Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First You Have to Kill All the Golfers

Beth IMed me at around 12:30 yesterday. "Hey! I have tickets to the U.S. Open practice round for like right now, do you want to go?" After determining whether she just meant "go" or "go with her" (I'm incredibly literal), I fought my general introverted tendencies, considered that my plan for the day was to go to the gym and make dinner, looked out the window at a picture perfect San Francisco day, a rarity for June, and said, "Absolutely, I'm in."

Beth then told me there was a catch, "I need you to pick me up, then we have to go to Candlestick, then take a shuttle to the Olympic Club." Here's what a map of that route looks like. But to sum up: that's 39 minutes of travel time, not accounting for the fact that we'd be waiting for a shuttle at Candlestick, and then would have to do the same in reverse. My house, on the other hand, is less than 4 miles from the Olympic Club golf course. I laughed at Beth and said, "Uh, how 'bout you take Muni or Bart close to my house, I pick you up, and we get my mom who is working and thus has a police car to drive as close to the course as possible?" I was glad she agreed to that being a better plan.

The only hiccup was that we weren't allowed to bring phones. At all. You are not allowed to have your phone at all at USGA events. I'm not quite sure what the logic here is. I don't know if the USGA is protecting its brand or what. But in modern times, this is a pretty absurd rule. (A volunteer lady I talked to said it was an etiquette issue. People would be in the gallery having full on conversations on their phones.) (Also, the list of USGA 'can't' rules are pretty absurd. Can I go on a rant about water for a second? I feel like due to not dehydrating, and thus inviting death, I should be allowed to take water wherever the hell I want. And you shouldn't be able to force me to pay $3 for a bottle. Or provide lots of it for free at your event. /rant)  As Beth said, "What did people DO ten years ago?" No idea, Beth, no freaking idea. I waited patiently at Glen Park BART thinking she would get my text about where I was parked and would then leave her phone at my house. She didn't, having left her phone at home, but figured out where I was and it only caused about a ten minute delay. My mom then dropped us off at the John Muir Drive entrance. While we were driving along in the police car I said to Beth, "Kinda torture not being able to tweet about this right now, huh?" "I know! I already thought about that!" I made plans to meet my mom at Joe's of Westlake for dinner since I couldn't call her when I was done, and we were on our way.

I have to say, though I mentioned yesterday I know enough about just about every major sport, there is none I actively hate more than golf. This is the function of both of my long term relationships being with people who LOVED golf but had no interest in me joining in this endeavor. My college boyfriend once abandoned me on Thanksgiving, leaving me with his mom and sister for 8 hours, while he went and played a quick round. Fun fact: there is no such thing as a quick round of golf.

My second former long term relationship was with someone who before we were dating said, "I'll pay you NOT to learn how to play golf. That's, like, my time." Those words would come back to haunt later in our relationship when minds were changed. "Wanna go play golf?" When you date a grudge holding jerk like I am, I will throw those "pay you NOT to play" words back in your face for the entirety of our relationship.

This contempt I developed for golf (and the lesson that I choose partners poorly) carried over to me despising it long after I'd broken up with both those people. I'd consider it a waste of huge green spaces. Where there were golf courses, I'd think, "What a great park that would be. Maybe a riding rink or a skate park would be better."

All of that softened after a day at the Olympic Club. First of all, I feel a bit at home at the O Club. My grandfather was a member, though not a golf member (pretty sure he didn't golf), and we'd head to buffets or dinners out at Lakeside. As much as I hate pretentious snobbyness, I kinda like being a part of it too. (I am a complicated creature.) Secondly, when you choose something on your own and get to enjoy it on your own terms, not because the morons you date are making you like/dislike it, the outcome tends to be more positive.

Beth was an ideal companion because she's as observant and snarky as I am. When we entered the gates, the leggy brunette ahead of us with her Longchamp purse, short sun dress, and espadrille wedges, which are completely inappropriate footwear for hiking all over a mostly uphill golf course, received an eye roll from me. Beth did the same. I knew then we were on the same page and we'd have a great time.

We hiked from our drop off spot on the Lake Merced side of the course all the way up the hill, past the corporate tent cabana things, to the food court, where I had an overpriced diet soda and bag of chips, and sat in the sun people watching. I really wanted to talk to the gentleman I spied in the purple and white striped shirt, blue and green madras print shorts, camouflage visor and matching camouflage sunglasses because my money was on him being from Georgia. I didn't though.

After our snacks, Beth and I headed to the Merchandise Pavilion. That place was insane. Every golf brand was represented with the Olympic Club winged O logo and the date of the US Open. For ridiculous prices. I marveled at the tent like structure we were in. Remember when a tent was just a tent? I could install this on a piece of property and probably be quite happy living in it. Beth brought me along as I'm one of her few friends who has actual sports knowledge. (That and I'm unemployed as hell so have free time.) She asked things like, "What do you do with those towels?" while we were in merch land. Ah, this is where I am useful. "They clip on to your golf bag and you use them to dry off your clubs or balls if you're playing when it's wet." It's good to have such important knowledge in my brain. I bought myself a t-shirt in commemoration of not sitting at home doing nothing and choosing to head out into the world and attend an event that may not be here again for another 14 years. After about an hour, we were on our way to actually see some golf.

