Welcome to my Volunteer Diaries

By Warren Montgomery

This is a collection of writeups I have done outlining our experience as tournament volunteers.  These accounts were originally posted as daily emails to a small private group of golfing enthusiasts.  I've removed some of the inside references, but otherwise not altered them except for gramatical and factual corrections.  It's a bit stream-of-consciousness, but may be of interest to anyone considering volunteering or curious about what goes on "inside the ropes" at a big golf event.

Who are we and how did we get here?

This is the story of the experience of two middle aged golfers in volunteering for golf tournaments.  How we got to this point is, as is most of life, a series of random events.  I grew up around golf.  My father was an avid golfer before I was born, and my mother a somewhat reluctant follower.  When I was small they would play local public courses and visit driving ranges and take me along to swing a few clubs from an odd set of cut down clubs.  I wasn't much good, but I quickly decided I liked having an excuse to be out in the fresh air.  When I was 10 we had a life changing event -- my father changed jobs, and in his new job got a membership at a local country club.  About the same time the parents of my best friend joined the same club, and suddenly he and I spent nearly every day in the summer out on the links.  Yes, I got some lessons in the Junior Golf program, but mainly I'd get take to the first tee early enough to make the turn past the 10th tee before the men's league, lady's league, or whoever else nominally had the course for the day teed off and hacked my way around with my hand-me-down set of clubs. 

I was never great, but I learned to play out of every square inch of that course, from the deep bunkers to the deep, mosquito infested woods.  By the time I graduated high school I new set of high tech (aluminum shafts!) clubs and a smart looking lightweight carry bag to go off to college.   I played a bit in my freshman year, since the college had  it's own quirky 18 hole course which was a bargain for students, but it was a long walk to the course and I didn't often have the time. 

My wife didn't play as a kid, but she had a grandfather who was an avid golfer and often spent Sunday afternoons watching the early TV coverage of Arnie and Jack tearing up the layouts of the 1960's with her grandparents.  She came out with me a couple of times while we were dating just to walk the course and I always let her hit a few shots, even though my extra-long clubs didn't fit her well and the only training she had for the game was watching Arnie and Jack swing.  Soon after we were married she lost her grandfather, and when nobody else wanted his clubs she took them, figuring he was a slightly built shorter man and they'd be closer to her size than mine.  We played a few 9's while picking up our graduate credentials, and went out occasionally after taking our first real jobs, but it wasn't until at least 10 years later that she became seriously interested in the game, and soon we were buying season passes to the local muni course and going out on every day off.  We both got better, and that only made it more addictive.  BY the time I retired from full time work, and she dropped back to a 9 month academic job that left her free in summer, we were playing 100 or more rounds a year.

We were never club or league members, but when the USGA created a way for ordinary golfers to join as members, and Arnold Palmer was the spokes person inviting people like us to sign up, we couldn't resist.  That meant that in early 2003, when the US Open was scheduled to come to a course not that far from us and the USGA was looking for volunteers, we got the invitation.  At first we didn't know if we wanted to do it.  I had attended what was then known as the Western Open several years as a kid and knew golf tournaments could be fun, and Carla had gone once or twice as well, but the course was 2 hours away.  The deciding factor was probably that both of us had the time, and figured "what the hell, it's only a few days ..."

The 2003 US Open (Or "where are we going and why are we in this handbasket")

We could only get one of the less skilled jobs -- grandstand marshal, but were eager to experience the tournament, even planning our weekly 36 hole golf outing to finish near Olympia Fields during uniform try-on week to preview our clothing and make sure we ordered the right sizes.  The course was like stepping back in time to that country club I played at as a kid, with it's well appointed and neat pro-shop and manicured grounds.  When the shift assignments came out we discovered we had mainly early morning shifts, two during practice days and two during the tournament, all in different locations.

On Monday of tournament week we started 2 hours before sunrise to reach the giant concrete slab destined to host the areas largest used car lot that was to serve as parking for tournament week, boarded a bus, and walked into the course.  It was eerie looking at the uniformed and armed national guardsmen standing on the railroad overpass as security, still soon after 9/11/2001.  Once into the course we headed for the area behind the clubhouse where we were told we could pick up our "Quiet" paddles and meal vouchers.  It was like stepping into another world -- backstage at a concert.  The Marshal's trailer was in a little trailer village with such sites as "sign boy city", and "scoring central", as well as a large media center, TV trucks, and endless charging stations for golf carts.  Once suitably equipped, we headed back towards the grandstand behind the 13th green.

Passing the clubhouse and coming upon the 1st tee we witnessed an odd sight -- actual spectators, maybe 50 of them, gathered around the tee, even though it was well before 6AM.  The reason soon became obvious when a young black man pulled a tiger head cover off his bag and teed up.  We figured there was no urgency getting to 13 and walked up to watched.  He hit it long and straight, and we watched a few more shots of his on 1 and 2, which followed our route out to13.  On the 3rd tee, I stood directly behind him as he made a pretty smooth swing and launched one down the fairway.  Then it drifted right into the trees.  Disgusted, he teed up a second ball and smoked it down the fairway.  It was time for us to part company and mosey off to the 13th grandstand, but we still had a view of the hole and watched as he picked up the second shot in the fairway and played the one in the woods.  We later came to recognize this as a common strategy for the stronger players -- hit a second to groove the better swing, then play your foul ball to get practice on how to recover from your likely misses.

The 13th grandstand was empty, for obvious reasons.  We were too early for there even to be a flag in the hole.  Eventually, they cut the hole and players started showing up.  It was a cold, damp, drizzly day, and there were never more than 3 or 4 people in our grandstand, so we mainly just watched the players practice.  It was soon apparent, that "Practice round" didn't involve actually playing a round of golf.  They all hit tee shots to the green (a par 3), but then hit other shots whenever their first efforts were imperfect.  Around the green the rarely even bothered to hole out their first shot, and instead the caddies plonked down artificial targets and the players proceeded to launch shots and putts at them from everywhere around the green.  When we looked closely it was clear the targets were in places they thought the holes might be placed later in the week. 

As the day progressed, we were hoping to avoid a weather warning.  When the USGA's meteorologist determines that a thunderstorm is imminent, the leaderboards put up a "weather warning" sign, and one of the duties of grandstand Marshals is to clear the grandstand when this happens.  Indeed, we got the warning, but by then it was raining, and there was nobody to clear.  We retreated under our only somewhat waterproof jackets and waited for better weather.

After our long shift was finished, the weather improved, and we explored the course.  It was of course beautiful, and we scoped out some of the better places to spectate.  One area of note was the wooded area between holes 4 and 7, the two par 3's on the front 9.  7 was a downhill hole along the edge of the property and notable because two of the houses along it had erected substantial grandstands along the hole, reminiscent of the stands on top of the buildings across from Wrigley Field which gave patrons of the establishments a view into Cubs games.  Over time we came to learn that putting seating, tables, and tents in the back yards of houses along tournament courses was a common sight. Some used them only for friends and family, while others sold tickets for what was essentially an outside the ropes VIP tent.

All along we watched players practicing and were interested in the strategies.  For a time we took seats in the grandstand behind 7, knowing Colin Montgomerie was coming.  Monty had a love/hate relationship with American galleries, but I loved to watch him, not just for the name, but because unlike so many he wasn't a poster child for the fitness trailer, but still managed to lead the European Tour every year. 

Like many Monty hit his first over the green near the grandstand, and hit a second solidly on the green.  When he sent his caddie to collect the green near the stand the crowd erupted on boos, but Monty was in a good mood and sent his caddie back to drop 3 balls back there.  The crowd was still ugly, and cheers of "step on it" rang out.  His caddie did exactly that, burying the balls in the long grass.  Then Monty hit all 3 stiff to the pin, and we gave him a big round of applause.

The next day was our 30th anniversary.  We again got up long before dawn to reach the course, but that day we had no idea what we would be doing -- the assignment said only "special teams".  When we reported to the Marshal's trailer we learned that that meant we were there to stand in for wherever they needed us.  Consulting a lot of large sheets of assignments one of the people in the trailer said they had nobody on the putting greens and asked if we could take that.  Sure, we said.  How hard could that be?

When we walked to the assigned spot, we observed that Olympia Fields had two putting greens in front of the clubhouse that the players used for their final warmups, with a major road between them that carried all the spectator and staff traffic from the clubhouse, the train station and volunteer entrance, and the media/volunteer compound onto the course, and that the players had to cross that road to get to the first tee.  Our job was to control a crosswalk on that road.  In addition, while there was theoretically a way for the players to come out of the locker room onto one of those greens, most simply dashed across the lawn to the road and ducked in near our crosswalk.  That meant that we had to be able to hold up the steady stream of people and carts for the players, and to recognize who was authorized to get onto those greens.

Our minimal volunteer training had included information on the credentials players and their caddies were supposed to have to identify them (like many tournaments, players are given a distinctive money clip that they wear on their hat or belt.  We quickly learned we didn't need that.  Caddies were easy to recognize  (nobody else had golf bags), and the players were equally distinctive, wearing crisp long pants and shirts and usually having a glove on a hand or hanging from a pocket.  We also quickly felt appreciated, as everyone entering the green acknowledged our help in clearing the way and dropping the ropes.  After an hour we had another couple to help, which equally quickly became essential as the traffic on the road swelled, and people gathered around the greens.  We also discovered that our uniforms made us instant authorities, as spectators, media, and even players would approach us and ask questions -- where is hole 7?  Where is Tiger now (easy -- where the crowd is).  A recognizable tour player asked "this is June, isn't it"? as a comment on the foul weather, and the most interesting request was from an older man with a British accent asking if we had seen his nephew -- Freddie Couples".)  We answered all the questions as best we could, and even passed on a message to a player from his wife. 

At one point the crowd around the green suddenly grew to 3 or 4 rows deep and we wondered what was up.  Then we saw the bag with the Tiger headcover.  Tiger never came out, but just the sight of the bag was enough to draw a crowd.  One other thing we noticed was how much time some players spent with the fans.  A Japanese tour player of the time must have spent 45 minutes signing autographs at the ropes, as his TV crew filmed it.  (Later, we came to know that the Japanese are huge golf fans and every player from the island nation seems to have a personal TV crew filming. 

We were so caught up in the action that we barely noticed that our 6 hour shift was past 7 hours before our "relief" arrived.  That one day probably sealed our lifetime interest in tournaments.

On Friday we again showed up early to work our first "tournament round", in the 8th grandstand.  8 was an uphill hole that proved to be a tough driving hole, with many players losing it right into rough woods and hacking out towards the green.  The weather was still lousy, but that didn't stop Vijay Singh from lighting up the course on Thursday.  On an early shift you rarely see the top players since they send out the qualifiers and other hopefuls and the beginning of the field.  We did know Tiger was playing in the morning and would reach our hole near the time we were to go off shift.  It was touch and go whether we would still be on when we were on duty, but as the time approached the grandstand filled up and we had to do our real job of keeping people from tramping up the steps while players were on the green and keep them quiet when shots were being hit.  It wasn't hard, and made us feel useful. 

The other thing that was approaching as we neared the end of our shift was bad weather.  We didn't know it at the time, but embedded in the gloom and drizzle was something the staff thought might produce lightning.  We were a little disappointed when our relief showed up one group before Tiger, but then relieved when "weather warning went up 5 minutes later and they had to clear a grandstand full of Tiger fanatics.

Our 4th shift was Sunday Morning on 12, but we realized our badges would give us entry on Saturday and decided we would go spectate.  I considered making the 4 hour round trip to the course twice in 2 days, but was relieved when I found a reasonably priced motel room not far from the parking lot (no doubt blind luck, most places were booked months in advance and this was no doubt a cancellation).  As plain spectators on Saturday we could appreciate the play, or so we had assumed.  As we stood in the woods between 4 and 7, we heard a rattling noise overhead and a ball dropped out of the trees near us.  A small boy yelped and ran at it and we quickly moved in to surround it and protect the ball, as a crowd gathered.  Eventually one of the Marshals on the holes came in, and then the disgruntled player and his caddie.  It was interesting being there as they considered his options, and then after a decision on his play we helped clear his line.  Eventually hit hit a solid shot to the green and saved par, I think. 

As the day went on one thing we noticed was several young African American boys, each wearing the same distinctive clothing -- a light green golf shirt and crisp tan pants.  It seemed odd, until we realized Tiger was dressed in the same outfit.  At first I wondered how they managed to match him, but then I realized he must post his planned tournament outfits on a web site and these kids had dressed to match their idol.  I didn't know whether to be excited that golf was gaining a new following, or disturbed at the amount of money these kids and their parents must have invested in it, but on balance interest in the game can't be bad.  At the end of the day spectating was fun, but not as much fun as being part of it, and we went back to check into our room and find a spot to chill out for dinner.

On Sunday we had hole 12, and given they were all going off hole 1 we knew it would be a long wait.  Still, the grandstand started to fill early.  12 was a long uphill par 4 that we thought would cause them trouble, but most just blew over the trouble.  Long before the players came though we witnessed one of the more fascinating behind-the-scenes activities -- cutting the hole for the day.  This is an activity with as much ceremony as the run up to a bull fight.  A crew arrives and starts rolling balls on the green trying to find a suitable site, and they the head guy shows up carrying -- A Stimpmeter!  This is nothing more than a stick with a little hole in it for the ball, but with a lot of pomp and flourish he would tilt the stick and watch the ball roll in several directions near the chosen spot.  Satisfied with the position, the cup cutter removes a cylinder of turf and inserts the cup.  Then someone comes with clippers and trims any out-of place blades, and a guy with a can of spray paint and a special nozzle sticks it in the hole to paint the dirt above the cup line white so it shows better on TV.  Finally, the stimpmeter guy gets out a putter and rolls some putts towards the hole, getting wild cheers from the stands when one goes in.

The most memorable contender to play the hole was the former US Amateur Champ Ricky Barnes, who overpowered it.  He wasn't a factor in the tournament, but it was clear he had more than enough game for it.

We watched a bit of play after our shift, learning a painful lesson of tournament spectating.  Earlier in the week we had scoped out good vantage points and took one of them up in advance of the leaders.  It was a fairway location with a bump out in the ropes that meant we could get a good view.  Two groups in front of the leaders, a TV truck arrived and filled the bumpout blocking everyone's view.  The crew apologized, but pointed out that millions of people watching wanted the best view too.

Heading  home we looked back on the week and realized we wanted to do this again.

The 2004 US Senior Open (Bellerive Missouri)

In looking at the Tournament Calendar we didn't immediately see another one close to us other than the then Nike tour event in the Chicago suburbs.  (Of course if we knew then what we knew now we may have jumped on it, but as it was we contented ourselves with attending for one day and watching Ricky Barnes and other upcoming stars play to empty grandstands).  We did note the Senior Open was scheduled for a course in the St Louis area and decided it might be fun to go down there for a week, since we never had spent any real time there.  That meant more expenses for a hotel and restaurant meals, but that wasn't a big deal, at least not in the St Louis Suburbs.  This time we decided to try to get in on Leaderboards instead of as Marshals.  The USGA always makes you list your 3 top choices, and you don't always get the first one, but we figured (correctly) that if we signed up early we'd get that one.

Leaderboards is a good volunteer job because you work on an elevated platform, usually with good and unobstructed views of the action, and you usually keep quite busy changing the magnetic numbers and letters.  In the age when everyone on the course carries a phone capable of receiving the scores instantly those boards are an anachronism, but people like the look, and even the players appreciate the ability to keep track on their competition at a glance as they move around the course.

Even though the job required us only on the 4 days of the tournament, we decided to go for the whole week in order to catch the Volunteer party the Saturday before the tournament and see some of the practice day action, as well as have a chance to do some sightseeing and play some golf in a new location.  The only real concern we had about the week was that July in St Louis was bound to be uncomfortably hot and humid.  Strangely though, it was cool, overcast, and damp when we arrived for the party.  The Party is a traditional free perk for volunteering.  Usually volunteer parties are basic affairs, with buffet lines of barbecue and burgers, and a local band providing some low key dinner music.  Most give you a couple of free beers or glasses of "jug" wine, and this one was typical.  A bit of drizzle had everyone crowding onto the clubhouse porch for shelter.

It's always interesting to look at and talk with the other volunteers at these events.  The organizers are usually very explicit about what to expect, and tell you over and over again not to wear your uniform (they don't want you spilling pulled pork or mustard on it.), but a lot of people show up in uniform anyway, while others come dressed for an elegant cocktail reception and then struggle with muddy wet grass and slippery wooden steps.  Most volunteers, particularly for Senior events like this one, are older people from the area hosting the tournament, but there are always people who travel to these things like we do.  At the regular tour stops that are held at the same course every year it's typical to have the same people come back to volunteer every year, but at USGA championships you always find a lot of first time volunteers who are there because their club agreed to marshal a hole or their service organization decided to support the tournament. 

The other things you can typically do at the party are to walk around and see the course (not really an option this time both because of a relatively late start and bad weather), and to shop for souvenir items at the tournament's "Merchandise Tent" -- usually the biggest tent put up for the tournament and filled with logo clothing, towels, ball marker and repair tool sets and tons of other items.  Volunteers often get a small discount on this stuff, often only on Party day, and of course if you do your shopping on the way out, you are usually closer to your car than you will be on tournament days, making it easier to get it all home. 

We were a bit nervous about our volunteer job, given that we hadn't done it and couldn't go to the training (held  a few weeks before the tournament usually and not feasible for out-of-state volunteers like us).  I don't know whether I was made more or less comfortable when in talking with another volunteer at the party we discovered he was chair of the Leaderboards committee and hadn't done it or gone to the training either. 

Last Tango with Arnie (Practice days)

We spent Sunday sightseeing St Louis, and the mornings of the practice days playing local courses, including one odd muni with the "clubhouse" in a strip mall, a first hole which when straight up a big hill behind the mall, and the rest wandering through the floodplain of the Missouri River behind the hill.  It wasn't the best course but it was reasonable and an experience.  Tapawingo, an upscale 27 hole layout designed by Gary Player was a better experience, while the 3rd course, one recommended by someone we met at the party (Peevely Farms, or as we called it "Peevish Farms", was a bit of a drag.  (To be fair it was a decent course in good shape, but so spread out that walking it wasn't much fun).  That left afternoons to visit the course and watch the practice action.

We soon learned that the Senior Open was a great event for us.  Not only were a lot of the competitors the veteran tour stars that we had watched on TV forever, but most were just happy to be enjoying playing for fame and fortune when most athletes are long since retired, and glad to be nice to fans and volunteers.  It was fun to see people like Gary Player and Fuzzy Zoeller on the course, and we were glad to see Peter Jacobsen, who for years demonstrated his sense of humor at the Pebble Beach pro-am, and had recently undergone a double hip replacement.  (I should note that the USGA requires everyone to walk).  The one we really wanted to see was of course Arnold Palmer.  We caught up with him on the back 9, and along with a few thousand other fans followed him several holes.  He was old and a bit infirm, and his game wasn't really competitive, but that didn't bother anyone in the gallery.  It didn't seem to bother him either, as he never failed to acknowledge the words of encouragement from the gallery and the applause, even when he was holing out for Double Bogey.  Arnold Palmer was no doubt a major reason so many now older people play golf and a major factor in golf becoming an international sport and a big TV sport, and everyone knows they owe Arnie for that.  It was also fun to see him kidding with his playing companion, Larry Louretti, who can play an entire round of golf removing the cigar from his mouth only for a few seconds to hit a shot. 

We had 3 shifts on the same leaderboard, on the 7th hole, and we made a point of going to see it.  As expected it was in a good viewing position around the green, and we took note of the location of the closest concession stand and "bathrooms".  (Most tournaments don't let volunteers or attendees use any of the real bathrooms, instead there are huge banks of "green latrines", portable restrooms designed to be used by a handful of construction workers for a week or so that instead are called on to support a hundred or so uses in a day, and often become less than "restful" as a result).  We spent a lot of time looking at the course, which like Olympia Fields was great to look at, and like most older courses was compact in design, easy to walk without any areas of houses or other discontinuities inside.  The were designed to work with the natural contours of the land and the old oak trees on the property.   During those days we were reminded of the fact that Bellerive had been slated to host the 2001 Ryder Cup before the event was cancelled because of 9/11.  After being at a subsequent Ryder Cup I can't imagine how a course that compact could have done that.  That may have been partly why they got to host the Senior Open, and partly why the course was in such great shape and had such good access for spectators and volunteers.  Unlike most tournaments, where everyone has to be bused in from distant parking areas and often walk long distances from the bus stop to reach the course, This one used two fields adjoining the course for parking, with the spectator entrance going straight onto the 15th or 16th hole (after first passing through the Merchandise tent, just in case you forgot something).  The volunteers were on the other side near the practice areas in front of the clubhouse, also a short walk. 

Tournament Time (Thursday)

Our first work shifts were on Thursday afternoon.  That was good because someone else had already unpacked all the boxes of magnetic numbers and letters and set up the board.  Someone else had the PDA showing what everyone should put on the board an that was fine too.  The fact that 7 was a par 4 made the job a bit easier as well, since we had plenty of time to get the scores for the group approaching the green and put them up while they teed off and walked to their shots, unlike a par 3 where the scores don't come to the leaderboard PDA until all the players finish the previous hole, by which time they are already teeing off and the crowd around the green wants to know who is on the tee and how they are doing. 

There were I think 4 of us on the leaderboard and throughboard (the leaderboard has 10 lines and shows the scores of 10 players, including the leader, selected by scoring to appear on all the leaderboards, while the Throughboard has 3 lines to show the scores of the 3 players on the green. )  That was good as first timers since there was plenty of work but the pace wasn't frantic and it was okay that we had yet to learn the tricks to the job.  The first day we did mainly leaderboard, which can be quite busy on the first day of the tournament as there are frequent lead changes all the time.  (By the weekend the real leaders are always in the last few groups and very little changes on the board until those players are off the tee).  The throughboard is always busy, especially the first two days when they play in groups of 3, since all the names and scores have to be changed for every group.  The added complication for most USGA leaderboards is that you put the letters and numbers on panels that swing down onto the back of the leaderboard for access, meaning you have to put everything on upside down and backwards.  Keeping track of what orientation the "3"s go in is always a big problem.  In addition, they don't want you changing the board while the players are putting, so you have to keep track of everything that happens when you can't make the changes and then swing into action as soon as the flag goes in the hole and rush to get all the changes made before the next group reaches the green.  There are lots of tricks to that, like using the "pairing sheets" passed out at the gates that show all the groups playing in order to identify who is up next for the throughboard and pull out all the letters required to spell their names well in advance, or putting the score and hole numbers to change on the leaderboard on the back of the doors as a reminder of what needs to be done.  There's a lot of subtle stuff too, like recognizing the difference between a "6" and a "9" and an "O", and a "0", and knowing how to compress the names too long to fit (Eichelberger, was always fun, and as a past winner he had a lifetime exemption and played in many of the Senior Opens we worked.)

By the end of the shift we were done in and ready to get some sleep before our next shifts on Friday.  That, as it turns out wasn't to be.

Washout and Recovery (Friday/Saturday at the Senior Open).

The weather forecast for Friday wasn't good, and it was a bad sign when thunder awakened us early.  As lightning lit our hotel breakfast we wondered if they were going to be able to play, but the standing instructions to volunteers was to show up unless told otherwise.  After a last check of the weather map (bad) and our email and the tournament site with no indication not to go, we headed for the course, but were turned away at the entrance to the now muddy field that was our parking lot.  They weren't sure when they tournament might start or what it would do to our work shifts, and we were to go "home" and keep checking the web for info. 

We got the answer as soon as I got back to the hotel room -- over 5 inches of rain had fallen and the picture on the tournament website showed a leaderboard standing in floodwater -- it was of course the one on hole 7!  No play on Friday, but with luck they would play Friday's round on Saturday and then decide how to get the last two rounds in.  (Weather delays on the first two days of a tournament are more problem than later, because the field starts large enough that it takes a whole day for everyone to get to play.  Once the field is cut, usually to half or less of the starters, they typically play in groups of two all off the first tee, but have the option of playing in groups of 3 off both 1 and 10 and being able to play 2 rounds in a day if they have to that way. 

With no work, we spent the rest of the day in museums and a butterfly garden.  We did wonder what the parking lot would be like.

Indeed, even early on Saturday morning it was clear that the field had become a hog wallow, and cars were already getting stuck in the mud.  We had no trouble in a lightweight sedan, other than dodging the deep ruts left by the bigger and heavier SUVs.  Even the Caddies, who parked in the same area, got stuck, a big problem since they usually take charge of the player's bag and supplies.  The course was in good shape though and other than a few places where a "bathub ring" of mud stain appeared on the mesh skirt the USGA uses to hide the support structure under hospitality tents, leaderboards, TV towers and other structures there was little evidence of the storm.  The bunkers had been pumped, regraded, and in some cases restocked with fresh sand, any debris left by the water was gone, and the greens were clean and green and cut close and rolled to regulation speed.  Having played many courses still in bad shape weeks after a less significant flood I know how much effort is required for that, and it's amazing to see it all done in one night. 

The softer greens meant good scoring and plenty of action for our leaderboard.  It was nice to see Jacobson playing well, but everyone wondered how he would hold up if they decided to play 36 on Sunday. 

Playing the Friday round on Saturday no doubt created some challenges for volunteer chairs.  In general volunteers were told to work their normal Saturday shifts and just skip Friday, but because playing times and groupings are different before and after the cut we knew there must have been a lot of scrambling.  It was easy for us on leaderboards as the board had been scheduled to operate most of the day and they simply asked us to work a bit extra until the last group was through, but committees like walking scorers and standard bearers would have to redo their whole schedule and needed more volunteers than they expected on Saturday.  By then the weather forecast was fine for Sunday, though very hot, so they had decided to play the last two rounds on Sunday, 18 in the AM and 18 in the PM.  This again meant changes in what was needed.  We hadn't been scheduled to work Sunday, but were staying over night and stopped by our chair on the way out to say we would be happy to help out as long as we didn't have to stay too late to make the 4 hour drive home at the end of the day.  He thanked us but said he had enough people, so we expected only to be spectators to the morning round.

Oops -- we really did need you (Sunday)

I still didn't know how they would handle the play on Sunday given that the 2 round format meant play would get to the closing holes a lot faster than it normal would and would last on the front 9 a lot later in the day as well, so just in case we decided to dress in our uniforms and check in one more time on the way to the course.  Just as they were about to dismiss us the guy said "oops" and noticed they had nowhere near enough people on the "Monster Board", the big leaderboard on 18.  Again, in a normal tournament  Sunday nobody gets to 18 until around noon, and even then it's typically the bottom of the field and there are few spectators.  Today, the first groups reaching 18 would be the middle of the field and would get there by 9AM.  So, we headed out to help out.

The Monster board is really rather intimidating. It's typically higher off the ground than the others and much taller, requiring a tall ladder to reach the upper lines.  The format, which gives the player's score relative to par hole by hole, also requires a lot more work to put up and maintain than the typical board which only shows the total.  When we got there there were a few people there already.  After some discussion they decided they could run that board themselves, but had nobody for the throughboard on the other side of the fairway.  That was perfect for us.  We took a PDA and radio and headed over to unpack the letters and numbers and begin picking out the names for the first groups.  The board was a great place to watch the action, and because we were opposite the monster board we could follow the whole tournament from there.  We put up a few groups before the regularly scheduled volunteers showed up to take over, and it was definitely worth coming out ready to work.  Working the board by ourselves also helped us figure out how to do things efficiently and be confident should we get to do it again.

After leaving the board, we watched golf for a while, noting that Jacobson was still leading and showing no signs of having any trouble with those hips.  (In fact, he played all 36 and won the tournament.)  We left before the afternoon round, not wanting to get caught in traffic, knowing we had a great week in spite of the rain out and wanted to do it again.

The 2005 Senior Open (NCR Country Club, Dayton OH, 2005)

In 2005 the Senior Open was again the most interesting option to volunteer at.  Neither of us had spent any time in Dayton,  and we knew there were some interesting things to see and courses to play.  Unfortunately, we had trouble getting an on-course assignment.  We wound up opting for "Disability Services".  This job involves providing help to spectators with mobility limitations to let them get to viewing areas on the course.  Tournaments generally make provisions for this, reserving viewing platforms near popular locations like the first tee and 18th green for wheel chairs and those with disabilities, and reserving parking close to buses or the course entrance for those with handicap tags.  Unfortunately, it's often a long way from where these people can enter the course to any of those viewing areas, and that's where the disability services committee comes in.

Most tournaments have a fleet of power chairs or scooters available to those who need them.  At the USGA championships they are usually donated and available free, while some charge for this.  Those machines are impressive, able to run all day for 10-15 miles and operate on any surface including grass and pine straw, but given the demographics of the typical tournament gallery, there are never enough of them.  So, the disability services volunteers help identify those who can most use them and also operate a fleet of golf course shuttles to take others between the entrance and viewing platforms.  That sounded like a good service job to us.

Again, we went for the week, arriving in time for the Saturday party after spending some unplanned time in a traffic jam on the way.  This time the party was in and around the Volunteer tent, a large air conditioned tent on a platform that would serve both as headquarters for most volunteer committees and a "mess hall", serving a light breakfast, lunch, and providing snacks for volunteers.   On the way in we took note of where the disability services tent was near the public entrance, where they kept the scooters and shuttles that we would be using.  There wasn't much chance to see the course this time, which was spread out "links style" from the clubhouse, but it was a chance to meet some other volunteers and have a decent meal.

My leg hurts (Practice days at the Senior Open).

On Sunday, with nothing going on at the tournament (Sundays the course usually isn't open to the public or off duty volunteers, and the top competitors are usually still playing a tournament somewhere else), we decided to visit the air force museum in Dayton.  We had visited other museums devoted to space and aviation and had heard this one had a particularly impressive collection.  It wasn't a disappointment.  In addition to the aircraft and spacecraft, there were exibits on many of the great air battles, on the development of aviation, and others.  We wound up spending a whole day there, most of it on our feet, and by the end of the day my left knee was stiff, sore, and a bit swollen. 

The sore knee was no real surprise to me, I had had trouble with it before, so I didn't think that much of it and thought it would improve with some rest.  Unfortunately it really didn't, but it wasn't bad enough to interfere with our planned round of golf at Shaker Run, a course between Dayton and Cincinnati that just 2 weeks earlier had hosted the Mid Amateur championship that Michelle Wei had competed in and actually reached the later rounds of match play.  The course was still mostly in great shape (except for 2 or 3 holes where nasty burrowing wasps had bored into bunkers and greens -- We were told they weren't nearly as dangerous as the looked).   My stiff leg meant we were riding, which was okay, it was spread out.  We finished in time to go to the course for some practice round spectating, though I was hobbling too badly to go very far onto the course.  Monday is usually a light day of practice anyway as some players are still traveling to the course. 

On Tuesday, the leg was still sore and swollen, so when we checked in and talked about specific assignments, I decided to take the job of driving one of the shuttles, while Carla worked the crowd at the entrance trying to steer people who looked like they would need help to make the 1/2 mile walk to the course to either the tent or the shuttle stop.  The shuttle carts were basically "stretched" golf carts that would hold 5 or 7 people in addition to the driver.  They were electric, which meant they were quiet enough not to bother the players, but that proved to be a big problem as the mile round trip of the shuttle circuit quickly ran the batteries down.  What made it worse was that it was very hot, and after they had had a lot of the Marshals on the distant holes either fail to reach them or decide they couldn't come back today if they had to walk out there they asked us to provide lifts to the Marshals and other volunteers on the most distant holes early in the day before we had enough spectators arriving to need all the carts.  I made a couple of runs to the far end of the course, probably 2-3 miles round trip, and lots of slopes to navigate, as did the other drivers, which further shortened the remaining battery life.  

Eventually though we settled in to the normal routine -- pick up from the entrance, then make the long run on the flat path to the course, then to the 18th green and first tee area either via a switchbacking cart path or a steep grassy hill, loop around to the putting green and the front door of the clubhouse and then back down the hill and back to the entrance.  Along the way we looked for anyone in distress, either someone having trouble with the walk or someone having trouble with a scooter.  We had radios for medical emergencies, but most problems were solved by giving someone a ride or resetting a scooter.  (The scooters were very capable, but they had an overload detector that would disable one that was working too hard to climb a steep hill, and in spite of giving the users a lot of advice about where not to go invariably some got in trouble.  Some people even rolled scooters on steep sidehills, but I never had to help anyone with that, nor did I have the issue another driver had with a wheelchair rider who crashed after grabbing the back of the shuttle to pull him up or down one of the hills.  Nobody was seriously hurt, but there were some scrapes and bruises. 

Along the way I'd sometimes have to stop for players on the greens or tees, and got flagged down by both players and fans wanting to reserve a scooter for someone during the tournament days.  They didn't do that, but I suggested they could talk to the staff in the tent if they had a very good reason.  Otherwise the only advice I could give was to get there early since the scooters were usually gone by 10AM. 

Wednesday was a free day for us, so we played another local course.  The weather forecast was bad, but again, we were riding because of my leg and I figured we could get to a shelter if it got bad.  The course was nice, but more than a few holes restricted the cart to the path, and hobbling over mounds down into the fairway and back got bad.  We raced the weather towards the end -- and lost, winding up taking shelter on course with 4 holes to play and waiting out a thunderstorm.  When the danger passed we finished, but got soaked along the way and basically just dried out.  We figured nobody would be out practicing anyway.  My leg was still sore, stiff, and swollen around the knee.

A week cut short (Thursday/Friday at the Senior Open).

We had work shifts on both Thursday and Friday, and again, I took the shuttle cart and Carla worked with the scooters.   The storm on Wednesday brought cooler temperatures, and with play starting early they forbid us from driving onto the course to shuttle Marshals, so our shuttle carts did a better job.  With so many fans on the course though it was harder to get around, and avoiding play on the 10th tee, which was in the middle of the cart path we used to climb the hill.  That made it a bit harder to make the circuit, and the carts were always full.  I had no real trouble driving the cart and even managed to prop my bad left leg on the dashboard to keep it elevated and reduce the swelling, but it wasn't getting better and I started to wonder whether I might have any problem more serious than just a sore knee.  Still, with no other problems I figured I'd at least finish the job. 

The biggest problem we had was probably trying to keep shuttle space for people who really needed it.  Many groups had one infirm member, but everyone wanted to ride with Grandpa, and we had to try to convince the able bodied members of the party to walk so I could take people who really needed it.  Most of the time that worked fine, but sometimes it was hard.  It's always the case that these tournaments draw a lot of people used to getting special treatment and consideration from their country clubs and luxury resorts, and not used to being "one of the crowd" at sporting events.  Most are pretty adaptable, but some will argue.

After our work shift we had a chance for some tournament viewing, and made a point of watching Peter Jacobson.  He lived up to his reputation and came over to shake hands with several of the Marshals in the middle of the hole thanking all of us for our service.  Arnie didn't show up again, but the big news was that Greg Norman had just turned 50 and was playing.  We watched him in his shark attire and cowboy hat on the putting green having a lot of fun.  He didn't play as well as he hoped, but he was very popular with the fans.  I watched one of the qualifiers, a club pro who a friend in Columbus knew and was following.  He wasn't doing as well.  I wished I had the mobility to get further out on the course, but we did have plenty of action to watch around the clubhouse. 

Friday was pretty much like Thursday, A morning work shift where the crowds were even larger (and the scooters ran out even sooner), followed by some early afternoon spectating.  It also gave me time to do more thinking about the bad leg, and when it was no better and still visibly swollen I decided reluctantly that we ought to go home early on Saturday.

After returning home, I decided to get the leg looked at and went to the urgent care desk of the clinic where my doctor has his practice.  On Saturday, the physician on duty was one of their newer staff who took one look at my legs and said "Oh my".  After some measuring and prodding she thought I might have a blood clot, which can be serious, so they sent me to the hospital for ultrasound.  After a short wait and some more tests they gave me the bad news. -- a clot, and to insure I didn't have anything worse than a sore leg I'd have to check in for a round of blood thinners and monitoring.  I spent 3 days in the hospital, mostly feeling silly because I wasn't sick, but they didn't want me to do anything, and watched Allen Doyle win the tournament on the TV.  I felt particularly odd sharing a room with a popular local farmer with a big family who had a lot of visitors and a lot of medical attention, and other than periodic  tests of my vitals I got little of that.

The good news was the blood thinners did their job and the swelling started to subside.  My doctor said I still had the clot, but it was stable.  I'd never get the clotted vein back again, but the body would work around that, though I may have to wear a compression sock to help keep the leg from swelling, which I have ever since.  I was a bit concerned that in 2 months I was scheduled to join a group for 3 days of 36 holes a day walking at Bandon Dunes, but he assured me I'd be able to do it, even though I felt like I couldn't walk more than the length of the hospital corridor to the exit at that point.  He told me to keep walking, take the blood thinner and I'd recover, which I did. 

The doctors were never sure why I had the clot.  I didn't have any of genetic issues they tested for associated with them.  They thought maybe the time spent in the car in the traffic jam did it, but the drive to Dayton was a short one for me.  Earlier in the year I'd made a 5,000 mile driving trip spending as long as 14 hours in a car with few breaks, and take two transatlantic plane trips, one 12 hours each way.  I wondered about the day I spent on my feet in the museum.  Whatever, I got some recommendations for how to minimize future risk and vowed to be more careful and take any leg swelling seriously.

The 2006 PGA Championship

In 2006 we were in luck -- the PGA Championship was coming to Medinah, an easy commute from home.  We signed up to be Special Teams Marshals, thinking from the description that we would get jobs a lot like the putting green assignment we had in 2003.  The PGA is sometimes seen as the least of the "Majors", but it's still a big tournament, with large galleries, top players, and lots of hospitality tents.  The location was close enough to home that we could actually attend the training and pick up our credentials in advance, which was fortunate, because they were a lot fussier about this insisting that we present a photo ID to pick up our badges.  I think this was also the first tournament we did that required a criminal background check, which might have been particular to our position, which gave us close access to players.  The PGA also had a somewhat different uniform package for volunteers -- you got only one shirt, but you also got a pair of pants or a skirt.  I was a bit dubious about this, figuring the pants might not hold up, but in fact they turned out to be perfect -- light weight, durable, and good looking, and have become my favorites for volunteer assignments.  (Almost all tournaments want khaki pants, which you have to supply, but of course the rather imprecise definition of that color results in a wide variation of shades showing up.)

When we came for training we got a detailed tour of the locations that our committee was responsible for.  That was basically the crosswalk areas around the clubhouse, putting green, driving range, and the route to the 18th green and first tee.  It was pretty straightforward, with the job being basically what we had done at Olympia Fields.  I was a little nervous about this because of my leg.  Over the year since the clot I had done lots of active things on my feet, taken cross country driving trips and trans atlantic plane flights with no problems, but standing still for any length of time still made me uncomfortable, and we were working 5 hour shifts. 

The parking arrangements for this tournament are worth noting.  Volunteers got to park in the lots of a minor league baseball stadium and ride a bus for about 20 minutes to the course.  You could park there any day as a volunteer, but the parking lot didn't have a lot of extra space so you wanted to be early.  Otherwise you had to go where the general public parked -- a disused horse racing track much farther from where we live and a longer ride to the course.  Unlike a lot of the tournaments this one had no big volunteer tent, just a small one serving coffee and donuts in the morning.  Volunteers got vouchers to cover food and water from the concession stands, and every committee had a designated meeting place on course to check in.  (Ours was a certain tree behind the clubhouse.) 

Monday was uneventful.  We were on the area around the driving range and there wasn't much to do, which meant we could watch the players.  If you have never watched tour pros practice in person, it's an experience.  TV doesn't do justice to the smoothness of their swing, nor does it capture the soft, crisp sound of their iron contact, the same every time.  Crowds were light and respectful. 

We took some time to go out on course during a pro-am day.  That was interesting, just to watch the contestants interact with their amateur teams.  Some almost ignored them, focusing more on their own practice (most tournaments with pro-ams play some form of better ball game in which the pro participates, but the pro can linger and practice around the green after he's out of the hole and many do).  Some spent a lot of time on instruction of their teams, while a few seemed to be constantly telling stories.  I suspect that the amateurs felt they got their moneys worth out of the teachers and story tellers at least. 

When we next had a work shift, the first thing we were told was of the need to be firm in keeping the crowds back.  Earlier in the week (after our shift or on the day we weren't there, they had a serious problem in our area.  Tiger Woods and his Caddie had chosen to walk outside the ropes between one of the practice areas and the clubhouse and were enveloped by a crowd that almost pushed them into a pond as people crowded in.   The tournament responded by beefing up the fencing in the clubhouse areas, replacing ropes with metal fences and in some areas creating double ranks of fences to keep the crowd away from the players.  They had also assigned local police to work with volunteers in some key areas.  We had no problem with either measure.

Our assignment that day was the crosswalk between the 18th green and the clubhouse.  (Actually one of two crosswalks, the one closer to the green was staffed by the 18th hole marshals)  Our area included a wide spot where the players stopped to sign autographs and interact with the crowd.  Almost all the players did it.  Most are happy to sign and have photos taken on practice days.  Probably the most memorable was Padraig Harrington, who was asked by on older woman (who looked like she might be Irish) to get a photo, and he invited her inside the fence to take several pictures of the two of them together.  It clearly was the highlight of her day. 

The saddest day of the week.

