Having a Blast in Our Own “Backyard”

At the President’s CupAttendees at PGA Tour 2009

With the world on our “doorstep,” my brother-in-law (Matt) and I decided to brave the crowds for the first day of the President’s Cup. What a time we had, as the San Francisco weather cooperated, (not a given in October), and we made our way to the BART station to start our adventure.

Even before play had started things couldn’t have worked out any better with the processing of the crowds. As parking was at a premium, the tournament organizers had arranged for a free shuttle service from the Daly City BART station to Harding Park and back to BART after play ended that day. The operation was so organized you would have thought The Disney Company had put it all together. It really made going to the event much easier than if we would have had to look for a parking place. Once we arrived at the entrance there was a feeling of magic in the air as if we were about to watch The World Series or The Super Bowl. Every spectator was so upbeat because they were lucky enough to have one of the sold out tickets. The crowd was large; we heard estimates of 18 to 20 thousand. With the kids in school, it was mostly made up of people in their 30’s to 50’s.

Instead of “flipping a tee” to see which team would start first, we were in for a treat. To start things off, former President George H.W. Bush performed a coin toss to see which team would begin play. How many of us get a chance to see a former President of the United States in person? Regardless if one is a Republican or Democrat, it was very “cool” to have the 40th President of the United States standing not more than 150 feet away.

Then the fun began. There was so much going on all of a sudden. We weren’t sure which way to turn. “Do we stay and continue to watch the first foursome (including Phil Mickelson) once they all started off? No way, as too many people had that plan in mind. Ernie Els is teeing off soon, shall we wait for him? No, still too many people at the first tee. What about leaving the crowd altogether and walking forward to the third or fourth hole and getting a good spot there? “

We had decided to do the latter when we noticed that hardly anyone was at the practice green to watch Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh practicing. Walking over to the roped off area next to the practice green, we observed true professionals in action. Woods and Singh were practicing hitting balls out of a sand trap and chipping out of four inch rough. Time after time, they dropped the ball right next to the cup, making it look so easy that anyone should be able to do it. Any amateur golfer can attest that it’s not that easy. Across the area watching from the other side was (former SF Giant and baseball MVP) Barry Bonds, who later walked the course following Tiger’s group for most of the day. All of this took place within the first fifteen minutes after we entered the gate.

Throughout the day we continued trying to get a good position to watch the golfers and appreciate the skills they have worked to perfect. Since Matt and I both have a fairly high golf “index” I was not only stargazing but also watching every move to get a “free” golf lesson from some of the best players in the world.

When we did see the pros teeing off, it was just amazing how far they can hit the ball. It’s really a different game than the one we play on the weekends. Even though the pros were hitting long, we saw (Tiger) Woods out drive his partners by a good 40+ yards.

Another difference between “them” and us is how relaxed they are. One of the younger pros on the PGA tour, Zach Johnson, hit a bad tee shot, bouncing the ball off of his opponent after several other bounces. As he and his competitor were discussing the rules with the Course Rules Official, Johnson was calmly eating a sandwich while waiting for the ruling. (He was not penalized, but had to go back to the spot he had hit the ball, and hit again). Most of “us” weekend warriors would not have been so calm with such an errant shot. With the large number of Cypress trees at the course, golfers from both teams were hitting into and off of the trees. (We can relate to that.)

The celebrity watchers were also on hand to follow the US team’s ” special assistant.” NBA Hall of Fame player Michael Jordan was seen so much it became no big deal. After passing us by what seemed to be every twenty minutes, we simply said, “there goes Michael again.”

As we were getting ready to leave, I caught the glance and attention of a guy, who made eye contact and nodded “hello.” Later in the weekend, I saw him on TV, now recognizing him as the former PGA golfer and current commentator, Roger Maltbie, who grew up in the South Bay.

There were so many sights at the tournament that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on and on with everything that we saw. All in all we had a great time seeing the pros play golf in a way that we will never equal. And to think there were no need for long distance travel, no airports, no luggage, no hotels and no extreme heat mixed with high humidity. San Francisco is beautiful in the fall and the weather at Harding Park was just right for this native San Franciscian. And to think it took place in our own “backyard.”

November 2009