Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The US Open

I should start by saying that I really didn’t want to go to the US Open. Or, I really didn’t want to go that much. Three days of traipsing around a golf course in crowds of over 140,000 watching guys walk by and periodically stop to hit or putt a ball isn’t really my idea of a good time. It was however a dream of my wife’s to go and so partly out of a sense of duty, and partly because I genuinely love to watch her have fun, I went.

We found out before we got there that we wouldn’t be able to park anywhere near the course. In fact, we had to park 13 miles away at Qualcomm Stadium. I wanted to go less. The first indication that I might be wrong was that the parking was free and comparatively well organized. Then, when we had walked all the way around the stadium to where the busses were waiting we found out that we couldn’t take cell phones. There were metal detectors, so it wasn’t a question of just hiding them. We just couldn’t take them. We would be completely out of touch for all of three days. Things were looking up even more. (Never mind that I had to take the phones back to the car and therefore had actually walked about 17 miles before we even left for the golf course).

Boarding the busses further confirmed that this wasn’t going to be like most things in America. I had thought that the person who had the idea to transport 140,000 people from a parking lot around a football field 13 miles to the golf course should be shot, but when we arrived at the busses, the boarding process was astonishingly simple, the route well planned, and the drop off point at the golf course allowed unfettered access for the teaming hoards … and hoards there were.

The good news is that for the most part, golf hoards aren’t like most kinds of hoards. They’re relatively well behaved and quiet when they should be. They encouraged the golfers – both stars and ingénues alike – in good times and bad, and – oh – my – god – there were some bad moments for these guys. With rough so deep that it was actually hard to walk through it – let alone swing a club and make contact and greens so fast they resembled wavy nonstick frying pans, the players struggled on most holes to find ways to just make par. Hey – wait a minute – that’s what I do! Maybe that’s why the US Golf Association (USGA for the acronym aware) makes the course so hard. It’s so these guys have to struggle for the same scores we do. Never mind that I’ve never shot below 80 and probably never will.

Golf is a beautiful sport. It really is. There’s something about the undulation of the fairways, the sandy bottomed bunkers, the trees, the water and the vistas that is truly regenerating. For me – more so on this day because I didn’t actually have to try and hit a ball well in front of all those people. But the players are beautiful too. There is a grace in the arch of the swing and the rise of the ball that is peaceful to watch. Better golfers even make the less graceful moments work, like when Geoff Ogilvie hit a perfect lob from not five feet in front of me straight up in the air and landed it perfectly on the edge of the green, watching it roll to within about a foot and a half of the cup. Nothing should have been easy about that shot. The grass was too long. The ball hopelessly tethered. The green falling away with less than 20 feet from edge to edge along the roll and the greased lightning fast surface - these things should all have conspired to carry the ball into the deep fringe on the other side of the hole, but will, practice and grace stopped it short and par made, Ogilvie smiled at us as he walked off the green to admiring applause and touched his hat as if to say, ‘yeah, that was pretty cool, wasn’t it?’

I’ll leave Tiger for another day … he deserves his own. But if you ever get a chance to go to a US Open, a Superbowl, a truly great concert, or anywhere else where you might get a chance to experience the magnificent, go – and please drag me along with you. I’ll bitch and scream, but I’ll pay my way and in the end we’ll smile and know we did something special.

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