Our next assignment was Friday afternoon, on a crosswalk next to the clubhouse. Across from the clubhouse (and inside ropes) was the course parking lot, given over to the players, and the pro-shop, which was the headquarters for the PGA of America.  Between the two was a major access route for spectators getting to the course and all the media and supply vehicles.  There were only two of us on the ropes, though we had a uniformed policeman stationed at the clubhouse door to help insure nobody unauthorized got in.  Figuring out who is authorized is of course a major part of the challenge.  This was harder than with the US Open, because it wasn't just the players and Caddies.  In fact there was a complicated set of codes used on the badges everyone wore indicating where you could go, and to go into the clubhouse required the one of several letters on the badge. 

Usually identifying who could get in wasn't too hard, but there were some exceptions.  One older man wanted to go in but didn't have the right code.  He looked familiar though and when I looked at the name on his badge I knew why -- Rees Jones, the course architect who had refurbished the tournament course recently.  There was even a room in the clubhouse named for him.  I tried hard to convince the cop to let him through, but he had his instructions, and I had to send Mr Jones and his companion to another entrance since none of us had radios to call in a higher authority.  At least he was understanding about it, which not all were.

We had at least two cases of Medinah members seeking access, and they couldn't get it unless they had the right code.  One was particularly indignant, treating us like rebelious servants.  There was a special hospitality area for Medinah members with a great view of the action, and I suggested she go there and if she really needed to get in the club house talk to someone there who might be able to get her the right credentials. 

More than a few players brought wives or girlfriends along, and most had the right credential, though often they weren't displaying them and we had to stop them.
 Most of the players moved quickly through this area, but some stopped to sign for fans.  After a while the fans in the area realized they could anticipate who was arriving by watching their cars come in and the players get out, then rushing to the crosswalk to try for autographs from top players.  One was trying to get all the players who had been in the 1999 PGA at the same site to sign a flag that he said he was going to donate to a charity auction. He actually got most to sign.

During one slow time one of the people hanging out near the crosswalk approached us and started asking about how volunteering worked.  We were happy to tell him anything he wanted to know.  It turned out he was with the Asian tour and they were looking to build a volunteer program for their tournaments and wanted to understand how it worked here. 

When Tiger arrived in the parking lot there was a huge surge of people in the area -- but no Tiger.  I was in position to see what happened.  He and his caddie had decided to skip running "the gauntlet", and instead just jumped the fence and walked through the now empty area between the parking lot and the putting green and cut in there.  Other top players used that route as well, much to the disappointment of fans in our area.

As the afternoon wore on the flow of players reversed and started leaving the clubhouse.  That was sad.  Many of those leaving were dragging clubs and athletic bags, having cleaned out their lockers knowing they missed the cut.  I don't know what was sadder, seeing a dejected Jesper Parnevik dragging his own clubs (almost all the players did this themselves, maybe it's part of the "walk of shame".), or one of the qualifiers for the tournament who was going in and had his family with him and told them to enjoy themselves for a while because this was the last time he and they would be able to get in.   

Stopping the traffic on the path crossing the crosswalk wasn't hard most of the time, though the media were often impatient if the player stopped for autographs and we had to leave it closed.  Mostly though everyone moved quickly, especially towards the end of the day, which had a very "down" feel about it.

And now for the weekend (Saturday/Sunday).

Saturday was an off day for us and we took advantage of our pass to the course to do some spectating.  We visited the "Sergio Tree" on the 16th hole, where a plaque identifies the place where a young Sergio Garcia hit a bold shot off a tree root and chased it up the hill to see where it finished, cementing his reputation as a bold and fierce competitor, even if his charge fell short of catching Tiger.  There was an interesting spot on the course for people watching, where two holes (11 and 15 as I recall) had tee boxes close and crossing such that players on one box had to wait for those on the other.  Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods came to those tees at the same time and it was interesting to watch.  Tiger was leading the tournament and intensely focused.  Phil was well back and not likely to compete, but was smiling, conversing with fans and laughing, clearly enjoying himself.  We caught a glimpse of Vijay Singh, another player sharply focused, and that day not all that happy with his caddie.

Late in the day stopping by the putting green we saw Jerry Kelley talking with his fans.  I'd seen him on TV and hadn't known why the commentators said he was particularly popular, but it was a good chance to see why.  Jerry comes from Wisconsin, so he had lots of fans at the tournament.  He stood in a corner of the putting green talking to them and answering questions about his round for a long time, as well as signing autographs.  It's not something many pros did, and he wasn't going to finish high.

On Sunday, we got a new assignment when we showed up.  It seems that they noticed the  players jumping the parking lot fence and heading for the putting green, so they created a new entrance to the green at the spot they had to enter and assigned us, with a police officer to control it.  Mostly it just looked odd -- a doorway to nowhere, but we had a pretty good idea who was going to want to use it and were ready. 

It wasn't just the players that used the entrance. Several of the TV commentators came in that way on their way to interview players before their rounds.  The job also gave us a chance to spend some time watching the pro's practice routines up close.  Many used practice aids, but what characterized all of them was repetition.  They hit a lot of putts from the same spot and were comfortable only when they were consistently holing them.

It always got exciting when one of the top players entered through our special entrance.  Most of the crowd didn't know what to expect, and surged towards the clubhouse entrance where we had been working on Friday when one showed up, then were surprised when he came through our entrance instead.  When Tiger came to the parking lot there was a huge crowd along the fence.  A small child next to me looked at it clearly considering whether to move, so I bent down and told him that if he wanted to see Tiger he should stay right where he was because Tiger would come right past him.  Sure enough, after the crowd moved toward the clubhouse, Tiger, and Steve Williams jumped the fence and walked straight to the green between us.  My small friend smiled broadly. 

The entrances of Tiger and Phil showed sharp contrasts.  Phil had come earlier, and as usual was all smiles, tipping his cap and talking with everyone along the route.  He even thanked us for being there to drop the rope.  Tiger was entirely focused elsewhere. His eyes darted around the crowd as if he were looking for threats or opportunities, but he never made eye contact or changed his neutral expression.  We were just part of the fence and rope system. 

Steve Williams provided more drama.  After bringing Tigers bag in he went back a couple of times, once to fetch another red shirt.  We recognized him every time he approached the ropes and let him through without him having to ask or justify it and I think he was glad of that. 

Once the last competitor went off the tee they closed off our entrance and we were free to go spectate.  We watched a few players at some of the more interesting holes, but left before the finish to avoid crowds at the end of the day.  Tiger was well out in front and not faltering, going on to collect another Major. 

At the end we decided we rather liked the assignment, and that in spite of the logistics for a big tournament like the PGA being a bit more challenging we'd be happy to do it again.  That was something for later though.  Our next shot at volunteering in 2007 would be another Senior Open at Whistling Straits.

The US Women's Open (Colorado Springs, 2011)

This is our first "regular" Women's event and our first time as walking scorers.  It was also a signficant motivation for me to get my bad hip replaced over the past winter (not wanting to wind up dragging up the rear or not being able to keep up), which fortunately was spectacularly successful at restoring my ability to walk all day.

Practice days

We had our training for scoring today.  The job is twice as hard as I thought -- and 10 times as cool.  The job is really pretty intimidating --  you have to record every shot, where it was from, what happened, etc. for 3 players Thursday/Friday and 2 on the weekend, and you are responsible for making sure "sign boy" has the right numbers and doesn't get lost. You have to be careful about staying out of the way of the players, and minimize the interference with the views of the fans, at the same time remembering your primary job is to get the score right.  About the only thing you aren't responsible for is the rules -- fortunately the USGA sends a rules official out with every group.  After an hour or so of lecture and Q&A they gave us all the scoring PDAs, took us out to the west course (not the championship) and had us score 4 holes for two guys playing along. The only mistake I made was missing when one guy picked up a "gimmee", and got assessed a penalty (I was too busy recording the other player's putts to notice he never holed it before picking up).  Tomorrow we get to practice with the real players in a practice round -- 9 holes walking with some random group and sending in scores mainly for our practice and to make sure the Wifi coverage fits the whole course.

The 4 holes scoring was interesting because lots of strange stuff suddenly comes up (like the guy who hit it into the crap around a tree -- let me see, is that Intermediate rough, 1st cut, second cut, or other -- other -- it turns out that the USGA wants this stuff mainly to determine how tough the rough is and whenever a player hits it outside of normal playing areas it's other so you don't screw up their statistics).

Before training we watched quite a few players.  Also had some interesting conversations in the grandstand with people following them.  One thing that's striking is how many of the people watching the practice round have some personal connection to the players, like the woman who described herself as Jiyai Shin's American mother who had a bunch of pictures of PGA and LPGA players on her phone, and the guy who had been an LPGA junky for 40 years and was with Naon Min's caddie at this tournament (She's in Carla's first group off the tee).

Tomorrow we practice with the pros, then a day off, then 3 solid days of working inside the ropes.

One of the things you discover working as a volunteer is that some tournaments and job coordinators really have their act together, and some have no clue.  This one seems pretty good overall, and our coordinator for Walking Scorers is really on the ball.  It will be interesting to see what happens in 3 weeks for the Senior Open, where we are doing the same job and have heard nothing about training or logistics.  Fortunately the same guy from the USGA is working both tournaments and we have already had a word with him about the lack of info. 

They say you can do the walking scorer job even if you know nothing about golf, but frankly -- no way.  Too many judgements to be made (was that ball on the fringe or on the green --  someone who plays and watches golf knows if it's on the green the player will mark it and if it wasn't marked it wasn't on the green).

The next day was supposed to be a practice day for us as well.  The plan was we would show up at the course about 9:30, pick up a score sheet and PDA, then join one of the groups who teed off 10 early in the morning making the turn to number 1 and spend 9 holes recording scores to practice.  One small problem -- nobody coming to 18 was going on to 1.  After waiting for about 45 minutes some people went with a group on the adjacent 4th tee, and a couple of others went with Laura Diaz, who appeared suddenly on the tee alone.  We were about to give up and go have lunch waiting for the PM tee times when Juli Inkster, Pat Hurst, Reiley Rankin, and Wendy Ward were coming to 18.  Carla was sure that Inkster would go on since we heard her talk the others into playing the back the day before.  Sure enough, everyone but Wendy jumped onto the 1st tee and we went out after them.  Odd coincidence -- the "sign boy" for that group turned out to be a young woman we had met on the volunteer bus the day before and guided to where she could pick up her uniform and check in.  It turns out they only played 3 holes, and of course they weren't really playing, just hitting shots, so much of the so-called scoring was just making things up, but it was just nice to move after standing around the tee for over an hour, and they were all nice to us and signed our hats when they finished. 

After that we thought lunch, then head out to the 4th tee and try to pick up an afternoon group.  We picked up a group of 3 unknowns, 2 of whom dropped quickly, so we wound up finishing the front 9 with Harokyo Namura, who didn't speak much English but didn't object to being stalked by a couple of us practicing. She actually played a real nice game, playing two balls off the tee and then playing them at least as far as the green.  I was a little disappointed when her caddie picked up her second ball on 9 -- a 10 foot eagle putt, but could understand perfectly why she would rather practice chipping the one she missed.

Walking this course will definitely be a challenge.  Half the course isn't bad, but the other half (mostly the back plus the last 3 on the front) is on a steep slope and requires a lot of climbing.  The real bad part is they want us to walk near the ropes in the second cut of rough -- at least 5 inches long and really thick.  We can do it, but I have to wonder about some of the others.

We debated continuing past 10, but the sky was looking bad by then so we started walking down 10 toward the shuttles -- half way down the hole the horn sounded, so we decided just to hoof back to the "cart barn" (actually a cement dungeon under the tennis courts where everyone connected with scoring has their headquarters) to turn in the electronics before deciding what else to do.  It was clear that they didn't have the normal crew of people to evacuate the players in a bad weather situation as most players and caddies were walking in with us and all the spectators.  I don't know why they don't plan for this -- afternoon thunderstorms are the rule in Colorado Springs.

Wednesday was supposed to be Anika day here -- the honorary chairwoman gave an exhibition on the driving range in the morning (actually she just talked, another player hit the shots), then was supposed to be signing autographs in the afternoon.  Carla wanted to meet her so we lined up at the merchandise tent to get a signature.  After half an hour and about half way to the door the police started making noise about the need to get under cover, then tried to shut out everyone not already inside.  I think there would have been a riot if they got serious,  We kept suggesting just relocating the line to the inside of the tent -- there was plenty of room, but neither the cops nor the security volunteers seemed to know how to do it.  After a bit all of us in line decided to do it for ourselves, so I got Anika to sign a cap right next to Inkster and we caught the last bus back to Volunteer headquarters before it started raining more seriously.

Volunteer headquarters is a regular feature of tournaments.  Usually just a tent where they serve lunch and have check in for most groups.  The Broadmoor is the palace of volunteer gigs -- headquarters is in a ballroom, with real restrooms (not the "green latrines", or even those tippy bathroom trailers they use for the corporate tents), Air conditioning that actually works, and plenty of space.  They also run shuttles to several points on the course from there so it's a lot easier to get to your assignment than on most courses.

By now it's almost 3, and they called play for the day, so we headed back through Colorado Springs rush hour (3:30-4:30 PM -- weird.) to the hotel. Riding the elevator a woman noticed our shirts and said her daughter was playing in the tournament and caught in the rain this afternoon.  Sure enough, I recogniced the name (Then) as someone in the group ahead of the one we followed.

Tomorrow we aren't working, but we will be hoping the weather cooperates to let day one finish so we can go out as planned with the first Friday groups (me on the 10th, Carla on number 1).  Somehow tthough I have a feeling Mother Nature will make a hash of the schedule the rest of the week.

Thursday (or We're Hosed for Tomorrow)

With no work assignment, we played a morning round of golf on a nice day. The nice day started to look a bit grimmer, and by the time we reached the public "lot" (a dusty field that used to be a golf course), we could see a big thunder head north of us and more nasty clouds around Pikes Peak just northwest of the course.  As we boarded a bus they told us it was starting to rain on the course but we were welcome to go -- by the time we got there they had suspended play for lightning and weren't letting anyone else onto the course.  We could get off the bus and wait outside the gate (a really lousy option as there's no shelter there), or ride the bus back to the lot. We waited for a while while our bus was just parked, but eventually had to decide and decided to go back and wait in the car (mainly because we had forgotten an umbrella and could get that).  We sat in the lot watching the sky show (lightning) but not much rain for an hour or so before giving up.

As of now the tournament website says they have given up trying to play today.  The groups we were supposed to have tomorrow morning, basically the first tee times of the afternoon half of the field today, had just gone off and not all completed the first hole before the storm, and most of the morning field hasn't finished either.    Any schedule they had has clearly gone out the window.  The real problem is the weather forecast is basically the same all week -- afternoon thunderstorms.  3 years ago at the Senior open they got by with only a couple of short weather delays during actual play, but basically the USGA is just not being realistic about being able to play a 4 round tournament in an area known for afternoon thunderstorms most of the summer.

We are still waiting to hear what this does to our work schedule -- it's obvious we aren't going to be going off for the second round at 7AM, but looking at the list of volunteers and schedule availability it's not clear what they are going to do since some people who started rounds today won't be available tomorrow to be able to finish with their groups.  Oh well, it's been a nice "vacation" even if we never get to actually work on the course.

What happens on the Short Bus (Friday)

Well, we got lucky today.  The day dawned dubious here but actually improved, and as 1PM came and it was time for us to go to the "cart barn" to pick up our gear and get to our groups the sky was still just puffy clouds.  Carla and I spent the morning spectating, trying to make sure we could recognize the players in the groups we would be walking with in the afternoon and watching some decent golf by players completing their first rounds.  After some scrambling to get all the morning scores verified and loaded we were good to go.  I picked up my standard bearer, a high school junior who was a mid 80's golfer from the area and who fortunately was familiar with the course and very good at posting the scores quickly all by herself.  There was a last minute change of where the player's shuttle to the 10th tee left from (in front of the clubhouse, much closer than the last location), but we got there.  One observation I have is that the Women's open is a whole lot more casual about access control than any other tournaments I've worked -- I was a bit worried about being turned away from the clubhouse or player parking lot, but show a volunteer badge and you can go anywhere (especially if you are wearing a radio).

Arriving at the 10th tee we spend some time finding where the tee really was. Little did I know that they actually drop you near a hole on another of the Broadmoor's golf courses that was converted into a mini-range for players teeing off on 10 to warm up.  When we get to the tee though we meet our rules official and our players -- Sarah Kemp from Austrailia, Kyung Kim, an ASU Amateur, and Lizette Salas, from SoCal (USC I think, but now pro). Salas is -2 and on the big leaderboard, and I'm a little nervous that we might actually make the TV coverage.  I quickly find several things -- these women hit the ball a mile and walk fast (especialy when they are in the fairway, and I'm supposed to walk in the second cut of rough).  I manage it though for the first 9 with no errors.  The back 9 at the Broadmoor East course is a roller coaster, without a lot of birdie holes, and sure enough everyone is falling back.  Salas makes the mistake of trying to hit a fairway wood out off the second cut and pays dearly with a double and a bogie probably driven by nerves to go back to +1.  As we make the turn the storms are clearly starting to form north and south, but not where we are --  yet at least.

I see some great plays on the early holes of the front 9 which include a driveable 4 and a short 5.  Salas rights the ship and gets back to -1, 
though from there she keeps falling back and recovering.  As we come up 6 away from the clubhouse the sky is getting more ominous, and by the time we reach the 7th green, near the high point of the course, the wind is howling and the sky a bit dark.  Nothing imminent though.  My players struggle with the wind on 7 onto the green, then comes the ominous message over the radio -- "leaderboards put up your weather warning".  Further chatter says the weather is threatening but not immediately dangerous so they will keep playing but warn the fans -- right. Just about the time the last putt falls -- BOOM. We hike up to the 8th tee, near the high point on the course, and in all the confusion I fail to record the last putt on 7, but quickly remedy that while waiting.

Then  while we are waiting for the 8th green (par 3) to clear the horn sounds and we all scramble towards the vans.  In mens' tournaments they usually have Lexus SUVs or Ford vans for evaculation, but here -- they have short school busses -- 3 of them up there.  Most of my group gets into one, along with Stacy Lewis -- the touranment leader, and a couple of other players.  They tell us just to wait because "it will pass".  15 minutes, then half an hour, then another 15 minutes, during which the players and caddies bring out their phones, twitter, and play games.  I'm amazed that our rules official, probably a 70+ year old woman, seems to know everyone in the bus and most of the music the young folks are playing.  I guess that's what happens when you do enough women's tournaments.

Finally, they release us to play the last 2 holes (after waiting for the all clear and the group ahead to putt out).  I think the delay took its toll on people.  My group all parred the short 8th, but 2 bogeyed the 9th -- a par 5 that normally is a birdie hole.  Of the 3 I played with I think only Salas will make the cut.

Carla had a similar experience, being herded into the bus after her group drove on 17.  We finishished our 6+ hour round (including the delay, and picked up some well earned pizza and beer for the evening knowing we won't be needed again until tomorrow afternoon.

Aside from the weather we had a rather routine round.  We missed all the scoring screwups in other groups, the bear cub having lunch in the trash cans at 10, the scorer who called in sick after the delay, and all the technology problems -- our radios and PDAs worked flawlessly. Bottom line -- working as a walking scorer is a blast!  Looking forward to the weekend here and the Senior open in another 3 weeks.

Swingin in the Rain (Saturday)

Today was an adventure at the Women's open.  Half the field had most of their 2cnd round to play at the start of the day, and even starting at 7AM we knew it wouldn't be fast.  The thing nobody knew was what would happen with round 3.  Originally I had been scheduled for the first tee time and Carla was the first alternate in case someone was a no show, so I guessed we would go out some time in round 3, so while we got up late, we went in dressed to work.

When we got to the course the USGA estimate was they would start round 3 at 2PM.  I thought that was optimistic, and as we started to watch it became clear it was.  We watched a lot of players we thought wouldn't make the cut -- Betsy King, Juli Inkster, Michele Wie, and others.  Pace of play wasn't great, and 2PM was definitely optimistic.  On the way to lunch we dropped in to scoring central, where they told us that they thought they would go as 3somes off both tees at about 2:30.  Our committee chair had a tentative schedule showing both of us in the first two groups off the 10th, but he had no idea how many groups there would be or when the start would really be, so we went to lunch and decided to check back about 1:30.  After lunch we went out to watch the last groups come in -- still 6 of them shortly after 1.  We watched some agony out there -- someone at +5 sure to make the cut who doubled the 18th.  The sky got more and more ominous as the day wore on.

With 2 groups to go they put up the weather warning -- time to clear the grandstand, but keep playing.  As the last group came up 18 we 
heard the rumbles start.  All I could think was "I hope nobody in this group has any chance of making the cut".  Wrong, they had one player sure to make it -- if she parred the hole.  After she stuck the approach and the drizzle started we headed down to the cart barn to await developments.   The cart barn is basically a concrete bunker.  30 or so walking scorers and an equal number of "sign boys" (mostly high school aged girls actually) were waiting for the afternoon pairings.  Finally, the sheet came out.  When they play 3somes off both tees the USGA puts the best players off 1 in order of worst to best, and the second half of the field in the opposite order off 10.  That meant our players were in the middle of the pack -- could be anyone.  In fact I got Morgan Pressel, Danah Bordner, and Alison Walshe.  A good group.  Carla had Chella Choi, Nomura Harukyo, and Sue Kim.  We picked up our standard bearers, and took the shuttle to the 10th tee to find the players already warming up on the range there.  We got out so fast we didn't have our paper score sheets (they weren't ready), so I had to pick all that 
up at the last minute.  At 3:15 The master of ceremonies introduced Pressel and we started.  My players played the first 3 solidly -- all pars except Pressel's birdie on 11 (a great approach shot on a hole that had been shortened dramatically for the 3rd round.  As we came to the 12th tee I heard the ominous news -- "Leaderboards put up your weather warning".  The clarification said the storm was still on the other side of the mountains but had "potential" -- I knew what that meant -- not much more play.  I told my standard bearer and the caddies what was up (telling the players is really up to the rules official).  12 was completed in pars -- far from routine -- Pressel had a great up and down from a front bunker, and Walshe had to stick it from the back rough. 

The sky over Cheyene mountain was definitely bad as we approached 13.  Pressel and Bordner got off the tee, but as Walshe stepped up to the ball there was a flash and a shriek, and she dropped her driver "I'm not playing with it that close".  Our rules guy confirmed they were about to suspend, so we just waited for the horn.  That of course triggered chaos.  Pressel, Bordner, their caddies and the rules guy headed for the fairway to mark the balls, while the rest of us wondered what to do.  A marshal pointed back to the 12th tee and I knew what that meant -- the same cache of short busses as yesterday.  We all made it into one of the busses in increasingly threatening weather.  After about 10 minutes the driver got the message -- bring them in.  Carla was in another bus in the same area with her group and actually got into the clubhouse dry. 
By the time we made it it was pouring, and I had to bag my PDA and score sheets.

The area was chaos -- players, caddies, standard bearers, walking scorers, and a lot of wet tourists crammed into the clubhouse lobbies.  The words of wisdom in situations like this are "stay with your players", but that doesn't work as the players quickly went for the locker rooms and players hospitality areas we couldn't follow.  A rules official told us to wait and we would get an update in half an hour.  Half an hour went by, then another rules official said another half hour.  Meanwhile our standard bearers said they had been told to go back to the barn -- not far, but impossible in the deluge.  When the rain stopped though one of the scorers turned on his radio and confirmed that yes, we were supposed to go to the bunker.  Before getting there my standard bearer was stopped by someone with a message for Morgan Pressel.  I listened and when I heard the word "Illinois" I was intrigued.  It turns out the guy was the athletics director at the high school I attended, now a pro at the Broadmoor, and his parents live next to Pressel's grandparents, who raised her, in Florida.  I took the message to pass on -- if we ever got on the course.

Then began the wait -- 45 minutes, an hour, just one more storm (right -- it's been bucketing rain on and off for 2 hours now).  During that time they released the standard bearers (no fans and no TV left anyway), but not the scorers (we still think you will get out on the course - right).  Finally about 6:45 they called it, and told us we needed to be back at 6AM to get out on the course by 6:45 to restart.  (what they should have been doing all week!).

So, a quick dinner and post, and now some sleep -- we are also scheduled to walk with the last group of the day (in the bottom half of the field) tomorrow at 1:45.  I doubt that will happen, but if it does it means 34 holes in heavy wet rough at 6,200 feet on a mountain goat course.  Should be interesting.

Balls Up at 6:45AM (Sunday)

(Kind of a weird thing to hear at a women's tournament isn't it :-)

Well, that was the marching order last night.  To do it we got up at 0:dark:30 and sprinted to the volunteer lot to try to catch a bus shortly 
after they started at 5AM.  The trouble was nobody told the bus people that about 2,000 people would want to get to the course by 6:30 and there was some wait -- just enough time to grab a bagel, check in at the cart barn, try to find my standard bearer, then try to find the evacuation vans to get back on the course.  Well most of that worked.  Carla's stanard bearer showed up, but mine didn't -- no problem, they have lots of eager girls to do that job and I got another high school golfer who had done the job and could usually manage on her own.  We found the vans, got the players, and were back on the 13th tee by the 6:45 horn.

The weather was cool and cloudy, but dry, so we anticipated no problem for the morning round at least.  For a while I thought I might have a winner, as Pressel birdied an early hole and was playing solid.  Then it seemed she just couldn't get the ball in the hole -- a couple of short lipouts went for bogies and brought her back to even, and nothing else seemed to be working. All 3 of my players were accurate off the tee, something I was glad of trying to record all the strokes.  I also thought I might pick up spectators, especially when Pressel went up on the leader board first after that second birdie, but no, people were really hovering around Creamer and the two Miazatos (apparently unrealated).  Again the evacuation and restart at the course makes things a bit more informal.  (Hard to be formal when you've spent an hour or so crammed into a little bus with your players, caddies, and the rest of the crew).  I got a new USGA rules person after the restart, a older woman who was really good to work with. 

Now when Carla and I got our groups at first I thought I'd have the easy job -- 3 "native" americans, one someone I'd probably recognize.  After the restart though it got hard -- all 3 showed up in white tops, all 3 had blond pony tails pushed through their hats, 2 out of 3 had blue skirts.  Not that hard to sort them out when you had time, but they were all very busy around the green, with everyone taking advantage of all the time to stalk their putts while someone else was putting or marking.  The result was if you didn't look quick you didn't notice who put a ball on a coin and tapped it in among all that chaos.  Sure enough on about 15 I realized I pushed "in the hole" for Walshe, while it should have been Bordner.  (Maybe that's just because Bordner was really struggling on the greens and usuallty missing.  Fine, I though, as long as Walshe sinks her par putt I'm okay.  It was only about 3 feet.  I watched as the putt curved right and missed, then called in to make the correction.  I soon discovered everyone had scoring issues.

We played fast until we came up on the last group off number 1 somewhere around the 8th green.  That of course was the leaders.  9 is a short par 5 that some go for (pond in front of the green), and the leaders took forever to play it.  Worse yet every place they played from was littered with photoghraphers and asian TV crews and we had to wait even longer for them to clear out.  I was just glad it was only one hole.

After finishing I followed my players into the scorer's hut (actually the half way house under normal circumstances -- and yes, they chained and 
padlocked the beer cooler in there.)   There were no issues with their score.  Pressel and Walshe gave me signed balls at the end and I wished them a good afternoon round (which they had to start in about 45 minutes).  I thought I'd have to correct the record of my "stroke trail" on the hole I screwed up -- scorers record where every shot is hit from and that's what gets used to generate all those statistics about greens and fairways hit, sand saves, putts, etc.  In fact they had already managed to fix it based on my description of the mistake.

Carla came in with the next group having had a somewhat slower round -- her players spent several holes on the clock and one nearly got a penalty, causing them to sprint off tees.  The USGA relented on penalizing them only when they caught up to us backed up behind the leaders, and apparently her rules official spent some time fuming about the pace.

With about 2-1/2 hours until our next work time with the last group that made the cut (last tee time off 10), we had a liesurely lunch and sat around nervously watching the sky for a while.  We watched a couple of groups come in noting the times and guessing that the start time for our group might even work.  (Late in the first round there had been all kinds of contingency planning for what to do if the field played so slowly the later players couldn't make their tee times.  As it was, players finishing on 10 weren't allowed to go anywhere else -- there were lunches for them there and they could use the mini-range and green there, but most just hung out around the halfway house.)

Carla and I planned to split our shift, with me taking the first 3 holes, her the next, etc.  We figured the other person could help sign boy, go up the other side of the hole to spot where the balls were, etc.  So, after collecting another eager young girl to carry the sign (another golf team player who had already been out on the course twice and needed little assistance), we flagged down a player shuttle to go out to the tee a bit early.  One of the things done to speed turn around was to keep the signs and the scoring gear up at the half way house, which meant setting up a battery charging/swapout station up there.  When we got there we learned that unfortunately not all the scorers got the message about leaving their gear there, so there was some scrambling, but by the time our group went we had all the stuff.  Meanwhile we just hung around and watched the group ahead (Michelle Wei) go off (She was playing with Sandra Gal, who from a 
distance could be mistaken for Michelle -- tall and athletic and hits the ball a ton.  Michelle actually found some game in the 4th round, and some fans.

Our 4th round players were Gwladys Nocera, who we had seen in the Solheim, Mina Harigae, who we figured we would have no trouble recogning, and Anya Alvarez, who we didn't know.  When Anya came to the tee though we did recognize her from the earlier rounds -- somewhat remeniscent of that LPGA pro who wore the incredible hats -- but with more attitude.  Her long pigtails sprouted from under what looked like a mans Fedora out of the 1950s, and she wore a shirt with a giant pair of lips and teeth clamped down on a golf ball on the front. Her caddie wore the same hat, and she had 4 or 5 fans who trailed her everywhere in the same getup.  She was a golf course over par by then and when she hit her first drive so far left nobody could see where it went and the rules official had to talk her into a provisional I thought -- this could be a long day.  In fact the ball was only in the second cut of rough, and she turned out to be a real competitor.  She hit the ball a ton, took crazy chances that sometimes paid off, and was clearly a crowd favorite. (probably the best moment was on 12, a long par 3, where after missing the green she hit a flop shot out of the deep stuff at least 6 feet below the green that hit the stick, then hung on the lip for almost 5 seconds before dropping.  There was a huge cheer that probably unnerved the others.

Harigae came in only 8 over, and played on and off pretty well until we got to 17 -- a long par 5.  She hit into the deep stuff on the right, didn't get it out clean ther first time, and things went down hill from there.  When she missed a short putt for bogie she let loose with what I suspect was a loud curse in Japanese.  18 started no better, with another miss into the rough and another explitive, but she recovered pretty well and played okay the rest of the round.

Nocera was hopeless -- she looked depressed, and while she started only about 10 over, she tossed shots everywhere. The sky was definitely getting grimmer as we played the back 9.  I heaved a little sigh of relief as we got past 13, but on the 14th green I heard the dreaded words on the radio "Leaderboards put up the weather warning".  The clarification didn't sound hopeless -- one storm north and one south and 
something coming over the mountain that might be an issue, but we played on. There was a lot of wind though and I felt bad for the players trying to guess its effect.  The horn blew just after everyone hit to the 15th green, and after marking we hiked back up 15 to another set of busses.  By the time we got there the busses were basically full.  Part bad planning, and part having family members and freinds of some players on the bus (which they aren't supposed to do, but no volunteer is going to tell Yanni Tseng she has to tell her guests to leave).  We took turns standing outside until we got the word to return to the clubhouse, then crammed everyone in for the ride, while we took our standard bearer back to the dungeon.  By now the sky was dark, it was cold, windy, and raining, and I thought play was done and only wished they would give up quickly enough that Carla and I would have some evening time.

After about 2 hours, just when everyone was getting ready to go home we get the word "The players have been sent to the range, and it's balls up in 30 minutes".  That will never happen we thought, but we gathered our equipment and group and headed for the bus line.  All the scorers, standard bearers, and rules officials were there -- no players.  The players started to trickle in about 5 minutes before the supposed start time, and after another 15 minutes the busses decided to leave.  We had Nocera and Hariagae, but Alvarez and her caddie were nowhere to be found.  After some time someone said they thought she had decided to walk out from the range (not that far), so we all left.  By the time we got there she was still not there, but about 2 minutes before the horn blew she came across the road from the direction of the range.  She did her own thing.

The few fans who stayed out the delay were treated to a great show.  No crowds, great viewing.  Our group didn't play all that well, but it was 
still fun.  I had the scoring device on 16/17/18, and don't think I ever had such a workout.  I think I used every category of place balls could be hit from (all I didn't have was a penalty stroke, and that only because Nocera's sure water ball on 18 skipped over the pond to bury in the rough 2 feet up the bank -- didn't help her that much as I recall).  On 3, a short par 5 with a pond in front where most were laying up, Alvarez pulls out a fairway wood after a good drive, her fans cheer, and she says something like "it's not against the rules to have some fun is it?"  The wind is absolutely howling by then (more storms approaching), and the shot goes right and long -- safe enough, but from there it was a tough escape then up and down for par. Still, I'll bet she had more fun than hitting a layup.

After hole 4 the course starts up the hill away from the clubhouse and Carla and I wondered how far we would get before they would stop for darkness. Fortunately for us the clouds meant an early call and just after the tee shots on 5 our rules guy said the would blow the horn and anyone wanting to finish the hole could do so -- none of our players did it, though Nocera had another rules discussion after hitting her drive near a cart path -- should she take the drop then or wait until morning?  Morning the rules guy said (I think he was just tired of this stuff -- on 18 she hit it next to a cart path and under the frame of a trash can and spent about 5 minutes working out relief, only to hit that shot that skipped off the pond -- from probably over 200 yards out off pine straw.)

No signed balls or caps on this one -- everyone just packed up and headed in.  So, we actually walked only about 30 holes, not counting all the extra walking for the evacuation and restart then the darkness call, and left the course for the last time about 8.

It was interesting to pull up the leaderboard and notice that Lizette Salas, my best player in the second round, was still pretty high on the board.  The Denver post ran a feature on her after that second round -- her parents were poor immigrants who had worked hard to give her an opportunity to play, and this was only her 4th tournament as a pro.  As I said -- she played like a seasoned vet.

Pressel and Walshe from my 3rd round group were also still playing credibly, but started that round too far back to figure. As I write this, they are out playing the final holes.  It looks a lot like Seo will win -- she was apparently a qualifier.  The USGA always seems to insure that in opens -- the golf course wins.

Walking scorer is definitely the best volunteer job I've had -- also clearly the hardest, mentally, physically, and schedule wise.  I also learned that having that on your badge is the equivalent of an all access pass.  We could basically get into just about any area the press or players could get into, which was convnenient because to get from the volunteer headquarters area where the parking lot busses let you off and lunch is served to our check in area in the cart barn the fastest routes were through the palyers parking lot, the front of the clubhouse, and the press interview area.  Nobody ever stopped us along that route, and it was cool to watch each rounds leaders being interviewed.  Walking scorers are also clearly an odd fraternity -- most we worked with had been doing that job for years and worked 2 or 3 tournaments a year. We will definitely look for more opportunities for that going forward.

The US Senior Open (Toledo, 2011)

The Senior Open is the tournament we work most often, partly because many are in the midwest, partly because they always need volunteers, and partly because we like the atmosphere and the stories.

Pre-tournament blues

We got our first real look at Inverness today, a bit earlier than expected due to Chicago and to a lesser extent DeKalb getting the midnight thunderstorms from hell (aka storms that nobody ever predicts and dump ridiculous amounts of rain over night).  We played 27 yesterday at home (well, really 26, since we had to pick up half way through the 18th when the sky turned green and the horn blew, but we came back to play 9 holes of couples scramble in a cart.  Carla and her 70ish partner finished two strokes ahead of me and my 81 year old trouper who couldn't hit anything more than about 30 yards but putted lights out, mainly because I hit 3 trees on the first hole), and when this morning was more thunderstorms we finished some chores and took off for Toledo early.

Coming in to town I have to say this was the least promissing looking venue for championship golf I'd ever seen.  Acres of weed infested asphalt where shopping malls and car dealerships once sat, boarded up restauarnts and stores of all descriptions.  The advance information for this tournament left something to be desired, as did their ability to get our uniform orders right.  Carla got two shirts that didn't fit, and I got an extra "valuables pouch", not a bad souvenir, but I didn't order the thing.  Mostly though we had to get our credentials and exchange those non-fitting shirts.  The advance emails gave us all kinds of times to do it -- mid day week days last week.  Right.  They also told us that the place to do it was "in the trailer next to the headquarters building".  Right, like we are supposed to know where that is?  I got desparate enough to call someone from Colorado 2 weeks ago who actually gave me an address for the headquarters building -- good thing I did.  We still drove past it once before we found it, and it wasn't at all clear where we were supposed to park.  Eventually we found the trailer and managed to get our credentials and exchange the ill fitting uniform parts.

Finding parking  in time for the volunteer party was equally challenging, just a small entrance into a field off one of those depressed looking streets.  Most of these tournaments have a party for volunteers on the Saturday before the tournament, and it's usually a good chance to look over the course.  This time wasn't easy though -- 93 degrees, threatening rain.  As I noticeed the weather forecast, basically the same all week, and thought about the fact that many competitors were coming straight from the Senior British in England I thought they would be in for a shock.

It's always intersting to look at the locals at these things.  As I mentioned the crowd for the Women's open was more female and a bit more fit 
than the usual tournament volunteer crowd.  This crowd was definitely older and less fit.  To get from where you parked to the party tent you had to walk the length of the 16  hole -- about 460 yards.  They were offering people rides in a golf cart limo for that.  We passed, but a lot of people didn't.  As I looked at people lining up for food and drink I was trying to pick out the ones that would be able to walk 18 holes in 100+ heat index, and there weren't many I would have bet on.  We don't exactly like this stuff, but by now we know we can handle it at least.  They put on a good party though.

We wanted to look the course over, but unfortunately the security folks weren't letting anyone go anywhere away from the party tent.  Too bad really.  Sunday was a day when we had arranged to play with a freind in the Detroit area and we planned to play on our own somewhere on Monday (typically a very slow day because the players coming from the UK take it as a travel day).  So, next report will probably be Tuesday or so after the players in England return and we have a chance to really get out on the course.

We wanted to start looking at the layout seriously.  Typical Donald Ross --  tiny greens that roll off in every direction, together with the usual USGA rough that insures it's tough to escape.  This is a neat older course with lots of holes in close proximity.  Great for spectators, but a pain to manage the traffic flow and noise for the martials.  Of course not much of an issue on Monday and Tuesday.  In fact, not a lot of spectators even on Wednesday. Don't know what that portends.

Late in the day we checked in at the Volunteer tent, where our training would be eventually.  Since we weren't in Uniform (you save those clean 
shirts for when it counts, if you are staying in a hotel at least), the guy in charge asked why we were there and when we indicated we were with the walking scorers he was curious what was planned.  Nobody told him anything, just that someone would have a group in his tent for training at 5PM, which was awkward since lots of people would be coming in for food and water about then.  Since we got no information on the plans for lunches for the volunteers in our packet, we asked what the arrangements were -- well, no lunch.  This is the first tournament we have worked where they don't provide a good lunch for volunteers.  Yeah, we've got soda, chips, and bananas all day and bagles in the AM, and maybe some Pizza around noon on tournament days (but of course most of us can't get off work from about 9-1, just the way things work).  He said lots of people were pissed, and they really tried, but nobody was willilng to support it.  I guess Toledo is really depressed these days.

Training was basically the same is in Colorado.  In fact the guy who ran it from the USGA was the same.  Arriving early we were recognized by a middle aged woman who worked there too.  She's from Texas and a tournament junkie -- she's worked over 75 tournaments and does as many as a dozen a year as a walking scorer.  She's done everything except the PGA -- the PGA won't let her score, because she doesn't play golf.  Go figure -- she has 4 pairs of golf shoes just to walk the courses, and 3 racks of 100 signed golf  balls from groups she's scored for.  Now that's a serious volunteer!

There were plenty of people there to be trained.  A curious thing happened when the USGA guy asked about experience.  Most had done walking scorer, but when he asked how many had done it for a USGA championship I'm not sure anyone but the two of us and Judy (the woman from Texas) had their hands up. That suddenly explained a lot -- most of these people were long time volunteers for the LPGA's event in Toledo, but few had done a USGA event, where the systems are a bit different.  Carla and I punted the on course training that night, knowing we would do the "Shakedown" bit (walking and scoring with players on a practice round) on Wednesday and that the number of PDAs they had for the training bit were limited.  Judy took off for northern Michigan to spend the pre-tournament days with a freind and we 
went to dinner.

Spectating at Inverness Tuesday PM was a bit unreal.  Everywhere we saw great groups with no following at all.  A few people followed Fred Funk, but nobody noticed Ross Cochrane, who just won the Senior British.  I got some great pictures of Corey Pavin playing 16, again mostly to empty grandstands. We finished the day with Pizza and brew in the Maumee Bay brew pub, Toledo's microbrewery.  It's in an old hotel next to the ballpark (Mash fans will of course remember the Toledo Mud Hens, who are a real minor league team with a big ballpark and a big following), with decent pizza and decent though limited brews (i.e. they were out of the 3 we most wanted to try, but the two we had were decent.).

Wedenesday was shakedown day.  The USGA wants scorers to go out on the course with groups to test the system basically, and for us it's an opportunity to practice, both with the PDAs, and more important here to learn where we have to go to get from one hole to the next.  We showed up bright and early along with everyone else, noticing that a lot more players were going out.  We drew groups 5 and 7, the 3rd and 4th groups off the 1st tee.  When we got there, I found I had 4 of those players I hadn't heard of, 2 of whom didn't show.  No matter, we are there to learn.  Actually the two I had for the whole round, Harry Taylor and Rob Gibbons, were great guys.  Rob is from Portland Oregon, and had his daughter outside the ropes as our only full time Gallery.  We were joined by a 3rd at the turn, another guy who just got in and was trying to get the feel of the course.  It was interesting watching them practice.  Taylor was straight and accurate, but not long enough to be in position on some holes.  Gibbons could bomb it, but not always straight.  None of them had played the course before so everyone was learning.

