Archive for June, 2007

June 17, 2007

I can’t believe it has already been two weeks since the U.S. Open ended. That last day, once the early newscasts were over, I attempted to follow Tiger around, just to see what it was like. I made it to the 11th tee. Since he and Baddeley were in the last pair, there was no one else to watch, so people left their seats or spots along the rope, and the throngs grew and grew. I gave up, and trudged to the media tent, carrying my trusty periscope, and watched the rest on–what else–television. I still don’t know why Furyk pulled out that driver on 17. And you have to wonder, was Tiger distracted by the impending birth of his first child? Who knows? What would Tiger have done if he had tied Carbrera on 18. He had promised he would drop out and fly to his pregnant wife’s side if she went into labor– and low and behold, Monday, the greatest golfer in the world became a dad. After watching him in person at the news conferences after each round, I have become more and more impressed with him. His unshakable confidence just oozes from every pour. And , on that last afternoon, his praise of the crowds who were clearly pulling for him was truly genuine.
This photo represents everything about how the USGA pulled this off. These are port-o-johns in the media tent, and they were the same in all the corporate tent areas. They were beautiful. I just have a thing for nice bathrooms.

And,again, many apologies and praise to the volunteers–including my sister and her husband. The sun and exertion addled my brain, and I will never hear the end of having said the volunteers got paid, instead of paying, 150 bucks for their uniforms.
Another apology to Spencer Mellon, one of the young Central Catholic golfers in the piece about Corey O’Connor, the golf coach at Central. I know Spencer’s father, Grant, and called Spencer “Grant” twice during the interview, then wrote it into the story. What an idiot I am. He, and his mother, were such good sports about it.

And everyone seemded to be such good sports about getting up with the sun, and piling aboard all the buses. That last night, I had gone to an after party at the Club, and my friends rushed me to the Hartwood boarding area near the main admissions gate, before it was too late. It looked like the last bus was leaving, about 9:45, and we yelled for it to stop, but no luck. So the woman with the walkie-talkie called the very last bus, and he was on his way. had my own, private ride, and my friends said their last memory of the Open, was me waving out the window of that big yellow vehicle, yelling “Thank you,” and disappearing into the darkness. The driver told me he had made 15 trips everyday for seven days, and I was the last one. My car was the only one there, parked on the huge expanse of Hartwood Acres. I am sure that I speak for people like this family– walking up No. 1 fairway after the Tiger hordes had passed–when I say, I was really sad to have it end. I am sure the USGA, the players, and the members of Oakmont were, to some degree, relieved it was over. But when I talked to Club President Bill Griffin a couple of days later, he expressed mixed feelings as he watched all the tents and grandstands being dismantled.

In the end, the golf course was the star, at least for many of us from the area. Can you anthropomorphize a golf course. In this case, I think you can. It was invincible, brutish, delicate, unpredictable. Perhaps it epitomizes what is so appealing about golf. As you walk the fairways, wack your way out of the rough, dig your way out of the bunkers–it is like conquering, or exploring, new territories. There is something sweeping about the scope of the game. It is not played in the more confined areas of a field, an arena, even a track. And Oakmont, now returned to its links-like origins, seems to remain one of the toughest to tame. What a great week it was!!! Oh, and a footnote. I know Sergio Garcia didn’t make the cut, along with some of the other highly ranked golfers. But a friend emailed me this story about her granddaughter. The woman said her 16 year old granddaughter had just spent a trying day at Children’s hospital, and was standing at the ropes watching Sergio. Without any prompting, Sergio walked over and handed her a golf ball.( I think it was a golf ball). So many folks have stories like that, people who came all the way from Bend, Oregon, and New Mexico. From Toronto, and Tarentum. And most of them, I think, came away with an appreciation for the beauty and hospitality of this region.


June 16, 2007

Day Two . Another beautiful day, and as Stanley Druckenmiller said, it is more like southern California, than Pittsburgh–dry, dry, dry. Druckenmiller is one of the members at this club who was intent on bringing the Open back to Oakmont. An investment manager in New York, he was such a nice man, and devoted to the traditions of this golf course. I ended up interviewing a number of members who have been influential over the past decade in making the course what it is today. Benny Barbour, the former president of H.H. Robertsoin, now retired in Arizona, was a hoot telling me Tuesday night about how he and another man went out in the middle of the night to begin taking out the trees at the club. Obviously they didn’t cut them down themselves, but it is such a story of intrigue, politics and controversy (as I said in my piece during the news). I think that aired on Thursday, but the days are all beginning to run together.

I heard some people say that Tiger wasn’t signing autographs,

but I met the most adorable high school graudate who made it her mission to get eye contact and waves from her favorites. Her boyfriend was really surprisingly supportive, but he was really cute, too. Tiger acknowledged her, and Phil said thank you when she told him to feel better.

I have never understood how some fail to understand that the intense focus that has made Tiger Woods the most recognizable athlete in the world, is what makes him less than accessible during a major. Of course he is a bit different! He is an athletic “genius,” and to do what he has done, there is part of you that must not care what people say about you. After his round on Friday, he did his news conference, then went to the practice tee, and I was told he signed a lot of autographs.

