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Posts Tagged ‘Golf

The PGA Championship: A first look at one of golf’s majors

“Golf requires goofy pants and a fat ass.” — Happy Gilmore

As an avid sports fan, but one who has a concentration in wrestling, I still make a point to keep up with things outside my bubble. I pay attention to NASCAR, but rarely get excited over it. I pay attention to the NHL, but again, rarely get excited.

I love baseball and pro football, keep up with college football and to a lesser extent, the college roundball, but I loathe the NBA and pay zero attention to it.

I moved to Minnesota in August of 2008, on my birthday to boot.

It’s been an interesting year in sports, and on Thursday, I added to a growing list of sporting events I’ve attended in the past 12 months with the PGA Championship in Chaska, Minn.

I knew the PGA Championship was coming to Minnesota, but it wasn’t until Monday when I was watching KARE 11 news that I realized there were tickets left.

I thought to myself, why not check it out. It’s one of the majors and it’s not like I’m a huge golf fan, although I do play occasionally in benefit tournaments and wrestling club fundraisers. I at least “look the part” when I’m on the links.

I’m modestly decent at Golden Tee, but this was the real stuff, with the best in the game. I wasn’t going to go out of my way to stand with throngs of people to get a glimpse of Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.

I was just going to experience one of the major sporting events in one of the most regal of sports. Sure, you can debate the ins and outs of golf actually being a sport, but that’s another topic entirely.

For a first-round ticket, I paid $110, which in retrospect wasn’t really worth it considering the time I spent there. However, it was worth it to see how people watch the game intently, ooh and oh on great approaches and missed putts. The price wasn’t important in the sense of being able to experience a major golf championship.

By the time I’d arrived, Tiger was on the 17th hole and already out to a lead. He was five under by the time I stepped onto the grounds at Hazeltine, which last hosted the PGA Championship in 2002.

I’m a golf tournament novice, at least from a spectator standpoint. Growing up in Virginia, Kingsmill hosted the Anheuser-Busch Classic (later becoming the Michelob and even later, an LPGA event). I never went, but I do have some friends who routinely play at Kingsmill — Apprentice School wrestling coach Bruce Shumaker is one of them.

I studied the course guide, but didn’t pay much attention to tee times. I just wanted to watch and study the interaction between caddy and golfer, fan and friend. Some people definitely come to “dress the part,” even when they are just spectators.

Tiger hats dotted the crowd, as did sweat-soaked Antigua shirts, which went for $83 in the souvenir tent. Kids from the surrounding area sold bottled water outside of the gates, telling us, “It’s the cheapest thing you’ll find before you go in.”

They were right. A cup of Country Time Iced Lemonade was $5. It was tasty, though.

I nestled next to the Par 3 #8. The first threesome which came through from tee to green were some golfers I wasn’t too familiar with: Francesco Molinari of Italy, Lee Rinker of Florida and Ryuji Imada of Japan.

Rinker led off with a solid shot off the tee landing 20-25 feet from the pin. Molinari’s tee shot wasn’t helped by the on-and-off blustery conditions and died in the bunker. A storm was sitting outside of the Twin Cities, sometimes prompting steady winds from the southwest to play with the ball when it was in the air. I guess Molinari was anticipating this before the bottom fell out on the aforementioned wind.

Imada, sporting some pretty slick plaid pants, dropped a great shot within 10 feet. I liked Imada’s style. He seemed to be enjoying himself. He missed the birdie putt, while Molinari blasted out of the bunker, missed a short par putt before bogeying the hole.

I watched another threesome come through, with Darren Clarke, Ryan Benzel and Charles Howell III. Clarke missed a birdie putt and came out with a par, while Benzel’s woes continued. After double bogeying the Par 5 seventh, he bogeyed the 176-yard #8.

I moved away from the hole before Howell finished up.

The clouds started looking ominous, so I figured I’d mosey down to the #7 and get a shot of the second shots by the next three groups. In the second group, Geoff Ogilvy was in the mix and in the following group, it was Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and Steve Elkington — three names I knew from just being a casual observer of the game for years.

Singh birdied the 572-yard hole and was met with a solid applause.

Behind them were Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and Ian Poulter. At this time, the rain started to fall and while the droves of Tiger fans had already left Hazeltine, I figured I’d do a quick lap (well, half a lap) before stopping to pick up some things in the souvenir shop.