Carla drew a premier group -- Jim Thorpe, Bob Gilder, Bruce Vaughn, and Dana Quiggley.  Just lucky.  They were playing a match (someone said $600, someone said 600 Cheeseburgers), but basically just having fun out there. Thorpe had one of those new white headed Taylor Made drivers that costs about a zillion dollars.  He wasn't happy with it and started fooling around with the settings, adding tape and changing the weights.  On about the 6th hole she said he got so pissed off at it he had his caddy reset it to factory standard and said if he couldn't hit the fairway he was going to bust it.  He hit the intermediate rough, better than he had before, and gave it another chance.  There was a lot of joking around.

Curiously enough we also drew related sign bearers -- I had the teen age daughter, not a golfer but very enthusiastic, and she had her father, who wanted to be a scorer but signed up too late, so he got the "sign boy" job. Those normally go to kids, but they are short here and there are a bunch of adults carrying the signs.  Gibbons' caddie was clearly suffering a bit from the heat here -- not extreme at all today, and kept offering to trade loads with Abbie, my standard bearer.  She was too bright to fall for that one. Most of the "stress test" people only went 9 holes.  We of course went the full 18.  Walking all those holes told me where I needed to be and go to get between holes.  Usually that's pretty obvious. At most tournaments there are two chairs and a pole somewhere around the green, and that's where you and the standard bearer are supposed to be while they putt out, then the exit from the green is behind you.  Here of course the chairs weren't well marked, and on most holes the marshals just took them and moved them.  The pole for the sign isn't obvious, so we were hunting around for it and the exit on half the holes. On one (15), we were with the chairs and suddenly realized our players were leaving on the other side of the green, and we had to run to follow. (not trivial here as the route to 16 takes you past the main entrance to the course, which the marshals have to close to let you through.

At one point I heard one of the Marshals say "Warren, I thought you had leaderboards"  I turn and it's our freind and hole captain from Indianapolis 2 years ago who also went to Sahalee wound up as a special marshal, walking with Fred Couples as extra crowd control.  This time he was just stuck on one of those ugly cross walks.

Everyone was commenting on the light crowd.  A couple of the caddies looking at the empty stands in Carla's group said "it's fucking Wednesday, where are the crowds", before noticing Carla and apologising for the language (she of course said there's nothing they could say she hadn't heard.)  That was just after Gilder had asked her if she was getting tired and she explained that she often walked 36 carrying a bag -- brought him up short.

We watched some folks play, including seeing Fred funk play a couple of holes with no more than a handful of people following, then parked at 12 to see if anyone could get a hole-in-one there.  It's a long par 3 over water, but today the USGA had an alternate tee much closer and much more over the pond. Both our groups were puzzled by it and hit shots off both tees, but the afternoon groups mainly played the shorter one. The hole is in front of the Jack Nicklaus corporate tents, about the only place on the course with a lot of people, who clearly had access to something stronger than bud light :-)  We saw a couple of great shots, one that landed 3 inches from the pin, but nobody holed out.  After that we were interested in going up to the range, but the sky turned ominous and sure enough "weather warning" went up on all the leader boards.  Time to leave.

Some interesting holes to watch on TV: 12 -- the aforementioned long par 3 over water. 1 & 2 -- two real birdie holes, both short par 4s with interesting topography. 13, 14, 16 -- all long par 4's, narrow, with creek crossings -- disaster holes. 18 -- a cute little par 4 to finish that some will birdie, but the green is like trying to land a ball on a beanie -- everything rolls off into trouble.

Tomorrow things start for real.  Carla and I have morning shifts.  This time I drew the big names -- Cochrane, Romero, and Sindelar if I read it right. Carla gets 3 of the less known crowd off the 10th at the same time.  We are both mainly hoping the round goes off without a hitch. Weather forecast: 98 degrees, 105 degrees heat index, 55% chance of thunderstorms.  Not promissing.  I'm not sure how our commiteee chair will handle a bad weather situation either.  Today she was surprised to learn the tee times were 45 minutes later in the affternoon than planned -- big deal.  When you get weather, everything changes.  We will see.  More to report tomorrow, provided we don't spend all day in busses waiting for weather again.

Oh no, not again (not) Thursday

This morning I woke up about 4:30 local time to hear rumbling outside.  Sure enough, thunderstorms.  A lot of locals who were working the tournament heard it.  I think I got a bit more sleep, and by wakeup time at 6 it was merely gloomy and a bit drippy.  The weather forecast wasn't good, but the radar was clear enough, so we headed in, arriving in time to make the hike to the first tee just in time to see the first groups off at 7:30.  It was still dark and a bit drizzly.  After a couple of groups we made our way to the trailer to check in.  I did indeed wind up with the 8:30 group off 10 --  Cochran, Romero, and Sindelar.  Carla had a lesser known group right in front of me -- Weeks, Huston, and Michael Allen.  In spite of some bigger names in my group neither of us had much of a gallery, which isn't all bad really -- makes it much easier to get between holes and duck outside the ropes to use a more convenient bridge on some of the creeks.

Sindelar introduced himself immediately to everyone, and it became clear why the media portrays him as a fan favorite.  He talked to several upstate New York fans we encountered along the course, and never got upset.  Cochran was nice enough, introducing himself on the way to the green on 10.  Romero and his caddie didn't say much except to each other.  I felt kind of sorry for his caddie -- a small plump South American hauling a giant staff bag and always bringing up the rear.

Cochran and Sindelar hit it real straight most of the time -- really good for this course.  Cochran quickly got two birdies and got onto the leader 
board, while Romero struggled a bit with shots out of the fairway and more with missing short putts.  (Cochran in contrast was deadly on the greens, rarely missing anything under 10 feet.)  Sindelar muddled along between -1 and even most of our front 9.

Romero lost one in the pond on 12, and another in the creek on 14, putting him solidly over par the rest of the way around.  He kept putting himself in position for better, then missing the putt. As we made the turn I noticed O'Meara had gotten it to -3.  (I could hardly help noticing, O'Meara and Langer had gone off 1 when we went off 10, so when we all took the short cut from 18 onto the 10th fairway he was hitting off the tee.  I had to hold back my standard bearer while they hit, meanwhile Cochran and Romero had made it through to 10 and were already hitting.  Things happen fast around here).

My standard bearer was a young teen, and I wondered how much help he would need when I asked if he played golf and he said a little.  He fooled me --  in fact he was an Inverness Caddie and knew a lot about the game and the course, and mostly got everything right on his own. The back 9 got interesting.  On one hole (11?) Sindelar went over the back of a green and called the rules official over when he saw it.  His stance put a foot on a sprinkler head.  He got relief, and layed out the nearest point, which allowed him to drop on the fringe.  He took full advantage by sinking the putt to go to -2 as I recall.  The whole thing wound up written up on the USGA web page as an example of how the rules can work to your advantage. 

Shortly after that both Cochrane and Sindelar birdied to get to -3, but as I crossed paths with Omeara again going to 12 and noticed a -5 
on his sign I was reminded of one of those scenes in Tin Cup where that happens:  "If we don't start making some birdies we are playing for second".  Unfortunately that wasn't to be.  On 7,Cochrane's up to that point perfect driver failed dramatically and he sailed one way left into an area with some big spruces and long grass.  I don't know why he didn't hit a provisional, but I think he thought he knew where it was.  He didn't.  All of us plus a few fans spent some time looking, finding another ball, before finally as time was getting short someone found it burried in deep rough.  He hacked it only about 10 yards still outside the ropes in deep rough, then another mighty hack to get into the second cut inside the rough, and finally on the green and a good putt to save a bogey.

Sindelar hit a monster drive on the short par 5 8th, almost reaching the creek and leaving only a mid iron in -- straight into a front bunker, where 
after a mediocre out he 2 putted for par.  (Curiously enough one of Carla's group played the hole the same way.) Finally we reached 9 -- a real oven.  Dark green grandstands and TV towers focussing the then bright sun into the bowl of the green and driving the temperature up.  Everyone had routine holes and we quickly ducked into the clubhouse for score verification.  I didn't want to leave the A/C, and fortunely Joey gave me an excuse, wanting to verify his scores 3 times.  No problems,  he just wanted to be real sure, and the A/C felt real good.  Carla had the hot player of the tournament. Michael Allen had 5 birdies and no bogies and just kept going forward to match Omeara for the best rounds of the morning.  Only Olin Browne, who holed out from the fairway in one of the closing holes in the afternoon, was better.  Another of her players (Huston) played well too, but too many bogeys left him at -2.  Her 3rd player (Weeks) also made the highlight reel for a rules situation involving 
trying to get relief from a grandstand (he couldn't because the line of sight was also blocked from a tree), and a cart path (he could, eliminating 
the tree) on the same shot.  What the writeup on the website doesn't say is the guy was in all kinds of trouble, including one hole where he had a near whiff (moved the ball only a few feet) after a drop in the rough from a complex ruling involving a ball over a red staked creek.

The heat took its toll.  We heard a couple of calls for paramedics on the radio, and heard they lost 3 standard bearers and one walking scorer to the heat.  I think a lot of those folks weren't expecting to have to walk in the deep rough, a requirement apparently imposed not by the USGA but by NBC in the interest of keeping us out of the TV pictures. 

Tomorrow we've got groups off both tees at about 9AM and will probably meet each other in all the crossovers on the course where I met Omeara and Langer today.  No name palyers in either group, but I think we each have some folks who were under par today. We are still waiting the final word, but after checking in after our round I think We agreed to take another shift on Saturday PM.  Might even be near 
the end of the tee times.  I think after the number of people having trouble today, both with the physical difficulties and making mistakes on the 
scoring the scoring chair woke up to the fact that she's got a few people in the crowd who have done this before under worse conditions than here and maybe she better use them.  We will see what happens.  All plans here are tentative given the weather forecast is still bad for Friday.

This is hard work.  By the end of the round we were both beat.  My rules official, a real veteran, was looking like he was near giving up.  I think the course fooled a lot off people because they think Toledo -- how hilly can it be, but it's not unlike, say, Hickory Woods on the RSG Cincinatti rota.  Up and down over the same 30 foot deep ravines over and over again, through 6 inch or deeper grass takes it out of you.  I can also see where this stuff gets seriously addictive.  You feel like you are making a difference, you get up close and personal with the players, and you get views of the action that nobody else gets.  I didn't understand all that when one of the old guys who works part time at our home course talked about doing this job for years for a tournament in Florida, where he spends his winters, but now I do.

Hot and Bothered on Friday

How Hot? -- Well, by 5PM the scoring staff was giving away their volunteer shirts to anyone willing to play sign boy because they had nowhere near enough people to do it.

Today started early, about 6AM, with a rumble of thunder.  Oh Oh, luck ran out.  Sure enough, dark, gloomy, and storming as we ate breakfast.  Our 9:10 tee time didn't seem real likely, though naturally the web site for the Senior Open had no info to offer. By the time we got back from breakfast someone managed to post "weather delay" on the site, but no info on when play would start or anything else. We didn't rush, and arrived at the course at about 8 as the rain started to let up.  We drove the gravel and mud road to the "hog wallow" that serves as 
Volunteer Parking with nobody on duty and plenty of cars parked already, so we found a high spot and hiked in.  At the gate we were told nobody could go further than the volunteer tent, which was crammed with people, so we hung out in the other open side tent area where they were charging carts. (Anyone who has ever seen the movie "King Ralph" will recognize the scene - tons of improvised wiring soaking in puddles everywhere.)

After half an hour or so they gave us the news -- play would start at 10:15, 2 hours and 45 minutes late.  We waited until the rain stopped before wandering down to the scoring trailer to let them know we were there, then sat in the grandstand behind 1 and 10 tee to watch the first hour of tee times go off. When we went back to the trailer we found out that things were already snarled.  Confusion had  put some extra people out scoring so our chair asked if we would mind splitting one round instead of two.  Okay, we were destined to get a lot of sincere players trying desparately to make the cut today anyway, and having the two of us doing it and trading off the one not tracking the strokes can handle "sign boy", and actually have time for water and bathroom breaks.

It turned out that it was lucky we decided to double up.  We got an enthusiastic 7th grader who had carried a sign during practice rounds but 
had no clue how to update the scores and not a lot of sense about where he was supposed to be.  He loved the job because some player had tipped him $100 for carrying the sign during a practice round -- aint going to happen today.

After two holes it was clear our sign was like a gas pump -- lots of numbers constantly changing, and always going up.  I think our players had only one birdie the whole round.  After a disasterous 14th, in which one putted from about 10 yards off the green only to have the ball die to the right and dive off the green into the deep rough, and another chip out of a similar spot and not get it far enough so it rolled back, that guy apopogised for making us put up such bad numbers and said it would get better.  Well, on the next hole, a par 3, he left it in a bunker short left, then airmailed the green with his bunker shot.  I thought the ball would go down the bank behind the green but it caught the TV tower and died in the rough to limit the damage to another double. We were in better shape than some groups where they kept calling in because they were running out of 1's or 2's having had to post double digit scores on all the players.

To show this is an odd club, We got the same rules official Carla walked with twice in Colorado, an older woman named Pat who kept very careful notes about where we should be.  I liked that.  When you are always trying to figure out where the shots are and get them into the system the last thing I want to worry about is which side of the fairway I should walk on.  Just tell me and I'll do it.

The day stayed gloomy most of the round, with it looking from time to time like we might catch another storm, but no, the round just dragged on on its own.  Just before we made the turn (on 18, we started on the back), they put our players on the clock.  They managed to stay ahead of the penalties, just barely, but it's tough to play fast when you are always hacking out of odd places.    Coming down 1 and 2 I really felt like saying something like "This is a birdie hole damn it, why did you hit that ball 20 yards wide of the ropes!", but I didn't, I just kept punching the numbers in.Somewhere down the road on the front 9 a putt dropped for the lone birdie, which the guy gave back a hole or two later.  As we came up 9 and I noticed all the balls on the green, all I could think was "thank god, all over but the putting, which they managed in two putts to finish the pain.  Nobody in that group would make the cut, but nobody would finish last either.  Along the way, wearing the radio I heard many tales of woe -- Frost, who chunked on OB on 8 already +5, then walked off the course and got DQ'd for failing to post a score.  Plenty of people leaving things on tees and greens, including one of the caddies that left his caddie bib behind. (Frankly I'm surprised they don't do that more often -- the things look ungodly hot on a sunny day.)

As we checked in about 5PM the afternoon round was still going off.  They won't finish.  As I said up front they were desparate for "sign boys" --  anyone in the audience who wanted to do it and was willing to stay till the end of play could do it, but they needed our uniform shirts, so the staff people were giving them the shirts off their back.  Our chair said she had 5 people in the groups not likely to finish who couldn't come back Saturday AM, so we said what the heck, who needs sleep anyway, so the plan for tomorrow is get up very early to get in position with some group with a few holes to play, finish them, then chill for a few hours until we get an afternoon group.  With any luck they will finish the Saturday rounds tomorrow.

It always amazes me how little experiential learning is really passed on from one tournament to the next.  The guy who ran the walking scorers at the Womens Open was on top of things, but he also had a crew who were very experienced and mostly had nothing else on for the week, so the crazy schedules were no real issue.  Here it seems most of the people doing this haven't done it for a USGA championship, and aren't expecting to have to roll with the weather delays.  All the volunteer committes had trouble. Leaderboards with 1 or two people trying to keep up, holes where half the marshals quit at their nominal quitting time, even though most of the crowd was still out there, etc.  Someone really ought to do a better job of training people to expect the unexpected and plan for it.  I would. More tomorrow, assuming we don't wind up on the course until dark.

A Walk in the Park (Saturday)

Well, 2 of them actually.  Weird, given we weren't supposed to work on Saturday.

The groups we had agreed to finish this morning if they didn't finish last night actually finished their rounds on Friday, so we had no reason to get up early. We did get up in time to follow the finish on the internet.  After a bit the list of players at +2 or better was 60, with only one person at +2 who might bogie the final hole and bring the +3's back under the cut.  I could just picture the scene at 18, given almost no spectators were there yet.  The 6 people at +3 and their caddies filling the stands and cheering "Bogie, bogie, bogie", or maybe offering  a suitable bribe.  No luck, the guy actually birdied 18 sealing the field at 60 players.

When we returned to the course we learned the 3rd round wouldn't start until 9:29.  We watched a couple of groups go off then checked in to learn that we had group 27, Corey Pavin and Kiyoshi Muroto, 4th from the end.  No doubt a fall out of the fact that Judy, the woman from Texas with over 75 tournaments scored somehow got sick so they needed a fill in.  We planned to share the round like we have before, each of us scoring 3 holes then trading off while the other minds "sign boy".

Fine, they said, tee time was now 1:23, so we headed out to the 10th grandstand to watch some golf.  The 10th had no players until about 11:30, but that was fine.  It has a good view of 1 green as well as the landing area and green for 4, the shortest par 5, and most important, it was in the shade!

We watched a lot of great shots before heading towards the volunteer tent for some lunch before our shift.  When we got back to the trailer they said we had a decsion.  What now?  Well, the guy who was scheduled for the last group had twisted an ankle, so they needed a replacement. Carla had a good experience with O'Meara 3 years ago, and the only recent experience I had was getting in his way on Thursday, so I gave that one to her and took the Pavin/Muroto group. 

All would be fine provided we got good standard bearers.  When I saw mine I thought "oh oh".  A nice high school freshman girl who didn't play golf and had never done this job before.  On the way to the tee I tried to give her some pointers about where to be, who to follow. 
Managing the scores was clearly going to be a problem.  Then a miracle happened.  the USGA apparently wants to be real sure things are right in the final groups and sends out an experienced scoring supervisor to go with each.  I don't know how most react, but I was delighted.  When he asked what I had scored and I went through my experience in the last month he wasn't worried about me, but said he could help change the numbers on the sign.  Pavin and Muroto were curteous, but not really that talkative. They both played solidly in the early holes, with Pavin starting to birdie a few.

Becca, my standard bearer was nice, but clueless, so Tim, my supervisor helped a lot.  Scoring for a twosome is a lot easier than a 3some, even with a big gallery and a lot of media.  It's particularly easier when they are both pretty solid players, because not a lot of weird stuff happens (i.e. no whiffs, chunks, or penalties).  After a few holes Pavin got to -3 for the day and -8 for the tournament and we were near the top of the leaderboard. The way this course plays though, most of the birdie holes are on the front 9.  After 8, a par 5 which neither played well off the tee but both birdied to get Pavin to -4, I thought we were going places.  It was really fun to walk Becca past the grandstand on 9, which has no leaderboard so people are clueless about what's going on, and hear the reaction to that -9 on the sign.  Then Pavin 3 putted, after making an agressive run at about a 30 footer, to drop back to -8.  Nuts.  10 and 11 are birdie holes though I kept telling myself.

We had to rush to make the long walk to 10, which takes you past the Inverness club swimming pool, the putting green, and the media interview area.  Pavin put his drive on 10 in perfect position -- it's a short par 4 for these guys with a big dip of rough maybe 130 short of the green so it's 
a layup hole, and by now I'm sure they know exactly how far to hit it.  His approach was mediocre though, which mostly characterised the back 9.  No birdie to get back to -9.

That's the way it went for a few holes, no disasters, just nothing really good.  At 13, the beginning of what I would call the bogie holes, both 
players came up short and slid down a nasty false front.  Pavin failed to hit it far enough.  The marshal next to me thought it would come back. It didn't, but it was too far out to make.  Pavin struggled on 14 as well to drop back to -6, as Muroto birdied to get to -7 (a nice easy switch of the numbers on the standard.  I was getting a bit tired of trying to explain to Becca that she had both 6's and 9's, and "6-" was really an upside down -9, not the same as -6.

I saw Carla's group form time to time as we passed parallel holes.  Nothing much was happening on the leader board at first, but both were playing solidly and got to -10.  As we were clearing 15 with a couple of pars though I head a roar from 13.  Carla said one of those guys almost holed out for an eagle.  The hole is a monster par 4, but that's the kind of day they had. At 16, another normally long tough par 4, they were using a forward tee a bit off to the side.  I decided to take Becca over there just to get a look at the hole from that angle (besides, there was shade there!)  Both hit solid drives, though Murota's was through the fairway into the rough.  From there he put one over the green, then hit the only really bad shot I saw today, a fluff from the "second cut of rough " (6+ inches, the advice to scorers is if you can't see their shoes clearly it's in the "R2".).  The shot failed to reach the green landing in the shorter stuff, from which he got up and down for a bogey.  I actually had a discussion with the scoring supervisor and later with one of the rules officials on what happened that hole since I don't think they saw him sink the putt and assumed he doubled it.  The Caddies, players, and primary rules official saw it the same way I did.  As I thought about what happened, One thing I wondered was whether he faced this kind of rough where he usually played.  He doesn't play a lot of US events and who knows what the kinds of grass they have on the courses in Japan and east Asia.

At 17, Murota again found a bunker, and Pavin hit one his caddie was begging to stay right.  The hole has a nasty bunker with a high face at the corner of a left dogleg, and he missed it and I thought I saw the ball bounce around it through the dogleg.  The crowd around the tee thought so too and was cheering.  Pavin scowled and said "It's in the rough, nothing to cheer about", and sure enough, it got caught in the intermediate rough along side the bunker.  Not a bad result in the end though.

At 18 a short par 4, the pin was tucked tight behind a front bunker, and Pavin came up short and right in another bunker.  Muroto hit a great shot from further up the fairway that I thought was tight to the pin.  Then Pavin almost holed the bunker shot and I thought great, a nice finish at least. Murota 3 putted from about 3 feet, and while Pavin made his putt to stay at -6, everyone was aware of the roars from behind us.

Browne and Omeara had basically gone on a tear.  Carla said they both birdied the last 2 holes (I saw the finish, both holed putts from at least 
10 feet), and a lot of others to get to -13 and -15.  Basically unless they both crash everyone else is playing for 3rd.

After score verification (an odd ritual where the players trade cards back and stare at the big display of the official score that the walking scorer 
has kept, and often ask to have it read back hole by hole before signing), I got signed golf balls from each of my players as well as thanks. Carla's group came in with a boatload of media, including Dottie Pepper and Roger Maltby.  She got both her player to sign her hat and a ball from O'Meara, before they emerged to take on the autograph hounds and the press.  It's really an odd feeling being part of that kind of circus. Nobody really notices you except the players, who realize the role you play, so you wind up sneaking out through a gap in the ropes to go grab a pit stop, beverages, and air conditioning in no particular order.  On the way out we noticed a news broadcast saying the temperature reached 97 today here.  No wonder some of those greens felt like ovens.  Carla said the real down side to being with the last group is the gallery blocks whatever breeze you would normally get.  It wasn't much better 4 groups up.

Tomorrow we have no responsibilities here -- a little spectating, some pizza from the volunteer tent (to make up for the fact that given the schedule on Friday all we got was a couple of packets of "gorp" from the 1st tee), then home for a bit.  We've already started talking about what tournaments we want to go for to get this job again though.  It's even worth having a hip replacement to be able to do!

The Boeing Classic (Washington State, 2011)

This is a Senior (uh, Champion's) Tour event held in a great setting near Seattle.  We were invited to volunteer based on having been at Sahalee the year before, and decided to do it because we love the area and needed some more airline miles to keep our "premier" status that year.  It turned out to be one of oure most enjoyable volunteer Gigs


Carla and I arrived today after a bit of an adventure.  Supposed to be a nice day in Chicago, but they said something about storms later.  When I pulled up the weather radar from the airport Wifi I thought - we're screwed -- solid wall of storms west of Chicago.  United actually exceeded
expectations though and got us out the one runway open, then flew north 100 miles to get around the mess and arrived only 10 minutes late.

Too easy.  Next up, rental cars -- Avis is out of cars again (4th time it's happened to me in Seattle and it's happened to me nowhere else since the 1980s.)  Instead of the midsized sedan I reserved they offered us a full sized van, an open jeep, or a Lincoln town car.  Well, after some discussion we took the town car.  at least it will take the clubs (or so I thought).

The car was a mess -- the passenger seat was jammed against the dashboard -- no way to get in, and the trunk, had a deep hole in the middle, no good for clubs.  Well, we filled the hole with a suitcase and eventually got the seat unstuck and took off to go to the course.  About 5 miles short of Snoqualamie I had a queasy feeling I hadn't seen my suitcase in a while. Quickly we pull off and sure enough, no beat up bown suitcase in sight.  In all the hassle over the car I must have left it somewhere in Avis land.  So, turn around, back to the airport, park the car (with lots of trouble find a space), and head for the preferred desk where Carla thought I must have left it.  Sure enough, one beat up carry bag that's been all over the world still sitting there at least an hour after we left it.  So much for "any unaccompanied baggage will be confiscated and exploded".

We got the the course about 3, an hour later than planned, and had no trouble collectiing our badges and uniforms.  Compared to the USGA, this is a really low key operation -- no security, the merchandise tent is actually just a little tent, and nobody there at all.  We walked most of the back 9 to figure out the best route to our holes and what they looked like.

This course is going to be interesting.  My hole, 15, is an almost 600 yard par 5 that doglegs left around a deep hole -- hit it as far left as you
dare.  14 is a similar par 4.  The green practically begs for the direct route, but miss it and you are dead. Carla's hole (13) is a monster par 3
teeing off from what is probably the highest point on the course.  All the holes are interesting.  One thing I notice is that while the Google Earth
view of this area suggested a lot of houses close to the holes -- they really aren't.  Most are hidden in the trees, and there are some huge elevation changes not apparent from the maps.

Probably the highlight of the day was walking up to the tee on 11 and watching Cannuck Rod Spittle, who we have seen at a couple of Senior Opens, tee off.  After hitting 3 shots, left, right, and center down the narrow and tricky fairway he went back to his cart and noticed us and came over to talk (I think we were the only non-contestants out there at that point.)  He was playing the course the first time and looking for any suggestions. Unfortunately we had never seen it either, but wished him the best in the competition. A quick circle back to the entrance, which again compared to the USGA is modest in the extreme (never spectated a Champion's tour event before, but this is more like the Nationwide events we have seen than the PGA tour.)  We stopped to watch Ben Crenshaw hit some shots off the tee.  (You wouldn't recognize Ben -- he looks like an aging hippie.  Well I guess we all do by now :-))  Some nice eats at the Red Hook brewpub finished the day.  We won't spend much time on the course for the next couple of days when we are sneaking in some golf for ourselves (basically they have a monster pro-am on
the course those days anyway.)   At this point though I'm mainly just glad to have gotten here with all my baggage!


Today we got up early and went up to Suncadia to play Prospector again.  I thought about trying Rope Ride, the new one, but wanted a crack and Prospector on a day that wasn't threatening (we played it twice in dubious weather last year).  The course didn't disappoint.  We got there about 8:15 for our 9:AM and they said we could go any time so we did -- never saw another person.  Never saw more than 3 people in all those houses along the course.  (I can't figure that out.  Are those houses really just weekend places?  Weird.)  It's a nice course, I think it would be one of my favorites except for two things:

1)  They never seem to let it dry out.  The turf looks like it was designed to play dry, hard, and fast, but it seems like they soak it every night so 
we are skidding in a golf cart on it.  The guy at the bag drop basically agreed with me -- he said it's better in the afternoon, but by then it's 
hot, crowded and slow -- not our style.

2)  Too much poa in the greens.  They clearly started with pure bentgrass, but since the fairway and rough grasses are mainly poa, it gets in the greens.  Like everywhere in the midwest this means you are basically putting in a pinball machine -- you have to figure how your ball is going to bounce off those little poa tufts.  I'd rather just have all poa, at least then the whole green is the same height!. Still a good experience and a good bargain for that kind of golf ($70 on a weekday).

We then went to the tournament, and again -- nobody there.  Today was a Korean Air Pro AM, meaning most of the pros were out with the ams.  We decided to walk the front 9 backwards to see all the holes and as many players as we could.  It turns out we saw everyone in the afternoon feild. We saw some great shots, not all from the pros, but a lot of hopeless hacks. I've got to give someone credit of some sort for being willing to pay big bucks to take 3 tries to hack out of a bunker, but a lot of it wasn't pretty.

The front 9 is less dramatic than the back.  Lots of long par 4's and a couple of hefty par 3's (9 is cute -- all over water with no bail out area from the longer tees).  They were still hard at it when we left the course a bit after 5 to go find the Snoqualimie brewing tap room for some brews and food (a good assortmant of beers, minimal but tasty menu, no atmosphere and fairly cheap -- perfect after a long day on the golf course.)

Day 1 at the Boeing

This is a unique experience for us, in that we are essentially working the whole tournament and will see everyone pass through our holes.  We showed up early to get lunch and watch the new Boeing 787 fly over the 18th fairway at low altitutde.  (Aside:  as a technology geek I had read a bunch about the plane's technology, but not it's passenger freindly features -- bigger carry on space, higher cabin pressure and better air flow and humidity among many others.  I look forward to riding in one some day).

I thought my hole, a 590 yard downhill par 5, would be a birdie hole for these guys, but in early going it certainly wasn't.  Only a couple of people made the green in 2, and nobody who came up short got it anywhere near the tricky back right hole location.  Instead, someone in the first group lost one way right off the tee and spent 5 minutes looking before giving up, and many others were hacking out of no mow on the right side after bombing the marshal there and the long drive measuring crew. 

I started the afternoon down on the 
front left of the green, which would put me on TV if they had been broadcasting, but basically not much was happening around the green.  I found myself having to stifle the urge to tell these guys that their birdie putts, mostly from the back of the green, would break left on them -- nobody read it right.  Fuzzy practically threw a club after missing one there. As the day progressed I rotated up the right side of the hole, mostly when people weren't going there.  I got opposite the driving area about the time two guys put drives way left towards the marshal on that side who can't see the tee.  When I saw the ball take off I yelled LEFT at the guy and the ball hit at his feet.  As the next one came up I yelled (WAY LEFT) -- it hit a tree and disappeared over the abyss.

Carla was watching people have no fun with the 217 yard par 3 13th.  The trouble was apparently the wind -- strong on the tee, not the green. Lots of people went over, one took an 8, another a 7.  Ugly.  That of course meant they were all pissed by the time they got to 15, and blasted drives way past the measuring people, only to come up short on their second, and fail to get up and down.   Some days it's a cruel game.

The Weekend

I don't know what might have made the Golf Channel coverage, but both Carla and I were in position to be seen on Saturday and Sunday.  On Saturday I had hole 15 again.  It's a long par 5 that doglegs left all the way around the chasm of death.  Mostly it's not a problem to marshal -- the hole reaches the lowest point on the course and not a lot of spectators want to go there. On Saturday I rotated to the tee box just in time for Fred Couples, who draws the largest crowd.  I'd guess 500-1000 people crammed in around the tee while I'm standing on the curb of the cart path behind it trying to see over 5 rows of heads when he tees of and where the ball goes to signal to the guys down the hill, who can't see the balls come in.  Fortunately everyone in his group hit it straight.

I rotated a couple of more times, past the "ace in the hole" position, where you play human target (the left side of the hole where you can't see the tee, you just hear the contact and hope the guys on the other side of the hole are looking at the guy waving the sign to indicate where it goes).  Not much action in my time, fortunately.  Probably the most intersting action was earlier when I was on the right and Mcnulty hit a wild shot out of a bunker that nearly hit me.  I spent a bit of time looking but found the ball.

I got to the left side of the green just in time for the final groups, and we had lots of action there, with the pin far left.  I watched Kenny Perry
and I think Russ Cochrane blast out of the bunkers near me, then found Sluman's ball which tunneled into the rough between the bunkers (he got it up and down for birdie, one of the few).  All the while I was directly opposite the TV tower.

Carla meanwhile got to watch some memorable disasters on 13, including Lehman make an 8 there (nobody but Lehman, his caddie, and the scorer saw all the shots he hit out of the crap behind the green).  Nobody believed he could go +5 in one par 3.

On Sunday, Carla's hole was overstaffed, and mine was grossly understaffed, even before 3 marshals failed to check in, so she came down to help.  Mostly our duty was uneventful.  I was nervous though as I approached the tee box position with Freddy coming up in 3 groups.  The hole captain sent me down to the left side pocket though with the group before, then I realized the half blind and short old guy behind me would be the one trying to signal in the mob.

Fortunately again Fred and his group hit straight -- more than can be said for the rest.  In my time on the left side I had 3 balls hit at me.  Two
fell into the abyss (one I never saw or heard it was so far left.)  I saw Michael Allen's ball come in and bury in the no mow near the edge, and
actually found a ball there.  He hit a provisional anyway, a really good one, and as his caddie approached I said I thought I found the ball but he
may wish I hadn't.  As it turned out he was close enough to the edge of the normal rough that he could take an unplayable and two clublengths right and get back in play.  I hope I saved him a stroke by finding it. Carla was down on the green at the end and again the pin was tight left and
they were going in the bunkers.  No lost balls there fortunately. The worst shot we saw was Frost's drive.  Carla and I had the two positions
on the right side of the landing area and the marshal signaled hard right, but we never saw it.  As we started hacking through the hay a marshal on the adjoining 16th found the thing 100 yards short and almost in their fairway -- he heard it come in.  He hacked it back in play (into a bunker) and probably bogeyed the hole.  We had no idea how he could be that short, but after watching a couple of others hit irons off the tee I'm thinking the hosel may have come into play.

The last group landed safely in the fairway and I watched the shots.  Calc hit some kind of flub with a 3 wood and threw it through his cart, but saved par.  Cochrane went into a bunker but also saved par.  Then Calc went on a tear -- birdie, birdie, while Cochrane matched only the second birdie,leaving them -12 and -13 coming to 18.  By then we were off duty and watching from the green.  Cochrane had the first shot and hit a beauty to about 10 feet for eagle on the back.  Calc nearly matched him, maybe 15-20 feet, then left the putt a roll short.  Cochrane drained his -- -14 all, playoff time.

The playoff was disappointing.  After decent drives, Calc put it right where he was before, but Cochrane hit a wild left handed hook into a bunker and then just floundered.  Too bad.

The whole experience was a blast.  A really nice setup for spectators and volunteers, and probably the best food and drink of any tournament we have had on working days.  They really went out of the way to make it easy for you too, with shuttles to the distant holes, people bringing around water and snacks, etc.  It's also the cheapest one we did.  Something we may well do again.

The US Women's Open, Kohler, 2012)

Pre Tournament

Actually this is more about our golf than ours.  Carla and I came up here late on Sunday to pick up our credentials and scope out the venue.  It was interesting to discover the layout -- they have pieced together pieces of what now are 3 9s, with some modified holes on top of that in order to replicate what they had here in 1998 for what was billed as the first "breakthrough" women's open to attract national attention (both in the US and Korea :-) 

We actually have played the holes that are serving as the front 9 -- the "Valleys" 9 normally, which has a lot of "do or Dye" holes.  I expect to see a lot of balls hacked out of bad lies in the Fescue, not unlike Whistling Straits. 

Monday we started the day with a return to the Broadlands.  It was a brisk 85 degrees (temperature and dewpoint), and we were the only ones walking. Yeah, it was about like it was during the 2005 RSG-Wisconsin outing there when I think we were also the only ones walking.  In spite of the bad temps, we played lights out -- both near career rounds and both in the 70's.  I had 8 pars on the front (including number 3, which given I hit a great draw over the bunkers should have been a bird, but somehow it managed to kick right into the edge of the pond, pin high, 350 yards off the tee.  Yeah, it's real dry here too).   I was a little less crisp on the back, but Carla had 2 birds coming in. 

We followed a few groups on the course.  Took a long look at Julie Inkster hacking balls on the range in the heat -- amazing. 

Tuesday started with a trip to Erin Hills, site of last year's Amateur and the 2017 US Open.  It's an amazing place for that -- 60 miles from nowhere in rural Wisconsin.  The course itself is BIG -- 6400 is the shortest "mens" tee, which is the one I played.  We were all set to go out at 8:12 when the starter held us up for weather -- a passing line of thunderstorms.  Actually that worked in our favor because while we were waiting 2 things happened. We got to know the caddie for the guy we were paired with, who amazingly 
enough was playing in a cart with his dad in the group behind us the day before on the Broadlands  (That's the caddie who was playing in a cart).  That gave us instant credibility as fast players who could handle the walk, and the starter sent us out ahead of a 4-some of guys there for a bachelor party.  (In fairness, they kept up pretty well, in spite of having 2 caddies double bagging and playing a set of tees back from 
us).  The course is nice, but a little scary -- LOTS of fescue everywhere, and more than a few holes for which the line of play wasn't obvious. We had a blast, even though we did little better than bogie golf (a lot better than our playing companion, a 40 ish .com entrepeneur from SF with inlaws in Milwaukee and a wicked slice that cost him about 2 dozen balls in the fescue.  (I think between us Carla and I lost 2).  His caddie (Tony) was really very good and earned a tip from us too for giving us good lines for every shot. 

The most amazing thing about Erin was how empty it was.  Yeah, there were more people going out behind us, but Tony said they were virtually shut down on the 4th because only 6 golfers had reserved.  He said it's been dead there since May when their spring special (8 players for the price of 5) expired.  Yeah, it's $200 a round, but it's a US Open venue and certainly worthy of it.  It is quite a hike.  Tony says 7 miles and I believe him. Unlike a lot of older courses, where tees are close to greens and the closest tee is usually a sane length, Erin Hills was built from the start to play long and to be extended, so often you walk 100 yards to the first tee box, which is the "pro" tee, and any tees you are likely to want to play are another 50-100 yards ahead.  5 hour pace of play is probably realistic (though I think we played in about 4-1/4 in the end. 

We had little time at Blackwolf Run this afternoon other than getting training.  Carla has walking scorer again and the drill is basically the 
same.  I've got leaderboards, which will be a little different from the last time I did it since this tournament has the style where you stand in front of the board to do the numbers rather than flip them from behind.  (Not really a big deal).  We are both hoping for good weather. 

The course will test everyone.  I spent a lot of time watching people on the range today, and will pick the straight hitters for the Crazy 8's pool. 
(staying out of the fescue is going to be key).  One small highlight of getting stuck watching the range while Carla finished training -- After 
watching July Inkster bash balls for a while she stopped and was chatting with a blond woman who looked vaguely familiar.  She was dressed like a golfer but didn't have clubs.  Then when she turned I realized -- Annika.  I didn't expect to see here here, nor did any of the other fans. She must have spent 20 minutes signing and taking pictures with everyone in the area (not me, I did that last year and wanted to give others a chance.)  Now that to me is the mark of a real champion of the game, willing to put in the time with the fans, even when she's not in contention. 

More to come later as tournament week goes on.

Thursday (or If You Can't Stand the Heat)

- Don't come to Kohler. 

The "official" high was 92, but I heard unofficial reports as high as 102. Whatever it was was nearly unbearable.  We got up at 0 dark 30 to get Carla to the course half an hour before her 7:11 tee time.  I grabbed the radio and PDA for leaderboard 17 and headed out well in advance of the action to set up and found we had a good crew, with one other very experienced volunteer who had already sorted most of the magnetic numbers and letters. The first day of a tournament on leaderboards is always exciting because things change so rapidly.  At first the heat wasn't bad, but by 9AM we were starting to get reports of trouble -- tee boxes with no water, volunteers who had to leave the course or couldn't work second shifts, etc.  Even the technology started to complain.  My gear worked flawlessly, (after the eary reports I insisted they keep the PDA in the shade), but several walking scorers, including Carla experienced major problems with theirs.  Everyone recovered.  It's amazing how much goes on behind the scenes the few people notice.  By 11AM they were directing all the volunteers on course to keep a wet towel around their necks to avoid heatstroke.  It was too late for some. 

17 was an interestiing hole to be at -- a par 3 over water where the players either hit the green and got close, or came up short and dunked. (The bad part was most didn't believe the ball was unsalvageable just because it was inches short of the green, but this is a Pete DIE course where anything short of the green kicks back into the cat tails.  One of Carla's players went there and both she and her mother (who was caddieing for her) spent a couple of minutes trying to find it before needing assistance to get back up the bank and make the walk back to the drop area. 

My relief came about noon, and having just heard the radio chatter related to Carla's PDA failure I knew she was nearly on the 7th green and expected she would be finishing about the time I made it back to the clubhouse area. Fat chance -- she said several groups were backed up on 8, a long "do or Dye" par 3, and in spite of going to wave the next group up it was at least half an hour wait -- in the sun, in an ocean of hot long grass exuding humidity.  Her round was nearly 6 hours  (In fact the last groups made the turn from 18 to 1 just barely in time to allow the second wave of players to begin teeing off at 12:30.  Nobody in her group was a contender. 

I watched several people get in trouble on 17.  Wendy Ward came there 1 under after bogeying the long par 5 16th still with a chance to stay on pace, and she got the tee shot on the green (not far from the leaderboard --  then 3 putted.  That was better than most of the contenders who came away with doubles after going in the water.  That's what the course is like though.  Carla said she put in at least 5 penalty strokes for her group (and fortunately though two players were "on the clock" nobody got a time penalty.)

The winner of this event will no doubt be someone who can take the heat.  I wasn't really surprised at the end of the day to see Lizette Salas among the leaders.  Alert readers here may remember that I scored her first round a year ago when she was in contention until making a bad decision in the long grass, but she's a long hitter and heat tolerant, and that's what it takes to win here this year. 

