I’ve never cared for putting people in their places. The older I get – the less I want to talk about politics, religion, or anything else that can easily lead to a debate that in the end isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. I prefer to write about good things. Interesting things. Fun things. Things that create the desire for my readers to maybe think beyond the topic of whatever it is I’m writing about. Things that might either put a smile on someone’s face, or cause them to stop for just a second and think to themselves, “You know, I never thought of it like that, great point.” That doesn’t mean I can’t be critical of certain attitudes and behaviors in some of my writings, because unfortunately some of the things happening in the game today (in my view) aren’t necessarily good things and a few of them I find important enough to bring to light.
Which is the case today. Yes – I do take issue with what has happened this week at the Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow. I’ll save you the investigative journey and explain it to you in the simplest of terms.
As you already know, the winter throughout much of the entire country has been harsh, relentless, brutally cold, and enormously long. It was an unusually late spring as a result. Spring is growing season, when the flowers bloom, when the grass suddenly wakes up from the dormant hibernation during winter and finally begins to grow once again. The further north you go up the eastern coastline, the more delayed the growing season has become. That growth is vitally important in all facets of golf course agronomy. You need warmth, you need sunshine, and you need moisture. You take any one of those three elements out of the agronomy equation – you’re going to have issues. Charlotte, NC – the location for this week’s tournament – has endured a very cold and rugged winter with everything above coming into play. As a result, the course isn’t of the usual playing conditions as it has been in years past. A few weeks ago, some of the players who played practice rounds there learned this firsthand, and rumors started flying left and right. “Awful” was a commonly used word to describe the conditions of the greens. Keeping in mind that “awful” to me and you would still likely be pristine and damned near Edenesque, compared to what we usually encounter each week where we play. The rumor turned into concern, concern turned into a frenzy, and now we have several big-name players who previously committed to playing this week suddenly using every excuse outside of the dog eating the homework to bail at the last minute.
That’s such a great example to set, fellas. Sponsors who’ve spent enormous amounts of money, thousands of fans who’ve purchased tickets in large part to see you – the big name player – play, a city that has gone out of its way to welcome you and your organization, all of the hours hundreds of people and countless local commerce committees have spent preparing for this one big golf event this season, and you don’t even think twice about taking the week off? Shame on you.
Hey, how about you guys come play a few weeks where we play. If your immunizations are up to date, particularly Tetanus, you can throw your bag on a nasty old golf cart that hasn’t been washed in years and head out into the more dormant pastures we call our golfing home. You can mingle with the riff raff while remembering what it was like playing before your name was ever etched on your bag and herds of people followed you around hoping to merely catch a piece of a flying divot you left behind as their personal keepsake. You won’t find many sand-filled divots, but you’ll find plenty of challenge when that 330 yard tee shot of yours ends up in the bottom of an 8-inch ditch that someone made with a 6-iron a few minutes earlier from the center of the fairway. You’ll also figure out how to hit a ball lying in a deep footprint in a sand bunker that’s often confused for an ash tray, that someone was too lazy to rake, providing there’s even any sand to go along with the dozen or so cigarette butts in the bunker to begin with. You’ll enjoy the conversation standing on the tee, as we regular greens-paying folk make fun of the golf swings we see in the fairway up ahead, which helps pass the time waiting endlessly for what has felt like hours. You’ll remember how second natured it used to be to hit a golf ball from the tee while people standing near your peripheral blinked their eyes, or how easily you blocked out the quiet chatter of those playing with you. The backfiring of an old farming tractor just down the road won’t distract your focus midswing, like those menacing gnat farts do when you’re playing for truckloads of money.
It’ll take you a few holes to get used to putting on what probably seems like to you are temporary greens, but you’ll get the hang of it eventually, and the same joyous feeling of draining a 15 footer here will likely feel twice as rewarding as holing a 15 footer on the lush carpets you’re accustomed to putting on back in Tour Dreamland. You don’t have to worry about the formality of avoiding standing on someone’s thru-line beyond the hole if you choose to putt out, and if you ask nicely – we’ll even tend the flag for you on those rare occasions when you fail to stick your wedge approach to within 3 feet of what you would consider an unevenly cut hole.
When the cart girl comes around driving that rickety old beverage cart that you can hear a mile away, you can remember what it felt like buying the guys a beer while admiring her short shorts and suntanned legs, yet another reason to wish you were 20 years younger once again. Miller Lite in a can won’t taste as bad as you thought it would, especially on a hot summer day when you would otherwise be sipping a sugary energy drink from a sponsor who is paying you to make sure you chug at least two of them per round when the cameras are on you, smiling all the way to the bank. You can wear shorts, hell… you can wear jeans if you want most places. You don’t have to worry about wearing shirts and hats with logos tattooed everywhere, reminding everyone that you get paid 7-figure money long before you ever put a peg in the ground each round.
Nah, just show up at least 15 minutes prior to your tee time and we’ll show you around.
Afterward, maybe we’ll meet at the bar of the 19th hole and scarf down a couple of hotdogs that were made the day before and wash them down with a few more cans of Miller Lite. If you’re nice, they’ll serve the beer in refrigerated mugs so it won’t feel as cheap as it tastes. We’ll spend 45 minutes joking about Harry’s shanked 9-iron that hit the golf cart to the right of the fairway, and Joe’s wicked tee shot that somehow splashed out of the water and back onto dry land. We’ll laugh and joke, but we’ll also get serious long enough to talk about the one or two good shots we somehow managed despite our clearance-rack golf clubs and homemade golf swings. Right before we leave, we’ll go back inside the pro shop long enough to see about securing a starting time again next week, and then we’ll mosey up to the parking lot and shake mustard-stained hands, wishing each other a good upcoming week as we head back home to our families, the real world with real jobs, mortgage payments, medical bills, car payments, and credit card debt – things we don’t worry about for that 5 hours every Saturday morning.
It’ll make your creampuff Tour life seem like the oasis it is.
But no, go ahead and take the week off. Hell, we’re already in May and you’ve already put in what – like 8 weeks of work? No worries, contrary to popular belief – you won’t be missed. Yeah, maybe the greens aren’t perfect. Maybe it’s a good week to just stay home and count your money instead of your blessings.
Yours Truly – an average guy who pays to play a game that he loves, and has a pretty good idea of what a hard day of real work actually feels like.