Since I was devoid of a camera and cell phone, per PGA regulations, I couldn’t take any pictures during real competition. I was relegated to snapping a picture of my grounds ticket before coming in, and one or two of the Goodyear blimp, which hovered over the course low enough to hear the whirr of its engines.
I don’t think I’ll ever attend another PGA tour event, because as much as I like playing a leisurely round of golf, I’m not a “golfer” or a “golf fan.” I’m just not part of that crowd, and while I admit it takes a tremendous amount of skill to master the game of golf, standing around watching people hit ball, chase ball, putt ball, pick up ball, hold ball towards clapping fans, hit ball, lather, rinse, repeat.

This was more to go and see what it was all about. I was at the Kentucky Derby earlier this year, and that was an experience, a festival, a shit show (on the infield). Golf has etiquitte and elegance. People like me aren’t a part of its target demographic.

But as a sports fan, I couldn’t deny myself the opportunity to attend such a prestigious event so close to where I’m currently living. I can see where golf fans love this so much, I had an appreciation for everything that goes in to putting on a great event — from parking at Canterbury Park and taking a shuttle down to Chaska High School (where I actually know two people whom graduated from the school), to getting back and fighting Twin Cities rushour traffic.

I’d rate my experience rather good, with the exception of my own folly regarding the camera and a muted cell phone. If you have the money, it’s certainly a great social experience, especially for you big money people who work for companies that like to sponsor these types of things.

So I can add on the PGA Championship as one of many notable sporting events I’ve attended in the past 12 months. I turn 30 in a week and as far as I can tell, when it comes to seeing great sporting events, I haven’t had much to complain about this year.

The PGA Championship, while not my personal cup o‘ tea, did satisfy a personal quest in seeing a major.

The Year in Minnesota
Division I Wrestling Dual Meets
Arizona State at Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
Hofstra at Missouri, Columbia, Mo.
Purdue at Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
Minnesota at Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
Michigan State at Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.
Northwestern at Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.
UT-Chattanooga at Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Virginia Tech at Old Dominion, Norfolk, Va.

Division II Wrestling Dual Meets
Augsburg at Nebraska-Omaha, Omaha, Neb.*
Upper Iowa at Minnesota State-Mankato, Mankato, Minn.
Nebraska-Omaha at Minnesota State-Mankato, Mankato, Minn.
*-match between Division II and III teams

Division III Wrestling Dual Meets
Wartburg at Augsburg, Minneapolis, Minn.

College Wrestling Tournaments
Missouri Open, Columbia, Mo.
Brute/Journeyman Northeast Duals, Troy, N.Y.
Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Las Vegas, Nev.
Dick Walker Invitational, Waverly, Iowa
The Midlands, Evanston, Ill.
NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Northern Sun Regional Tournament, Marshall, Minn.
NJCAA Championships, Rochester, Minn.
NCAA Division III Championships, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
NCAA Division II Championships, Houston, Texas
NCAA Division I Championships, St. Louis, Mo.

International Wrestling
U.S. World Team Trials, Council Bluffs, Iowa
USA Cadet & Junior Nationals, Fargo, N.D.

High School Wrestling
The Clash National High School Duals, Rochester, Minn.
Albert Lea vs. Coon Rapids, Minneapolis, Minn.
Virginia Group AAA State Championships, Chesapeake, Va.
Virginia Group AA-A State Championships, Salem, Va.
NHSCA National High School Championships, Virginia Beach, Va.

Division III Football
Macalester at St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.

Major League Baseball
Los Angeles Angels at Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis, Minn. (2 games)

American Hockey League
Philadelphia Phantoms at Norfolk Admirals, Norfolk, Va.
Hershey Bears at Norfolk Admirals, Norfolk, Va.

Horse Racing
Kentucky Derby, Louisville, Ky.

PGA Championships, Chaska, Minn.

Roller Derby
North Star Roller Girls, Minneapolis, Minn.
Minnesota Roller Girls, St. Paul, Minn.

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute & Museum, Waterloo, Iowa
National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Stillwater, Okla.
Fishing at Lake Vermilion, Cook, Minn.

States and Countries Traveled
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Canada

Written by Jason Bryant

August 13, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Posted in Blogging

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