After Carla sorted out the problems caused by the PDA outage (she radioed in the scores, but tracking every stroke would have to wait until the end of the round), we cashed in our lunch vouchers and eventually wound up watching some play on 13 and 14 from a covered picnic area between the holes.  13 is a par 3 with a lake on the right and had the expected sucker pin that caused a lot of splashes, and 14 a par 4 again with water all the way down the right that claimed a few victims as well.  Most of the really good shots we saw were from the drop area on 13 -- which saved bogey. 

Tomorrow we both have afternoon shifts.  I'm not sure whether to be glad or not that the thunderstorms predicted yesterday have been replaced by another scorcher day.  It would be nice to cool off, but thunderstorms on Thursday or Friday of a big field championship like this are a disaster to the schedule because there is no slack to recover, and the last thing we want, staying 35 miles from the course, is to be out until dark trying to finish and then back at dawn to restart, so overall we will live with the heat. 

Spectator attendance is apparently way off, not surprising given the temperature.  Unfortunately I think someone really blew it in deciding spectator policy.  The way the course is roped there is very little accessible shade (wooded areas are roped off), you can't bring in any water, there's no air conditioned space for most on course except for the merchandise tent (which is at the entrance, half a mile from any golf holes), and you can't exit and re-enter on your ticket -- even a week long pass allows only 1 entry per day.  These policies, combined with the heat and a course that is long and difficult to walk are a perfect storm to make this a bad experience for people. The USGA should really re-think some of what it's doing to make sure that fans and volunteers feel like coming back, even when the weather is less than perfect, but of course I don't make those decisions, I just report the consequences, which today were a lot of overheated fans leaving early and others not showing up at all because there's no place on course to get shade or cool down and no way to bring an adequate supply of water onto the course.

Friday at Kohler

Friday we got back way too late for the daily report.  It wasn't a bad day, for 95 degrees and humid.  I said Carla thought she might have Paula Creamer that day.  Well, she got the other 1:26 group -- Natalie Gulbis, Lee Ann Pace, and Danielle Kang.  (The chair of the walking scorer's committee is so stingy with information that she wouldn't tell anyone which of the two groups going off at the same time they had, nor would she release the information and the scoring tools more than 10 minutes in advance, barely enough time to get to the tee).  Natalie's group came 
complete with two well equipped cops for security, but she played poorly, missing the cut by 5 or 6 shots.  (Natalie started her day by hitting her opening shot on 10 left into a hazard, and it never got better after that.)  The surprise in Carla's group was the young Danielle Kang, who not only proved to be a contender but was nice at the same time.  Carla collected a bunch of signatures and signed balls from the group, and managed to drink enough water to survive the afternoon (not as hot as Thursday). 

We spent a long time at the course on Friday, much of it under a tent between holes 14 and 15 with a great view of 13.  (They set this up for 
people eating lunch, but in the heat this was definitely the best seat in the house.  Kohler's best answer to the heat was to offer people 2 for the 
price of 1 water, and move 2 air conditioned busses into the entrance area for people to cool off in.  It wasn't enough to avoid more than a few people leaving on stretchers. 

My afternoon shift was on leaderboard 16, a strange place given there's no grandstand on that green.  16 is a bear of a par 5 -- about 600 yards, downhill, but with a lake short and left and long grass on the right.  (When I say grass, I really mean "crap".  Like a lot of courses  I suspect this one was designed to have a lot of the areas adjoining the holes covered in fescue, which is a golfer freindly grass -- you can find your ball and play out of Fescue, even 2 feet long, with a little skill and care.  What's taken over though is what we call "Crap Grass" --3 feet tall, with half inch thick blades that grow into dense tangles.  You are unlikely to find a ball in it and playing out of it is out of the question). 

The thing I found out quickly was how much the USGA seems to care about how the boards look there. The guy with the radio and the PDA kept having me straighten numbers because he kept talking about how the USGA was complaining about the board in the morning.  Okay, I can be neat if it matters, though if the USGA cares how this stuff looks, they could start by replacing their decades old magnetic numbers which are worn, dirty, and curling, but as one of the IBM guys who supports the scoring equipment told me "that would be work and cost money". 
Sure enough, USGA people showed up at least 4 times to stare at our board, and eventually photograph it.  Apparently we got it right. 

Play through 13/14/15 was interesting to watch.  13 is a little par 3 with water on the right, and for the first 2-3 hours nobody went in it.  Then a 
couple of people kicked in up near the green and escaped with only an awkward drop near the green.  In the group in front of Carla's, Christina Kim went in, and didn't believe she never crossed the margin up near the green.  After lots of discussion she went back to drop on one of the forward tees, hit an indifferent shot and doubled it.  Then there was Carla's group -- Natalie had the honor and spashed one short and right. Then Lee Ann hit one, as the guy next to me said "right on top of Natalie's".  She hit another off the tee that almost made it (hit the rocks and kicked in), then hit the green and 3 putted -- quintabogey -- yikes.  I think Natalie escaped with a double, but it didn't matter. 

As I made the awkward walk from 13 to 16 to take my position I was stalled by a player right of the cart path trying to figure out if she could hit her ball out of the "crap grass" on a steep slope above the port-a-potties.  She ultimately pitched it out, but still doubled the hole. 

Most players came to 16 either hopelessly out of the cut or in good enough shape that they didn't sweat it.  One exception was Wendy Ward -- +5 for the day and needing a little insurance to get past the cut.  She was well down the fairway in 2, hit a nice little pitch into the green -- and missed the birdie, then bogeyed 18 to miss the cut by 1.  That's what the day was like. The only real good news was the weather, such as it was, held all day long and everyone finished (the last group in near darkness).  I've decided I now know why the USGA insists on holding it's national championships during June and July, when weather is always a problem, rather than spring or fall when it's freindlier.  The pace of play is so abysmal that they need the longest days just to finish the whole field on Thursday and Friday. 

On Saturday Carla got a bit of a surprise.  With 65 players making the cut they moved the tee times up half an hour, and all the walking socrers moved up.  That gave her RYU, last year's winner, and Alison Walshe, who I enjoyed scoring for a year ago, rather than two players neither of us knew.  We watched a few groups come in to 9 before her start.  The odd woman in the field, Mina Lee, chose not to play with a marker and ultimately finished her round in under 3 hours.  Amazing what they really can do.  9 is a tricky par 4 with a river in front of the green, and today the pin was in the back left, which brought an overhaning tree into play.  Lots of peple came up just a bit short.  The lucky ones made it to dry land -- mostly. 

Carla's group went off 1 at 10:30, and after spending a bit of time looking at 10/11/12, I returned to 9 to take up my position on a little leaderboard on that green.  To reach it you had to wait for a lull (after the players hit into the green, then follow the hazard line around the green up and down over a couple of bumps to the leaderboard.  The Marshals on the hole tried to get us and the people staffing the Monster board in the same area to dance for the fans on way out there  -- I wasn't having any. 

When I got there I was surprised they had 4 people for the boarrd (normally it takes 2 to run a leaderboard and 2 for a thruboard, but there was no thruboard there).  The guy with the tech equipment said they were overstaffed, but that he would take a break after Paula Creamer came through, since his son was scoring for her.  He left and 3 wasn't horribly overstaffed.  a couple of groups later, the scoring manager came out and asked me if I would mind moving to 12 when the other guy finished his break since they had a volunteer there who went to the hospital for the heat on Thursday and never came back.  Fine, I said.  It would probably be more interesting there. 

Well, we had a little delay.  A couple of groups later I saw Yanni Tseng walking across the green toward the 18th (9 and 18 are really a double green with an area not really in play between them).  Where was she going? -- then I saw her ball, on the #18 side.  I can't imagine how she got there, the line to that area from 9 is blocked by trees and our leaderboard, but there was the ball.  She started talking to the rules officials because she thought one of the TV towers was in the way of what she wanted to do.  First 1 official, then 2, then she started setting up to 
take a drop in a long grass hollow behind the green.  Then 2 more rules people came out of the clubhouse to talk to her.  It's clear nobody anticipated that situation (there are drop areas on the course for most "Temporary Immovable Obstructions", like the TV tower, but nothing covered this particular situation.  Eventually she did drop in the long grass, flubbed the shot into long stuff behind 9, and eventually doubled the hole, after holding up play for maybe 20 minutes.  Finally, the other volunteer for 9 came back and I took off. 

12 is a short par 4 with birdie possibilities.  It's also a very exposed location and given it's a late hole one that gets on TV.  I took the radio 
and PDA from the guy who had been extending his shift to cover this hole and immediately started to get behind getting the thing straightened out.  Then the USGA guys show up and want to get all our lines straight and our numbers fixed.  That turned out to be useful.  In maybe 8 years of doing leaderboards, I never knew that there was a subtle difference between a 6 and an 9, and even subtler differences between a 0 and an O.  Now I know, and could teach others how the USGA wanted the boards to look.  We eventually got it all prettied up long before the leaders got there. 

The hole was interesting to watch.  Lots of birdies from good shots, a few bogies from shots that landed in the bunker in front of our board. The most fun was the group of Choi and Castrale.  Ny Choi was tearing up the course, birdieying almost every hole including ours.  Castrale wasn't quite as impressive, but both played great approaches into our hole and cashed in. The real adventures in this though were that Carla didn't know that I had been redirected to another hole, so when she came through I kept trying to get her attention.  I thought I would get it when RYU hit one way right and I thought into the crap grass in front of the board, but she was also way short and still in the bunker.  Eventually though Carla did spot me, insuring we would find each other at the end of the day (sometimes it pays to look different). 

The radio I had for this job was in some kind of strange "promiscuous" mode -- I heard everything anyone said on the radio, on all the channels. I knew which port-a-potties were out of TP, which shuttle carts had bad batteries.  Everyone who had a medical emergency.  I even knew exactly where Mr Kohler was touring the course.  It was an interesting inside look at things.  Mostly though things went very smoothly.  No big scoring screwups, not a lot of medical issues, given there were a LOT more people on course than other days. 

The last 2 groups with Friday's leaders were anti-climactic.  Everyone was pulling for Michelle, who was 6 under par on Friday, to get to the second to last group, but she had a bad day and fell well back into the pack.  Suzanne Pettersen had stayed pretty close to the lead most of the day but was fading by 12 and again would stay well back.  In the end, Choi would finish 6 shots ahead of the field -- it's hers to lose, but Blackwolf Run is a triple+ waiting to happen, so who knows.  Oddly enough, Ryu and Walshe, both of whom were according to Carla annyoed at playing badly, actually came a group or two forward in the Sunday pairings, and Lizette Salas, another one I scored for a year ago and another long shot is also well up in the standings. Danielle Kang, Carla's young star held her own and actuallyhas a shot if Choi fades. 

Tomorrow promisses to be another fun day.

Sunday at the Women's Open

We finished our time at Blackwolf Run today.  Carla had no group to score today so she helped out with me on Leaderboard 12.  We had plenty of people there so we just took turns working through 12:30, which, given they moved tee times up by half an hour "in case we have a playoff and want to put it on TV", meant we saw some play.  When the day started it was Na Yeon Choi's to lose, and nothing really surprising happened early.  12 is a par 4 that was playing short, but with the pin in a tough back spot near a little ridge we didn't see a lot of birdies.  Instead we saw a lot of players in the bunker in front of the leaderboard.  It was fun to watch the action there.  The most interesting 
group was Hull and Kane, who put their second shots within inches of each other in the bunker.  The closer one marked her ball, but did so by putting a tee on the sand, just lying it perpendicular to the line to the pin.  I looked at it and thought if I were hitting the other ball I might just blow that tee out of there.  The other player hit a decent shot, but sent some sand forward and right -- towards that tee, and said the dreaded words "the tee moved".  Some attention from the rules person and the caddie restored the tee and eventually the ball and I think both players got up and down (not sure about that, we were too busy changing numbers by then). 

Yani Tseng had another rules issue at that hole, hitting her approach a bit long then having a long discussion with the rules official about getting relief from something, probably a sprinkler head.  Ultimately she did drop, but couldn't drop on the green (probably the angle), and wound up against the primary rough and I think failed to get up and down. 

On the leader board it was mostly about putting up bigger black numbers all the time  Not a lot of under par rounds. 

That rules issue reminded me of two rules stories from Carla's rounds -- one involivng Alison Walshe, a player I scored for a year ago and was really hoping would do well.  At the end of the day Saturday after spending too much time late in the round on the bogey train she hit her drive on 18 right, then tried to hit too much club out of a bad lie and hit it thin and right, grazing a spectator (who didn't stay around) and winding up under the grandstand.  (The weird thing is I heard about the spectator hit by a ball on the radio but didn't realize who it was).  She got a drop and almost got up and down, but Carla had to correct the TV guy on what she had because he didn't understand about free drops from obstructions.  The other one was from Friday's round, with Gulbis, Ryu, and Danielle Kang.  Kang is a young player (19 I think), who took up golf at 12 and qualified for the Women's Open at 14.  Carla was impressed with her attitude and enthusiasm, as well as her talent.  I watched her for a couple of holes on Friday and was equally impressed.  Anyway, on the first hole on Friday, Danielle starts to mark her ball with a tee, and one of the other caddies asks if that's legit (a reasonable thing to do, not mean, just trying to prevent a rookie from making a rookie mistake).  The rules official said it's legal, but not recommended.  Niether Danielle nor her caddie had a marker.  Natalie apparently said she normally did, but realized when she checked the bag she didn't have one today, and neither did anyone else.  About the time they were going to start asking the spectators if anyone had a dime, the TV guy volunteered one.  Definitely a rookie situation.

When we left the leaderboard on 12, it was clear that unless Choi had a train wreck, nobody was going to come up to challenge her.  Only one player was as far as  -4 on our hole (and she bogeyed it).   After picking up some lunch we went to the tent between 14 and 15 to watch for a while.  I wanted to see Walshe and Ryu, and Carla wanted to see Kang, so we watched a few groups play up on 13.  13 is a nasty par 3, with a lake on the right, and today the pin was back right.  Most players hit it left, going into a little dip on that side and more than a few failed to get close enough after that to save par.  Kang was playing with Shanshan Feng, a big woman from mainland China, who has won once or twice on tour.  Both hit it left (a wise line of play).  Feng hit one of the best shots we saw from the fringe, while Kang's was no better than average, but both holed out for par.  On 14, Kang out drove the fairway, winding up on a sidehill ball below the feet lie in the rough maybe 70 yards from the pin, while Feng's shot on a similar line kicked back into the fairway.  Kang had the better approach though and rolled in the putt while Feng made a good two putt from where she hit it. 

With that we said goodbye to Kohler.  Some folks may think it strange that we often leave before the final putt is sunk, but with hours to go to get home and a week living in a venue we've usually had it unless we are staying over another night.  No surprise in the results happened, and it was good to get home (where I opened the door to the car we left behind in the garage and was treated to a blast of oven like air -- I guess it was REALLY hot here when we left.  Ultimatly Kang anad Ryu tied at +5 for 14th.  Not a bad finish for a 19 year old (tied last year's winner). Walshe finished well back, as did Salas, one of the others I scored for a year ago that I thought had promise.  The surprise for me was Paula Creamer, who wound up tied 7th after an indifferent start and not much success of late. 

In the end we had fun in spite of  limited amenities.  (No party, no air conditioning for volunteers, and even for players more limited refreshments on the tee boxes than in the previous tournaments we worked.)   A really bad place to economize in my view.  The bad policy decisions continued right until the end -- from Kohler, there are two major roads going south, an interstate and a 4 lane local that's almost as fast.  From the course though we were forced to go towards the interstate, where we had a 1-hour backup going 4 miles in a construction zone -- the ramps towards the other road were blocked by police.  No clue why, but they were that were blocked all weekend.  From what I could see at where the routes merged the other road was wide open. Really surprising that a resort looking to use the event to promote business couldn't have worked this out better.  You don't want the last thing fans experience to be an unpleasant crawl in a traffic jam. 

The BMW (Indianapolis, 2012)

Pre Tournament washout and Thursday

Normally by now we would be reporting on the preparations for the BMW championship, but this tournament wasn't normal.  Carla and I came to Indy on Saturday for what was supposed to be a volunteer party, but of course we learned the party had been cancelled because of the rain and the notice sent out about 5 minutes after we left home.  (That's okay, the weather was awful on the trip down, even though we managed 18 holes before we left, and the trip gave us an excuse to miss NIU snatching defeat from the jaws of victory over Iowa, which we knew they would.  Sunday was hopeless here, 4-6 inches of rain, so we did a couple of museums.  (I can recommend the museum of Western and 
American Indian artificacts to anyone stuck here -- real nice stuff). Monday was supposed to be a pro-am (really weird, since the real pros were still in Boston playing off to figure out who would come here this week), but it was cancelled, so we played the Trophy club, a nice modern layout that according to the staff drains better than any other course in the area (it probably does), and Eagle Creek, a 36 hole public facility with 2 Pete Dye layouts.  Eagle Creek was a little soggier and a little worse for wear, but basically a very enjoyable layout (we played the Sycamore course, though I didn't play the crazy long blue tees there like I did at the Trophy Club). Carla had 2 birds, I had one, we both had fun. 

Mainly though we have been wallowing in the brew pubs.  The Ram, a chain place, has great food, and we did two in Indy's "Hippie" district (Broad Ripple and 3 wise guys, or something like that).  Broad ripple is a weird cross of english pub and California Vegan.  The beer is good though, and the food quite adequate.  3 Wise Men (well I think that's what it was). has great beer and limited food, but the pizza is outstanding. Only odd moment -- they carded us.  Unbelieveable.  That hasn't happened in at least 20 years. 

Tomorrow if the rain finally ends, which I doubt, we will actually be on the job as marshals on the second hole -- I remember the hole from 3 years ago, it's a dogleg left with a ton of bunkers in the corner and should be fun. We still don't have our badges or uniforms (supposed to get that at the party), but it's a good thing that the BMW never changes and we have shirts from 4 years ago that should work.  More later. 

Well, tournament planners have incredibly bad luck here.  Carla and I have now completed our nominal work schedule.  Really odd -- Saturday, which was supposed to be a party was a rainout. Monday -- a pro am we weren't worrking was rained out.

Tuesday -- Just a pracitce day.  We showed up, worked maybe 2-1/2 hours, got to see Tiger play our hole with only a few hundred people watching, and then the mowers came out and they sent every one home.

Wednesday -- another pro am.  We showed up after playing a morning round, in decent conditions, to arrive in a driving rain storm only to be told they evacuated the course an hour ago and weren't sure when they would let people back.  We thought about waiting in the parking lot (the rain forced them to abanodon the planned volunteer lot in a field near the course and instead park us in various places in an office park, basically filling lots belonging to empty buildings), but there was no clue how long the wait would be and no bathrooms there, so we went back to the hotel.  Not long aftter getting there we got the word they were going to go again, so we went back and showed up only 
a few minutes late to marshal a 9 hole pro-am round.  That was actually fun -- they put me on the right side of the fairway (did i say pro -AM!) 
The AM's all slice and duff, and I spent 2 hours chasing balls in the deep rough.  The worst hit it into a tree short and right only to have it come 
out 5 seconds later, bounce on a cart path and roll just against the driving range net.  The Guy asked me what to do and I said "it's your competition, I can't tell you the rules, but that looks like a temporary immovable obstruction to me (it was a temp net).  I doubt it mattered what he did.  The scarriest moment was when JB Holmes hit one right that I lost in the sky. It landed about 3 feet from me and plugged at the edge of the fairway. (I probably wouldn't have found it if I hadn't been standing right next to the spot where it landed.

Thursday was a more a normal day.   We played a morning round and showed up early (Phil and Tiger were scheduled on our hole about the time we started and I figured I wanted to be on duty by then.  Phil played indifferently, Tiger hit about the best approach of anyone and looked sharp.  Rory birdied too -- a common theme, they finsihed -7 and -8.  I wonder what Pete Dye would think of his tough course being played half a stroke under par.  Not surprising with "lift, clean, and cheat". 

I'm amazed how many spectators they had today.  We got stuck in a massive traffic jam headed for the public lot.  Because of the rain they aren't parking the volunteers in the customary "hog wallow", but in parking lots of empty office buildings -- 6 different ones, which makes pickup and delivery tough. 

There are many things about tournaments that I swear anyone thinking could do better.  On this one, the volunteers are dumped at the maintenance barn, which is convenient to our tent (much more so than the general public entrance), but -- to get onto the course we have to cross the crosswalk at the exit to the 9th green, where all the players stop F.O.R.E.V.E.R to sign autographs.  20 minutes delay there wasn't uncommon during the practice/pro-am days.  They could easily have opened a crosswalk across 9 to let us onto the course without that, or simply relegated autographs to a closed cage that didn't get in anyone's way, as they have done at some other tournaments we worked.  The same delay interferes with the Crooked Stick members, whose private tent and viewing platform on 9 were next to the volunteer tent on the wrong side of that crosswalk too. 

Today had some interesting incidents.  After finshing our shift (all players through 2), we went over to 9 to watch Phil and Tiger finish the hole, then stayed to watch the next 3 groups.  2 players hit wlid right drives into the trees, where we helped clear spectators so they could shoot out. One was all the way across the ropes near the 2cnd green.  Both hit great shots out of there -- it must be nice to be able to hit a 3W 250 yards with a flattened swing to avoid overhead branches off mud, but these guys are good. 

The brew pub tour continues -- 8 different places and no repeates.  3 chains, 3 local places, and another (Barley Island) lined up for tomorrow. 
Life is good here. 

Our golf would have been great except for the extra water.  Monday we played 2 rounds (Trophy Club and Eagle Creek Sycamore), two good courses very different.  The Trophy club is a new course and in good shape.  Eagle Creek has two older Pete Dye courses that show their age and the fact that they are munis. 

Tuesday was Purgatory -- a great course.  According to a guy I worked with Purgatory was built by one of his neighbors who struck it rich and decided he always wanted a golf course -- must be nice.  This layout is linksy when it's dry, but Tuesday approach shots plugged in the aprons. A little rough, but still lots of fun.  (We started behind two young guys in a cart -- should have taken them up immideately on the offer to start first, but heck we were walking -- played through on 5 or 6 and never saw them again.) 

Wednesday was The Fort, a Pete Dye layout on an old army fort (apparently the Army's accounting center in the past).  It's a nice course, but a tough walk, so we rode, second off the tee.  Waited a bit early on on the two guys in front but not after that.  In great shape given the drought and subsequent drowning. 

Thursday was Prairie View, an RTJ Jr course mostly on open land near the white river.  We walked it -- apparently not many people do, though it's flat and easy if you can figure out where to go.  The alternative was "Carts on Path" -- not good.  It's a great course in great shape, except for having about half an inch of water on every blade of grass because of all the rain. 

Friday without a work shift we planeed to play a more distant course (Bear Slide, 30 miles north), then spectate in the afternoon.  Because of a 
weather threat they moved everything up 3 hours on the course, so it's probably a quick 18 and then run for cover (no viewing).  Never mind, we still have Saturday/Sunday to see the pros make a mess of Crooked Stick. 

Probalby the most amazing shot I saw today was JB Holmes' drive on 2. Yesterday some fans were asking the marshals on the tee (including Carla) why nobody was trying to carry the dogleg (bunkers).   A Caddie heard it and told them "it's 342 to carry that, you have to be crazy). Well Holmes did it, into the fairway undre 100 yards from the green, the only one who tried it.  Then his pitch came up short, his chip was flubbed, and he missed the putt -- bogie.  Big drives aren't everything.

Saturday (Or Nice guys don't always finish last)

But sometimes they get to play in the last group :-) 

Conditions at the BMW continue to be f*d up.  Friday, with no work shifts, we had intended to play a morning round, then spectate in the afternoon -- after all, they weren't supposed to go off before 11:15.  Well, Thursday night we get the word that they will go off about 3 hours early to beat the anticipated weather.  Tough cookies, we've seen the course and players.  We played our round at Bearslide, another course out in the boonies.  9 holes of "prairie" golf, and 9 holes of adventure golf.  They looked at us a bit dubiously when we decided to walk and were the second group off, but you all know what happened (at least 4 holes ahead of the next players).  It's really a fun course, and not unfreindly to walkers -- lots of walker bridges and paths to connect the holes and avoid going back to the cart path.  It really is adventure golf -- lots of odd holes that require some planning and thought. 

Too late to go to the course afterwards, so we followed the closing few holes on line and had an afternoon off. 

Saturday, we were going to go early and watch the whole day -- hah!  The web site said they pushed the tee times back 3 hours because of overnight rain (someone said 3 inches, quite a storm where we were staying).  When we got there of course it was 4 hours.  Good thing we brought books.  They really did need the time.  We watched them pumping and blow drying bunkers on 2, where we normally marshaled, and there were lots of areas filled with water, including one with a bunch of port-a-potties nobody was going to use.  We watched most of the top half of the field from a spot between 4 and 8, where you could see 3, 4, 8, and parts of 7 and 5.  Nothing really remarkable happened (sadly we watched Michelson bogey 3, after hitting a really awesome flop shot off slick mud.  That turned out to be a rare sight.  After most of 
the field was through the spot we crossed over to the other side of 8, watched a few groups then took advantage of our volunteer status to cross 9 and avoid the crush at the clubhouse.  That let us see Sneddeker searching for his ball in the hazard on 9, finally decide where it was, drop, and plug his next one up by the green.  It's odd that all this took place with no help from the rules guys.  We are used to USGA events where nobody does anything without a ruling, but these guys are mainly on their own to figure it out -- no wonder they get in trouble with arm chair fans. 

After picking up some snacks we headed out on the back 9 to a spot on 12 to watch a few groups play through, then moved up to 14.  14 struck me as an amazing hole 4 years ago at the senior open.  It's now about 50 yards longer -- a 500 yard right angle dogleg par 4.  Today the inside of the dogleg was basically flooded mush.  We didn't see anyone attempt to cut it. 

It was clear Mickelson was making a charge from what we were seeing.  We saw him birdie 11, save par on 12, birdie 13, but on 14, he hit it right and into the long stuff and was lucky to escape with a bogey.  Carla decided she really wanted an autograph, so we planned the rest of the day to wind up behind 18 when he finished.  We saw Tiger and Vijay play through 11, a reachable par 5 producing a lot of action.  Neither was exactly burning up the course at that point, but both playing okay.  18 is a scary hole for mortals -- not these guys.  More than a few birdies, including Mickelson. 

When we arrived at the back of 18 they were already 3 deep at the ropes, and it looked bad for autographs.  We heard the roar when Phil sunk his birdie and watched him cross the bridge to the scoring area looking on top of the world.  Then he went into the trailer, and nothing happened -- for 10 minutes.  Some of you know what goes on in there, but for those that don't, the player has to review and confirm his score for the round.  Many will ask for a hole by hole reading, and if anything went wrong, the player who scored their round and the walking scorer get into the debate to straighten it out.  I couldn't imagine what took so long, and when Phil emerged looking very sober I thought oh no, don't tell me some fan called in a violation. Apparently not, maybe he just took the time to compose himself for a battery of interviews.  After 3 separate sets of interviews he approached the ropes. Carla was down in the corner before the big "BMW Championship" board they 
use for the backdrop for TV, and he headed into that area -- but moved away from where she was.  I'm not an autograph hound, but I crowded into the area in front of him in case he would sign my cap and I could pass it on, but he turned back about 3 people short.  From the back I watched as he moved back along the line and picked Carla's hat from her outstretched hand.  Yes!  She was the only one I heard who wished him luck on Sunday too. 

One of the duties they assigned volunteers this time around is trying to enforce the ban on phones and photography on the weekend.  (Well, you can have your phone, but it better not ring, and you can't talk into it except in designated areas.)  This is total crap.  While on duty I only saw one person taking an Iphone picture (of Tiger), but I wasn't about to make a scene by demanding the guy's ticket so I could mark it with a warning "C" (if your ticket is marked and someone catches you they are supposed to throw you out.)  Our hole captain argued with 3 fans taking pictures, who basically told him to screw off.  There's no way I'm going to get into a dispute with a fan with the players in the area. Around the autograph area, phone cameras went wild.  Every time we rode the volunteer bus we saw people showing off the pictures they took.  The policy is complete crap and archaic.  Either ban phones and cameras completely, or just move into the 21st century.  (Frankly if I were a competitor, I'd be far more annoyed with the professional "machine gun shutter" cameras, than iPhones -- why the heck do those guys still use cameras with flapping mirrors?) 

Tomorrow will probably be a short spectating day for us.  Probalby the only "normal" day of the touranment.  Parking is still F'ed up (We were lucky to be in the volunteer lot -- the public sometimes waited over an hour for a bus), but I'm not sorry to have avoided having to park in the "hog wallow", originally designated for the volunteers.  We pass it every day on the bus on the way to the course, and have watched 2 "PGA Tour" semis parked there apparently slowly sinking into the slime.

Oh well, tomorrow should be a fun tournament.  It's great to see so many stars playing well, and I don't mind a bit that it's a birdie fest. "Protecting par" is vastly overrated :-)

Sunday (After the fact)

Yesterday was just a spectating day for us, and after a week there we left long before the end (or as a freind we met down there said "before all of Indiana and most of the adjoining midwestern states wind up on the back 9". As a result we mainly saw the bottom of the field play a few holes before making the drive back home in time to beat the traditional Sunday evening traffic jam at the south end of Lake Michigan. 
Some observations on the week: 

These guys are good -- most of the time. 

We watched about a dozen groups play the signature par 3 6th hole -- 201 yards over water to a pin tucked in the right front corner nearest the pond. I think we saw only two water balls -- most of them hit something that went high and soft and sucked back towards the pin.  (Most of us would be scratching our heads wondering if anything in the bag was going to carry 200 yards and land within 20 feet left or right of target). Watching a lot of the same guys play 17, a monster par 3 of about 220 to a pin tucked in the far back left behind a big bunker we saw a lot more misses, some in very strange places.  Most of the recovery shots were awesome, some mediocre, and a few awesomely bad.  Everyone has an off shot now and then. 

These guys are Spoiled! 

One of the things you get to see when you get to a tournament early is the grounds crew working on the course.  With all the rain it's no coincidence that they had a lot of work to do.  As I watched them working on 2 on Friday -- fluffing and blow drying the sand in the bunkers, smoothing and drying out the long rough around the green, and trying to get any standing moisture off the fairways I realized that as long as they stay inside the ropes these guys play course conditions the rest of us never see.  (All week we were playing courses that were basically casual water, washed out bunkers, and greens that varied considerably from hole to hole).  Outside the ropes it's a different story -- basically the traditional Sunday after the tournament hog wallow, with nothing but muck and trampled grass.  (Aside -- I can't believe the USGA will actually try to play a women's open on Pinhurst #2 the week after the men's open, and wonder if the women have any idea how bad it's going to be). 

Before this week I can't say I had a strong opinion on the pros playing "lift clean and place", but now I think it's wrong.  It's not that I'm a strict traditionalist, but honestly, these guys are good, and were sticking irons close from 200 yards out of long wet rough, so why do they need to clean up the ball on the fairway?  Yeah, if it's embedded or in casual water take the relief the rules allow, but all that marking and cleaning just slows things down and makes them look like wimps, and don't get me going on the ones that get out a driver to mark a club length so they can improve their line.  I understand that if the conditions of contest let you do it everyone else will so you better stay even, but it just looks bad. 

Sponsors can be a pain in the ass. 

Yesterday I was hearing a couple of guys who were marshals on 13 talk about getting complaints from BMW about where they were standing on the tee box --   
because they blocked the view of the car parked behind it in the TV coverage.  Marshals on the tee often have trouble enough being seen by the crowd over the signs, coolers, and other crap around it, and at the same time have to stay out of the way of the players and caddies.  Having to 
avoid the car is just a pain.  What's next -- instructions to the super on where to put the tees and pins so as to make sure the sponsor's stuff shows in the TV pictures?  Why not just "photoshop" it into the shot like they do in Baseball? 

At the same time I should say that BMW was certainly generous to fans and volunteers, with great viewing areas and grandstands open to the public, really nice food and amenities for the volunteers, and a really nice daily program.  It's clear though I'm not their target customer.  They scattered a lot of cars around the course and in the program and I heard a lot of others oohing and aahing over them or saying "If I had this car I'd be in jail", and all I was thinking is "my -- that's a funny looking car", or "where would I put two sets of clubs in that?" 

Scoring has really gone high tech.  Most of the tournaments we work are USGA or PGA championships, which use volunteer operated scoreboards that basically just give the score.  The PGA tour has big jumbotron scoreboards everywhere (the things must be power hogs given the size of the generators that were parked with each of them.  The last time I did the BMW I don't think it did much other than give scores and run ads, but now they pump out a toneof statistics -- how good this guy putting is from 15-20 feet, and how it ranks with others, or what tournaments the guy finished best in over the past year.  Almost felt like going to a baseball game with a mathemetician :-) 

The Tour's policy on cameras and phones needs work.  It used to be the answer was simple -- No cameras, no phones during the tournament. Now you can bring phones, and even use them, as long as they don't ring and you don't use them near players, but you can't take pictures, and you can't take movies at any time.  The volunteers are supposed to enforce this, by marking up the ticket of anyone caught using a camera and throwing out anyone who already has a mark on their ticket when caught.  That of course is total crap.  The average volunteer is probably 65 years old and frail, and the offender is likely to be a kid or a 20 something.  Do they really expect some geezer to take on a college kid who thinks the price of his ticket lets him do anything on course he'd do at home?  And of course the violations always occur while the players are close and playing shots, so the last thing you want is a "discussion" while someone's trying to save par on the green. 

The policy was flagrantly violated everywhere, and not just by the fans.  On most rides back from the course on the Volunteer buses I'd observe others showing off the pictures they snapped on their i-things.  (If you use an iPhone to do something against the rules, is it an iBad -:) Sunday the silliness was really brought home by what I saw around 6 -- there's a house with a big yard next to the hole and the homeowner had set 
up at least 100 chairs in the back yard with a tent with refreshments and some portable toilets -- either a big party or more likely the guy was 
selling tickets.  On that lawn I saw tripods and big cameras snapping away --  like it's okay to take a picture if you are standing in someone's yard, but not if you are standing on the course?  The movie thing is of course particularly stupid.  How is anyone supposed to know whether a phone or a modern camera is taking a still or a video -- you can't.

The bottom line is there's no reason I can see not to just let the fans snap away as long as the cameras are silent.  It doesn't hurt the players, and I can't see that anyone's blurry iPhotos or iMovies are going to cut into the market for the pros, so why keep up the silly pretense.  If some guy has a ticket to go to his one and only tournament what's the harm in letting him take home a few digital souvenirs of his experience? 

Well, in spite of the little screwups, it was a fun experience, and I'd still recommend volunteering for tournaments to any serious golf fans

The Ryder Cup (Chicago, 2012)

We don't often do tournaments within commuting distance, but the Ryder Cup is a special case.  To get an idea why, consider what we had to do just to be able to volunteer -- having been notified that registration would open at 8AM Central time July 11th 2011, and given we spent the night before that in Colorado Springs and were scheduled to fly home, we got up at 4AM to drive to the Denver Airport to be online at 7AM Mountain time to get in.  My wife got in first, getting a leaderboard job, by the time I got in all the on-course jobs were gone and I got a job as a parking lot shuttle driver.  Not great, but not awful, and most important, it came with a pass for the week.  Within 2 hours all the jobs were gone.


Carla and I worked our first day at the Ryder Cup today, which meant the first chance to see the venue fully set up.  I figured out this is our 17th tournament, and we've seen nothing quite the scale of this.  (It really seems weird, that the tournament with the smallest number of players and by far the least actual competitive play has by far the most hype and I suspect the highest attendance.  Some nice surprises: 

-  Cushy busses from the parking lots to the course. 
-  Lots of decent food options 
-  All the players went out for practice on schedule and most played a full round (not like anything else I've experienced on a practice round) 
-  The not too overpriced merchandise tent.  The Merchandise tent is enormous, and looks like the floor of a department store.  Lots of stuff, all conveniently priced to come out to round numbers with sales tax, and all less than we paid for the same stuff 2 months ago Oh well, more goodies that might show up on an RSG prize table some day. 

Some not as nice surprises: 

-  The half mile walk from the entrance to anything else (more than twice as far as the setup for the 2006 PGA at Medinah.)  On the other hand the walk goes past the "ceremonies" venue, and what may be the largest tent I've ever seen, the International Pavilion, which volunteers can get into and get even better food and drink (but not for free). 
-  The HUGE crowds.  At 8AM, the volunteer parking lot was nearly full (in fact it filled by 10, and after that there was chaos since they had no consistent contingency plans, some people were sent to public parking, some to member parking, and most were late to work.)  There's basically no hope of getting into a grandstand anywhere here, which is okay.   Except for Sunday there are only 4 groups playing in each half of the day so why would you want to sit in a grandstand and watch the scoreboard for 95% of the time? 
-  The difficulty of getting around.  I don't know why they never mark where spectators can actually go on the maps.  We discovered, for example, that the driving range is split in two areas, one for the US and one for Europe, but while they are adjacent on the map, to get between them spectators have to take a long detour over a bridge, back to the clubhouse, then over another bridge to go back to the other range.  (We did manage to watch McIlroy and Michelson from pretty close up at the ropes.) 

As for our work assignments. 

My job is "On course Shuttle", which isn't really "On Course".  Basically I drive a 6 passenger golf cart between the minor VIP (Medinah Members and people with access to hospitality tents, not real VIPs) parking lots and the place they check in.  At training on Sunday I was very impressed with the organization.  All the material we got was personalized to our jobs marking things like the shuttle routes and important facilities we needed to access (e.g. the Medinah bag room which was converted into Volunteer check in and donuts and coffee).  We were trained by a woman from the PGA who actually seemed to know what she was doing and addressed questions well. 

All that changed today.  I showed up at 10:40 for my 10:45 shift and found one other volunteer waiting, who said our committee chair had just left with a load of eager beavers to go relieve the drivers.  For 15 minutes he and I mainly just answered a lot of spectator questions.  Unlike a lot of tournaments which provide a lot of signs telling you where things are on the course, there was no information here.  Most of the course is across a lake from the clubhouse area and you have to know how to get to one of 3 spectator bridges to reach it.  Fortunately I did, having worked there 6 years ago.  When our chair did show up, she said we already had 2 shuttles break down, and several no-show volunteers, so she took us to the VIP gate where we drop people off and said to take the first shuttle whose driver was coming off shift.  It took 6 tries for me to find one (curious, I thought we had only 8 carts and 2 were dead).  So, I harnessed up with the radio (not especially interesting or useful) and headed out to lot 3.  Another surprise -- we were supposed to have "greeters" to indicate to people where the shuttle pickups were, but nobody out there.  I soon learned we didn't need that -- just follow the parking guys with the flags to where they are parking cars and odds are there was a crowd of people there daunted by the mile walk to the course and eager to hop on. 

Then the fun part -- going out to the lot we can use the "road", which is actually a wide cart path not big enough for a car and a golf cart to pass 
most places, so coming back we have to stay on the grass.  The "parking lots", are actually the number 2 course at Medinah, heavily wooded and in places a bit hilly.  Picture trying to steer a stretched golf cart loaded down with maybe 1500 pounds of flesh around bunkers, trees, and other obstacles.  In the beginning, at least there was a place to take the carts that wasn't on the road, because the parking people were controlling it adequately to leave us a space.  As parking moved further afield, some folks just pulled off and filled the gaps, leaving us dodging cars on the road in addition to the trees, slopes, etc.  At times I thought my cart was going to snap in the middle from trying to follow the route, but it made it. 

As time wore on people started returning to their cars -- and were amazed that they had no idea where they were.  They parked people mainly on the fairways, meaning that "lot 3", was actually half a dozen different collections of cars on different holes, with no markings to guide it.  If 
you didn't have a GPS enabled phone and used to mark your spot coming in you had no chance.  I got a lot of people looking for "a black Lexus SUV"  --   surprise, half the cars in the lot were black, and most were Lexus SUVs. Coming in things didn't go much better for some folks.  Because the volunteer lot overflowed a lot were sent to the member lot.  That was okay for any who already had their credentials, but for anyone who didn't it was a disaster -- they were supposed to pick them up at "Will Call", outside the public entrance at the other end of the course, and there was no way to get there.  At one point two of my passengers stuck in this position got lucky when a guy in a cart with a stack of Tuesday only tickets came by and just gave them a couple to get into the place.  After 4 hours of this fun I happily turned over my cart to the next eager volunteer with the knowledge that I won't need it again until late afternoon on Saturday.  (Actually it's a fun job and a rewarding one, but I hope they get some of the bugs out by then.) 

Carla is on leaderboards and spent roughly the same time on Hole 4.  On practice days all they do is post indications of where the players are. 
That was supposed to be easy, but as usual the technology sucked.  She had two PDAs (one for the US and one for the Euros) and a radio. The US PDA was DOA, meaning they had to get radio updates, but the folks at headquarters were way behind where the players were (probably because the walking scorer's PDAs were failing too).  The Euro PDA worked for a while, but then apparently started ringing 
like a phone (probably was a phone), and nobody could figure out how to either answer the thing or get it back into "score reporting" mode, so she used the radio.  She did get a great view of the US team playing 4, and of all the past captains and their celebrity teams playing the hole (she said Bill Murray was being his usual disruptive self. 

