I’ll tell you the first thing I discovered before I even got into the gates of the Olympic Club: I shouldn’t have worried so much about the invitation-mandated “proper golf attire”. There were people in jeans, wearing crocs and even dressed in full on Larry the Cable Guy regalia. Not to say I looked out of place in my skort, collared golf shirt, tasteful cotton cardigan, spectator pumps and pearls. I’m just saying the Grumpy Old Rich White Men that I thought would be working so hard to enforce Eisenhower-era dress codes seemed to be asleep at the switch. Or maybe, their desire to have a sell-out event — which they did — and a massive buying spree in the merchandise tents — overrode their normal standards.
And that famous ban on all cell phones? I shouldn’t have left mine locked in the car glove compartment. No one searched my tasteful Coach bag. I could totally have live Tweeted this event. I saw many others who were. I’d heard they had confiscated about 130 phones. But maybe they only searched those NOT wearing proper golf attire.
As you can tell by now, despite all my enthusiasm and enjoyment of the event, I don’t know Jack about golf. Andy suggested I run any posts about the tournament by him so I don’t embarrass myself. But he kept calling Tiger Woods “Obama” and couldn’t stop giggling over the fact that there is a star in a sport other than NASCAR who is called Bubba. So, I figure my observances, uninformed as they are, may have some validity without his editing.
Here’s what I saw and learned:
1. Go early! Andy rousted me out early in order to be walking into the Olympic Club just before 7AM. That allowed us front-of-the-rope standing room to see Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson walk down from the club house and tee off.
2. If you don’t go early, you will not see the big players unless you join the giant herd of people who follow Tiger from hole to hole. And if you join that herd, you’ll miss some really good stuff. After the first hour, we left the Woods, Mickelson, Watson show and zig zagged back and forth watching other players — usually from right up next to the rope or in the front seat of the stands.
3. If you follow this tactic, you will see some really good golf and maybe some exciting moments that even the news crews won’t catch. We experienced that when we stationed ourselves at the Fourteenth hole and saw Michael Allen Eagle not twenty feet from us.
4. Golf seems to me unique in that it must be the only sport where probably 99% of the spectators are also players. (This is one instance where I would be the 1%.) The result is a wonderful energy between the stars and the fans. The fans feel the players’ pain on a bad shot and truly celebrate their joy for a great shot. The players acknowledge that bond by tipping their hats and/or smiling at the spectators in a wonderfully inclusive dynamic.
5. Tiger Woods does not do this. He’s completely “in the zone”. If he hits a great shot, he doesn’t smile. If he hits a less than stellar shot, he doesn’t frown. And he certainly doesn’t acknowledge the crowd in any way. He could have been playing a round on an unoccupied planet after some sort of asteroid apocalypse (assuming such an event would only leave Tiger and the Olympic Club standing.)
6. Doesn’t matter. The vast majority of the crowd comes to see Tiger and only Tiger. When Tiger walked up to a tee, even his golf clubs, which preceded him, got applause. By about 9AM when most of the crowd had arrived, hordes of people just trailed Tiger around. Which was fine. Those of us who were sick of The Tiger Show, were free to zigzag across the course and get up close and personal with the other golfers. Just us and a few others who came to see the play, not just one player, including a Grumpy Old Rich White Guy who kept calling Tiger Woods “The Charlie Sheen of Golf”.
7. There were players named Howell III and Rock.
8. My pick for eventual stardom is fourteen year old Andy Zhang. He appeared unnaturally self-confident at the very first, but when he made a good shot, he was pure 9th grader. He had a great smile on his face and spent so much time shaking hands with fans, it was clear he was just excited to be here. I hope he keeps that wonderful enthusiasm.
9. My pick for worst dressed was Hiroyuki Fujita. His colors didn’t seem to match and everything seemed ill-fitting.
That’s about the extent of the commentary I can provide. But just one more interesting note on my foray into the territory of Grumpy Old Rich White Guys. At the dinner hosted by our corporate sponsors — an investment banking firm which shall remain nameless — the talk was all about government austerity and how it was exactly the wrong solution for today’s financial crisis. In fact, a key executive of the company, in his post-dinner remarks, even said “I hope the Leftists win.”
Lesson for the day: never pigeon-hole Grumpy Old Rich White Guys. They can surprise you.
Photo of Tiger Woods, AFP.
Photo of Tim Herron by Marc Feldman/Getty Images.
Photo of Hiroyuki Fujita by Jeff Gross/Getty Images