Oh, I met Colin Montgomerie in one of the corporate tents, and we talked about being Scottish. He was charming and oh, so well-spoken, I know a lot of Americans don’t like him because of critical remarks he made about US fans after the Ryder cup the Americans won with that putt by Justin Leonard. Someone pointed out to me that he has bodyguards,

but so do Ernie Els, shown here walkng with them ( they are local law enforcement officers), and Tiger.

Day Three I talked to the young man who caddied for Tiger in Tiger’s second round at Oakmont, sometime in April. Adam Hoffman played while at Fox Chapel HIgh, and is headed to Vanderbilt on a full ride. His parents, Rob and Christi Hoffman are lovely people, and have two great kids–their other son played hockey, went to OSU( that’s okay) and now works for the Penguins. The Golf Channel also did a story about Adam, because of what Adam did with the 150 dollars Tiger tipped him . He didn’t tell his parents that he donated it back to the Tiger Foundation, and they got an acknowledgement in the mail. Rob didn’t want to go on camera, because he was afraid he would cry. He didn’t, but I did. hahahaha. How I would have loved to have a child like that.

So much talk about the rough, and the cutting of it…fascinating how they have machines, that when they cut, pull the blades of grass up so the blades are standing at attention,and when the ball hits them, it sinks down, and doesn’t lie on top.

The ride form Hartwood, which is quite close to my home, was pleasant. I wish I could take those shortcuts off the turnpike. I had wondered how they would get to the course so quickly. And you don’t even mind getting up at 4:30–well, maybe that is an exaggeration–but there is an invigorating chill in the air, dew on the grass, and the sense that you are going to be doing something special on this day. It is the feeling I had every morning, when we got up at 5:30, to get ready to mount our horses when I was on safari in Africa. And, frankly, without the trees, this links course, restored to its original style, looks a little like the savanna of Africa. And hitting into that rough is getting lost in the jungle. Ha! Rain and lightning end the practice rounds, and our live shots. Everyone scrambled to tape what we call “ins” and “outs.” So there was some semblance of being live. This was the day that I wore new shoes. MISTAKE ! I have these gaping blister holes on my heels, and then I didn’t read the directions on the moleskin, and put it directly on the blisters. I won’t tell you what that was like trying to get them off.

Day Four. It has started. The Championship. And the first thing I have to do is interview the thousands preparing to follow Tiger. I was so impressed by one teenager. I asked him why he would follow this athlete for five and a half miles–a man who probalby might not acknowledge him now that he was in “focus” mode. He said Tiger was a role model–his preparation, his intensity, his brains. I was impressed. Impressed on how even the glitches–like human logjams around the 18th hole, and on the bridge–get smoothed out somehow by USGA .. It’s not perfect, but when you consider almost 50,000 people wandering around in the grass, in withering heat, it is mind-boggling.

June 13, 2007

Day One at the U.S. Open. Can’t tell you how excited we all are. I am posting this on Day Three, because we have been going non-stop. They are calling it the Super Bowl of golf, but when our crews covered the Super Bowl, we didn’t have to walk from here to forever. The photojournalists amaze me. First day, Ralph Bell was everywhere, a real links warrior, and Dan Pratt the same. We were walking down No. 9 fairway, and he was walking beside us, not able to see where he was going, and the shot was as steady as it would have been on a tripod. The story was about autograph seekers. According to the USGA policy manual, there aren’t supposed to be any autographs in most circumstances–during the Practice rounds or the Championship. RIGHT! I got a chance to see how the autograph seekers do their thing, and how the players respond. Dan and I were following a friend of mine, who happens to be on a USGA committee for girls junior golf. She was also the co-chair of the Curtis Cup when it was played at Fox Chapel Golf Club in 2002 (that is the women’s amateur match between the US and The British Isles). She is a superb golfer, but, more importantly, she is a great mom, and she was there with one of her two daughters, Phoebe. There is a way to do this, without being rude, and that is to wait for the players, as they come off the greens, heading to the next tee. We were at No. 1 green, where they cross the bridge. Courtney and Phoebe were trying to get Vijay Singh, and we thought that might be tough. As we waited for him to tee off, it was easy to get Tom Pernice, although Phoebe wasn’t sure who he was until he signed her Oakmont flag. Some of these guys look really different in person—sound familiar???

Then we spotted Zach Johnson. He was so serious coming off the green. Who wouldn’t be. No. I is so hard..tight fairway…long as heck. But as she held her flag out, he whipped out that Sharpie (they all carry them in their pocket to save time), and signed it but did it while he was walking—so Phoebe had to run along thru the crowd to re-capture the flag! He never spoke… and I would say he is already in focus mode, since the Masters win has put a lot of pressure on him to perform in the same manner here.

We expected Vijay to be aloof, but he was anything but. He sort of smiled, and did the same–signed as he walked, but yelled out to Phoebe, “Walk with me, walk with me!” I was yelling at Phoebe,”Get it ! Get it!” Her mom and I were so excited. I think it is great that the sport–and I call it a sport now, not a game–has become more and more popular. It is something you can do all your life. You may get better, but, as a friend just told me, you never conquer it.