I saw very little actual play today -- just the range, the European team teeing off on 1, Phil and Bubba playing 1, and the same group playing 18. The course looks great -- nice green fairways, fast greens, and lots of trees anywhere you miss the fairway.  The rough isn't all that long, 
probably because of our dry summer, but the PGA gnomes were out in force watering trying to make it grow some more by the weekend.  The players look like it's been a long month on the road.  Most seem in pretty good shape, but Stricker and Tiger quit early today and someone said Stricker's back was giving him trouble.  While waiting for me to come off shift Carla had Davis Love pull up in front of her in a cart, and after talking to someone said something about just wanting to go home and heading for the parking lot with his team still on the course.  It does have to be tough for these folks. 

Tomorrow is our day to play golf rather than watch, but we will be back at the show on Thursday to watch the final tuneup, and on course all day Friday and Saturday.

Never have so many spent so much time and money . . . to see so little golf being played. 

This was another full day for us at the Ryder cup.  This one was more like a normal tournament practice day.  As we walked in this morning they were displaying a very precise schedule -- The US would tee off from #1 at 9:30 and the Euros from 10 at 10.  Both would probably play only 9 holes, probably because of the opening ceremonies in the late afternoon.  Since it was about 8:30 we figured we would find a nice spot along 1, wait for the US to play through, maybe catch them again about 4, then catch the Euros on the 

We found a good spot near the green, then waited as 9:30 came and went, then 10:00, still no golf.  Finally I caught something on a distant jumbtron saying one of the US players would be off at 10:45.  By then our legs were rusted up, so we headed to the back to see the first Euro group and caught -- Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley on 12.  WTF?  The US apparently started wherever they felt like and skipped around. So much for schedules. 

Eventually we camped on the tee on 13, a LONG over-water par 3 that was fun to watch.  4 foursomes of Euros played through on schedule and a few US players played it.  The US guys mainly got pretty close to the green, but the Euros were all over the hole.  (one group must have hit at least 10 tee shots from 2 tees and only got 3 on the green -- the same number they put in the water).  Not real sharp.  I will say they stuck to the schedule -- all 12 players went out and I think all finished the whole back 9. 

After catching some lunch we parked along 7 to watch some of the US groups who actually did play the front play it.  7 is a long dogleg par 5. We watched Bubba and a couple of others hit driver off the deck towards the green (nobody reached it.)  Then as we took advantage of  a lull to visit the "portable loos", as I came out I heard the cry of "fore left", and saw a ball land well outside the ropes and bound down a slope before nearly reaching the back of the adjacent concessions area.  As I went over to investigate, another Fore rang out and another ball came in maybe 20 feet closer to the fairway, still absolutely dead.  As a bunch of us gathered to investigate I thought they would never play those shots, but it might be interesting to see who came after them.  The first shot was a titleist, the second a Nike, and I don't know many players who hit Nikes. 

A Caddie came through the ropes and towards us and started asking about the balls.  The bag said "Stricker", and he took the Titleist.  We thought he would pick it up, but he just parked there.  Eventually a cry from the fairway said to pick up Tiger's ball, but Stricker came through the ropes and decided to play his shot.  Carla and I helped clear the crowd and I wound up behind his caddie.  Someone said "just pretend it's the John Deere".  I don't think many  heard him reply that he had never been in the trees there.  The ball was about as dead as it gets, at least 30 yards left of the tree line in dense shade.  After a while though (and taking a drop away from the green fencing behind the concessions), he hit a monster hook with an iron through an opening none of us saw and got a cheer from the crowd around the green when it got into the fairway just short -- nice shooting.  Stricker's stock went up 10 points in my mind just for trying it and another 10 for pulling it off.  I was also glad to see that contrary to what someone told us on Tuesday he seem to be having no trouble with his back. 

We headed for 9 to watch everyone play there, but Snedeker and Simpson were the only ones who made it that far, so we contented ourselves with looking at the course. 

Two things struck me about the course:  The rough, and the dust. 

The Rough is not at all like a US Open or even a normal tour event -- in fact it's shorter than my lawn, more like Augusta.   There was a lot of chatter about it among the fans.  Prevaling theory is that Davis realized he had a team of bombers and thought the lack of rough would work to their advantage. 

Working against that of course is the fact that outside the ropes the course is dead dry, like everything else in what has become the midwestern desert this year.  So dry that the constant stream of carts carrying supplies, cameras, and media raises choking clouds of dust.  So dry that any shot that goes outside the ropes will bounce and run forever, often into some really unplayable spots.  It should be very interesting to watch the final. 

Maybe a third thing worth mentioning is doglegs.  Medinah has a ton of them. Huge doglegs, mostly turning left.  Not sure how that plays with 2 lefties on the US side and none among the Euros. 

People are just as nuts here as they were for the solheim.  Both sides dressed in flags, costumes, and sporting forests of flags from their hats. 
Lots of people in kilts today too.  Mostly just LOTS of people.  Again, the volunteer lot was nearly full at 8AM (hopefully they get some more space on the weekend since some of that lot goes to train commuters during the week). Lots more spectators arriving by train today than Tuesday.  The train station is only a couple of blocks beyond the bus depot, and for many that's got to be a good option, but I'm sure it's creating big disruptions along that train line where normally there's not a lot of extra parking for anyone but the regular city commuters. 

All the players were off the course by about 2, but the opening ceremonies weren't scheduled to begin before 4.  We had never planned to stay for that, wanting to avoid the crowds and having had our fill of that stuff at the Solheim 3 years ago.  The ceremonial area though stands directly in the path everyone takes to return to the bus pickup area.  I thought that might be a problem if we had stayed till near 4, but in fact everything was jammed by 2:30.  There were long lines of people waiting to get into the monstrous merchandise trend and load up on logo stuff, as well as big lines for all the "experience" tents (watch a watch being made, get your swing measured, hit a hole in 1 for a Mercedes, etc.)  We got past the clubhouse and near the ceremonies area before things ground to a halt, and I reealized we could use our badges to duck into the southern entrance to the International Pavilion and exit to the north, past the stage.  The pavilion deck was jammed too, packed with "beautiful people", swilling Moet (at $22 for a 175ml bottle), and downing similarly high priced Chicago Hot dogs and English fish and chips.  We squeezed through though and crowded onto a bus with all the others who weren't going to stay -- though the stream of people coming in was probably at least as big as the one leaving.  I don't know where all those people were going to go, other than into a corporate tent somewhere to watch it on TV.  The actual stage area could accomodate at most a few thousand within viewing distance. 

The "hospitality" tents are really something.  The only one we get in is the international pavilion, which is the same size as the merchandise tent, big enough to house the entire fleet of a major airline.  Along the fairways though there are at least 100 of them, and very egalitarian in a way. 
Little law firms nobody heard of right next to the companies in the Dow Jones, and mostly all the same size, plenty big enough I guess.  In addition there are 3 enormous "captains club" buildings (no way I'd call these things tents, they are multiple stories with big glass windows) in some of the best viewing areas on the course.  There's still plenty of room for mere mortals to view the action though, with lots of grandstands, and more than a few large slopes where people can camp out.  The only problem is the sparse format.  Normally, you can watch a tournament by camping out on a hole and watch 4-8 hours of action on the hole if you want, but for the next 2 days you will see only 4 4somes go by in 5 hours, and on Sunday only 12 pairs total.   To see the show you have to move, and those tents don't move, so anyone with a ticket to one will face the choice of stay there eating and drinking and watch the action on TV or go back out with the rest of us riff raff. 

The big show begins tomorrow, but we probably wont be there.  We are going dawn till long after dark on the weekend and frankly my agoraphobia is getting to me in those crowds and I need some down time.  Should be a good show though all 3 days. 

Tournament Days (Or Sucking on Sunday)

I haven't given my usual daily report for a while, mainly because the hour drive from the course to home combined with very late work shifts and the need to come in very early to get a parking space makes for very little time to report. 

Anyway, it's over, and nobody died.  Saturday was a lot more fun than Sunday.  On Saturday, while we had once figured we'd play a morning round before heading in we though -- gee, another 18 at the local goat track or a chance to watch the whole morning foursomes -- duh.   So, when we woke up before 5AM, we actually made it to the course in time to get a parking space in the overflow area of the volunteer lot (it was about 6:30AM then), and get onto the course just in time to see (and mainly hear) Bubba extorting the crowd to roar for his drive.  Very odd, more like the kickoff for a college football game.  I think if the US had won this might have changed golf.  In general I'm not a big fan of having fan behavior impact sports, and like the tradition of polite silence in golf, but maybe the first tee is a place to get the fans into it a bit, presuming the player teeing off wants it. 

Anyway, it worked.  We saw Bubba play the first couple of holes before settling into a spot along 4 to watch the first 3 groups play through. Everything was falling right for the US side.  We moved over to 7 and watched again, then 9, and on to 12 to watch all four groups play through.12 was definitely the most fun.  3 out of 4 groups put shots deep in the trees and all hit pretty good recovery shots.  The memorable group was Bradley/Mickelson.  Phil went way right and we heard a crack over head. Carla got hit hard by something falling from the point of impact, then we saw the ball bouncing back behind us.  No idea whether what hit her was the ball or just an acorn, but we helped the marshals clear the area.  Standing near the ball I looked and thought -- no way this one is getting out of here anywhere near the green.  It had to be over 200 yards to the green, over the corner of the pond to a green that is very elevated and has a shaved bank down to the water short and right. Phil and Keegan were standing in front of me debating what line Keegan had, and finally decided on "high right".  Yeah, there was a little hole up there for someone who could hit it with a shot that would then have to draw to avoid the lake.  Taking that line required that we clear most of the crowd from the area which took some time. Keegan hit it low and left of that spot, and it caught a tree and landed in a low spot near the pond.  Dead, I thought.  I still thought dead when Phil's flop landed long and left -- then it started back, and nearly went in.  The Euros never recovered from that, stumbling to a bogey and losing the match on that hole to put the first US point of the morning on the board.  A really fun moment. 

We watched some more action on 16, and got to saw Poulter try to hit the same little flop pitch he dumped into a bunker on 4 -- with the same result. (no bunker this time, just well short of the green.  3/1 in foursomes, and it wasn't nearly that close. 

We had only a bit of time to watch the afternoon before our work shifts, so we parked between 3 and 4 and watched everyone play those holes.  Again, the US looked solid -- except for that Tiger guy, who couldn't find his swing or his golf ball.  On 4 he hit a tree so far back nobody could believe he was hitting from there -- then hooked the next shot so badly nobody knew where it went.  As he walked past me he was flipping his arms in a pretend swing without a club clearly looking for something he wasn't going to find.  I left with the US having big leads in 3 matches and a big deficit in Tiger's. Carla got to watch the action unfold from the entrance area leaderboard and noted the matches tighten up and the Euros scrape out two wins, which turned out to be critical.  By then I was way too busy eating dust and dodging cars. 

My job was driving people in a 6 passenger golf cart the 1/2-1 mile to their cars and hopefully find the car.  Very few people coming in at that time of day, so I usually ran empty back to the pickup point.  Unfortunately few of the people leaving had a clue where their cars were and even when they did I couldn't help much.  The "parking lot" was just a maze of cars parked on the fairways of course number 2.  Worse yet nobody had their act together -- my commitee chairs kept telling me to drive on the road, but the security guys directing the cars in and out of the lot didn't want us there.  That was okay, until people arriving late parked all over the edges of the road cutting off the places I could go in the cart to dodge the cars on the road and the trees along the edges of the road.  Going back and forth took longer and longer as the day wore on as a result.  Worse yet I seemed to get no end of people with problems.  Several people wanted rides to the car entrance or car exit, because they had parked in someone's private parking lot in the residential neighborhood beyond (going price seemed to be $20 for that) and walked in.  The trouble is the cops controlling those access points wouldn't let pedestrians walk out that way, and there was no other way to exit the course and get within maybe 2 miles of their cars.  One group after being turned back ran into a catch-22 -- normal tickets only work once. Fortunately I could just pile the guys into my cart and drive right through the gate, but that didn't solve the problem that they were facing a very long walk or a long wait for a cab. 

The funniest moment was when some guy with a stretched limo managed to get it hung up trying to drive over a tee box -- serves the guy right I guess. As the day wore on and the matches all went a full 18 though it was clear we weren't going to finish before dark.  Indeed, just before it got really dark everyone left at once.  Most people just walked, since we had nowhere near enough carts or drivers for everyone, meaning the parking area was suddenly dark, full of people walking and cars filling the aisles trying to exit, with dust everywhere.  It became impossible to find anyone's car and dangerous to be out there and after 2 runs at about 7:15, I shut my cart down for safety, found Carla and left. 

On Sunday we didn't get there quite as early, but still early enough to be 3 hours before the first tee time.  I already knew the spot I wanted, the 
right side of number 3 where not a lot of people go, about 300 yards off the tee where the drives come and where you can see the green.  We were the first to set up for the wait there (though the bleachers at the green were already full when we got there.  By the time the first group came out  it was probably 4 or 5 people deep all along the hole.  We ultimately watched the whole field play through.  In addition I could see the green on 4 and a few parts of other holes.  The thing that was clear early was this was a different day.  The US couldn't buy a putt, and Europe never missed.  The outfits of the fans set whole new standards of looniness.  Hordes of leprechauns, scottsmen in kilts, matadors, gondoliers, and flag suits of every description.  I'd say there were more goofy euro outfits than uncle Sams and the like, but maybe they were just more noticeable and given the way the early play they were more vocal. 

After they played through our hole Carla had to take her place on the leader board.  I had another hour to watch, and watched the first few play 12. Nothing crazy there this time, just solid play for the most part, except the Euro guy usually sunk the putt.  Overall though the US made up some ground then.  It was very close when I went off to drive the cart, most of the matches even or one up either way.  Carla said the whole thing seesawed all afternoon long before Kaymer canned a little putt on Stricker to seal it.  A bit before that it seemed to come down to Stricker and Tiger's match, and everyone was saying -- great -- we have to depend on two guys who haven't won a match all week. 

As soon as that happened it was like someone pulled the drain plug on the course, and waves of people swept into the parking lots.  Sunday went a lot better on the shuttle though because a)  we were driving on the grass, not the road, b) we were learning the land marks well enough to actually find people's cars for them, and c)  the early exodus meant there was enough light to drive safe, and enough to find the cars.  By the time I went off duty at 7 I made more runs than I had the previous 2 shifts put together, and found nearly all the cars.  The funny moment -- the guy with a big motorhome in the lot who got stuck trying to take it through a gap in the trees and spent half an hour extricating it. 

The afternoon wasn't without it's challenges though.  That big exodus swept a few people who thought they were headed for the main public gate and the busses into the parking lots, who got very confused when they found themselves in a sea of cars and trees instead of the tacky entrance area, and I had to take several back to the course.  Lots of people offered me tips which I didn't take (really silly, the "tip", is my weekly pass to the Ryder Cup.)

Carla spent the end of the day on the balcony of the International Pavillion, across from where they were supposed to have the closing ceremony, watching the matches on the big screens in that area.  She said it was nuts when the cup was decided and a huge mob of US fans left, while the European fans took over the area and went wild.  When it was decided, Tiger never played the 18th and they called the match a draw.  They were supposed to start the closing half an hour afterwards, but it was more like an hour and a half.  Carla said they kept trying to get people to stay for it, but the flood through the gates continued unabated.  Apparently a lot of the VIPs went home too (my lot was practically empty by that time, since there was a big area of chairs in an enclosure set up for people with the right tickets.  One side was full, the other almost completely empty.  Apparently the seats were allocated to both sides and nobody on the US side stayed. Eventually they just let the crowd in to fill it up, which meant the whole area was basically full of Euro fans.  I felt bad for the US team, but then again I'm one of those people who always stayed until the end of every football game and can remember more than once singing the fight song in the rain as the team exitted after a big loss.  I saw and heard a bit of it as I made my way around the clubhouse and past that area to where I was meeting Carla, but given our drive and the desire to hit a brew pub before closing time (early on a Sunday), I couldn't stay either. 

It's over now and I'm sure the Monday quarterbacking has already started. Was it the captains picks (Stricker and Furyk clearly stunk), Was it Tiger? Was it sitting down Bradley and Mickelson Saturday PM?  Was it the course setup?   The fact that the Euro team clearly stuck together in practice and our guys didn't?   Yeah, probably most of that.  The more I think about it though the sillier the conventional wisdom on playing people 4 times sounds, at least in this circumstance.  Sure, Phil and Keegan might have been a bit more tired on Sunday, but assuming they'd replace someone who lost and won their match, Sunday would have started 11-5 instead of 10-4, which would have put the other side in dire trouble and a lot more pressure.  That would have to have made a comback much harder, even if our guys might be tired. 

Oh well, in spite of the hassles and the disappointments, I'm still glad we did it.  I don't know whether I'll volunteer for another Ryder Cup, but it turns out the next two in the US are in our area (Hazeltine in Minnesota in 2016 and Whistling Straits in 2020)  It's a unique experience and one worth having.  The Ryder cup and other team competitions are different from a normal tournament in so many ways.  One thing really different about this one was the personal technology.  In addition to the PGA radios, which we've seen at other PGA and tour events (these are Ipod sized devices which give you 4 audio chanels with tournament coverage.  In the past they were give aways from some sponsor, but for the Ryder it cost $15 to buy one), lots of people had little TVs (about the size of an e-book reader) that were apparently free to American Express card holders (I guess they have to give you something to get a credit card with a whopping annual fee that many places don't want to take). Anyone who didn't have either of these devices was usually following the action on their phone (I heard things were pretty overloaded, between people playing video feeds and uploading their own ilicitly shot pictures I suspect it jammed the local cell towers).   I think the result diminished the atmosphere.  At the Solheim the only way people found out what was going on was the leader boards, which resulted in big roars all over the course when anything good happened for our side.  Here, the news, good or bad trickled into the crowd through their own little devices and caused only a modest local reaction.  It also meant people were paying more attention to all that technology than to what was going on around them.  As Carla and I were watching the action there were running commentaries from the "plugged in" fans on everything going on on other parts of the course, but it was distracting, not enlightening.  If you let yourself listen to it you missed the great shot from the player standing in front of you, and it didn't feel like being at the game.  I suspect we will only see more of this though, and I suspect it won't be long before the PGA and other's simply give up on the silly ban on photos.  At the Ryder they had a dedicated squad of "Mobile Device Policy Enforcement" people, 4 with each group, but it did little to keep people from taking photos everywhere else. 

Another unique thing about the Ryder cup was the huge mob of people inside the ropes with every group.  for the team matches there were probably close to 100 people following every group -- photographers, media, security, but also a lot of ordinary people who looked like they must be guests of the players.  The captains and their assistants and any players not playing at the moment would also buzz around in golf carts (red for the US and blue for Europe).  Those crowds created some unique problems.  For one thing they often got in the way of the fans outside the ropes, even though they had clearly been instructed to sit or kneel down to minimize the problem, you can't put that many people into a small area without blocking someone's view, and people don't like that, especially when it's hard to switch your location. 

They also made it much harder to manage the crosswalks for fans. Some of these people would go ahead of the players and some would straggle behind, meaning the marshals had to keep the crosswalks closed a LONG time making it hard for fans to move to follow the players. This was a little problem on the team days, when only 4 groups were out there, but a big problem on Sunday when you could have people waiting to cross a fairway and not get the gates open while half the field played through.  From the radio I had while on duty I also learned it was a big problem for the people who fill the coolers on the tee boxes -- It got warm on Saturday afternoon and everyone was grabbing water bottles on every tee so they had to figure out how to restock after every group -- not easy when the course is jammed with fans. 

That's about all for now, time to catch up on all the stuff I ignored for the past week.

The Senior Open (Omaha, 2013)

We figured this was something like our 9th Senior Open.  We like the players and the Championship.  Important, though not pretentious, and often held in unpretentious locations in the midwest.  It's not hard to get an interesting Volunteer Job, and often in a good place to play golf.


We got a first look at the course yesterday evening during the volunteer party.  (okay, but with half a dozen microbreweries in town I don't know why the choice at these things is always "bud light", or "bud light".) 

Most people wouldn't think of Nebraska as mountain goat country -- they'd be wrong.  This course is built on and in ravines draining towards the Missouri river, and ALL up and down.  Most holes seem to tee off high into a low spot, then go uphill towards the green.  The course is old school design -- not a lot of earth moved to create level fairways, so most slope at crazy angles.  The rough is USGA standard can't-see-the-shoes stuff, so I expect to see a lot of struggling out there. 

Spectating might be an interesting challenge, given the terrain and the weather forecast (95+ the next couple of days and over the weekend). Spectators (and volunteers) enter at the high point of the course near the 18th tee and then walk down to just about anywhere, which means it's a long up hill slog to get back to the exit.  I hope they have plenty of carts to ferry people who overestimate their legs.  At least there are lots of big trees (good for spectators, bad for players I guess). 

Anyway, should be great fun as usual.

Thursday, July 11th

The first day of the tournament was mercifully cool, unlike most of this week has been and the rest will be.  It still made a long day though when our first work shift started at 7AM, and after a 4 hour break in mid day we walked off the course around quarter to 7.  I don't think I've ever been busier with a volunteer job.  When we showed up we had 3 people to work the 15th hole leader board and thru board (what shows the scores of the players playing the hole).  That's less than the usual 4, but no big deal since Carla has often doen the thru board alone, but the first round of the tournament is always chaotic, since they have no idea who the hot players will be.  10 minutes later though our chair took the 3rd person away to staff another board and left the two of us to do it all.  Basically it's non-stop action, particularly given you keep changing the names at the top of the board which you have to use a ladder to get to.  I didn't get to watch nearly as much as I wanted to, but it was interesting. 

It's also interesting to have the radio in a job like this.  The walking scorers are on the same channel as the leaderboards, so you hear all the major screwups out there.  I also heard the familiar voices of the people from the USGA that have done scoring at every tournament we have worked, a cheery middle aged woman who can make you feel like nothing is a problem, not even getting everyone's scores mangled, and a sour older man who never seems to be having any fun as he is constantly trying to fix technology problems and correct scores for people.  You do hear the progress of the tournament as various groups check in and finish, and anything exceptional, like Today, when Peter Jacobsen flagged down the medics and withdrew from the tournament having trouble walking the hills. 

The course is brutal.  Just about every hole starts out high, goes through a dip, then goes way up hill to the green.  On the practice days I heard player sand caddies debating whether it was 3 or 4 extra clubs hitting in to some of those greens.  There are 3 par 5's, all reachable for some in the field, and one short par 4 which would be as well, but the greens are small, surrounded in bunkers, and very fast.  More than once we saw balls suck back only to roll off the green and down a long slope.  We saw two "tree monkey" shots -- way off line and rattling around.  One seemed to leave the guy shaken to the point where he blew his next shot over the green and doubled the hole anyway, even after the tree monkey returned it to the fairway, and another where the guy hit a decent escape from a bad spot (Carla wound up playing marshal for that one). 

The course does have some marvelous places for spectators.  In between work shifts we hung out mainly in the area around 3, 4, 6, and 7.  We actually found a spot next to 3 where you could see action on about 5 or 6 holes -- too much to watch. 

At 3PM we reported to the 10th hole leaderboard for the late afternoon. Again, we were supposed to have 4 people on the board, but one was working overtime and we sent him away quickly.  Scoring called the other guy about 15 minutes later to staff something else that they had nobody on and again we did the afternoon alone.  The 10th hole is a brutal one, big downhill, with most landing near the low point where there's a hazard on the right and a bunker left, then up to a small and very elevated green.  Not many birdies there, but we had a better view of 6 (downhill par 5 with some birdies and eagles), and 7 (one of the more reasonable par 3's, but a very small green. As I put scores up though I quickly identified what surely was the hardest hole on the course -- 8.  Just about every time I put "hole 8" on the leader board I had to change the score to reflect a bogie or worse.  The hole is a long up hill par 4 with woods left and right off the tee that everyone had trouble with. 

In the end nobody beat -3, but 7 people finished there, so tomorrow will be up for grabs.  Tomorrow is of course supposed to be 10 degrees hotter and windy.  I've never really understood why the USGA always schedules the Senior Open, probably the even where the competitors are most likely to have trouble with hot weather, in the hottest time of the year and almost always in the midwest and plains states where conditions can be really awful. Ability to tolerate heat really shouldn't be a championship requirement, but too often it is. 

Tomorrow we have the same schedule -- dawns early light to twilight's last gleaming with a break in mid day.  Should be fun.

Friday, July 12th

Well, 5:30 came pretty early this morning.  (Not sure why, we didn't overload on the brewskis given the place we went to yesterday, Granite City, seemed like a trip to another planet.  We've been to several in this chain including the one in Omaha and always before found a nice normal brew pub. Now, it's fussy yuppie, with only 4 microbrews and nothing darker than a boch, plus some weird fruit seasonals, several pages of bizarre mixes of sugar and alcohol they called cocktails, and a fussy menu.  Not going back, especially when there are 3 great local brew pubs in this town that haven't lost it). 

Anyway, when we showed up on the course they sent us to 18 -- the monsterboard. That's the one that shows everyone's score hole by hole.
Never done that before, but it was a great experience.  One of the USGA people works that board with you and we had a spry middle aged woman from the Chicago area who was great showing us what to do and delighted we actually could do it.  That left her time to get the errors in the 3 other boards we could see fixed. 

Early on it was clear this wasn't going to be a "go low" day for most --  lots of wind, and clearly a though setup.  We could see some of the play on 18 and 14, nothing really exciting happening there.  It was interesting when one of those "never heard of him" players (Reiger) made a run on the back 9, but he backed up a lot on the front.  Putting up the hole by hole scores kept us busy, especially given we changed out several lines. It's not hard, but the board is oversized, with 3 big ladders on it to reach the upper rows.  (Actually I was delighted when our USGA supervisor suggested that if you were comfortable with it the easiest way to get them was just climb on the supports for the board, which is what I have been doing for years on the smaller leaderboards but didn't think they would approve of. 

Our 4 hours went really quick.  By the end, only 3 pople among the morning players were under par.  Tough.   We picked up lunch and discovered we would spend the late afternoon on 15 again, a nice shaded spot very near the course exit.  (You work later than on 10 where we were the day before, but you just about make up for that in being able to go right out rather than having to hike 2 hilly holes to get there).  We spent the mid day looking first at 16/17, then at 13.  16 is a 231 yard par 3, all downhill, and with the wind most people landed in bunkers, so we saw a lot of sand play.  A few birdies too, but not a lot.  17 is a short par 4 that is all uphill and it was interesting looking at the strategy.  Most played shorter clubs off the tee, but that left them with maybe 100-120 yards and so uphill you couldn't see the green surface.  I'm not sure that was a great move.  Some hit it further up the hill and had an easier second, but many of those went in the deadly "R2" rough.   Because we were in the shade between the holes roughtly where most of the caddies waited for their players to tee off we had some short conversations with the caddies.  One interesting one was with Dave Eichelberger's caddie.  We knew he was getting on in years since we have been struggling to put his name on leader boards for years.  It turns out he won the tournament in 1999 and has an exemption, so he plays every year even though he's mostly retired (He's playing some champions event with a super senior division he is newly eligible and has a shot at winning too). His caddie has been with him for 35 years, but now takes other gigs on all the tours.  He's caddied for the PGA, the Web.com, and the LPGA tours and has maybe 15-20 jobs a year.  Not bad. 

After the last groups moved through we moved to 13.  This is a puzzling hole.  It's a short (~315 yard) par 4, that almost none of them go at. There's no water or tight OB, just bunkers around the green and trees a bit further.  Most players lay up to about 100 yards, but that puts them in the low spot on the hole, shooting to a green whose surface they can't see maybe 20-30 feet higher.  Few of them did well at it.  As we had to leave for our shift one bold amateur blasted one off the tee into one of those greenside bunkers.  I'd have loved to be able to see how he did, because I can't believe it was worse than the guys laying up, then missing the green because they couldn't see it and had trouble controlling their spin. 

15 leaderboard late in the day was a blast.  We had one other volunteer to help, an older woman who did leaderboards on LPGA tournaments and was pretty good.  I mostly handled the leaderboard while carla and the other volunteer mostly did the thruboard  (Friday is the hardest day for that because there are 3 players in each group with both total and "today" scores to put up, and lots of them are double digits).  Fortunately for me the 3 players under par in the morning stayed on the top 3 lines and I never had to climb on the board.  What I did have to do was keep putting up amazing numbers for Michael Allen.  He got to 8 under on the front with a run of birdies including one on the impossible 8th, then parred 3 holes and when he bogeyed 12 a lot of people thought that he had reached his limit.  Not yet -- he birdied the short 13th, then when he was playing 14, a roar went up from the green.  I couldn't believe the -10 number that came up, but once I was sure it wasn't a mistake I rushed to put it up before the next group, which had Rocco Mediate, the next lowest player at -5 in it, reached the green. Whether or not he really wanted to know I thought he ought to have the current data.  When the fans started to notice the number one yelled out at Rocco, who had missed the 15th green that he had work to do (He ultimately parred it).  His caddie stared long and hard at the board. 

Allen hit about the longest drive I saw on 15, but it tailed into the rough, maybe 100 yards short of the green with the pin tucked 10 feet behind a bunker on his line.  Not appealing, but he handled it in stride, hitting to the middle of the green and nearly making the putt. 

The sad stories were some of the last groups, way over par and struggling. The last guy on the leaderboard was +28 on our hole, and doubled it, finishing with 2 more doubles and a bogey for +35.  Everyone was pulling for Horrobin, a Jamaican who was playing and had a great writeup in the local paper.  We met him and his caddie on 13 earlier in the week during a practice round and they seemed to have the right attitude.  He had 2 eagles in the tournament (both on 6), but missed the cut. 

There were fewer problems today, only a few scoring corrections, and mostly the technology worked pretty well.  It was interesting to hear Sue and Ross (the two regulars from scoring I mentioned yesterday) discussing where the cut would be and how many groups they had so they could plan the tee times. In the end +5 made it, and there weren't a lot of players at +6, (the kind of  distribution professors like in grades because they don't agonise to much about where to draw the lines).  Water continued to be a problem.  It wasn't as hot as forecast, but it was plenty hot, and nobody planned on getting water to people on leaderboards.  (We all get these little water bottles, or as another volunteer called them -- USGA water heaters -- since they are always dark and sun absorbing), but even a quart of water won't last long in the sun on a hot day, and the leaderboards are thinly enough staffed that it's tough to get away and grab some even when they say you can raid the coolers on the tee box.  The tentative plan for tomorrow is to have the guys who bring water to the marshals serve the leaderboards, something that's happened in a few other tournaments we worked.  (One even offered the walking scorers water, which isn't necessary, since they can easily raid the coolers and the little disposable bottles there are a lot easier to manage when you are loaded down with a PDA , clip board, and radio, than a big bottle). 

Tommorow we have only one shift mid day (11-3).  We might wind up in the TV coverage depending on where they stick us. We are looking forward to neither having to set up or tear down a board, and being able to sleep in a bit.

Saturday, July 13th

Today was the one day we hadn't planned to open the hotel breakfast bar at 6AM (the first 4 days we did it to make early tee times, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday we do it to make 7AM shifts).  So we slept in, and didn't get to the course until maybe 8:00, in time to find out we were on the 9th hole leader board starting at 11.  With some time to kill and nobody on the back 9 (the holes convenient to volunteer headquarters), we went down to a spot between 1 and 9 to watch the early groups tee off and play 9.  1 is a hole I thought would be interesting, a dogleg right par 4 playing around 375, with a fairway sloping severely right to left.  These guys are also too long --  most hit it past the slope and past or over the bunker in the corner for an easy shot to the green -- not that much fun to watch.  We did see a few bunker shots out of the corner bunker, but nothing that went in odd places. 

9 is a bit up hill par 4, and it was only a question of how far up the hill they hit it.  We saw a few shots from the trees, but not many.  The real show was the leader board on 9 we would be working at 11 -- the early crew was clearly not very experienced.  We saw mis-spelled names, lots of scoring errors, and lots of times they just seemed clueless.  I guess nobody really cared about what showed when the dewsweepers came past anyway.  After a hike back to the volunteer tent (at the course entrance, down 18 and through what is probably a 100 foot dip) for some unhalthy snacks (Con Agra is a big sponsor and provided an endless supply of them) and a boxed lunch we went back to take over the board. 

We thought this would be easy, but there was a problem with the setup. Perhaps it's time for a little about the job.  Leaderboards are on a raised platform.  Typically you have a leaderboard, with 10 rows, each with a name, and 3 slots for total score, hole number, and today's score. Most also have a thruboard, with spots for today and total scores and names for 3 players (though you only use 2 on the weekend when they play in pairs).  You have one PDA which retrieves what goes on both boards, and 3 boxes with letters and numbers for both.  Most boards have one area behind with 3 or 4 shelves for placing letters, and another on the thruboard side with a wide plywood shelf.  Usually we set up the board by splitting both the letters and numbers so there is a set of each in front of both the thruboard and leaderboard, so they can be worked independently without anyone in the way. The people with the board ahead of us hadn't -- all the numbers were behind the thruboard, and all the letters behind the leaderboard.  We quickly redistributed the numbers, but concluded the letters were too tough to handle in the time we had. 

The boards all have flip down metal faces you put the names and numbers on, and you can't make changes when there's a group on the green (especially on this one, which was directly behind the flag from the TV tower, so it would show, and we were told they didn't want to see any open doors in the board on TV.)  It's amazing that these things actually look pretty good from a distance.  The magnetic letters you put on the board are dirty, rusty, and many have rips or pieces missing.  Still, if you take a little care to avoid the most decrepit ones, it looks okay.  (I've asked why the USGA can't spring for some better letters, but they don't.  In fact, the USGA person on the monster board with us told us that after the Women's open last year the person in charge of organizing all the magnetic letters and numbers on those leaderboard kits suffered a nervous breakdown from the task.) 

I don't know whether they ever intended to assign us a 3rd person like most boards had, but we were just as glad to work it alone, especially given that both of us needed access to the one set of numbers and a 3rd person would only get in the way.  The changes came really fast, and the bad news was nobody was making pars, lots of birdies and bogies, exciting for fans, a pain for leaderboards.  For every group coming through I had 4 or 5 lines in which I had to change hole, today, and total scores, and I couldn't do it when any player might be bothered by a reaction to the number changes, which meant lots of scrambling.  That was manageable until the leaders on the top 3 lines got on the course.  I can reach all by the top 2 lines without a ladder, and can change the numbers on the top 2 by climbing on the support strut for the board, but that's not easy.  They also made a lot of player changes -- when I finally got to filing  the letters from  "Williams" after he came up on the board they put him up somewhere else.  Still we were having a better time than others -- leaderboards with wrong scores, upside down 3's (the "3" on the board really doesn't look much like one up close and of course from behind the board you have to mount it upside down and backwards to have it come out right on the front, not easy), and mixups with 9's, 6's, and 8's.  I got one 3 backwards, took down the wrong name ones (but corrected it before I changed the scores), but basically worked continuously for 3 hours. 

We did get to watch a little play on the hole -- most people parred it, a few 3 putted the tricky green, and we saw a few birdie putts and one chip in.  Not bad.  Quarter to 3 our "relief showed up early -- just as the last group was on the hole.  We were glad for the help in tearing down the letters and packing them (everything has to be crammed into 3 boxes overnight, supposedly so they don't get wet if it rains, but I'm sure the 
real reason is so no fan climbs up there and puts their own name on the board for an illicit cell phone picture :-).  I was sorry for the guy and his son who made an 80 mile trip to work the shift only to find there was nothing to do, but they schedule us conservatively so they have people 
available if there is a weather delay. 

When we finsihed our shift, Michael Allen was at -10 leading by 5 shots.  By the time we hiked back to the volunteer tent to cool off and get some water, he made it interesting by bogeying 2 holes while Perry birdied one.  After cooling down we watched a few groups hit into 17 (the hole you reach at the entrance), then decided to leave before the mass exodus as Allen played through the hole.  We were too late -- a long wait for busses back to the north Omaha airport (one weed infested asphalt runway), which had been commandered for all the tournament parking.  (Like most tournaments you ride in school busses, which are completely inadequate for anyone with long legs, but it's only a 3 mile ride here). 

Tomorrow we have the early shift on 16 -- probably nothing to do at all, so I'm bringing a book.  Still, we have had 5 extremely busy shifts here, and I've never felt more needed at a tournament (well, maybe we were at least as much needed as walking scorers), since I doubt many people could handle the jobs we did with 2 people (The USGA scoring people came by several times to tell us the board was good, and were amazed we could do it with 2 people, but when you've been working life together for 40 years you learn what you can do together.)

Sunday, July 14th

Our Sunday at the Senior Open was kind of anticlimactic as expected.  We arrived bright and early to discover we were on the 16th hole, where play may or may not actually reach the hole before the end of our shift.  Worse yet, we had 3 people for that.  So, the 3 of us spent the first hour unpacking the boxes of letters and numbers, sorting out the mis-filed O's and 0's and 6's and 9's, and trying to put the best looking ones on the tops of the piles, then put up 3 names on the top 3 lines, and waited.  Our 3rd got called away to go to 18 (where I doubt he ever had anything to do, but I suspect again in part they want volunteers with the boards to keep fans from messing with them).  We did get to see the ground crew prepare the green. First a crew came out with a few balls and a stimpmeter, and apparently concluded it wasn't fast enough, so they brought in the heavy duty side-saddle riding roller to go over the whole thing again.  Satisfied with that they marked a spot near the back of the green and went away.  An hour or so later another crew came and stimped it again before cutting the cup, running a few putts at the hole (I've never understood why they do that, but there's always a guy with a putter out there, and if there is a crowd in the grandstand by then he can get a lot of cheers or jeers). 

I think Scoring Central was messing with us when they first asked us to put up "Calcavecchia", then take him off and put up "Wolstenholme".  (If you haven't figured it out yet, those names don't fit on the board unless you overlap the letters.  They don't fit on the PDA screen either, but having already heard the USGA press one group to put up the final A in Calc's name we knew we wanted to do it.  The last time we worked the Senior Open we were given instructions to just put up what was on the PDA, but watching Calc's reaction when Carla put up the whole name anyway We'd certainly do it whether the USGA told us to or not). 

I changed the names on the bottom few rows a few more times, with only a handful of people in the grandstand watching the empty green to notice, but that's what you are supposed to do.  The day was really windy though, and when I felt the whole board rock in the wind I took little look at the braces that held it up, and noticed that like most, it was sloppily assembled.  These things are basically just bolted together, and the nuts on many of those joints were just barely on the studs allowing things to move in the wind.  That gave me something else to do -- tighten all those loose joints enough to get through the day. 

Players finally arrived at our hole about the time our relief did, but talking to the people we had we decided to stay on a few groups to get past 
Calcavecchia and Wolstenholme, to make sure they got them. 

When the whole field was out it soon became clear that it was likely to be Kenny Perry's day.  We never got over to the front 9 to see his run of birdies, but birdieing 8, which was playing to the same stroke average as the par 5 6th, set the tone.  The rest of them were playing for second. 
After getting off the board and having another unhealthy lunch (Maybe there's a reason why the average fan at this tournmaent seemed supersized), we watched a lot of the field play through 15/16/17.  (There are spots where most of the time you could see a lot of play on all 3 holes -- I love the older courses which are built "close" like this one.)   With 15 the questions were how far up the hill they hit it and how good they were at reading the small green, but most got through well. 16 played really tough, the key problem being mis-judging the wind I think, resulting in shots in the left bunker or rough.  Colin Montgomerie got an awful plugged lie on the downslope at the back of that bunker, doing well to hack it out over the green and then get up and down for bogie.  More than a few took doubles there.  There were a few birdies, including Couples, who canned about 50 footer, but mainly it was a "get your par and get out of here hole". 

17 was amusing -- short, but all uphill, and on Sunday it was hard and fast enough that a lot of shots in the fairway would roll back down to the bottom.  This was another hole where I think the "hit it short and safe" strategy backfired.  Hitting short avoided a bunker on the right, but lots of people were missing the green from where they laid up to, even if they hit the fairway (and many missed, because of the crosswind on the hole I suspect).  A few, including couples, bombed it, reaching a flatter spot higher on the fairway with a half-wedge shot to the green.  Golf's "experts" don't like that shot, but for these guys it had the advantage that it didn't have as much spin, and wouldn't come running back off the front of the green.  We did see some awful shots out of the bunker.  I'm not sure why, other than maybe pros are put off hitting blind shots into greens enough to screw up their tempo and fluff the shot like I do.  3 or 4 of them just flubbed out of the bunker and had to pitch on from there.  One guy missed way left, landing in the rough outside the ropes below where we were sitting, letting us help the marshal try to clear the crowd on his line. The shot looked good, but we couldn't see the green to see how good. 

We ultimately bailed after O.Meara came through to escape before the worst of the exit mob, which meant we were back in the hotel to watch the finish on TV.  No surprise, and a deserving champion.  I felt bad for Michael Allen, who was clearly capable of playing better on the weekend without the neck pain, but that's part of the game -- you can't call in sick and play a "makeup" round when you are feeling better. 

A couple of other things about our trip.  We played 4 courses in Omaha, and for anyone here who goes there here's our view: 

Quarry Oaks (between Omaha and Lincoln where I80 crosses the Platte river) was very nice.  A course that would be hard to walk (we didn't try), but very interesting holes with lots of elevation, woods, and no housing.  Not cheap, but not outrageous either. 

Fox Run (In council Bluffs Iowa) -- a basic muni-type course (though I don't think it actually was city owned), in rough condition.  very cheap, and maybe worth what we paid (also very walkable even in 95+ degree heat index which is why I picked it. 

