if it was by a swimming pool. The man remembered nothing. He just kept saying, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” He must have had good training though as a volunteer because he did remember that his job was to make the guests feel comfortable. He kept asking us questions like, “Did you have a nice time?” “Where are you from?” It didn’t seem like a good time for inconsequential conversation. I was getting nervous for him but then just before we got off, he spied his car in another condo parking lot—across from a very large swimming pool. At least he got off and we assumed he found his car. I guess we need Paul Harvey for the rest of the story.

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