I often wonder what other people are listening to, when I see someone dancing around behind the wheel of their car, or wearing earbuds as they make their way around a walk, or run, or sit at a desk in a cubicle. This includes the players I cheer on at the LPGA event I attend each year. Especially this year. Almost every player warms up before her round with earbuds on (in?). Are they listening to DKFM, like I am when I go for walks around the nature park on my way home from work? I would imagine that the music choices run the gamut from K-Pop, to hip-hop, country, maybe good old retro 80 and 90s music, or whatever passes for top 40 these days. In my mind, they would be listening to the brand new New Model Army album to prepare for competitive battle, or something both quietly intense and calming like the latest from Slowness - like when I used to play New Order’s “In A Lonely Place,” or the twisted tragic turmoil of the Cure’s “The Kiss,” or strangely, “Welcome to the Boomtown” by LA duo David & David – in order to pass the down time before basketball games during my mediocre school sports career.
Everyone that knows me, knows that I love attending the Portland Classic golf tournament each year. It is a highlight that in many ways keeps me moving forward – keeps me trying – so I can return the following year. This year, keeping in mind that I would continue to follow my favorite players around the golf course from hole to hole, I decided to splurge and purchase what were called “Champions Club” passes for all four days of the tourney. These passes would allow me access to the grandstands behind the 18th green, unlimited food and beverages, and V.I.P. passage into surprisingly nice porta potties.
Every year, after the tournament, I write about my experience with a little coverage thrown in. This has been going on since 2012, and I am finally ready to stop trying to convince anyone else of the incredibly entertaining merits of this experience. Instead, I will simply tell a bit about the week, simply in order to try to sort it all out. It’s been a couple of weeks since it all went down and I’m still not sure if I can. Now that I’m back fully immersed into the horrific work grind, it’s all fading rapidly.
To be honest, my annual vacation week did not start out great. Every year I volunteer caddy for two Pro-Ams on Monday and Wednesday. These are tournaments before the actual tournament, where corporate big wigs pay money to play a round of golf with one of the pros. This money then goes to charity. As a volunteer, I caddy for one of the amateurs. It’s fun for me, because I always get to meet a pro, see them play up close and marvel at their ability, as well as walk a golf course from the fairway I will likely never be able to play. There have been several moments where I have laughed to the point of hysterics out there – hearing the banter between a player and her caddy, or with a subtle jab at some of these corporate blowhards who are trying to show off. This year the Pro-Ams were poorly organized. There was a lot of uncertainty since a lot of people who were registered were not on the list. Little things were not in place like water to drink, or napkins for the meager food spread, or any kind of set up for checking in. The people in charge were confused and unprepared, which doesn’t make sense, because this has been happening pretty flawlessly for years. Though this summer has been mild, the volunteer days were marred by miserable heat. I was actually worried about my health out there. For that matter, nothing went quite as planned all week leading up to the tournament. Everything was off-kilter. Nothing bad, but all my plans were changed or canceled last minute, and I was in a funk. I guess it was fitting that it carried over into the caddying event.
Luckily, once the tournament began early Thursday morning, everything fell into place. I had a group of players I was excited to see in person teeing it up at 8:10 AM and off we went. Thus began four days of the fun emotional rollercoaster watching great players struggle and triumph as their rounds progressed. I was discouraged watching Morgan Pressel play really well tee to green, yet she could not buy a putt. Her putts all looked good, but none of them would drop. As each hole passed, her frustration grew, and you could see the rest of her game start to crack. It was not to be her week. I did almost witness an ultra-rare double eagle in person, as Jeongeun Lee6 hit her second shot on the par 5 fifth hole to about six inches. The ball slowly rolled by the hole, always looking like it was going to drop. For the third year in a row, I watched Amy Yang play up close. Though she struggled in the first round, she shot back to back six under rounds to get in the mix by the final round. Unfortunately, that final day was rough. She was off to a slow start, but then went on a great run on the front nine. Then came a short missed par putt on the 8th hole, and a bladed chip shot on the 9th that led to a double bogey. This erased her previous progress and she went into a stall the rest of the way – finally finishing in a tie for 20th.
When I wasn’t strolling around the grounds of Columbia Edgewater, I would find refuge in the Champions Club. I had spent all that money, so I had to take advantage. On Saturday, I stopped in for lunch as I came around the turn while following Amy’s round. They were serving unusual looking enchiladas. I grabbed a plate and silverware, place a little salad on there, then some sort of bean mixture, and then struggled a bit with the lid of the chaffing dish that kept the enchiladas hot. There was no place to put the lid aside and having deficient control of my left hand, I was struggling. This was the moment that a really old white haired man wearing an all red outfit nudged me aside, scooping another couple enchiladas onto his plate, pronouncing “These things are way better than they look!” I was dumbfounded as I held the lid. It took me some time before I realized that I had just been assaulted by the Bob from Bob’s Red Mill – wearing the same gear he wears on all of their promo pictures. He was correct. The food was really tasty! I never saw him around after that.
Later, after Amy finished up her round – going from a tie for 63rd to a tie for 10th - I returned to the luxury of the Champions Club, retrieved a beer, and watched all of the remaining pairings finish up on the 18th hole. It was really cool. They also had the television coverage playing up there, so we could keep up on action on other holes. During some down moments, I was exchanging text messages with a handful of different friends who somehow put up with my occasional golf course updates, when I happened upon a GIF (in search of something else) of a chained bear attacking someone. For whatever reason, I could not stop watching it, nor could I stop laughing. The harder I tried to suppress the laughter, the worse it got. Tears streamed down my cheeks, and the older couple sitting to my right moved to the row in front of me. I laughed harder. The guy to my left, who had been making small talk with regarding the golf, got up and left. Soon there was a bubble of space surrounding me, and the laughter came on again. This went on for some time, at least until I became emotionally overwhelmed by the rousing cheers for some fantastic shots into the 18th green, as we were witnessing some amazing golf being played.
I don’t know what to make of any of this, but by tournament’s end, the week was no longer off-kilter. I was feeling thankful for the experience and excited that the tourney came down to a final putt from this year’s champion, Australian, Hannah Green. I had rooted for her to win the Women’s PGA title while watching on TV in the spring, so was happy to see her succeed, and sad that it was all coming to an end again. Along the way, I met a fellow fan, Alex, who said to me that this is his favorite week of the year. That he takes the entire week off from work to be able to see his favorite players, and he thinks that the LPGA is the best event to see in person. Weird, right?
One of these days, one of the players I follow around all 72 holes will breakthrough with the victory, so I can take full credit. The soundtrack will be provided by David + David.