Indian Creek (At the far NW corner of the Omaha metro area) -- 27 holes, excellent condition, and interesting layout.  It was walkable, though you go up and down a bit.  Some holes adjoin housing, not in play.  This one was the best bang for the buck 

Tiburon (SW Omaha, not far off I80.)  Another 3 9's complex in good shape. Similar terrain and layout to Indian Creek, but more holes adjoin housing, and there were a couple of holes on each of the 9's we played that seemed a bit much (hidden hazards not marked on any maps, overly demanding carry's with no bailout, etc.)  Still, 8/9 holes on each 9 were really fun :-) 

We also visited the SAC museum (not quite the title any more, which is near Quarry Oaks.  It was interesting, and they have a nice collection of vintage aircraft and space craft, but the stuff was a real jumble, and a lot of things without much explanation.  My guess is that the Cold War and the mission of the Strategic Air Command is being forgotten, and as a result they have broadened their exhibits, but don't have everything in place. It was fun to climb through an old B-17, especially I have an uncle who flew one in WW II (and spent 18 months in a German prison camp when he was shot down).  My conclusion -- people were a lot smaller back then :-) 

We ate most of our meals at 4 brew-pubs.  One, a national chain (Granite City) that was a disappointment -- too few beers, and too much "fluff" on the menu.  The food wasn't bad, and there was nothing wrong with the beer we had, but they had nothing dark at all.  The other 3 were all local in the area at least, and none real far off I80 for anyone passing through) 

Nebraska Brewing Company -- basic food and decent beers, though like some other small places they seemed to have trouble keeping all their brews available.  They also have a lot of aged "high octane" brews that have won awards, but we didn't sample any. 

Upstream Brewing -- more extensive menu for both beer and food, and overall a nice place.  Would go there again. 

Lazlos Brewery and Grill -- great place, our favorite.  Best menu of all of them and a large list of brews.  Also a great deal for early diners as brews and appetizers were heavily discounted.  Everything we had there was great. 

So, after 6 hours of slogging across Iowa and Western Illinois, we are settling down to a week of mail and grass growth and getting ready for the next trip -- RSG-NW and the Solheim Cup

The Solheim Cup (Parker Colorado, 2013)

This was our second Solheim Cup.  Having volunteered for the 2009 cup back home, we jumped at the opportunity to do it again in Colorado.  The best description of our first Solheim was "LPGA meets World Cup Soccer" -- rampant nationalisim in fans of a match play golf tournament.  The Solheim is mild though in comparison to the Ryder Cup, which draws much larger and even more partisan crowds.  Still, it's an exciting event and one with a lot more opportunity to really see the action and appreciate the talents of the players.  We were leader board operators, as we had been in 2009, and arrived relatively late, having played in a golf event in Washington State the week before.


The first day of a tournament is often a bit chaotic.  Sure enough, we arrived bright and early to find yesterday's rain had turned the volunteer 
"parking lot" (a sloping patch of cactus and sagebrush) into a bit of a slime pit.  Good thing Avis gave me a 4WD car.  We checked in and picked up a radio and went out to our leaderboard, which our chair said would be all set up for us.  Well, sort of.  The board sat on the 18th tee box angled to give a view to the 17th hole grandstand.  The board was about as minimal a structure as I've encountered, a platform of 3 sagging planks in front of a white metal board with 12 slots for players, holes, and match state, and no stairs to get up on it other than the two boxes of letters and numbers.  For practice rounds our job is to post the location of players so the spectators know where to find them, so we started by surveying the boxes and pulling the letters to make up the names of all 24 players (fortunately our boxes had enough e's, something not to be said for some others.)  Then we waited for info from the marshal hole captains on who was teeing off where.  And waited, and after we could see 2 groups of Europeans come down hole 10 with no info I decided to wander over there (right behind our board, but over a 
sagebrush covered hill) and look -- I watched 3 blond pony tails and one brunette tee off on 11, and all but one caddie was wearing a jacket over the bib.  No way to figure out who they were. 

Eventually after a lot of radio chatter (and channel changes to try to solve technical problems with the radios we got the groups roughly right and started posting them.  With 12 names, the board is tall -- at first I didn't think I could reach the top row, but eventually I worked out the moves to get everything on (and off) that line, with some difficulty.  Nobody else on leaderboards had a chance.  Most of the others doubled up names to avoid rows 1 and 2 (and sometimes 3).  No two boards had the names in the same order.  Ours looked pretty good though -- so good that the golf channel B roll cameraman parked on the tee and kept chasing me off the board to shoot it, so if you saw a leaderboard from the Solheim today it was probably ours. We stayed on the board until all the players were through, then turned it over to 2 ladies about our age for the second shift.  They were both experienced, but neither had a hope of reaching rows 1 and 2, so I rearranged the names a bit to put the players who were stopping at the turn or quitting on top, where they wouldn't have to change the hole numbers for them.  They kept promissing us a stool or a ladder, but maybe by tomorrow. (Actually they've said that by the weekend we will have pre-printed name strips and PDAs to give us the info, a big improvement, but when you do enough tournaments you learn not to expect much and to roll with whatever you have, which is what we did.) 

Now for the golf -- the Americans mostly played all 18 holes, the Euros mostly played just the back 9.  We got to watch the Euros up close on the tee (so close we had to shut off the radio and back off to let them tee off).  Impressive shots.  None had much trouble with the 180 yard 17th to a tiny green either.  15 and 16 look like the decisive holes for the matches, and not just becuase most are one or two up there. Back-to-back par 5's with interesting challenges.  15 has a creek in front of the green and nobody was going for it, then a tough little green where shots with backspin can roll back into bunkers or the creek.  16 is a big downhill par 5 with a split landing area.  Most players went for the longer left side which leaves a hazard free approach to the green, but Wie and one of the other Americans went for the right fairway, and hit the green in two (one after a couple of tries).  Most balls came up just short, with what looked like an easy pitch -- ha ha.  The green slopes away from the front pin position today, and no matter how they hit it they rolled way past.  Everyone hit multiple shots like they couldn't believe it.  One of the marshals told us Suzanne Pettersen hit 20 shots without getting one close.  Others tried different approaches -- chips, flops, putts, pitches out to the side, mostly with no help.  Lizette Salas hit one of the closer shots to that green -- out of a bunker that kept her short approach from finding a creek.  Another marshal who was a member at the course said you could hit that shot but it's counter intuitive -- you have to go straight at the pin with a spinning shot, there's no way to bump it in and stop it.  Clearly going to be an interesting one to watch on Sunday. 

The course has generous enough fairways and greens, but lots of trouble if you miss.  There's only about 6 feet of "rough" most places, after which you are basically in the desert -- long scrub grass, prickly pear, and sagebrush (think Horn Rapids for RSG-NW fans).  Most of the players avoided playing out of it -- they hit second shots and played from the fairway.  If I were captain of one of those teams I'd take them all out into typical nasty spots and have every one hit 3 or 4 shots out of it just for the experience, because there are no mulligans in competition.  Morgan Pressel impressed me with her practice routine on 16.  She hit shots from both fairways to the green, then hit pitch shots from various places in the fairway and hit out of both bunkers.  By the time she got to putting, the others had moved to the next tee, but she putted anyway.  That's preparation. 

Later we watched some action on the range.  The most interesting was watching Annika give Suzanne a lesson on flop shots.  Both were hitting really nice ones by the end, in spite of a lot of heckling by the crowd. The fact that they were hitting them a lot like I hit my go-to pitch shot made me feel a little better about my game.   We watched some putts, and watched Caroline Hedwall hit bunches of perfect iron shots off the tee. Someone should really have told her about high altitude sun though. 

There were a lot of interesting sidelights.  One of the people we worked with said that after the Colorado Golf Club got the Senior PGA a few years back, the club went bust, but the Solheim was already locked in.  They didn't know if the course had a  new owner or was still in receivership, but that didn't seem to hurt maintenance any.  We talked to another local about the event in comparison to the Ryder and the 2009 Solheim, both of which he had attended (as did we) to prepare.  He said they hoped to get good attendance but would probably not match 2009, Denver being not as big an area as Chicago.  (I was pointing out all the logistic nightmares in 2009 and hoping they had those solved). The big problem they have is that the BMW championship is in Colorado in 2014 (yes we are already signed up as walking scorers for it), and has sucked up all the corporate sponsorships, leaving the Solheim struggling to get as many sponsors as they wanted. Really too bad.  Karsten Solheim was a great supporter of the event, and while Ping continutes to be a good one the event clearly needs to find another rich patron.  I was thinking .com billionaire (surely it's more worthy than the Washington Post :-), Carla was thinking celbrities (it must be more interesting than a bigger hollywood mansion :-).  Either way I hope they find the support needed to keep it going, and I'd love to see a Women's equivalent to the President's cup emerge. 

Toward the end of the day a photographer for the Denver Post took a couple of shots of us watching the action on 16 and a bit about us. Hasn't made it into the paper yet, but maybe.  (I've been tagged by photographers several times and only once actually wound up in the paper as a result, so I know they do a lot of human interest stuff that never makes it). 

Tomorrow we are back on the same board again in the morning and the day should play out similarly.  With luck we will see the US team play through and have a better chance to see them.  (Not that we didn't watch today). Two things I'd offer as take aways for anyone considering attending an event like this: 

1)  Go early.  Players almost always go out for morning rounds, but who knows what happens later in the day.  (That's especially true some place like Colorado, where weather in the afternoon can be a problem. 

2)  The contrast between women's and mens events is striking.  Everyone was signing autographs and talking to fans, even the captains. Everything was orderly, and nothing was really crowded.  (At the Ryder cup, in contrast, even on the practice days it was tough to actually get a clear view of a player and impossible to get autographs, both because of the crowds, and indirectly because the players couldn't really be casual with fans with so many fans threatening to overwhelm them.  Lots of fun.

Our assignment today was the same as yesterday -- the 17th green leaderboard.  The plan was that by today we would have improved stuff for the board -- wrong.  Same plastic letters and numbers.  We quickly pulled out all 24 names and put them on the board, waiting for the teams to tee off.  This time the Americans teed off on the back and the Europeans on the front, but maybe half an hour later.  We got much better information on who went off in which group and when they cleared the holes, so the job was basically pretty simple.  That left time to watch, and time to talk with the fans, who were far more numerous today than yesterday. 

The Solheim draws different crowd from the mens events -- lots of older women who are big fans and have been to other events.  I don't know whether that reflects the fact that fewer guys want to watch the ladies, or whether there are just a lot of older women who snatchup the tickets. Many came from a long way away, and many were obviously infirm -- not good on this course, which demands you be able to walk hills at altitude just to rach the end of 1 and 10. 

The spectator facilities were better prepared than yesterday, but there was still a constant littany of trouble -- prickly plants on the green-tee paths for the players and caddies that had to be subdued.  broken grandstands, ropes in the wrong place.  Tournaments always take a few practice days to get the bugs out. 

The only addition to the leaderboard we had was a silly little plastic stool -- inadequate if not dangerous on a platform of 3 saggy wood planks. 
I used it to get the names up, then tossed it aside, since I could change the hole numbers without it. 

The players were clearly getting the hang of the course and starting to hit shots to positions they were interested in on future days.  Most quit after 9 holes, not surprising, but really disappointing to anyone who came late. Morgan Pressel continued to impress me with her practice ethic -- she was the only one to play the whole back, and always hit multiple shots into the green and chipped from every position.  Not all those shots were great, but she's not going to face anything that will be a surprise on the weekend. 

At 11:30 we turned the board over to the next shift, a short woman who couldn't reach the top 2 rows with the stool, and an older guy like me who had coped with worse and had no trouble.  They had no real work to do anyway, since Morgan was the only player on the course within half an hour. 

After lunch Carla and I decided to walk the front 9.  We watched Pressel on a couple of holes, but mainly walked backward (thanks to a strategic error in my selection of paths).  It gave us a bit of a different perspective. The first 2 and last 2 holes on both 9s are scary ups and downs, but the holes in between are mostly dead flat in the bottom of a valley.  2 and 8 look to be intersting holes on the front.  2 being a little par 3 with a slopey green that will cause anyone who goes long to face a bunker shot likely to run off the front.  8 is wicked up hill to a similar green.  3 is another interesting one, a big downhill par 4 where I think the problem for the pros is going to be "land and hold short" -- they have to avoid running too far down the hill into a dry wash.  That still leaves a 100-150 yard carry over the wash to a shallow green.  1 is actually an intresting hole too -- big downhill par 5 that some can reach in two.  It has a power slot on the left off the tee that gives extra distance -- but go to far and it funnels you into a bunker. 

One curious thing about those bunkers -- in every one the rakes were outside the bunker, and on the side that faced the fairway (i.e. maximally in play) I don't know if that was deliberate or accidental. 

We left the course about 3, with nothing else much to do (few players on the range and no interesting lessons in progress, and the merchandise tent looked like the after picture of a looting, as expected.)  We ultimately had a good dinner, but only after spending an hour on the road going 5 miles, apparently not uncommon.  I was reminded by the high school banners  in the restaurant that this is in the same area that was the scene of the Columbine school shooting and the sniper in the theater, and had to wonder whether the frustration of spending hours trapped on roadways wasn't a contributor to these kinds of acts.  My advice in South Denver -- stay off the roads and stay on the course! 

Tomorrow we play hooky (well I hope not too much) and play two courses I haven't plalyed before in the area, before we work again on Friday.  Should be fun.

Friday, August 22 (Or waiting for golfers, or something like them :-) 

After playing two rounds ourselves on Thursday (Plum creek, nice Pete Dye course in Castle Rock that used to be real private and is now open to any yahoo with an internet browser for $35-$40, and Highlands Ranch, a Hale Irwin course donated to the University of Denver that's an okay golf course, but almost as unwalkable as "the wastelands" at Hawks Prairie :-), we spent today at the cup.  Our work shift didn't start until after noon, but we showed up early anyway since I think the alternate shot (aka foursomes) is one of the more interesting competitions.  We started the day in the 8th grandstand, where we could get a bit of a view of 3 and 7, but mainly waited for play to come to us.  The stand was full before everyone was through 2. Not much seating space on this course.  8 is a short but massively uphill par 4 with a tricky green.  (It's the one that I heard Morgan Pressel and her caddie talk about as being the tougest on the front 9).  It was a bad hole for the US, losing a point in 3 of 4 matches.  I'm not sure but I think that might be related to the fact that the US was always hitting first off the fairway.  At the distance it played I'm sure that was strategy -- leave a full shot, but I've never been a big fan of that.  Indeed, 2 US players missed the green and I don't think any got closer than the Euros.  The shot of the morning was probably Paula Creamer, who was stuck in a back bunker by Christie Kerr, and hit it out sideways, catching the slope between the tiers in the green to roll down within a 3 feet of the pin.  Did no good though 
when one of their opponents rolled in a long one for birdie. 

The difference in atmosphere created by everyone having their phones was again apparent, as it was at the Ryder Cup.  Instead of waiting eagerly for scores to appear on the leader boarrd, fans were heckling the people on the board to get the scores up.  (In all fairness, the two volunteers on that board were largely ignoring it, choosing instead to talk to freinds or wander off and spectate other holes. 

We moved on to 11 where nothing really good happened, then to 13, another up hill hole, and finally saw the finish on 16/17 before checking in to our leader board on 16.  The two people on the board were eager to give it up, and revealed that things were still AFU.  They had plastic strips with some of the names made up, but not all, meaning some needed to be made from the black individual letters, which didn't match the red and blue pre-printed strips.  They had only red numbers, and no 1/2's, slashes, or ampersands to indicate how matched finished, and they only had 3 "F"s.  Of course the worst problem was they had no working PDA to get the scores, and instead were getting scores by ducking into the two corporate tents behind the board and looking at the TVs. 

We took over, changed the board to reflect the PM matches, noting that we had no pre-printed strips for two of the European players (fortunately the Euro team chose to sit out Ewart-Shadoff, who not only would have used up 2 of or 3 F's but never would have fit on 
one line).  Carla started the afternoon in the corporate tents waiting for scores, while I tried to fix the PDA.  Our committee chair was sure it was the battery, but it was clear it wasn't, and when the guy changed out the battery and I showed him it was still dead all he could say was "not in my job description", or "above my pay grade".  Our chair decided to have the board on 17/18 radio us scores, which would have worked except that they were also not paying much attention, so we kept getting them off the TVs. Finally, another tech guy showed up and after a lot of button pushing and head scratching decided it was hosed, but came up with a replacement that worked.  The time spent in the tents wasn't wasted.  Carla got to know the bar tender in one who kept us supplied with ice water and cookies all afternoon.  We also got to use their bathroom -- a real experience.  If you haven't attended golf tournaments, realize that the "bathrooms" for most people are your basic portable can, or as we call them "portable kilns", after sitting in the sun for hours.  The corporate tents have bathrooms on trailers, with running water, nice interior decor, and rir conditioning. Amazing. 

After we got our equipment began the long wait for golfers.  Watching a Solheim cup 4 ball (best ball) match is a whole new level of watching paint dry.  They take about 6 hours to play 18 holes, or to put that in perspective, enough time to fly from SFO to EWR.  Yikes.  Every once in a while we would get an update and put up a score.  At first there was almost nobody there, but as the hours ticked off and the holes advanced the crowd on the other side of the hole started to grow, and they would cheer for any good news for the US.  The matches were close all afternoon, with frequent lead changes.  That was good for us -- it meant most might actually get to 16.  During the long wait we got to watch the other rituals of championship golf -- the greenskeeper coming out with a ballmark repair tool and hose, then moving the pin to an absolutely diabolical position -- front right, not far from a hazard.  The golf channel cameraman showed up 3 hours before anyone came to the hole.  The sky TV people a bit later, and they were amazed and bewildered by the climate ("I never drink water and I've had 6 bottles today") 

Finally, about 5 in the afternoon the first group got onto the hole.  Play was as wild as I thought, with most going for this par 5 in 2, and winding 
up in bad places.  We had beautiful shots to the front of the green that rolled almost off the back or almost into the hazard.  Piller hit a great 
shot out of the weeds on the left side, only to have it sneak past and over the bank almost into the hazard in front of us.  I suspect Carla and I got on TV, just because the area of the green opposite where we were sitting in the shadow of the board was a common resting place.  Michelle Wie hit one of the best shots we saw, from a long way back behind the last fairway bunker, and it crept toward the hole and almost went in, then almost went over the bank. 

No matches finished on our hole, but one finished on the hole before and two on the hole afterwards.  Lots of the players who were either sat out and walking with groups or had already finished trudged past our board on the way to 17.  They all looked pretty tired.  When the last match was won by Kerr and Wie on 16, we posted the results and got a ride up the 18th along with the pair running the board on 18.  For the day Europe won 5/3, but that's still early.  Carla and I will be just watching tomorrow, then working again on Sunday on the 13th green.

Saturday, August 23

Today was our day off work at the Solheim, and having had just enough trouble making local tee times we decided we would spend the whole day at the tournament and have fun.  Well, the morning was fun.  Arrived in time for the tee off, but I didn't want any part of that crowd -- the biggest grandstands on the course were at the number 1 tee, and they were wound up for the kickoff.  Instead, we worked our way to the 8th green grandstand and waited for play.  That spot has a leaderboard, and partial views of holes 3, 7, and 11, so we had some action to monitor. When the first group made a hash of 3, we thought it would be a long day.  The US was short, and pitched over the green, while the Euros were long, and pitched over the right side and into junk.  The Euros pitched their 4th onto the green, while the US pitched their 4th over and into the junk on the right.  Eventually the US gave up.  Kind of set the tone there. 

The play on 8 was sharp.  Lots off nice approach shots and birdies.  The US was playing the hole better than yesterday, but not perfect.  We watched some play on 11 before moving to 14.  14 looks easy, a short par 4 with a tricky green.  I have never understood the conventional wisdom that you want to lay up for a full shot, but maybe that's because a full wedge is one of the least prectible shots I have.  (I'd much rather hit it up fairly close and play a little partial flop slot in, which is reliable for me.)  Everyone though was laying up to about 100 yards, where we were sitting, unfortunately, the fairway there slopes sharply left to right into a bunker, and more than one player had to hack out of it.  The green was no bargain either -- almost a horshoe with a bunker in the middle.  The Euros won 3/4 matches there. 

We moved on to 16/17 to see the exciting finish.  The hole didn't disappoint.  We watched two groups play it in identical fashion, with the 
Europeans playing what looked like the right shot to the bank on the left, only to have the ball trickle on and eventually run over the right edge down a slope into a bad lie.  The US players played a less extreme line and shorter, reaching the front of the green for a reasonabley easy 2 putt birdie.  We missed Anna Nordquist's ace on 17, having been at 14 watching the suckage instead. 

The afternoon looked promissing -- lots of good pairings on the US side and some rookies out for the Europeans.  It started well, Carla and I parked near 2 green with a view of number one and the US played the holes strong.  We moved on to 8, where we had trouble finding shade because the crowd was getting big, and things weren't going as well.  We learned of the concession controversy.  (On one hole apparently the US chose to putt a more distant par putt to show the closer player the line, which one of the Euro[ean caddies 
conceeded.  The rules folks decided they couldn't do that and put the ball back, but by then the players were alert to the situation and conceded the putt.  I believe the hole was evventually halved, but it added a sour note to the competition, which basically set the tone for the middle holes. We saw Michelle Wie hit some great shots on 8, 11, and 14, but to no avail. The Euro[eans were canning bombs to upstage her.  Other american players were clearly frustrated.  We watched Morgan Pressel bash her bag with a wedge on 14 after chunking a wedge shot that should have been easy.  (Another US player fanned a wedge into the crowd on that hole.)  The captains coming past in their carts looked grim. The first group was the only one where anyone went for the green, a tactical error in my view.  The US player landed on the green and rolled over into the bunker, while the European was on in good shape -- their partners layed up, and eventually the two players that went for it halved the hole in birdies.  Much better than some of the other groups that layed up into bunkers or chunked their approaches. 

By the time they finished 14, the US was down in all 4 matches.  A far cry from the early results.  It was after 6 by then and we filed out, leaving the last match in the layup position on the par 5 15th.  What followed was a 10 minute bus ride, and a half hour drive to the Rock Bottom Brewery, where we saw that last match in the fairway on 16.  Amazing.  Pretty much says it all about the pace of play. 

The glitches weren't really fixed -- the leaderboard still didn't have the right letters, and the concessions stands were running out of everything. 
All the trash barrels were overflowing with plastic water bottles.  (I really wanted to take a picture and send it to the CEO of Pepsi and the 
Sierra club as an indictment against turning water into something you have to buy for $3 in a little plastic bottle that then litters the place, but 
like a good little doobie I left my camera home, unlike the thousands who were using their Iphones as cameras everywhere.) 

One striking difference about the Solheim and the Ryder cups is the "entourage", with each group.  In a USGA championship, or even a PGA event, almost nobody gets inside the ropes, and no more than a handful of volunteers and media typically walk with each group.  In the cups, there are 50-100 random people in the ropes, typically ignoring all the rules (e.g. smoking on a no-smoking course, taking pictures, going places they shouldn't etc.  I have no idea who all those people are, but they are a major distraction and annoyance, especially when they stand in front of the fans who have typically staked out good vantage points and waited hours only to be blocked by people who don't care.  One curious feature at the Solheim was that every group had a walking bunker raker -- Maybe it was an atempt to speed things up, taking that responsibility away from the caddies, but that didn't work, the pace of play was still dismal.

We watched the last few groups finished on the TVs at the Rock Bottom, including looking at media shots of the leader board on 16, where we were yesterday, looking disconsolate over the results they posted.  The food and beer were great, the mood -- not so much.  Since our hotel has basically been taken over by Solheim fans, I expect the mood at breakfast tomorrow to be grim.  The US needs to win 9/12 singles matches to get the cup.  Not likely, but then again nobody expected the Europeanss to come back at the Ryder Cup.  (Of course they had Seve as a role model and inspiration.  I can't think of a comparable source of inspiration for the US Women in the Solheim).  Carla and I will by on 13 leader board, but probably off duty before any players show up.  We will probably just park somewhere and watch the field play through, but I expect an early finish and exodus by most of the US fans.

Sunday, August 24

The day started as expected.  Not a lot of enthusiasm in the hotel, and we got there in plenty of time for our 10AM shift.  As usual, everything was less than organized -- no radio, no PDA, and (most important :-) no lunch tickets.  So we waited around in the volunteer tent.  Every tournament has a "Volunteer Headquarters" tent, where most volunteers check in for their shifts.  When they serve lunch in there it's usually pretty big and often has nice snacks.  When, like this one, they just give you tickets to use at the concessions stands it's usually a small out of the way place.  We waited long enough to need to visit the media center to use their restrooms.  The media center looks like an airport lounge -- rows of desks with power and ethernet cables, and a giant leaderboard at the end, as well as side rooms for conferences and interviews. Pretty nice. 

Finally, the radios and lunch tickets came and we set off for "Manual 5", which sat by the 13th green.  Given the first tee time was 12:40, and our shift ended at 2, we didn't expect to see any golfers, but given we had a shift like that at the last Solheim and discovered the grandstand already full 3 hours before the players got there I was surprised to find only a handfull of fans around the green by the time the first group teed off. (Nobody wanted to go in the grandstand, which was baking in the Colorado sun.)  We heard lots of enthusiastic cheers from the direction of the first tee, where the stands were packed all day, but we never had more than a trickle of fans as we started to put up the news -- mostly bad.  As usual, most leaderboards had problems.  Some had short people who couldn't reach the top 2 rows (all 12 were needed for the singles matches). Most didn't have enough "2"s, to post the match number (17-28) for each match in addition to the holes and scores.  Some had the big numbers they gave us to post the overall standing in matches won stolen overnight.  Fortunately, ours had everything we needed, so our shifft was easy.  At 2PM we turned it over to another pair, including one guy like me tall enough to reach the top row, and we headed for what turned out to be the coolest place to be -- the right front of the 14th green. 

It took a while for the first match to get there, but I had already learned they had moved the tees up to make that hole driveable for everyone and was sure the action would be interesting.  (I learned that while chasing down a "leak" in the ropes which resulted in a steady trickle of fans winding up inside the ropes near our leaderboard  on 13 not realizaing how they got there.  It turned out they had moved up the tee box on 14 and changed the route the caddies and players took from 13, and never closed off the ropes where that path came out, allowing fans to think they were entering a crosswalk instead of the player walkway between 13 and 14. )

We stayed for 8 or 9 groups, before the weather turned (it looked nasty for some time, then a little rumble which prompted Carla and I to pick up our stuff and think about moving, at which point the horn blew and given it was already after 5 and the cup was virtually lost we just headed out.)  Most players went for the green, and that generated lots of action.  In the first group Stacey Lewis hit a great shot and ultimately won the hole, a rare victory in her match against Anna Nordqvist, who also went for it but was off the green.  3 European players wound up in big trouble, and all hit amazing recovery shots.  Ciganda went way left off the tee (I was spotting tee shots to warn the other people in our area of incoming balls) winding up in the long grass in front of an automated leaderboard.  Since the pin was front right, with no room to stop it I first thought she was dead, then wondered whether there was a way to hit it toward the back of the green and get slingshot around the bunker that divides the almost horseshoe shaped green.  She lined up that way and hit a perfect shot, winding up close and saving birdie.  Caroline Hedwall hit one that had me telling everyone to duck.  It rattled around in the pine trees above our heads and landed in a bush about 10 feet away.  Carla ultimately wound up playing Marshal to clear the area.  She and her Caddie chatted in Swedish, which in spite of our ancestery neither of us understand, but ultimately he directed her at another bush where she took some practice swings.  She then hit what had to be one of the best shots I've seen, landing soft and rolling close. Michelle Wie, who laid up on the hole and most people were actually ignoring because of the excietement in the bushes, had to struggle to match her birdie. 

Suzanne Pettersen also went right (in fairness to these players, the wind was gusting into their line and to the right, no doubt causing some 
of these errant shots.  Her ball landed on a bag of a fan in front of us. With some help from a rules official, we removed all the spectator belongings from the area and moved the ropes.  She and her caddie spoke in English, and it was interesting conversation.  I looked at the shot and thought her options were limited because of low branches from the pines. Indeed, her caddie worked to convince her that a low pitch was the best option, and she nearly holed it.  Lizette Salas laid up, like Wie, hit a good shot, but missed a little downhill putt to lose the hole and fall back to all square.  A couple of other players shot balls very near us over there, but none so exiting.  I regretted having to bail 3 groups from the end, but knowing the local weather there was no guarantee of how long the delay would be.  Many other fans and volunteers bailed with us.  We watched the finish from a brew pub eating dinner.  It was no surprise and quite appropriate to see Hedwall can the winning putt, reacting just like she did on 14 getting up and down out of a bush for birdie. 

I was glad to see Salas finish well and to see some of the Americans play well even after the cup was lost, but I really wonder what went wrong for the US, who I would have thought would have all the advantages -- altitude, heat, and desert playing conditions aren't exactly common in Europe.  I'm sure that there will be plenty of questions asked, just as their were after the Ryder Cup, but I feel worst for the players who did their best and came up short.  Some of the stars geneuinely stunk.  Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel couldn't buy a putt the whole weekend, and when they made one their opponents slammed in a bomb on them to halve.  Nothing I saw today or yesterday changes my view on laying up to "a full shot" on holes like 14 -- almost everyone who did it wound up losing the hole to an opponent who bombed it down there and got up and down from rough, garbage, or a bunker to squeak out a birdie.  (We saw no eagles on the hole, but lots of birdies). It's consistent with my view on this kind of stuff -- get it as close as you can, and learn to hit those little floppy pitches around the green and you will be a lot better off than laying up to a full wedge then having it go off in wind or bad contact and wind up where your opponent put his or her drive.

So, the Solheim is done, a week off, then we will be in Ft Wayne to score for the Web.com tour players in search of their tour cards.

Hotel Fitness Championship (Fort Wayne, Indiana, 2013)

This is a new tournament, the first of a series of "Final" tournaments for the Web.com tour, which now offers 50 tour cards to the top finishers in a series open to the top 75 on their tour plus positions 126-175 on the PGA tour.  We had the good fortune to get the job of Walking Scorer, probably the best volunteer job out there.  We were a little dubious about a new tournament and one that seemed lacking in advance organization and publicity, but the experience was terrific.

Thursday, August 29

The Web.com tour is different, not in the quality of play, which is first rate, but definitely in the crowds and attendant problems.  Carla and I spent half of Wednesday doing a job we hadn't done before -- score reporters for a pro-am.  That would be the Chick Evans Scholarship fund pro-am, a nice cause with a lot of interest.  Except for the fact that it was probably 90 degrees with no shade and no breeze this was an easy job.  They had people on every other hole, so your job is simply to ask the pro in each group what score they had on the last two holes and radio it in.  That is of course the easy part.  The format is best ball of a pro playing his own ball, plus a group of amateurs who pick the best of their drive, then each plays his own ball from that spot and uses his handicap.  My hole was relatively easy -- a short par 4 (by pro standards), where while a few pros hit errant drives, they all hit the green and birdied or parred, while each group usually had a gorilla among the ams who hit the ball within 30-50 yards of the green leaving a pitch and putt for birdie, sometimes net eagle.  I think only 3 or 4 hit shots that threatened my perch behind the green.  Carla had a bit more adventure, a par 5 where the ams were usually hitting long shots at it in 2, and had to find all the misses to stay in the hole.  Thre was no marshal, so she and one of th EMTs stationed behind the hole (one look at the average 
age and shape of the am field will tell you why they had a pair of EMTs with well equipped truck positioned behind the two most distant holes) -- had to find those shots. 

What was most interesting was to watch the interactions.  Some pros were really good with their groups, giving lessons on playing those little pitches with fairway woods or hybrids, on flop shots, and helping read every putt.  Others simply ignored the ams and took their caddies off to the other side of the green to putt at likely pin positions for the real tournament. 

One of the real treats of the minor league tournament was that we got shuttle service -- they rode us out to our holes in a cart, and picked us up at the end of the day.  Water, soda, or gatorade were readily available to anyone working.  Not like some of the other gigs we have had where dehydration is a major threat in the summer. 

Thursday we arrived bright and early for our first shift walking with the groups.  We knew there would be differences -- the PGA tour (including the minor leagues) uses a different scoring device, one teathered to a large and somewhat unwelidy fanny pack holding the battery and radio. The software is different too, but not too different.  They ran through it for us in about 5 minutes, no big deal, but I had to wonder about some of the other volunteers who never did it before and were trying to take copious notes -- (hint --  you have no time to consult notes while working). Carla and I were assigned two consecutive groups off the first tee.  She got Sean O'hair, DJ Trahan, and a player she didn't know, and I got Nick O'hearn, Len Mattice, and a player I didn't know.  Not bad.  We were real early getting up towards the tee, and in the process ran into another volunteer junkie we know -- he's been at at least half a dozen tournaments we've done, a guy who's probably at least 80, and by knowing the tournament organizers has created a niche for himself as a roving marshal -- he goes with the "big" groups to provide extra crowd control.  We also met the Web.Com Operations guy who trained us to do the score reporting (our committee chair was playing in the pro am and not available).  He seemed delighted to have us there, gave us a behind the scenes tour of the scoring trailer (so we could meet the faces behind the voices on the radio), and the Web.com tour's operations trailer (best of all, he showed us where their beer cooler was and invited us to have a brew after our round, which we gratefully accepted). 

The whole operation is pretty casual -- all this stuff is just parked in the clubhouse parking lot, where the players park, and not roped off so anyone can wander in.  There's no big merchandise tent -- if you want logo stuff you just go into the pro shop in the clubhouse, and it doesn't take a special badge to get there.  Just about everyone (volunteers, general public, caddies, VIP guests) parks in a field adjacent to the 9th and 18th greens, making it a short and easy walk into the course.  (Unlike most, where you have to ride a school bus from the parking to a drop off point that's usually 2-3 holes away from the clubhouse area.  This is a perfect setup for walking scorers, who have to get to the 1st and 10th tees to start and usually finish in the scoring area somewhere near the clubhouse.

There were probably no more than half a dozen fans on the first tee as our groups teed off.  All the players arrived at the last minute, but all 
introduced themselves and thanked us for working.  When two of my players hit their tee shots into the trees in the left rough on the opening hole --   a short par 4, I thought it might be a long day.  Wrong, both hit great recovery shots and parred it while O'hearn birdied it from the fairway.  Two went similarly with a birdie or two and I thought this was fun.  Then I noticed that the smiley face on my scoring device was frowning -- not a good sign.  I had heard a couple of other scorers ahead of me have trouble and wanted no part of that.  Worst of all, I felt obligated to drag out my emergency backup -- a scorecard from my home course and keep the critical info on it, not easy while juggling a PDA, a stylus, and a pencil for that scorecard.  Half way down 3 they noticed I had trouble in scoring central and asked me to force-reconnect, which I tried.  No dice.  I got the request to radio in the scores for 2 and 3 (fortunately I had lots of time since 4 is a long par 3 which plays slow.  For the next 4 holes, my PDA when in and out of connection and I had to radio in scores.  I tried to figure out what was wrong and thought it might have been triggered by sitting down (and bumping the big battery/radio pack).  After 6 a tech guy came out and fiddled a bit and said he thought it was just a weak radio and a relative dead spot in their coverage.  After that though, the smileys returned and I stopped being bugged for scores -- a big improvement. 

My group played well through the front 9.  Jason Gore had made an early run at the tournament, -6 in 6 holes, and others were streaking, but my guys were at -3 and -4 and well up on the board.  Then came the back -- a much tougher challenge.  There were some birdies and some bogies, and O'Hearn and Mattice kept tradiing places at -3 and -4, while my 3rd guy (Hoge) got to -2 and eventually -3.  They all reduced the impossible 12th, a par 5 we watched the pro am people make a meal of, to a birdie fest.  Drive, layup, pitch, putt.  Simple hole, just ignore all the water around the landing areas.  On the impossible 15th, which has 4 creek crossings dividing the fairway into islands, all 3 bombed the ball onto the central island and went for the green.  That's where the fun started.  Mattaice hit one way left, and about the time I was thinking he ought to hit a provisional the marshal waived to say he found it.  (He eventually pitched from a bad lie over the green and I think bogied. O'hearn just went in a greenside bunker and parred, but Hoge hit what looked like a great shot to the back pin position -- then it rolled 
off the green on the right, down a bank and into the creek.  A lot of "F*ck"s and club slamming followed -- a bad sign.  It was lively scoring 
around the green, following the adventures, and I hated having to ask Hoge's caddie to confirm his bogie at the end, but I got it all right.  Hoge was clearly rattled, and after a good drive on the next hole left his approach short in a creek bed, from which he escaped with another bogie.  Mattiace on the other hand came back with a couple of birdies getting to -5, good enough for T8 overnight in the end, only 3 shots back. Hoge made a mess of 18 to finish even.  I felt bad for his small fan club, about the only fans we had following the group.  Finishing was easy -- no problems in scoring and all the players thanked me (I got 3 signed balls plus a headcover that Nick O'hearn's caddie found on the first hole -- I needed a new headcover for my 3W anyway).  We watched a couple of hours play on 10 and 16 after lunch and that beer in the truck, then an early night for another early round tomorrow. Tomorrow might be a bit uglier.  After tomorrow they cut the field to 60 and ties, which is currently going to be at -2.  There's going to be a lot of grinding going on to stay in it.

Friday, August 30

Another day in Fort Wayne where we got up before dawn to check in.  (Good thing we did, they were overstaffed with scorers and some of the later ones didn't get groups to themselves.)  Carla and I got consecutive groups off the 10th tee this time.  Hers had 3 players struggling to make the cut, an Aussie, a New Zealander, and Justin Bolli, who we had scored in the pro-am. I had one recogniseable name -- Aaron Oberhosler, who started the day at -6, plus Scott Parel, an older player from Augusta GA who started at -3, probably good enough to make it as well, and John Peterson, who started even.  The scene on the 10th tee was straight out of Tin Cup. -- Sun rising over the mist, maybe 1 or 2 curious spectators there, and otherwise just me, the players and caddies, two officials from the Western Golf Association in their green jackets (The WGA is the sponsor of the Evans scholarship fund which is the chartity that the tournament mainly benefits, and they are the announcers on the tee boxes), and waiting in the bushes the scorer for the next group.  The group started well, with 3 drives in the fairway, and a 
birdie by Oberhosler, and I realized he had just gotten to within a stroke of the lead.  That was a repeating pattern -- my group generally put their tee shots on the fairway and their approaches on the greens and made a lot more birdies than bogies.  11 was a bit more challenging, with Parel in the left bunker and one of the others just over the green, but on 12, a tough par 5 with lots of water there were birdies, and even Parel who hit his approach a little left and kicked into the hazard saved par. 

Then things really got going.  On 15, the impossible par 5 with 4 creek crossings Petersen reached in two and almost tapped in the eagle, while the others had easy birdies (in spite of the fact that Oberhosler hit the lone tree in the fairway and had to lay up as a result.  That put Oberhosler 
alone in first, and I was delighted to see it go up on the scoreboard beside the green as soon as I put it in.  16 was a blur to me.  After grabbing a quick bottle of water (eating and drinking while scoring is a challenge --  you don't have enough hands), I noticed in the middle of the fairway that I was bleeding all over everything.  Somewhere, either on the lid of the cooler or on something I encountered on the long walk between 15 and 16 I had cut my arm, so I spent most of the rest of the hole mopping up and being glad I had stuffed a few napkins from the concession stand in a pocket.  The group took a breather too with 3 pars.  17 was a hole I thought they may have trouble with.  Parel hit his drive left onto the cart path in some little trees, while the others were in the middle within easy pitching distance.  The others pitched tight, while Parel took a drop off the path (gotta look close to be sure what happened in cases like that), then made his caddie pace the distance to the pin before playing -- it paid off, he hit it to tap in distance, and the others sunk their putts. 

The weird thing was nobody was noticing what was going on.  One of the marshals in the landing area asked me how they were doing and I pointed out that Oberhosler was the leader.  Nobody was following the group except for one guy who was a freind and fan of Petersen.  When they all birdied it another marshal observed I had a good group.  Yeah, right. 

I thought 18 would be a repeat, but someone missed a birdie, only 2, and knowing the front had played easier yesterday I thought we may have some really low scores.  That wasn't going to happen though -- the pins were tougher on the front today.  They all ground for pars on 1, and on 2, an easy par 5, both Oberhosler and Parel hit it in the woods (Oberhosler actually hit a provisional, which creates some extra work in scoring since you have to track both shots).  Both were in play, but were punch outs and eventually pars, while Petersen birdied again to get to about -6, which I was delighted to tell his freind/fan when he asked. 

I dreaded going on to 3, because holes 3-7 are in a radio dead zone.  Having learned a bit more about the technology though I thought I might manage it better.  The USGA events all wire up repeaters and use WiFi or some similar technology to connect their scoring devices, but the Web.com tour uses a private radio network with a single antenna off their truck.  Having seen the truck it was obvious what was wrong -- it was parked in spot where a forest and some tall houses blocked the line to the front 9.  Given Oberhosler's position I was set to radio in the scores hole by hole as soon as I saw the frownie face on the PDA, but we played 3 without a problem. (No problems from the players either, an easy hole.)  4 was more challenging, with two missing the green and even Oberhosler with a long putt.  It was hard to believe that early in the morning I heard on the radio that La Belle had aced the hole -- it's over 220 yards, and the pin wasn't easy.  Labelle didn't make the cut though. So much for aces.  On 5 Oberhosler hit in a bunker and laid up while the others in the fairway waited and waited for Carla's group to clear the green.  That's when the smile on my PDA turned upside down.  Neither Petersen nor Parel made the green, but Petersen almost holed out his pitch from the rough to birdie it while the others made par.  I sought out the highest point near the green and told the PDA to reconnect, which it did and kept me out of having to relay scores by radio. 

