When you go to a golf tournament, your out in nature. You're walking amongst the tree's and at times, the wildlife that inhabits a golf course. Out east playing courses like TPC Sawgrass or Golf Village chances are good your going to see an alligator or two. Many times I've witnessed them sunning themselves on fairways. Yeah...it would be a good idea to take an unplayable lie in that situation.
But seriously. Think about viewing golf from the gallery. You get the opportunity to walk down the fairway, hole-to-hole with your favorite player. Back in 1999 living down in Florida I did just that.
My mom came for a visit and I scored some tickets to the Honda Classic. That was the year Vijay Singh won the tournament. Not only did he win. He won in high fashion. Playing in 25 and 30 mph winds on Sunday and coming from 5 strokes back, Vijay beat Payne Stewart and Eric Booker. We followed Payne Stewart on Friday. He was decked out in his blue nickers, knee high white socks and Kongel hat. What a beautiful swing he had. So rhythmic and fluid. Payne was all game when we followed him. Very focused and into the round. Very seldom did he acknowledge when someone said "nice shot" or "great putt". But that's the kind of player he was. About the only emotion you would get out of him as a slight wave-of-the-hand and a grin from that boyish face.
The whole setting was pretty cool. If your favorite player was in one of the late groups. All the better. You could follow him from the time he hit the practice facility, up to tee off, and through his 18 hole round of golf if you felt like walking the course.
If you were fortunate to be able to get close enough to follow the Fuzzy Zoeller's and the Corey Pavin's of the time. What a treat. You know following Fuzzy you were guaranteed a laugh from some crazy antic he would do. Corey Pavin would walk along the side of the fairway, close to the ropes just to hold a conversation with an admiring fan. You can't get that close to a player in too many other professional sports for that length of time and not get tackled to the ground by some over zealous security guard. And how about if you had the chance to follow Lee Trevino. No one could entertain a crowd like he could. Laughing, joking, telling stories, playing to the fans.
With all the boundary's and limited access to professional athletes in other sports, you have to appreciate how close you can get to your favorite player in golf. Sure, you can wait for Alfonso Soriano to get close enough during batting practice to ask for an autograph. Or you can stand around after a game and hope that Derrick Rose will take the time to sign something. But golf. I've seen the likes of Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Craig Stadler, Fred Couples and countless others take the time at the range to stand there and actually talk and have a conversation with their fans.
This year the Ryder Cup is being held at Medinah Country Club. I have a friend of mine working on getting me some tickets. Hopefully if he comes through with them I'll be walking with the greats of golf one more time. Up close and personal. Just one more reason why the game we love is the best sport on the planet.
Take a kid golfing. Share your love of the game.