September 04, 2005

Sir? That's a player's trophy, not an urn.

Thanks to the generosity of a good friend, today I got to go to the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. It was one of those rare days on the links, where the fog had cleared, it was sunny but not hot, and it was breezy but not overly windy. In other words, damned near perfect.

What made it even better was that it's not yet a huge event, which means there aren't huge crowds. We started at the classic 18th green, and I was astonished at how few people were there. I've only been there before at big events like the US Open and the Pebble Beach Pro-Am where there are throngs everywhere, so it was a real treat to be there and have the place "to ourselves."

It was a Champions Tour event, which I guess means that it was all senior players so we weren't dealing with the "hot" players of today but instead the older players who've still got it, and probably a few who don't but are still out there swinging. They are paired up with junior players who I think qualify in various tournaments...I'm not clear on the details, okay, I was there for the sake of just being there.

Anyway, I got to see Gary Player, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Curtis Strange and Arnold Palmer, fairly up close and personal, and who knows when I might get a chance to see some of those guys again? (Arnie's about to turn 76, after all, and this might have been his last competitive round at Pebble Beach.) I also got to walk down the 18th fairway when the final group was on the green -- that was a treat because being out there is something you generally have to pay a couple hundred bucks, swing at little balls and walk around in goofy pants in order to do.

But a few downsides:

- It took more than half a tank of gas to get there and back, which will now cost me at least 30 cents more per gallon to replace. (Is everyone else enjoying that super-fun game of "Who's got the 'cheapest' gas in town?" by the way? If so, check out this little animated movie.)

- I had a wardrobe malfunction wherein I wore a pair of shoes I've never worn before in place of my customary weekend sandals (thinking with the weather there so iffy that I might need more on my feet than those), and ended up with sore feet and a bunch of blisters in places I don't normally get blisters. Not only did it impede my enjoyment of walking around as much as I would have liked, but the big one on my heel burst mid-stride and that's a pretty icky feeling.

- Even though I'm generally an "obey the rules" kind of person, I did bring along my little digital camera just in case there was something that just had to be recorded and wouldn't get my camera confiscated. Plus, since there were no A-level players there, the rules seemed to be a little relaxed and there were a lot of pictures being taken anyway. But I ignored the little "low battery" icon one time too many and my perfect shot of Arnie on the 17th tee didn't happen because the batteries were dead. I would have had a great (non-cat) picture to post with this, damn it.

- While on the 18th fairway, near the green, watching Hale Irwin finish up his winning round, this guy took a huge plastic bag out of his army jacket with one hand, while clutching his can of beer in the other, and started scattering the ashes of a dearly departed friend on the grass. That was distracting enough, especially when he ran out into the sand trap next to me to see if he could get away with dumping some in there, too, but remember that breeze I mentioned? Yeah. I kept hearing him vigorously brushing off his pants behind me and I didn't even want to think about where else the swirling air might have carried any stray bits o' Buddy.

- I put on a new moisturizer in the morning, which I thought had sunscreen because I usually only buy moisturizer with a minimum SPF15, but which had none. So I got a bit of sunburn on my face and neckline and my nose is a nice shade of too-rosy at the moment. Thankfully, it doesn't hurt much.

- I got the crap scared out of me by the Michelin Man. Yeah, there's a story there but I'm getting sleepy, so suffice it to say that I yelled at him and moved on.

Regardless of all my bitching, it was a great day (especially once I got back to the car and put my sandals back on!) and a really fun time all the way around. If you're a golf fan and want to see a nice event without the crowds and the mindless screaming of "Get in the hole!" after every swing, I would try to check it out next year.

Just wear comfortable shoes, for the love of all that's right and good in the world.