The first hint of interest in our group was on the 7th tee, a longish par 3 all over water, where someone with a big microphone hung out.  There were TV cameras and photographers waiting on the green to watch as Oberhosler rolled in a long one to get to -12, and yesterday at least 8 and 9 were birdie holes.  The media stayed with us through 8, where Petersen was a bit left but the others were in good position, but the pin was tougher.  Petersen bogeyed after missing the green and hitting a mediocre pitch, and I thought Oberhosler would par after being only a couple of inches into the first cut of rough around the green.  His bladed wedge was pretty good, maybe 4-5 feet away and he had been sinking those all day.  This one though didn't go in and ran 2-3 feet past.  He took some time to set up and putt again -- and again it didn't go in.  3 putts from short range for a double.  Ugh.  9 was uneventful for everyone except Parel, who had been teetering on -3 all day. Sometimes he got to -4, sometimes falling to -2, but was -3 as he came to the hole and hit a good drive and the best approach.  I watched his putt from nearly behind him and thought it would go in to give him a 1 shot cushion on the projected cut.  It didn't, and it didn't stop, going maybe 6 feet past.  He had been missing those little putts all day long and I thought shit -- this guys' going to miss the cut on the last hole.  I don't think anyone was happier to see it go in.  On the way to the scoring table, a freind in the galery asked him how he played and he wasn't happy.  I thought it was finally time to tell him how glad I was he sank that putt to stay inside the cut, but he thought it would be one short (it wasn't!)

Carla had one of those struggling groups, but they played better today than the day before, and she had one player at -2 with a makeable putt to go to -3 on 9.  He seemed dejected and didn't make a good effort and missed, and she was sure he didn't know where he stood.  Too bad.  In the end the cut was indeed -3, all 6 of the players I scored for made it.  3 of 6 of Carla's made it. 

Oberhosler was the most talkative of the players I was with, telling the others about some of his past tournaments including winning the Pebble Beach pro-am (and being caught by Vijay and his partner out of nowhere another year), as well as having lost his caddie because he made him too much money and he retired.  One of the caddies in my group as well as one in Carlas group had caddied before, then left to try his hand at other things, but returned to caddie because it was more fun (or better for their health) than business.  I guess it's in your blood. 

We watched a lot of the afternoon action on some of the holes around the clubhouse.  The most interesting was probably the McCarren group on 16. McCarren was the early leader at -8 but played +3 today.  On 16 he hit one well left near the cart path forcing us to move from our position between him and the green.  I noted quickly that he had a dilemma.  His lie wasn't bad and he had a line at the green, but if he dropped off the path he would likely be blocked by trees.  He played it, grinding his spikes into the path, and after we stopped the cart traffic on the path got up and down from just over the green to save par and ultimately finish  -5. 

We watched both of our groups from yesterday play 18, their 9th hole. Carlas players had improved considerably over yesterday and looked to be making the cut.  Mattaice was in good shape and O'Hearn had a chance. Mattaice actually recognized me and waived as he came through. (He was the only one who didn't birdie the hole, but he finished well none the less, and O'Hearn made the cut. 

So tomorrow will start with only about 70 players, and weirdly enough they go off in 3's early in the morning.  Must be some TV thing.  Of course that's all subject to weather, and the forecast isn't great, so we will see what happens next.

Saturday, August 31

We got up early today having been told they wanted all the volunteers there at 7:30 for a rather strange Saturday start -- 3 somes off 1 and 10 beginning at 8, so you finished the day by about 3PM.  It fit the weather forecast for mostly afternoon thunderstorms though.  They gave us the first 2 groups off the 10th tee today, which in the warped world of a two tee weekend start means the top 2 groups in the bottom half of the field.  That was fine, the "known" players were scattered throughout the field.  Sure enough, I drew Scott McCarren, Robert Karlsson, and Robert Streb, and Carla drew Shawn Stefani, Wes Roach, and Aaron Watkins, all 5 under.  (I don't know why I got the better known players all week, but she gets her revenge tomorrow --  we will come to that one.) 

It was another misty morning with only a few fans to hear the opening tee shots.  McCarren seemed in a good mood chatting with me and my standard bearer, a Ft Wayne Local, about how much he liked the area (especially the housing bargains -- he's from California), and asking about the weather in the winter here (heh).  The group played the first few holes routinely, and by 13 McCarren had a couple of birdies and Karlsson was under par for the day.  Streb was grinding, often getting the ball not quite in the right place and not quite cashing in.  Then on 14, a shorter par 3, McCarren came up short in a bunker for the second or 3rd time, and made some comment about heavy air.  (Yeah, he's from the desert part of the Golden State and probably used to the ball flying a country mile on a hot day, not going to happen in the wet midwest.).  There were some bogies there as a  result, but birdies again on the impossible looking par 5 15th (except for Streb, who went for it in 2, like the others, and wound up just a bit right, on the rocks in the creek bed and needing a drop).  By 17 McCarren had gotten to -8 and was starting to show on the leader boards (yeah it was still early). 

As we made the turn I thought about the fact that it had been a long time since I'd seen the group ahead, and wondered just how slow we were playing. There was no one standout slowpoke, but nobody seemed in any hurry.  Sure enough, the rules guy had a chat with the players after they teed off on 1 about being too slow, which of course shook things up again.  McCarren bogeyed 1 (another approach too short), and then proceeded to outdrive Karlsson for the only time I noticed on 2 -- a little anger in there I think.  Streb lost his drive right and had to punch out, giving the tree in front of him a good whack with whatever iron he used (and somehow not breaking it).  Karlsson started to make steady progress though, birdieing the easier holes and getting to -9 by the 7th.  I was too busy to notice much, fighting again with the dead spot in the radio coverage trying to keep my PDA connected.  They were having a lot of trouble today and everyone wound up having to send in some scores by radio. 

7  is a par 3 that's all carry over a lake.  One of Carla's players who had been cool and calm all day let out a chorus of F*cks when he thought he was going to be short, then just cleared.  Since 7 was an area where several of the houses had crowds in the back yard looking, and this is a pretty conservative area,  I had to wonder about how they reacted to that one.  Karlsson hit his tee shot fat, and aside from a little pleading said nothing as it splashed down short.  I looked at about 200 yards of water between the tee box and green and wondered what he would do. 
Turns out there's a drop area on the forward tee, but it's no bargain.  Like most forward tees it's small, uneven, and worse yet filled with unrepaired divots.  (The caddies are religious about fixing divots normally, but here the divots no doubt land in the lake, beyond saving, and there's no sand box to fill them.)  Somehow Karlsson managed to miss the divots when dropping -- but he still couldn't get it close enough to save bogie. 

While all that was going on the others had gone to the green and when McCarren lined up 20 footer I had to ask a marshal to be sure that that was his tee shot -- and of course it went in to get him to -8 again.  He proceeded to hit a fairway wood way off the heel on the 8th tee coming up way short of the others.  It was a long shot, well over 200 yards, but he hit it perfectly, saying if it released it would probably go in the hole. 
It didn't, but it did roll forward a bit.  His caddie told him that drive was obviously just a layup to his preferred distance.  Karlsson and Streb 
both came up short in the right bunker. 

As we were walking up to the green I heard Carla call for a rules official on 9. A little background here.  In a USGA championship, each group has a rules official with them, who not only takes care of all the rules issues, but also is in charge of such things as stopping play for severe weather and getting everyone to the evacuation vans.  Here, all that falls on the walking scorers, who are the only ones out there with radios. We get the notification of weather problems and have the maps of where to go to be evacuated off the course if necessary.  We even have to radio in any medical problems for the fans, and any problems with the setup (like running out of water in the coolers on the tee boxes).  I commented to my standard bearer that the group ahead was getting a ruling and we might have to wait, then said in 3 rounds I hadn't had to call the rules people -- not that we hadn't had penalty strokes, provisionals, relief from the cart path, etc., but the routine stuff the players all handle on their own.  Then as I approach the green Karlsson flags me down and asks me to call rules, which I do.  I look at the situation and see his ball is almost completely burried in the edge of the bunker, but there's an odd circular bit of plastic just in front of it that he's worried about.  We wait a bit, but the rules guy comes in a cart and pokes at the plastic, deciding it's a drainage pipe, and thus an obstruction he gets relief from -- a free drop in the bunker.  That's a great break.  He manages to drop so it doesn't plug, then gets up and down for par.  Meanwhile McCarren who had to wait to putt (and actually was getting ready to putt out of turn before the rules guy came and had to stop and mark again) misses the birdie, and I feel he got a bit ripped off. Little did I know our adventure was only beginning. 

On the 9th tee, McCarren misses his drive right into a fairway bunker dejectedly, while the other two hit monster hooks.  Karlssons cracks off a tree somewhere, and Strebs disappears left of the tree.  There's a creek down the left side of the hole marked in red, so nobody hits a provisional. The marshals find both balls -- Karlssons in the creek behind the tree, and Strebbs about 100 yards further up on a cart path that he rode for at least 50 yards.  Karlsson looks at the situation a bit and asks for a rules official again.  The situation is this:  His ball is in a hazard and not playable.  About 3 inches to the right of the hazard where he went in is a cart path, and about 10 yards in front of that spot is a big tree whose trunks are going to obstruct the shot to the green from anything just right of the cart path.  What he wants to know from the rules official is if he can drop for relief from either the hazard (or eventually from the cart path) on that 3 inch strip between the hazard line and the path, and eventually place it there if he can't get the ball to stop some place in play.  There's enough room there for him to take a stance, and hit left of the tree if he could do it.  The rules guy says yes, and stays with us while he tries it.  As it happens, the ball trickles right from that spot and stops in a crack in the cart path -- it's now in play for relief from the hazard (with a penalty stroke), but now he gets relief from the cart path.  He and the rules official decide he's not going to be able to get relief left of the cart path without being in the hazard, so he will drop on the right.  He gets out the club he intends to play to determine where his nearest point of relief is right of the path, then his driver to measure the club lengths and drops again. 

While all this was going on I didn't notice that McCarren was getting ready to play his shot from the bunker, but suddenly there's a cheer from the green and then a big roar.  McCarren puts up his hands and drops the club, and somewhere in all that I hear Carla's voice on the radio telling me it went in -- is that  sandy eagle?  (Her group had already finished, cleared scoring, and she came out to watch mine finish and knew I couldn't see the green from where I was.)  I punched in the shot and looked ahead to see Streb also dropping off the cart path as well.  Both Streb and Karlsson ultimately reached the green and putted out, but the excitement was clearly for McCarren's bizarre finish.  He hit two shots in the last 2 holes worthy of birdies, missed out on the first one but it seemed like the golf gods were making up for it with the eagle. 

While all that was going on my standard bearer was saying he thought he heard thunder.  Nah, I said, we were right next to the parking lot and it sounded more like someone starting a big truck or a motorcycle.  As it turns out it was thunder, but it just missed the area by enough to avoid a 
stoppage of play.  In fact the weather held all afternoon, as we watched most of the top half of the field finishon 18 before leaving.  They didn't 
need a weather delay. 

Because of the relatively large number of players who made the cut on the number they have more people playing than they expected.  That means not enough scorers and standard bearers for tomorrow, and earlier tee times than expected.  According to the schedule Carla had a shift tomorrow morning and I didn't, but I'd rather work than spectate so I volunteered to fill in, and given they were much shorter on standard bearers and had some scorers who hadn't gotten 3 shifts I said I'd carry the sign, so the plan tomorrow is for me to be "sign boy" for Carla's group.  I've never done that job and it always looked like fun, you are in the ropes with the players without the responsibility for sending in the scores and all that other crap.  The signs the tour uses though are heavy  (Mostly metal, the USGAs are plalstic, probably so they can give those jobs to kids).  We are mainly hoping the weather will work out -- the forecast is again not promissing -- and we can have an uneventful round before heading home. 

Oh, and to give a bit more on the question on Sandies -- the tour is clearly using the scoring data to come up with it's own statistics, and my guess is it's up and down from a greenside bunker. When you finish a hole and verify a players score, the tour's scoring device just gives you a summary of what they did, including whether it was a fairway hit, the strokes to get to the green or fringe, and whether they visited a greenside bunker, so I'm guessing that's what counts.  (The USGA process reads back the whole trail of strokes for you to review.  They are also a lot fussier about it, and after you get done with the players scoring area you go to the USGA's scoring table and go through any corrections you have in case you recorded, say, a shot from the rough that really came from a fairway bunker.  The tour doesn't seem to care as long as the score is right).

Sunday, September 1

I expected to be sign boy today, but when we got to the course we found that they had recruited the women's golf team from a local university to fill those slots, but they were still short on scorers, so I "had" to score again today -- aw shucks :-) 

Carla and I got consecutive groups in the middle of the field.  Her players were Ryan Spears and Whee Kim (love that name :-), while mine were Shane Bertsch and "Johnny" Vegas.  The weather was cooperative -- mostly overcast, and no rain overnight to turn the makeshift parking lot to mush.  While waiting for our time we watched some of the players we had scored for earlier tee off.  There were actually fans in the first tee grandstand today.  Our standard bearers were both Sophomores at the college, and of course golfers, meaning we didn't have to worry a lot about them, either physically being able to handle the round and getting enough water, or being able to figure out how to update the numbers on the sign.  Carla's was also an occasional caddie at a local club and wound up helping the caddies of her players retrieve divots.  I was feeling a little guilty about once again getting the "known" player, but you don't always get what you expect. 

Waiting to tee off one of the other scorers waiting said he scored for Vegas the day before and that he was really long and very nice.  Both my players were nice, introducing themselves, and their caddies to both of us and thanking us up front for volunteering.  Vegas was incredibly long. His drive on 1 was past anyone else I scored for.  The hole was marked for measuring drives, and his drive was about 340.  Bertsch wasn't short either, and both hit reasonable shots to the green, but no birdies.  On 2, Vegas hit one right -- the hole is a dogleg right par 5, and most players hit to the corner, over a large cross bunker in the fairway that no doubt confounds the members and is irrelevant to these guys. Everyone else I scored for who hit right wound up in some light woods inside the corner of the dogleg, and had to punch out.  As we walked up there the marshal kept gesturing to Vegas to come forward.  When he got through the trees on the far side I thought maybe he got lucky and rolled through, but the Marshal told a different tale -- he saw the drive, waited for the sound of the ball crashing in the trees like everyone else, but heard nothing -- until he heard the ball plop in the fairway 50 yards past him.  Vegas hit it clean over the trees, something that nobody else had done according to the marshal on the hole.  He hit a good short approach to the green and sunk about an 8 footer for eagle.  It looked like this was going to get fun again. 

Length wasn't working to Vegas's advantage on 3, where he flew the green and failed to get up and down, and Bertsch birdied the 4th.  Vegas got near the par 5 5th in two and picked up another bird.  Both kept playing well, and by 10 I think Vegas was -10 and Bertsch -9.  Both birdied 9, Vegas by again hitting farther than anyone else on the hole (Even farther than Streb got with 50 yards worth of cart path on the day before).  That actually drew some fan reaction from what was looking like a bit of a crowd around the green.  After a couple of routine holes, I thought 12 would be interesting. My standard bearer hadn't seen the course before, so I was telling her about a lot of the holes and asking her to think about where the pros might hit the ball.  The tee sign on 12 said it was 580, but the pros cut a bit off that hitting over the corner of a lake and a bunker.  Both players hit good drives, and when we stopped between their balls in the fairway I pointed out the sprinkler just ahead of us said "207".  Vegas hit a good shot into the green, but not close, so I was thinking birdie at least, while Bertsch rolled a little too long. 

Vegas had the line pretty well on the eagle putt, but went maybe 4-5 feet past.  No problem I thought, he made those all day. He set up well, hit it, and seemed surprised when it didn't drop and rolled a couple feet past.  He didn't rush the next one, but it too rolled past the hole, and he gave it a look like it must have been covered in plastic or something.  Finally, the 4th putt dropped.  There's not much worse than a 3 putt par -- except for a 4 putt bogie. 

He dropped another on the next hole (hit his drive too far and too left, and again failed to get up and down from a missed green), and Bertsch wasn't going anywhere.  Ultimately they both finshed at -8, two under for the day, not awful, but not enough to move up the leader board. 

Carla's group proved more interesting.  On 3 I heard her ask on the radio if the scoring people knew whether there was a local rule allowing rocks to be moved in a bunker.  Whee Kim had hit his drive in a large bunker that lines the left side of the hole, and he and Spears had a discussion about it "Wasn't that on the rules sheet they gave us, do you have one?  Uh, no, I didn't take it on the course.  Neither did I".  (That was a lesson for her standard bearer -- don't ignore the local rules!) Scoring didn't know either, but they flagged down one of the rules officials who looked like he wondered why they were even asking (the answer is no, though I don't know why this particular rule was left to local option, and really don't know why tournaments don't routinely allow it.  The last thing you want when you have a gallery lining the hole is to have a pro unleashing a 100mph swing at a ball with stones behind it.)  he bogied the hole -- typical of his luck that day. 

Meanwhile her other player, Spears, couldn't miss a putt.  I was watching leader boards all day trying to see whether anyone was making a move, and I started to see the name "Spears" rising.  I didn't know him, then I noticed the hole number and realized he was in Carla's group.  By 17 I saw he was -8 for the day, impressive.  Then there was a roar from the 18th green, and a few minutes later Carla came on the radio to check out for the day after clearing scoring saying Spears had tied the course record at -9.  (On the last day, the scorers were all announcing when they finished and wishing the tournament staffer in scoring central a good day.  Another scorer said it was nice not talking to them for 4 days, meaning like us he never made a mistake and unlike us never had his PDA disconnect long enough in the "dead zone" that they needed his scores).  Carla said Spears could easily have been a stroke or two better, getting a bad break on 15 when he hit the pin and kicked too far away to make his birdie.  Meanwhile Kim couldn't make a putt, and after a lot of misses his caddie put an arm around him as if to 
say "better luck another day". 

The weather was dubious all day.  We had a bit of drizzle from time to time, and at one point another scorer called in to ask about the weather. ("it's starting to drizzle, are we going to continue?")  The answer was a much more polite equivalent of  "suck it up and keep scoring".  Weather doesn't stop a tournament unless it's hazardous, or you get so much rain that the players can't get relief from casual water.  As a scorer, your job is to keep punching the numbers in and try to keep the electronics dry.  (The USGA uses clip boards with plastic bags clipped to the bottom,  and if it rains you are supposed to stick the whole thing in the bag along with your writing hand and "score in the bag".  Not much fun.) 

All our players were appreciative at the finish.  Unlike our rounds as walking scorers at other tournaments, none wanted the scores read -- their 
cards agreed with our records in total, and that was good enough.  We collected signed balls from each, and everyone we asked signed our hats. Our young standard bearers were excited about having been part of the tournament.   As for us, we were burned out.  We ate our lunch and hung out to watch a few groups with players we had scored for play 9.  Our committee chair, having gotten all the scorers out for the day, had also come up to watch.  He was beat too, and frustrated about the difficulty in organizing this -- his first time as chair.  We told him he actually got lucky -- no weather problems.  That's when things really get tough, when groups don't finish and the scorers or standard bearers can't come back the next morning to finish the round.  He also explained the origin of the tournament.  It seems that a local businessman had sold his restaurant supply business for a pile of cash, and put some of it back into a new company called "Hotel Fitness", which basically works with hotels to build their fitness rooms, selling the furniture and excercise equipment.  He put about 4 million of the rest into underwriting the tournament for 3 years.  He's not much of a golfer, and he doesn't expect much direct sales for his new company, but he wanted to give something back to the area and bring a world class event to them.  It must be nice to have money to burn. 

We would have loved to see the finish, but exhaustion and a 3-1/2 hour drive said it was time to go.  We wished the staffers packing up the radios and PDAs for next week's tournament a good trip and a good tournament next week, and pushed on.  I wasn't surprised to see Immelman win.  I was surprised to see that the highest finisher of any of the people we scored for was John Petersen, T5,  a guy who started Friday at even and I thought might miss the cut, but was -8 today.  (If he had played half as well on Thursday and Saturday he probably would have won.)  I came away with a much better appreciation of the "minor leagues".  Somehow I think I'm going to be following the Web.com tour events more closely than the Fedex cup finals in the next couple of weeks -- after all, it really matters to these guys, much more than which of the millionaires in contention on the big tour will get a nice retirement annuity :-)  We found ourselves with mixed feelings that we probably can't do this event next year, having already committed to scoring for the BMW in Denver, which will probably be the next week.  I suppose 
that's a nice dilemma to have.

NCAA Men's College Regional (Sugar Grove, IL, 2014)

This was our first experience working a college golf event.  This was one of 6 regionals to determine the participants in the finals in 2 weeks.  Since College events don't draw huge crowds or have lots of sponsors, they only need a small core of volunteers to help spot balls in the rough, drive shuttle carts, and send in the scores, which go up on the web site golfstat.com in real time.  The event was held at Rich Harvest Farms, the private course on the estate of Jerry Rich, who has been a long time supporter of Northern Illinois University and golf everywhere.  The course hosted the 2009 Solheim cup, which drew over 100,000 fans.  This was going to be a bit lower key.

A major player in the event was clearly going to be the weather.  The winter of 2013-2014 was arguably the worst in recorded history in the area and hadn't really stopped as of the mid May dates of this event.  Most courses in the area were in bad shape, but when we went to RHF the week before the event to get our training to be walking scorers we saw the course was in excellent shape. 

Thursday, May 15 (or this might really suck)

In about 2 hours Carla and I will be off the tee scoring for 3 players each from Kent State, Purdue, and Missippi State. Sounds great -- except
it's about 40 degrees, windy, and raining, and supposed to stay that way for the next 2 days. I have no clue how college players will handle the cold, wet, windy conditions. Rich Harvest is a beast under perfect conditions, and it's going to be nasty out there today and tomorrow. Really a shame for the organizers because the place is really beautiful for play and spectating, but nobody but the familys and coaches is going to come out in this.

We show up about an hour to our tee times and are directed to park in the "paddock". That was a fenced in area just outside of the estates faux
plantation house where they sometimes keep riding horses. It's got 6 inch high grass and mud -- my shoes and pants will be soaked before I ever get to the first tee. I guess it's not a true volunteer experience without having to park at least once in a hog wallow.

The gear for this assignment is simple, a radio with an ear piece clip on microphone and a flimsy printed paper scorecard listing your players. There are 5 players from each school, and they put them off in groups of 3, 3 different schools in the same group, with all 5 groups from the same school consecutive  (This makes it easier for the coaches to stay with their players). Carla and I had groups from the same schools -- Kent State, Purdue, and Mississippi State. Kent State has a slight advantage here because they play meets with NIU at Rich Harvest, and it's definitely the kind of course it pays to see. Unfortunately, while waiting around for our group tee times we heard some real horror stories getting here. The trouble is that the air traffic control center near Ohare had a fire on Tuesday and they cancelled over 1,000 flights. A couple of teams got in only late at night last night, and had to go right off this morning without seeing the course.

The weather started really nasty. low 40's, light to moderate rain, and lots of wind. We watched one of the So Cal players in the groups ahead go off in a ski cap and figured he'd have it soaking wet in 3 holes. It's clear that the teams cleaned out a Gortex wharehouse somewhere, as most were in full rainsuits. Most had umbrellas too, but they were pretty useless. (Both Carla and I left our pain sticks behind).

My players started okay, but Barrett Edens, my Mississippi St player got a lesson in wet bluegrass rough on the first hole. His first hack went about 30 yards, but far enough to get the second on and get a bogie. He struggled with chipping and putting all morning though and I had to wonder how much northern practice he had. Bermuda is a different beast.

Josh Waylen, my Kent State Player was clearly the best adapted. He hit a lot of solid shots, and made pars even when he missed greens. Phillipe Schweizer, my purdue player was inconsistent.

Holes 1 and two are very open, and with the howling wind frigid. I really wondered how this was going to go. The pin position on 3 was diabolical -- on top of a little hill. I heard scoring central question Carla's scores on the hole, a par 3 (two 5's and a 4), but as soon as I saw the green it was clear why. By the time we got there all 3 team coaches were there telling their players to keep their putts towards the back of the green or it would roll off the hump 15-20 feet, and they took the advice well. 4 was routine (not bogey free mind you), then we come to 5, a 195 yard par 3 all over water into the full force of the wind. Carlas group was just leaving the tee, and two went up to the drop area, while the 3rd was probably 40 yards right of the green. My guys learned, clubbed up, and kept their shots near the green. At least by then the rain stopped.

6 yeilded my only rules issue. Phillippe hit it well left into trees and it finished sitting down in a little groove. It actually looked like the back
of a 2 foot on a side square of turf that had been replaced, but not smooth, like someone took out a tree and sodded it poorly. The rules official didn't think it deseerved relief, so he sucked it up and hit one of the best shots I've seen, from about 150 yards out, under overhanging trees, to about 4 feet -- then missed the birdie. Argh!

On 7 Josh nearly hit me on a Ricochet (he was punching out and hit a pine tree and had it kick back to my feet. No big deal though. Josh birdied 8 I think and as a result finished the front 9 -1. Great score on the day.

I think Philippe's birdie on 9 after a great approach that got to gimme range was his first birdie and yielded +1 through 9, not bad. Barett
struggled with a couple of doubles, and +6 through 9. Still, I probably couldn't play those holes from those tees in those conditions at anything
less than double par :-)

By now it was almost getting nice -- a few patches of sun, and a little less wind. There were even a few fans around the turn. Too bad the golf wasn't always nice. After a long wait on 11 tee for a ruling for the group in front on an embedded ball in the crap right of the hole, my guys get off the tee pretty well, but Philippe is hosed by the edge of the rough and has to hack forward. The others go for this par 5 in 2 and miss, Josh by going into the heaving rough left of the hole. Phillipe hits his 3rd from rough and comes up short in a bunker plugged -- I think every full shot hit into a bunker plugged today. That eventually lead to a 7, the worst score our group shot on any hole, though about this time I heard someone radio in an 11. I wondered what hole, and later learned it was number 5, the par 3 over water into the wind. Must have had a Tin Cup moment.

12 was amusing. It's a 90 degree dogleg through the trees, if you don't put it in exactly the right spot it's dead. Josh had his second tree monkey
shot, hitting a solid strike on a tree that went behind him. Not good.  (The tree in question has a brass plaque on it with the title "Snead's Crotch".  Apparently Sam Snead played the course with the owner.  When confronted with the confusing layout of trees, Snead asked where to hit it and Mr Rich said to aim at the crotch of the tree.  That's where he hit it, nestled between roots at the foot of the tree, from where he punched out, than hit it stiff for a "routine" par.)

The highlight of my day was 17. It's a shorter par 5, with water in front of the green. The hole produced plenty of drama during the Solheim Cup. Barret and Philippe missed the fairway and had to lay up, but Josh hit a perfect drive, and after some discussion with his coach, pulled out the lumber and hit it on the green. It still didn't look like an easy 2 putt, a 25 foot or so downhill putt with a mean left to right break as it slowed.
When he hit it I liked the line. I was in the perfect spot to watch it curl more and more as it slowed and drop into the middle. Both the others had birdie chances, but missed. The eagle though was the only one scored by anyone on any hole all day long. 18 was an anti climax -- a long par 4 with a hazard in the middle and it was the same old story -- little misses in the rough and chunked chips resulting in bogies and a double. Yuk.

By the end I was dead tired. Our round went nearly 6 hours. No real place to sit anywhere. By then it was cloudy again, cold, and damp. Tomorrow, we do it all again. Same time, same place, same weather forecast. More like Groundhog Day than Caddie Shack :-)

Snow!?!?  -- Friday May 16th at the NCAA Regional

I knew it wasn't going to be nice when I could hear the sound of water running in the downspouts during the night. When I got up and saw blobs of something white falling out of the sky I thought I was seeing things, but as it got light it I could see it was indeed big sloppy snow flakes, and grass was white. This is at least a month past any visible snow I remember seeing here (and I've lived in this area for over half a century during some really awful springs). The weather map showed only rain 20 miles away where the NCAA course is, but it wasn't going to be any warmer or dryer. It's 10 degrees colder than yesterday, and yesterday was bad enough. We were about to head out for the day, when I checked the golfstats.com website one more time and saw that today's rounds had been delayed 2-1/2 hours for weather.

We have members of  the 10th, 11th, and 12th teams today (Mississippi St, Cleavland St, and New Mexico St.) They are all well behind the 5th place finish needed to move on to the nationals, but anything can happen when conditions are awful and even good players can shoot in the mid 80's. For two hours we watched snowballs fall out of the sky here without it getting any warmer. Still, the web site said they would start at 10:30 and we would go out about noon.

So, we suited up and took off about 10:30. I drove through a deluge on the way to the course and did not anticipate that they would actually play, but when we got there it was clear that the tournament was underway. About the time we wondered how we were going to get to the 10th tee (over a mile, not quickly walkable) a freind driving a golf cart offers us a ride. It's not easy hanging on to the rear facing seats of a 4 seat cart when everything is wet and 35 degrees, but we made it, just in time to meet Carla's group and get off. It's still cold, and raining, and since the box lunches we were counting on hadn't arrived by the time we went out, we are hungry.

The back 9 was mostly a bit of a struggle. Nobody lost a ball (I found one and the spotters found another), but there was a bit of ugly golf, except from my Cleavland State Player, Andrew Bailey. He was only +2 yesterday, and mostly making pars. Then he finished 16, 17, and 18 with 3 birdies. 18 was the amazing one. 18 is a monster par 4, about 460 I think, with a hazard across the hole maybe 175 yards out and a tree in the middle of it. Bailey and my NM State player hit great drives on the hole, all the way to the edge of the hazard. Willy Hogan, my NM state player, tried to hit a long iron through the mostly bare tree, struck wood, and dropped in the long grass beyond the hazard. Bailey looked at it, pulled out a long iron, aimed right of the tree and hit a monster hook with it. It landed at the front of the green, kicked left and back, and finished 3 feet from the pin. Probably the only birdie on the hole all day long.

During the first 9 we were all struggling with the weather and the defective technology. The radios were basically not working well at all. Carla's
clearly had a connection problem, mine worked, but the scoring desk couldn't hear me in part because I had to keep shaking rain out of the microphone. It didn't help that my hands had gotten so cold my fingers weren't really working well enough to hold the button down. At some point we discovered they had missed the scores on one hole, and somehow not noticed the hole numbers I was giving so I had to relay 5 hole scores. Carla traded her defective radio at the turn. I struggled on.

The rain stopped as we made the turn, and my group started playing better. Mostly pars and birdies. The setup wasn't as brutal as yesterday, but mostly it seemed like relief. On the 3rd tee the sun was out and everyone was shedding layers. On 5 everyone was hitting the green or near it and putting for birdies.  On 6 all 3 of my players nearly reached the green, and 2 made birdie. That was the high point though. the sun went in, it got cold and damp, and we had some major errors on 8 (two balls plugged in greenside bunkers and a bogie and a double). I couldn't wait to get through 9, but my Mississippi state player struggled to finish. 3 bunker shots, and no putts dropping for a triple.

Andy Bailey though finished 34-35, for what was probably the best round of the day, and tied for second in the individual standings. A joy to watch. I don't think the rest of his team lived up to that, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish high individually.

Today's round was just a bit over 5-1/2 hours, and nobody was getting time penalties. This is our last day at the NCAA. Prior committment tomorrow. It's too bad, since the weather is actually supposed to be nice (but maybe after a frost delay, it's supposed to get very cold overnight here. In spite of the weather, this was a fun experience. Rich Harvest is an amazing course. Brutally tough (maxed out slope off the tips) but playable if you have the game for it. College golf is a great place to volunteer. You are definitely needed, and the players, coaches, and fans all appreciate the effort. Some of these guys might wind up on tour some day, but even if they don't, it's nice to be able to help. I'm amazed at their abilities under very tough conditions. As I write this we are home listening to the LPGA coverage where they are talking about how tough it was that they had 2 inches of rain overnight. Gee, that's tough. These guys were playing in active rain and sometimes sleet, playing the ball down, and being very strict with eachother about casual water, which there was plenty of out there. No knock on the LPGA in particular, but the pros have it soft compared to the college game. (I should also point out the college kids have no caddies, which means all that rain gear has to go into the bag they are carrying. I've played like that, it's no fun.)

US Senior Open (Edmond, Oklahoma, 2014)

This was our 9th Senior Open.  We weren't originally going to do it -- Oklahoma, in July???  But with the Women's Open and US Open back to back at Pinehurst this year we didn't really want to take that on so we figured what the heck.  The tournament also had a job description we hadn't seen -- NBC Spotter.  The wanted people who knew golf and could walk 18 inside the ropes -- perfect.  We had seen these people before and wondered how they got the job.  Well, this was our opportunity to see how sausage is made for TV.

When the week for the tournament came, the forecast was unreal -- upper 90's most days, over 100 on the weekend.  After landing at OKC I knew this was "different", when on the way up to the course (Oak Tree National) for the volunteer party I passed 3 giant billboards advertising tornado proof shelters.  Oak Tree laid out a good spread for the volunteers though and the course looked to be in great shape.  Greens perfect, fairways green and lush, and the nastiest, tangliest Bermuda rough I've ever seen anywhere.  In the days leading up to the tournament, we played 3 rounds on our own (rained out on Wednesday), finding some decent local tracks, and went to a couple of museums, as well as walking the whole course to get a look at it and watching more than a few hopefuls out there practicing.  As usual, the guys who put in the most practice time are the qualifiers -- the big names probably played there long before the spectators showed up and practice sparingly, or at odd hours.

The biggest mystery was of course just what we would be doing and how we would get to where we needed to be to do it.  At the party, they didn't have our badges -- someone at NBC had (by mistake as it turned out) claimed all the spotter badges and they could only offer us generic credentials.  Nobody seemed to know exactly where the NBC compound was (probably because their logo didn't appear on anything there.  Apparently all the production trucks and gear are now sub-contracted.  Nobody from the USGA knew who the local contact was, and the only contact we had from NBC wasn't on site yet.  So, we were a bit apprehensive showing up on Thursday.

Roger and Me (1st day)

Thursday dawned rainy, and since we weren't asked to be there before 1, we were in no hurry getting to the course and just hung out in the hotel.  After the rain stopped we went out to the course and spent most of the morning in the grandstand on 16. The best shot we saw was probably Monty chipping in from a tricky lie in the intermediate rough in front of the green for his 3rd straight birdie to tie the lead. He had missed the fairway and came up short on his approach, and we were debating whether he'd consider putting it or flopping it given the pin was very tight to the front and he had a lousy stance. Instead he played a low wedge shot that checked into the intermediate rough right in front of the green, then rolled out and dropped. A preview of things to come. Langer had been in the group before (seemed like something from the 90's, Monty chasing Langer), and managed to drop a shot on the hole after going into the bunker in front of our grandstand, hitting a great bunker shot, but missing a 4 or 5 footer. Go figure.  The course was in great shape -- no evidence of the rain delay.  Even the parking lot wasn't awful (well no more awful than it was all week, basically a lumpy field mowed to about 8 inches in which the volunteers had marked off some of the chuckholes and other hazards.

After lunch we wandered out the muddy "vendor access" road to the NBC area (a security volunteer had actually helped us figure out where they were on Wednesday) where we found a few people waiting around the golf carts. This is the kind of behind the scenes tour for a golf tournament you don't really want to know too much about. NBC shared the area with all the caterers, souvenir suppliers, and the USGA (which had piles of spare parts for grandstands, leaderboards, and even those big clocks scattered around the course. The NBC golf cart area looks like the opening scene from "King Ralph", where the British Royal Family assembles for a photo and gets electrocuted from wiring soaking in muddy water after a rain storm. Fat cables running everywhere through makeshift wiring panels and ultimately through chargers into the carts, everything soaking in mud.  A bunch of hatless people were waiting around there, and the guy in charge kept telling us to wait a bit more. Finally another volunteer pointed to the bald spot on his head and said we needed those hats they promissed us now or he'd burn. Most of us felt the same. The hats are actually quite nice, and best of all white, not dark blue (not cool when it's over 100).  (Footnote -- when you have a walking job you learn to travel light, so nobody wanted to come in their volunteer hat and then get stuck carrying it after they got one from NBC)

Eventually I learned my job for the day was not what I expected -- I was to be Roger Maltbie's driver -- all week. (Actually they offered it to Carla first, but we traded given my dodgy hip was a concern for me walking some of the steep slopes here, and I'm a much more agressive golf cart driver than she is anyway).

Most of the others got assigned as spotters, who go with each group and track play so they can tell the broadcast coordinator who is going to hit next, what he's lying, etc. when needed. A couple went as yardage reporters, who would report the distances in the fairway from the shots for the two featured groups (the ones Maltbie and Notah Begay were following), while a couple of us were drivers for the commentators. Real simple they said, just go where he tells you, and keep the cooler in your cart supplied with the right stuff off the tee boxes. (The guy setting it up of course told us what Notah and Roger would want.) We got radios (nothing special, but all on the same frequency as the spotters at least so we had some idea what was going on), stocked the coolers, and mostly hung out until close to showtime. Roger and Notah came out about 15 minutes to air time and we were off to the first tee. Getting there wasn't too hard (I only made one wrong turn, on the 18th teebox), and I learned that we would start with one of the "Oak Tree Gang" groups -- Jeff Sluman, Scott Verplank, and a last minute substitute -- Fred Hanover, who was replacing Jay Haas who withdrew at the last minute.

I felt kind of bad for Fred, when the chatter over the radio was all about how much (or more accurately how little) coverage of him they would probably show. Fred stepped up to the tee -- and snapped hooked it OB -- double on the first hole, not a good start. Sluman and Verplank started decently, but nobody shined on 2 (Fred came up short and stumbled to another double. On 3, both Slu and Verplank hit it in the creek on the left and had to lay up after dropping. Fred did okay off the tee -- then in the creek with his second -- 3 doubles. How much longer were we going to stick it out?

Meanwhile I was beginning to figure out where Maltbie wanted me to be. After a couple of false starts I was usually in the right place to pick him up. At the start he would ride to the tee shots then walk to the green and the next tee, but after a while was taking rides everywhere. Because of the local interst in Verplank and Sluman, both of whom have ties to Edmond OK, we had LOTS of gallery, and just getting through them was a problem. Maltbie was surprised I wasn't local, but I assured him I had walked the whole course and knew where the holes were and this wasn't my first rodeo driving golf carts in traffic. I was a bit dubious about it, and the fact that everyone wanted to say high to Maltbie (except of course for the guy who flagged me down at some point when I was waiting for him and asked if that guy with the big microphone was Gary McCord :-) I got the hang of it quickly though.

One of the odd things about the job is that you have no information on what's going on except the sketchy reports from the spotters. I hadn't seen a leaderboard in a couple of hours when we got to 4 and I was surprised to see that Monty had finished at -6. Our guys got through the trecherous 4th okay, but 5 was another comedy of errors and as we approached the green I got the word that we were going to move to 15 to pick up Vijay Singh, who had a few birdies. I had a plan for how to get there, but found out we needed to go halfway down 6 to pick up our yardage guy, which made it impossible to take the shortcut to 15. We also picked up our spotter (which turned out to be a mistake, he wasn't supposed to move), and he said he knew the way to 15. Not quite. I had to get us through the railroad car that forms the bridge from 6 to 7, through the crosswalks past the 10th tee, the mud hole in front of the 18th tee corporate tents, and then up along the berm fronting a retention pond behind 17 to avoid players, down 16 and finally through the valley that separates it from 15 to catch Vijay on the green. Somewhere in there Maltbie said something about how tough this course was to get around on (Yes, it was -- like most "housing" courses the holes were strung out end to end with few opportunities to take short cuts.)

Vijay and Mark Brooks were playing well in the group, I think -3 and -4 when we joined them, and held it for a while, but as we made the turn to number 1 strokes started to slip away. Pernice, the 3rd member of the group got a couple of birdies to get back to even, before dunking one on 4. At least these guys weren't hacking up those early holes like our first group.

Up until the second hole our group had done little waiting, but in the fairway of 2 we started waiting on the group ahead. It happened to be the
group that Carla was walking with (Billy Andrade, a fellow Rhode Islander). After that we waited on every shot. Roger started talking about how much time we had left and speculating where we would finish, and at some point I confirmed that they would not stay on past 7PM (he said they only do that on the weekdays when someone with a lot of viewer interest is near the lead with only a hole or two to go). After the 5th hole he said we would get one more in, then said maybe not after we waited 10 minutes before we could hit in. Carla's group wasn't the problem, the whole field was backed up by then. (Maybe from the Hanover, Sluman, Verplank group where Hanover was continuing to pile up big numbers on the back, but maybe not.) Through the chaos on the radio (all the spotters report "interesting" shots, like birdies, eagles, or holeouts, or long shots, but mainly they were constantly being asked about order of play, since the camera guys can only focus on one player at a time and don't want to miss a shot if they can avoid it.) I heard them start to tell the spotters on some holes to walk in. We followed our group to the fairway, where Maltbie, the driver for the camera crew, and I talked about how hard the course was and why anyone would want to be a member at a club with a course that was impossible for mere mortals to play. Maltbie did his commentary on the fairway, then told me to follow the group to
the green even though he said we would probably be off the air by then, and sure enough, after stopping briefly we went straight on through the railroad car into the maintenance area to get back to the trailers. Half way down 7 I saw Carla walking and having one extra seat in the cart picked her up along with our yardage guy.