As Monday was just a practice day, no actual tournament going on, the crowds were manageable and we had the run of the place. Well, we had the run of the place where us plebes were allowed. So many areas were special private sections that normal folks aren't allowed. Even in the land of the elite, there is always space for the MORE elite. When Beth and I tried to make our way on to the patio of the clubhouse, we were quickly rebuffed by a not at all amused security guard. As an SF native, I just assume I'm allowed wherever. "No, no, you don't understand. I'm FROM here. That should mean something, yes?" Beth's dad IS a member of the club. None of which means anything when there is a tent exclusively for corporate hoity toity types. To get my hands on an all access pass... (Again, I both hate and want to be fancy.) (Beth wrote up her own recap over here where my frustration with rules and hierarchy is mentioned.)

I made jokes to Beth about how people were gonna ask us what we saw at the U.S. Open and we'd be able to tell them all about the merchandise tent and the food court but not much else. But when we walked out of the merch tent, we wandered up to the grandstands on the 18th hole and watched a couple practice groups. I was suddenly fascinated that practice really does mean "practice". Each player was hitting more than one ball off the tee and when they got to the green, they'd then line up three or four balls and start putting around. When I discussed what I saw later, a guy friend pointed out that that makes sense, it'll give them a better sense of the greens and how they roll than just playing the hole normally. That's sound logic as far as I'm concerned.

Sitting there is also where I overheard the most epic conversation in a long time. There were these two dudebros sitting behind me and to my left a bit. One was a bit chubby, incredibly baby faced, with a hair cut that was a bit too close shaved and he knew even less about golf than I did, though he tried to seem cool. ("They move the pin every day?" Yes, yes they do.) His more handsome friend, who I'm guessing is a casual acquaintance, or perhaps they were thrown together because of work, didn't seem that interested in what he had to say. They discussed their salaries (well north of $100k) doing something I didn't pick up on but the phrase "R&D" was thrown around. The chubbier guy struck me like someone having gone to Duke.

I clued Beth into the awesomeness that was happening behind me which is exactly when it went from mildly annoying/amusing to downright hysterical.

Slightly chubby dudebro says to casual work acquaintance, "Ya know, I was sitting at my birthday dinner last week and there were like 15 of us and my wife and parents are there..." (Wait, YOU'RE married? You look 12.) "...And I stopped and I thought, 'This is really amazing.' So I said, 'I know you're all busy with your own wives and families and such but it's just really awesome that you could all be here to celebrate this with me.' I mean, now that I'm 30 (!!!!!!!!!) I've realized that it's not just about things, ya know? I mean, and this is just for me, I don't know how others feel about it, but it's about relationships." Beth and I stifled laughter. I was actually stifling hysterical laughter because oh my god everything about it. Dudebro was having a serious life revelation and it was that people and experiences are more important than things. But this MAY just be him. You guys...

We left our perch in the stands shortly after that, because, really, how are you going to top that? Life revelations of experience mattering as you sit at a private country club on a Monday afternoon watching golf. Sigh.

Beth walked around the rest of the day in mock dudebro voice saying, "Lisa! Ya know, it's not just about things. It's about, and this may just be me, relationships." So thank you, guy I've decided is a Duke alumn, for the laughs.

We made our way over to the putting range and watched that for a bit but Beth said, "Even I can do this shit. That's not interesting." Between the putting range and the clubhouse a staircase had been constructed and a walkway for players to use. Autograph seekers would stand holding pens and flags to have signed, reaching up to the staircase landing. I had no idea who any of these guys were by sight. If it had been a football player I'd have known. If it's a basketball player you just find the 6'8" guy and you know. I would have known a hockey player because of my obsession. Golfers? The only one I know by sight, besides Tiger and Phil, is David Toms and that's purely a function of his LSU ties. The rest of them just look like average guys. Maybe a little douchey because of the stereotypes in our brains associated with golf-wear but just all around average looking, kinda skinny, Oakley wearing dudes. I was glad Beth was unabashed in turning to whoever was nearby and asking, "Who is that?" The answers were: Stewart Cink and Ian Poulter. Not that that meant anything to either of us. (The name Cink was familiar but that's about it.)

We then walked over to the driving range where there were plaques announcing each player's name, which was far more user friendly. Hahn, Harrington, and Reavie along with Love III were there. We stopped and watching Padraig Harrington, as I'm always partial to a good Irishman, and I had a passing familiarity with who he is. We watched him take practice with some sort of middle distance club, not down the range but sort of shooting off to the side of it, while holding a soft soccer ball between his elbows. Some sort of form exercise I'm guessing? I find all this incredibly fascinating. I doubt it even registered for Beth. We then watched Hahn take shots and we marveled at our complete and utter inability to track where the hell the ball went once it left his driver. You'd hear that "thwack" sound as it left but we could never, despite our best efforts, see where the hell it landed. It became a frustrating game, amid our people watching/eavesdropping.

I began to have an appreciation for the playing of golf. "Wait, you come out here, drink some beers on this gorgeous course, chase the ball around, then go to the clubhouse and drink a bit more while watching TV in wingback chairs? No wonder dudes do this."

Also, as Beth and I sat there with the sun on our backs, on a gorgeous SF day, her playing hooky, me further avoiding all of life's responsibilities, in what was essentially a giant park, I finally got this whole golf as spectator sport thing. "Oh. This isn't a terribly awful way to spend a day, is it?"

I felt pretty lucky to have been invited along.

No comments:

Post a Comment