I’ve been very lucky to attend quite a few pro golf tournaments this year. I went to the LPGA Sybase Classic, the US Open, the US Women’s Open and then The Barclays last week. Now it looks like I’m going to the Deutsche Bank Championship this weekend.
Since I’ve only been blogging about golf for five months, it’s all new and pretty exciting for me. I’ll admit I’m still a little wide-eyed and in awe when I meet some of the players (but I’m sure I’ll get over it soon enough). I’ve had great experiences at each of the tournaments. I especially enjoy going to the practice rounds. There are smaller crowds. The players are more relaxed. I love scoping out the course and simply watching the pros practice. Last Tuesday I had a particularly great day at Liberty National. In fact, I couldn’t have asked for a better one.
Not the Game, You Talkin’ About Practice?
- I walked inside the ropes (which I’d never done before) with Ryan Moore, Bubba Watson, Aaron Baddeley and D.A. Points. I got to banter with them strolling down the fairway. It was interesting listening to them talk about the course and how the holes were playing. My favorite comment of the day came from Bubba on the 9th teebox. While Ryan was lining up his drive, he was telling Aaron and me a story. Bubba interrupted him and said, “Come on, let’s go. We’re playing at the pace of a 6-hour round.” You had to be there, but it was hilarious. I remember a post-round interview a few months ago where he was baffled by slow play.
- On the third hole, there was a backup. I was standing near the walkway between the tee and second green. While I was waiting for the guys to hit, the group behind approached and stopped next to me. To my surprise, Rory Sabbatini struck up conversation and we chatted for a few minutes. Even more surprisingly, he was really nice. I’d always heard negative stories about him and he has a rep for being kind of a jerk (maybe it’s because he’s not the most chipper person?). Anyway, he seems like a good guy. Now if he’ll just get rid of those awful sunglasses…
- Ryan only played nine holes that day because he had a press conference. The ninth hole is probably the furthest point away from the clubhouse (one of this year’s major champions was overheard “joking” that it was designed that way because no one would play a full round if the ninth hole went back to the clubhouse. Zing!). So, we took a shuttle back to the players’ parking lot. We were walking up the stairs when we ran into none other than Fred Couples — my favorite player and childhood hero. Freddie stopped to congratulate Ryan on his win at the Wyndham. Ryan knows I’m a huge fan and introduced us. He told him I was also from Seattle and we grew up playing junior golf together. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation very clearly — mostly because I was caught off-guard by the run-in and trying not to say something stupid, like, asking him to marry me. Anyway, he was friendly, gregarious and as cool as everyone says. I’m not going to lie, meeting him made my week. Yep, it’s all about the little things.
It’s a Trip
- I jumped on the ferry to get back to the city, only to walk into a boatload of players. I’m sure I looked completely shocked. (I didn’t realize until Wednesday that it was the “special” ferry, but apparently I had access.) Right away I spotted Ernie Els. I also recognized Mathew Goggin, Kevin Stadler, Nathan Green and DJ Trahan. Now it’s a small boat, so I guess you could say I made a few new friends. Shay, a caddie, started chatting with me. I walked with him, Stadler and Nathan from Battery Park to Soho where they were staying. They couldn’t have been nicer. It was awkward and at the same time amusing because Ryan had beat Stadler in a playoff only two days before. I waited a good 15 minutes into the conversation and told him Ryan was my friend. I made a smartass comment. He laughed.
- On Wednesday, I showed up at the ferry dock and realized I’d forgotten my pass. Well, lucky for me I spotted Goggin and even luckier he remembered me from Tuesday evening. He was kind enough to bring me along.
- The ferry ride back that evening was a similar story to Tuesday, but more players, including Padraig Harrington. Again, Ernie was there. The list goes on. I talked with DJ again, who is probably the friendliest guy I met — just a genuinely nice person.
Well, those stories might sound silly, but it was awesome for someone like me who is new to the scene. And, I always get a kick out of random and unexpected happenings. I’m sure (or hope) there will be many more in the future. Next time I’ll have to snag interviews.