In retrospect it amazes me that volunteers get to do this job. They have no idea what my experience as a chauffeur may be, and while I had to sign off on a long list of cart rules (basically nothing you wouldn't get in the fine print from renting a cart from a golf course), it's surprising that I'd be trusted to drive one of their stars, not knowing what my driving record might be. The cart itself had clearly been modified. No rauccous noise when you put it in reverse, and it seemed to go faster than the ones you usually get on a course, handy for trying to make an end run around the crowds. Unlike the USGA gigs, where someone official always takes charge of things like recharging the radios and carts, with NBC this was all up to us, (as unfortunately was cleaning out the leftover muck from the last tournament in the cooler for the cart and rustling some ice from the caterers.) I hope I got everything securely plugged in.

Waiting for Langer (Again)  -- Day 2

The next  morning was just sunny and hot. The first groups were off by the time we left the hotel, but it's probably 6 hours until we go on again, so we are in no hurry to get out there. I expect I'll start with the Montgomerie group this afternoon.

Carla and I got to the course fairly early mainly to get a decent parking space in the hog wallow, given we knew it would be dusk before we got out. We watched a little play from 14 and 11 in the morning but nothing spectacular. Mainly we saw a lot of standards with painful stories (lots of big numbers) go by. After lunch we reported for duty at NBC. No surprises today. I knew what to stock in the cooler for Roger and when he would show up,a and I even had a strong (and correct) suspicion of where we would be going. Carla got assigned one of the "no hope" groups, apparently someone they had feature footage on and hoped to use it. When she got to the tee there was a message that he was withdrawing. Apparenlty he tried to jog this morning and didn't feel well afterwards. ("Gee, I've got a chance to play in the Senior Open and it's going to be 99 today, maybe I should jog first -- NOT!) She eventually got assigneed to another trio of hopefuls.

Mainly I killed the time until air time with Karen, Notah Begay's cart driver and Notah's yardage spotter, who turned out to be a local kid who
wanted to volunteer for a normal job but his parents were slow to let him, so when NBC went to local schools to look for people to fill those jobs he got on and was much happier. His job (the same as Dylan, the one I had) was to go to the fairway ahead of play and measure all the distances to the green for the commentators. They also got the clubs on the par 3's and sometimes on the fairway shots. Both were very self-reliant. Karen told me something I didn't know -- that Notah had had a minor heart attack in the spring. Kind of odd really when he's the one that walks almost the whole course and is only in his early 40's, while Maltbie rides a lot more, smokes, and is I think older than I am. I guess it's all in your genes.

About 2:30 Notah and Roger appeared, and we headed off down the front 9 to intercept play. Roger was with Monty, Lehman, and Rocco, while Notah went with the group ahead (Langer, Calc, and another I didn't remember). Neither of us changed groups.

This was a much busier day on the course, which of course meant more traffic to dodge. Actually though it wasn't that hard. The marshals are eager to help, and most people get out of the way. I only learned over time of the guy with my job at Pinehurst who hit a cop, wouldn't stop, and wound up getting arrested. Driving in heavy pedestrian traffic is indeed intimidating, but like I said it's not my first rodeo, I did it in 2005 ferrying the disabled to places on the NCR course in Ohio, and did the same duty in the dusty parking lots at the Ryder cup, and I never hit anyone or damaged the cart.

I've never had the experience of following the lead group for most of the round. (My round with Pavin as a walking scorer came close, but he
ultimately fell back.) Maltbie always wanted to be in the places with the best view, which meant I got good views most places too in spite of the
crowds, and basically saw every shot. Basically nobody in our group made any big mistakes. There were some little missed putts and some made putts along the way, but nothing dramatic. Meanwhile all I hear on the radio is tales of woe. Gary Koch, another NBC/Golf Channel commentator playing in the tournament hit 3 balls in the water on 13, and he wasn't the only one. The broadcast people didn't believe it. (I think he ultimately sunk the putt after his 4th attempt cleared for an 8). Someone else hit 3 or 4 in the drink on 8, a long par 3 over water with no real bailout and as far as I know no drop area. I never heard much from Fred Hanover, but he finished dead last, +39, but hey, he can say he played in the Senior Open. (Even the USGA scoring site was confused by his scores -- they claim to show double or worse in orange, but he had some quads and pentabogies and it didn't know what to show them as and showed them in the same colors as par.)

Play was anything but swift. Monty was on the 5th tee by air time having teed off at 1:52, but finished about 5 hours later just before airtime
expired. We were waiting on the Langer group on almost every hole, and it became a tired joke about Langer's pace of play being a point of irritation with Monty. Basically though both played impressively, and unaffected by the pavement melting heat (upper 90's today and absolutely clear). (Yeah, he looked hot towards the end of the round if you got a close view, but it didn't seem to effect his play.) Monty could have been 4 or 5 under for the day if some putts had dropped. His approaches were always crisp, even though he was often shortest off the tee.

Everyone wanted to talk to Maltbie, sometimes to razz him about smoking on TV or something else, and we had at least a couple of pests that were hard to escape from. Eventually though people would clear out in front and I'd step on the gas and get us out of there. The funniest fan encounter was on 9, where I waited across the creek for Roger to cover the tee shots and walk up, and 3 fans started taking (illegal) pictures of me in the cart. Then I realized. He was dressed in a dark blue shirt and a white NBC hat and long beige pants -- just like me. Other than the mustache we probably looked enough alike to confuse a few people. Eventually they got pictures of the real star.

As the day drew to a close we were hearing a lot of hard luck stories "let's show this guy making his par putt on 18 to make the cut -- oops, he missed it". After the withdrawal Carla wound up with another goup they had footage on they wanted to use and was told to give them anything exciting they were doing. She radioed back that none of them were having a good day -- then they got worse. Finally one of them birdied 14, a par 5 playing a bit easy that day, and I think they used the feature on him. In the end though the two players they wanted to feature both finished at least +25. Yikes. Oak Tree is like that. That group still had almost 3 holes to go as we filed out past 16 at about quarter to 8, but nobody was in any rush, since they were all going home.

There was at least one heat casualty among the caddies -- Olin Brown's caddie gave up and Fred Funk's Son finished the round for him. Olin finished even par and plays today. Plenty of good stories. The TV folks thought that O'Meara's missed putt on the last hole missed the cut, but he made it on the number. Sonny Skinner, a pro from Georgia who we scored for in 2011 and will always remember for for saying "That ain't good", after his tee shot on 14 went into the woods, made the cut this year. In 2011, he and his two playing companions had hopes of making it when we started, but played poorly. Sonny had appologised to our standard bearer for making her do so much work putting up those big numbers and promissed they would all play better, shortly before hitting that shot into the woods, and all 3 players came nowhere near making the cut.

Saturday is supposed to be even hotter. I already know I'll spend the day with Monty's group again unless he crashes. For a while it looked like he'd play with Langer on Saturday, but Langer bogied 18 so he goes with Scott Dunlap. (Actually the bogie probably didn't change the pairings since the USGA puts the first guy to finish at a number out first, and Dunlap was in at -5 in the morning, I think.) We will probably be waiting all day long again, but at least there's no weather problems predicted, and they seem to have an infinite supply of water and diet coke for everyone working, so we should all make it.

It's Scotland vs Germany again (Day 3)

We didn't strain to get there for the dewsweepers, but got out in time to watch some play on 11 and 14 before lunch and check in at NBC. There weren't a lot of red numbers on the board. Mark O'Meara was under par for the day when he played 11, and I think +3 on 14. With a howling southeast wind, #12, a par 5 that sometimes yields birdies was playing tough. Even 14, a long par 5 with the tees moved up today and down wind, wasn't getting a lot of low scores.

Lunch was worthy of mention -- some local restaurant chain offered it, with a lot of picnic salads and goodies. Great if you have to eat at 11 and go out on course.  (Karen actually packed take away box from it for Notah, who apparently wasn't all that happy with the sandwiches and chips in the NBC trailer the first two days.)

I got to the dusty trailer at about noon and was cornered by Jeff, the supervisor for the spotters to ask if Carla was here and wanted to drive for
Mark Rolfing. Apparently their coverage plans were up in the air because both Peter Jacobsen and Koch were in the field and might have made the cut. Neither did, and that freed up Mark to be on course. I told him to ask her but that she probably would rather walk with a group, given she doesn't do a lot of cart driving and was a bit intimidated by my tales of having to steer through crowds. Sure enough, he tapped someone else for the duty, who I spent some time with going over where to go and what to do. (He was a local who had played the course, but that doesn't prepare you for knowing where you can take a golf cart to avoid the crowds. We loaded our carts, filled our coolers, and Rolfing came out about 12:30 to go out early. Maltbie and Begay showed at about 1 as expected, and as expected we had the last group -- Montgomerie
and Dunlap, behind Langer, again. Given they had only played a couple of holes and nobody was behind them we went up 1 and two before catching Monty on 3. He had already birdied 1 and parred two. Given we were still 20 minutes to air time Roger sent us to the green on 3. I was behind the green when I saw Monty chip in to go to -8, 4 strokes ahead of everyone else. I thought he would run away --  not exactly.

Somewhere on 3 I noticed Carla was walking with the group. Weird, since I never heard her on the radio and hadn't heard her name among those listed as spotters. It turns out she was assigned as scorer for the group. NBC doesn't want to wait for the USGA scoreboard, but wants to update their leaderboard ASAP, and sends scorers with the last 4 or 5 groups to call in the scores ASAP She was a perfect fit for that. (She said that the reason the NBC people gave for the independent scoring was that since the USGA info is on line, if they don't have something that's at least as fast they lose the attention of viewers who are following the leaderboard on line. It is true that depending on the software used the USGA scores may not be updated until both players finish and the walking scorer has verified all their strokes, while an observer radioing in scores as soon as the putt drops can easily be at least a minute faster. Seconds count in broadcasting.)  The Scorers were on a different radio channel from the spotters and drivers, so I never heard her.

I've commented earlier that the USGA really wants things to run well in the final group. She said the president of the USGA accompanied that group working as an extra rules official, while the walking scorer was someone who had scored a dozen USGA majors (and had two artificial knees). Even the standard bearer seemed hand picked -- she was a recent high school graduate and avid golfer headed to college in Walla Walla (she loves Wine Valley).

Monty teed off on 4 before the 1:30 start of NBCs coverage, and after running Roger down to the green he told me to try to get through the one narrow bridge to number 5 -- fat chance. They close the bridge whenever anyone is on the green on 4 or the tee on 5 -- basically always. I pulled up behind Mark Rolfing's greenhorn driver and kept telling him to push his way through the crowd to the ropes, but he wasn't bold enough to do it, so we sat there as they played on, and went to 5 tee and teed off. Monty made a good up and down on 4. I could see Maltbie walk off 5 down the left rough so I knew I had to catch him in the middle of the hole. The worst of the jam was that every time I tried to inch the cart forward the brakes howled, so I basically couldn't do it while the players were doing anything, and that meant I had people all around me in a tight jam. Finally, 5 minutes after Monty hit and walked off I got over the bridge, headed for the far left, and blew by the crowd and other carts to get down to where Roger was examining the tee shots. (Yeah, cart path rage going on here.)

I didn't know what happened at the time. I thought Monty was just in the rough, hit it over the green and got up and down for par, and it wasn't
until 2 holes later when I saw the standard and was puzzled he had dropped a shot. Carla told me that he was almost plugged in a bunker and chunked it out into the rough -- probably before I got to the landing area. I did reconnect with Roger and got him up to the green for that, and positioned to pick him up after the tee shots.

On 6 Monty was well back and blocked by trees. I watched him hit a low draw that ran up onto the green near the pin. A classic links ploy that I doubt more than 1 or two other players in the field would have hit. After dropping Roger on the green I went through the railroad car bridge separating 6 and 7 and watched the play and the tee shots from near the 7th tee. Monty hit a good drive on 7, past the tree that blocks a lot of people from going in two, and almost made a brilliant shot into the green of this par 5 in 2, but it fell back down, and eventually he took 4 more to get down. I didn't see most of that having had to figure out how to turn the cart around on the path along the pond that fronts number 8 (the path is next to the pond on one side and a steep downslope on the other, but driving that path towards the 7th green is the only way to get around the crowds, then you have to do a 180 to get to 8.)

8 wasn't really eventful, nor was 9, but Monty was clearly a bit off and in "recovery" mode. on 9 he got a bad break getting a downslope lie in a silly little pit in the left rough, but recovered okay. On 10 I don't know what he did to come up short and then not get up and down.

11 looked okay, but no birdie. On 12, Monty's layup was a "WTF" shot, way right into trees (Maltbie's off the air comment was "let's see what this knucklehead has done to himself), from where he hit a great shot that ran over the green out of a bad lie and obstructed run. Nothing big on 13, but 14 was another just plain mystery hole. Monty was again left off the tee, and while he waited a long time to hit (with the radio chatter not believing he was actually going at the green out of a downslope lie from 280+ in the rough), he hit an iron of some sort to lay up -- way left. The folks on the radio thought he was in the water. I envied Carla the ability to go over and look at it. She ultimately said he was in the hazard but it was playable, and he struggled to another bogie, I think. By then he was no longer leading, but struggling to keep in place. Langer backed up too, and by 17 I saw that someone named Sauers was 2 strokes up -- weird.

By now I know how to get the cart around the course even in a crowd, even if I have to sometimes argue with the marshals about what I want to do. On 16 tee they really want to put me inside the ropes on the cart path, but I can't be there or I wind up in the TV shot, which is a mortal sin for anyone working with NBC. (I listened to Jeff, the boss, chew out a spotter for chatting with a player on 10 and winding up in the TV picture, for at least a couple of minutes -- not the kind of fame you want.)

Staying outside the ropes and jumping in as soon as the tee shot was hit I picked up Roger and Dylan (my spotter) and got ahead of the crowd. By now it's after 4, and the crowd is fortunately thinning. Monty makes a good up and down from behind the green on 17, to stay -4 and I think he might even birdie 18 to wind up in the last group with Sauer. No such luck. Both Monty and Dunlap fluff their approaches on 18 into the wind, and Monty bogies -- not that that mattered to who he plays with. Tomorrow Langer will play with Sauers, and Monty will play with Dunlap again, but this time Langer gets to wait forr Monty.

Along the way there were some interesting stories over the radio. Jeff Sluman broke his driver on number 7, and wasn't allowed to replace it, so he played the rest of the holes with a 3W off the tee, and finished T5 anyway, and will go in the 4th group tomorrow, presumably with a new driver. Another player (whoever was paired with Vijay) threw his back out on 3 or 4, but played on after some physical therapy. Another lost a ball on 14 and was appealing to NBC to find some TV footage to try to figure where it went (they didn't have the footage).

Somewhere during the day one of the yardage spotters microphones broke (not electrically,just phiscally),and I traded radios with the guy because he needed it to report the approach shot distances on every hole, while in 3 days the only time I've radioed anyone was to check in (that's a good thing, it means I didn't hit anyone, lose sight of Maltbie, or run the cart out of charge.)

After that last putt on 18 (Monty's missed par) Roger surprised me by saying someone else would do the post round interviews and we were off, so it was back to the dustbowl to recharge the carts and radios and empty the melted ice from the coolers. As Roger has said the last 3 days -- we're back tomorrow, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.

Scottland Wins the World Championship!  (Well of Senior Golf at least -- day 4)

It's Sunday AM, and some of the local forecasters are calling for -- you guessed it, Thunderstorms. I have no idea what that means to NBC's
coverage or our roles, we'll see.

 Today will certainly go down as one of my most memorable volunteer days. We got to the course fairly early -- early enough to watch a few people play 11, 14, and 15 from a shady spot sitting on the edge of a concession stand (it pays to scout those spots out early :-) The earliest groups were basically playing bogie golf. not good. But Bart Bryant came by at -4, and ultimately finished -5 for the day, tieing John Cook for best round of the day. One noteable things was they moved the tee box on 15 up about 80 yards making it a reachable par 4. We watched
Brad Faxon and his playing partner go at it and both lose their drives in the wind (well their 3W's, these guys hit 288 uphill with a 3W!) They were way right, with Faxon landing in deep shit in front of a row of corporate tents, behind a tree from the green. Everyone thought he was dead, but he played a wedge out of that crap over the tree and just barely over the green and saved par. The other guy bounced off a fan and had a reasonable pitch, still par.

After an early lunch we headed up for the NBC compound. I decided to prep my cart and cooler early, while Carla wandered off with an assignment to score for the 4th group from the end -- Jeff Sluman and Woody Austin. At some point as I'm hanging out in the coldest room in the NBC trailers I hear Jeff (the boss) on the radio talking about how they will go on the air at 1:15, instead of the planned 1:30. Holy shit, our guys will be out there any minute, so I alert Karen and pack it all out, and Mark, Notah, and Roger all show up. Roger was anything but happy -- "just what I needed, another half hour in 100 degree Oklahoma heat".

We zipped up to the course to catch the last group -- Langer and Sauers, on their second shots into the first hole. Nothing much happened the first couple of holes, or maybe I never noticed because we weren't on the air yet meaning Roger was just going through the motions. At the 3rd green, he sent me ahead to try to get over the bridge between 4 green and 5 tee, while he walked the 4th hole (par 3). I did my best, but still wound up stuck in the same downslope behind one of those little scooters and with a phalanx of NBC carts behind me, but the crosswalk was closed because Monty and Dunlap were teeing off in the group ahead. Unfortunately it stayed closed because by the time they were gone Langer and Sauer were hitting into the 4th hole. Somewhere in there we went live. Finally they opened the gates, and we started to inch down the hill. Just before the scooter got to the front they roped it again. I started agitating that I really needed to get through. Roger looked like he was going to pass out in the heat and he had already walked maybe 250 yards. The fans were curtious enough to part for me, but that scooter was a problem because she had no place to go. Finally some fans told the marshal to just let the lady on the scooter through and all us carts would be able to go. The players were still examining their shots on 4 and not going to be bothered. It took some effort to convince the lady on the scooter to go, and not stop until she was past the 5th tee but we did it, and 3 or 4 more carts followed me and thanked me for being pushy.

Langer's game was up and down. Sauers was mainly solid. After 2 I had a second passenger, our spotter, who was diabetic and having trouble with the heat. On 6 he had trouble communicating where the approach shots had gone ("front left" to him didn't mean on the green). We got restocked on water on 7 and he perked up a bit. Langer showed some signs of life on 7, getting on and birdieing, but it was fleeting. As we played the back he faded and was out of the picture before taking a bizarre double on 16 (he bladed a bunker shot into the lap of a fan on a folding chair right in front of me behind the green, then after dropping chunked a pitch and struggled to make double -- yuck.

Sauers was pretty solid but it was clear Monty was having a good day in front of us. On 14 tee Roger noticed a rules official walking over to talk to our players and tried to find out why. The guy looked ancient and didn't respond, but eventually Roger caught him and yes -- our group was on the clock (not surprising -- yesterday, Monty waited for Langer on every hole. After the second hole today, I don't think Langer ever waited for anyone.)

That didn't change much, but neither 14 nor 15 were great holes for them, and 16 was a hash. When Sauers bogied to drop back into a tie with Monty the dreaded word "playoff" started to come over the radio.  Nobody seemed thrilled about it because it would clearly disrupt their coverage plans.  Back in regular play, on  17, someone on the berm screamed "Mashed Potatoes" as Sauers swung. A USGA guy went up but I don't think identified the culprit. Carla said someone did that to her group somewhere too. It clearly didn't help his play.

The radio chatter is always amusing. at least 4 or 5 times I heard Jeff say "Oh Monty". I thought he must be missing pars, but it turns out all those misses were birdies. He apparently drove the short 15th -- then 3 putted! Another player they were hoping to feature (Goodman?) airmailed the 18th green, over the grandstand and according to the chatter he landed in a succulent garden somewhere near the clubhouse. They wound up waving the next group up to finsih while the USGA figured out what to do. The area probably should have been OB, but apparently nobody imagined a contender for the Senior Open would get there.

As it became clear a playoff was a distinct possibility, there was a lot of disagreement over the form it would take. Apparently a 3 holer and playing 16, 17 and 18 was the answer, but nobody seemed to know.

As I sat on the 18th tee watching the putting on 17 and waiting for Roger I heard the action on 18, and that Monty missed a putt that could have gotten him to -6. Sauer hit his tee shot right on 18, but then stuffed his approach to a roar from the green. As we drove up Roger started grumbling about the possibility of a playoff -- "I have a 7:30 flight and am fucked", or some such. I really hoped Sauers would hole the putt for his sake even if he wasn't my first choice to win, but it wasn't to be.

Roger came back to the cart happy though because they told him that Mark Rolfing would do the playoff and he was out of there. Somewhere along the way I saw Carla on 18, having finished her group (In spite of various screwups, both Austin and Sluman played and finished respectably at T3 and T5.) When the playoff was announced she reported on the radio that she would turn in her headset and volunteer as a marshal -- mostly for my benefit in case I didn't know where she was.

I got Roger back to the entrance to the vendor area, but as soon as we went in the gate he groaned -- he told me that they said NBC thought they would be screwed in the ratings if he didn't do the playoff so he had to get to 16 tee. I just pulled a Uey and headed down the path with all the exitting fans and across the crosswalk to 16, where there was almost nobody but marshals and scorers waiting for the players to
get there. I took the opportunity to restock our cooler for the playoff. With Maltbie, me, and our spotter drinking we went through maybe 10 bottles of water and half a dozen diet cokes, and nobody had to find the "necessary". -- yeah, it was over 100.

As we were waiting two not bad looking middle aged women asked me if they could sit in the jump seat and I said fine. When they asked to ride, I said that's up to Roger (that answer is no -- insurance, but the question was above my pay grade -- pretty easy when you aren't being paid).

Finally the players come in through the back entrance where they run a bus to the clubhouse for the volunteers. Both hit it short and right into a
bunker -- yuck,and struggled. When Sauers bogied though I thought we might at least escape sudden death.

On 17, Monty had an opportunity to sink a birdie to virtually seal it, but he didn't, I saw Carla mashaling near the green, and expected I'd find her down there when this thing finally finished. Finishing was definitely a priority, not only for Roger's flight, but because there were obvious
thunderheads north and west, and the last thing we needed was a weather delay. Fortunately the weather in Oklahoma moves slowly. Both players hit well off the 18th tee, and I thought yes -- 2 pars and we are done. Neither player hit the green though, in spite of both having hit it close in regulatoin from worse spots than they were in the playoff. Monty was first to pitch on the green and it came up short, not going down a little slope to the pin. Sauers hit a much better pitch and tapped it in. Oh shit -- Monty's got to sink about a 10 foot breaking putt or we get to do this all over again. When he struck it I thought it was way to hard, but the closer fans started making noise as it approached, and when it disapeared I screamed "Yes" over all the other noise. After all the missed opportunities, he earned it.

Roger spent a few minutes talking to the players and then clearly got permission to leave, and we flew down the edge of the range and out into the 18th fairway back to the compound. He thanked me and I told him honestly this was probably the most fun of my 21 volunteer experiences and wished him luck with the plane, taking all his radio gear to return to the trailer. Carla was waiting at the trailer, and we celebrated with a couple of glasses of "Hoppy Scottsman" at the local BJ's. Definitely a week I wont forget.

We were dubious about doing this tournament because of the heat. Many of the experienced scorers and rules officials told us the same story. In the end it worked, partly becuase they were very generous with keeping people hydrated, and it's clear the city supported the tournament well. I'm not sorry our gigs for the next year are in cooler places (Chambers Bay, Sacremento, and Whistling Straits), but this was an experience not to be missed.

The Boeing Classic (Snoqualmie Washington, 2014)

This was our second time as volunteers at the Boeing Classic, a "Champions" tour event we enjoyed in 2011.  It seems a long way to go, but we like the area and the tournament and the weather there in August is usually lots better than back home.  It was a shorrt trip though, since we had already been to Washington State for a week earlier in the summer and were going to spend a week and a half  in Colorado for the BMW not long after.  We arrived on Wednesday, early enough to pick up our uniforms and credentials, revisit a few holes, and watch a bit of the pro-am.  On Thursday we played a local course and came back to the Boeing for the afternoon to watch some more of the pro-am.  I unfortunately didn't get to tour the whole course this time -- just too sore.  Cortisone didn't do much for my bad hip, which is still complaining on any kind of hill, and Snoqualmie is nothing but hills.

The tournament seemed a bit bigger than 3 years ago, but not really that different.  They still had great parking and shuttles for the volunteers, a nice tent, and the same great eats and drinks, and the players still seemed to be enjoying just being there.  This is the 10th anniversary of the tournament and it's amazing how many volunteers have worked all 10 years.

Day 1 -- learning the course

We already had our assignments, if not the precise shifts. I am a marshal on 16, a short uphill par 4 that depending on the pin position can
be a birdie hole or a nightmare hole. Friday was a nightmare pin front of the green just over a deep bunker. That plus strong crosswinds in the
middle of the hole (where it's open to a big drop on the left) meant a lot of balls came up short in the bunker. I saw at least one pro fail to get
out the first time. The beauty of the hole as a Marshal is it has no crosswalks, and as the lowest point on the course very few fans bother to
come down there. (Except of course for the loyal Freddie Couples fans -- 500-1000 of them who follow him all the way around. I never got the Couples thing, nor why about 3 different regions have a Couples obsession and consider him a local boy, including Seattle, but it makes the crowd predictable.) Freddie wasn't playing especially well or badly and wound up in the middle, but some people saw every shot he made.

Another weird thing about my hole was -- no captain. Whoever was supposed to do it was a no show. Fortunately most of us were expereinced marshals and we quickly made a field promotion and organized ourselves. Mostly things ran quite well. I was worried looking at the hole that there would be balls over the edge of the abyss on the left, but in fact only one player hit it there, and he found it. Mostly they were boringly in the fiarway off the tee, and at least half were on the green, and nobody was wild enough to worry about finding the ball. That didn't mean I didn't have to find a ball -- before anyone came to our hole I heard a plop in the grass between me and the green -- nah, it couldn't be. I watched amateurs hit off 15 tee into that area, but these guys are all pros, right? A few minutes later a caddie appeared on the top of the ridge and started looking, and I realized what had happened. I quickly found the ball for him and re-found it when he and his player went back to reconnoiter. The Caddie managed to slip and fall coming over the ridge the second time. (Now I really don't understand why these guys don't wear softspikes. There's no way I could navigate some of the steep slopes on these courses without them. Maybe athletic shoes are a lot better than the last time I bought them, but I doubt it.) It was a bad fall and he was shaken up but not hurt. He and the player debated a while about the line and whether or not the TV tower was in the way, but the deciding factor was he had a good lie and that was no guarantee if he took a
drop from the tower, so he just played it.

Carla had more trouble on 8 -- a short par 5 with a pond in front. That wasn't the problem, the crosswalk, and noisy parties in the houses lining
the right side of the hole were. They couldn't stop the noise, but she could handle the crosswalk. (The real problem was that most of the players
had carts, so after hitting the player or caddie would have to take the cart through the crosswalk to get back on the course, but by then there were fans pressed against it who had to be cleared away, since the walking players, caddies, and officials took another minute or two to reach the crosswalk. Not all the marshals could do it.

At the end of the day, I was supposed to get a ride back up the 200-300 foot climb to the clubhouse and volunteer tent, but the shuttles were full so I got to hike. I still beat Carla by 45 minutes -- it seems that the half the field that started on 10 fell way behind.

Day 2 -- moving? day?

Today was more orderly and more busy. The pin on my hole was front right, nothing in front of it, and lots of players took advantage. I saw two hole out eagles, one standing in the fairway near the player (Goydos) who hit the shot, and the other on the green next to the pin. It was fun to see the eagles and birdies drop, but putting was no picnic. After watching Olin Browne squint over a 10 foot birdie putt for a couple of minutes, then look puzzled when it broke 6 inches right -- which looked uphill to me, I wished I could have told Jacobsen about it in the next group when he had a putt from the same spot -- he missed too. The worst miss might have been Tom Kite, who had about a 10 footer from the front. He stroked it beautifully, and half way to the hole it hit a big bump and kicked away. He was pissed enough to take his "dinner plate on a stick" putter and slam the spot, something I haven't seen him do. Afterwards he and his caddie went outside the ropes behind me and chatted
with a couple of fans and me about the bad break -- back to normal.

On Carla's hole they moved up the tee and put the pin in the open apparently to try to get people to go in 2. Most didn't. She did see a couple of eagles, and more than a few waterballs. The good news was that Couples was the first group off the first tee, so she volunteered to take the crosswalk first to handle the crowd. Tomorrow he's 3rd off and she's already figuring out how to be in the right place. (I was on the side of the fairway with no spectators for Couples, but for that group only I walked out into the fairway to hold up my hands for quiet, since I figured people would actually see me there, even if they couldn't see the near side marshals in the crowd. It worked.

Both of us noted the sad stories at the bottom. Brehaut, the bottom feeder yesterday by several shots, was actually a bunch under par today and pulled up. Nothing could save the walrus though, who looked and apparently played like he had a tusk ache. I don't know what was wrong, he played my hole well, but after hitting a sound drive he went up to his cart and slammed the driver into the bag muttering about his game all the way. Sad. You would think these guys would simply accept a bad day. Verplank came to our hole with +7 showing on the standard. When the volunteer took that down I though good -- maybe he birdied 15. Wrong -- +10 went up. Going left off 15 is bad, but with it marked as a lateral now you are only going to lose one shot, so I don't know how you get an 8 on it, but I didn't ask.

The Boeing has a great volunteer party -- even better this year (Lagunitas IPA among the options, and they didn't run out of anything). They get high marks for logistics too -- I was a bit concerned about waiting for a bus at the end of the party, but they actually reassigned all the spectator parking busses to the volunteers after the party and it was no problem. I'd gladly work this one again if the schedule works.

Tomorrow will crown a champion. No real clue who. Nobody is running away with it, and the course yields birdies or disasters, with lots of holes that tempt you to go for it.

Sunday Finish

We arrived shortly before our shifts (stayed at the hotel until 24 hours before flight time to change into the exit row, much more room).
"Small" tournaments are nice because it's rare to have traffic problems, and at the Boeing it's a 3 minute bus ride to the course and about the same time to walk to the volunteer tent. We learned they teed off 10 minutes early, but no big deal really -- still time to cash in our lunch tickets on a salmon sandwich (The Boeing has the best concessions food of any tournament I've worked, and unlike many, your lunch ticket works on any of it except alcohol). Everyone was late though. and I learned our hole was only scheduled for 7 marshals, and one didn't show. That's barely adequate -- two at the tee, two at the green and one on each side. Fortunately we had the bottom half of the field up first and maybe someone else would show before "Freddie". We had some minor screwups because our hole captain for the day clearly wasn't a math major and couldn't get the rotation timing right. Nobody lost a ball though and not many complaints about the crowd noise (My hole was easy, nobody was throwing loud parties in the houses along it and only dedicated fans reach it.)

The pin was in in the middle at the back. Not difficult in theory, but a lot of them misjudged the approach. My guess is the wind fooled them, since there was no wind on the tee box (trees and houses closed it in), lots of wind in the fairway, and a bit less at the green. It's also more uphill
than it looks, but these guys have all the data to figure that out. It's interesting to look at the notebooks the players and caddies use. They
mostly start witht he course yardage book and mark it up, some focussing on the green and some spending a lot more on marking elevations and yardages in the fairway. It's also interesting to look at the range of strategies. There was probably 100 yards between the longest and shortest drive off the tee, mostly by design. Some guys laid up as short as 170 to the green, others hit it well within 100 yards. Very few missed left (and nobody wide of the bunkers) and only a couple trickled off the fairway right (rough or bunker). One group was memorably bad -- nobody hit the fairway, two in awkward bunker lies and well short, and I think 3 doubles as a result.

Freddie was in the middle of the pack again. We could see the wave forming 3 groups up. I was at the green and had suggested that whoever was in the right fairway position follow the group to the green to give us a 3rd person to control the crowd, but the rotation got screwed up (math problem) and as a result we had only two. When they came to the green though I saw a woman all in white inside the ropes holding up her hands at the 3rd position. Just what we needed. When I reached the tee I learned she was the chair of the marshal committee who responded to a call for help from our hole captain. It worked, and Freddie's passage was uneventful.

A couple of asides here. This tournament is unusual in that Sunday is a day they have staffing problems. In most, the weekend is the most desirable work time, and because of the cut the field is smaller so they don't need as many people. With no cut, and many volunteers burned out and wanting to spend the day with family it's a tough staffing day at the Boeing. The other aside is that we know someone who has a solution to this problem. A guy from the Indianapolis area who we have seen at many tournaments who has sold the organizers on creating his own personal committee -- walking marashals. He and some freinds basically walk with the most popular groups and provide extra crowd control help. He and his freinds are mostly 80+, and more power to them, it's always worked well where I saw him, but he wasn't at the Boeing.

The green puzzled many. We didn't see many putts outside of 3-4 feet made. Olin Browne spent a long time over about a 10 foot birdie putt then was puzzled to see it break a foot right, which looked sharply up hill. Peter Jacobsen had the same putt 2 groups later and of course we all wanted to tell him about that break, but didn't -- he missed but it didn't go as far right. The Golf Channel crew was with Rocco, who was -10 at the time. The spotter was right next to me radioing it in -- then noting the bogie when he 3 putted from about 15 feet. The Walrus looked again like he had a cavity in a tusk. Nothing was going right for him.

I was down on the tee box for the last few groups so I didn't see how the leaders played the hole. I thought about joining the parade of Marshals that follow the last groups in and ring the 18th hole at the end, but couldn't face the hike so I took a ride to the top to meet Carla and watch the finish from the back of the clubhouse. We watched Mark Brooks birdie 18 (a very birdieable par 5), to tie for the lead, then watched Scott Dunlop miss maybe a 6 footer (very close to going in) to end it in regulation, then birdie the first playoff hole to win.

We didn't hang around, wanting to have a last decent meal before our AM flight out, and appreciated being in a hotel with internet service that
actually works, plumbing you don't have to constantly repair, and no ants in the orange juice (hint -- the Days Inn Bellevue is convenient and
reasonable, but I've stayed in Motel 6's that were better :-)

This was the 10th anniversary of the Boeing. It's amazinig to me how many volunteers have done all 10, but it's a great volunteer gig. We had heard Boeing committed to 10 years sponsorship, which is one reason why we did it this year, but from comments from other volunteers it seems like they must have renewed, and the tournament will roll on. Probably can't do it next year (too close to the PGA), but maybe some time later.

Wish we had more time to stay in the area, play some more, and maybe connect with some of our local freinds, but I had to get home for the last night of golf league, and Friday we are off to Denver for the BMW (Walking Scorer -- I hope I hold up for it) Our flight somehow snuck in between lines of T-storms today not more than half an hour late, and I've already reloaded the BMW credentials and Colorado maps and info in the travel bags and We are set to go again.

BMW Championship (Denver, 2014)

Carla and I arrived in Denver on the Friday before tournament week.   We had a mandatory training session on Saturday, and the volunteer party (which is usually good for the BMW) and knew we could find things to do in Colorado.  We are scheduled to work the Pro Am (afternoon tee times, If I read the botched web site schedule right we will have Seung Yul Noh and Ryan Palmer), and championship rounds on Thursday and Saturday.

We got our training last Saturday -- basically the same system (though a slightly different device) as we used a year ago for the Web.com tour finals. The new complications are the need to enter the player's clothing (not a fashion thing -- that's so the shot-link volunteers can figure out who's who when spotting the balls), and inform them whether our group is on the tee, fairway, or green (mainly to active all those stastics and highlights on the electronic scoreboards in the area when our players are near). Other than that it's the same deal -- note where every shot is hit from and make it quick and accurate. Oddly enough they seem to have taken one of the suggestions we made a year ago -- shorten the "where it's hit from" menu to avoid the need to scroll by subdividing some of the categories (e.g. fairway or green-side bunker, etc.)

There's no action Sunday or Monday (Labor Day), since the tournament before has a Monday finish, so we played 3 local courses (4 mile ranch -- 100 miles southwest, great course still, Red Hawk Ridge in Castle Rock -- a candidate for best muni anywhere, and Bear Dance, south of there -- a splurge course with lightning fast greens and awesome views, and just as good if not better than the
past) and visited some local sites (roxborough park, garden of the gods, and fluorissant fossil beds).   On Tuesday we played a 4th local course (the Ridge at Castle Pines, also in Castle Rock -- nice course, but tough to navigate with bad joints and some holes that were hard to figure out) , and did some scouting of the course.  Volunteers normally get dropped at a special entry near the volunteer tent near the 18th tee box, much better for most than the public entrance -- a long walk to the clubhouse, but not necessarily for scorers since we need to check in at the cart barn underneath the clubhouse.  On the other hand we discovered the grandstand behind the 18th tee had great views and was rarely full, as well as finding some other nice places to spectate.  Mainly we wandered around looking at how to get between holes so it wouldn't be awkward when we had to do it with the players.

The Pro-am is a light weight job -- we basically track the shots of the pro for practice, and enter the net score for the group every hole for the
scoreboards. Mainly it will be a chance to figure out where to go on the golf course. Cherry Hills is an old golf course and as such is compact,
with no long walks between holes, and in spite of the name the only real hills to climb are up 9 and 18 -- most of the course is in the flat land
along Cherry Creek.

This BMW may have the worst spectator parking I've ever encountered. The volunteer lot is a ratty field next to a local light rair station that would be walking distance from our hotel if I weren't concerned about wearing out my softspikes on city sidewalks, but the public lot (where off duty volunteers park) is 10 miles southeast of there, taking a 30-60 minute bus ride to the course. Worse yet, it's only convenient to Denver's electronic tollway, a road you can't drive in a rental car without a big unpleasant surprise charge from the rental company. At rush hour the bus times get much worse since much of the drive is on overcrowded I25. Not good.

All that wasn't too bad on Tuesday , the only real "practice" day for the pros, but come tournament time this is going to be ugly, as is the foot traffic from the busses onto the golf course which is forced down a set of awkward stairs and across 3 or 4 crosswalks to reach the first tee. Someone wasn't thinking of the spectator experience there. At least on our working days we can shortcut through the clubhouse area and avoid the worst of this. We did see some players on the course today, getting good views of Rory, Zach Johnson, and Rickie Fowler playing their practice rounds as well as some other pros. 17 will clearly be an interesting hole -- a 550 yard par 5 with two sets of bunkers across the fairway in the landing area and a teeny island green. 7 is an interesting dogleg with the opportunity to cut the corner. Many of the front 9 par 4's are short, and I expect a lot of birdies there, but holes like the 276 yard par 3 8th (dead flat, no help from the elevation) will keep it interesting. In addition to cherry creek there are several little ditches that cross the course and have just enough water to guarantee a penalty for anyone who goes in. I predict more than a few will. In the end though I expect some low scores. The greens will be tough, but not impossible, and a lot of the rough is already looking trampled and non-threatening. Golf has changed a lot since Arnie made his charge here in the 1960's, and it will be interesting to see how well an old-school course stands up to today's technology and training supported bombers.

Pro-AM day at the BMW

Wednesday was Pro-am day at the BMW, and Carla and I went out scoring for 18 holes, mainly to check out the technology and give the people who paid $5K or more to play in a pro am a little professionalism. We showed up early in the AM to watch some of the morning action from the grandstand on the 18th tee (a hidden gem, right next to volunteer headquarters and far enough from the main gate that fans don't get here that much, plus you can see the action on the island green for 17. One thing I noticed immediately - no chairs or stands around the green for the walking scorers and standard bearers. Apparently the BMW just doesn't do it any more. That makes it dicey -- 18 holes with 3 players or more takes 4-1/2 to 6 hours, a long time to stand up, and the "standard" with the scores is heavy and awkward.

We already knew from the tee times what groups we had. Carla had Seung Yul Noh going off 1 and I had Ryan Palmer going off 10, both at 1:40. After picking up my radio and PDA I showed up at the 10th tee, met my standard bearer, a 40 something local who hadn't done it before, and "team Palmer" showed up -- 3 guys all in identical shirts. at least they looked like a team. Ryan showed up a bit late. I didn't know at the time that he was a hot player having shot a 63 for one of the rounds at the Barclays, but it was soon clear he was a mad bomber -- crazy long. He almost drove the 10th. The 3 amateurs were no slouch either, hitting long shots and usually pretty good, but as most totally sucking around the green. I saw the leaders in the morning play were -16 (best ball handicapped, but no worse than par on any hole), and quickly concluded they weren't going to be threatened by my group.

Going down the first fairway I heard 3 scorers call in asking whether the amateurs could use rangefinders. The answer each time was no. When one of my guys pulled one out on 11 I told him that I could ask, but already heard the answer 3 times that you couldn't use them. His caddie  told me that made his job harder, but not my rules. (later in the round they were all using the things, but I didn't intervene -- not in my job description, and it was clear these guys weren't going to finish in the top few spots.)

During the pro am you don't track the am's shots, you just enter their net score at the end. That's good, since they went all over everywhere. Mostly they had no idea where the strokes fell though and I kept having to ask Palmer, who kept the official card, what happened). Ryan Palmer's shots I had to track, and he didn't make it easy, going everywhere. After about 5 holes though I told my standard bearer to stop putting gup his individual score (only about half the groups did that). He was +3 already, and that was based on giving him pars on holes he picked up on. The guy hit some great shots, but got in trouble for being long and wild. On about the 16th, he was way right in trees, hit a tree with his approach, and picked up, then told one of the ams that he needed to borrow some balls to finish. It was that kind of day.

Team Palmer staggered forward mostly getting "birdies" on pars on holes with strokes. Palmer made no birdies. Whenever they had momentum, something stopped it. On 5, a par 5 converted to a 4 for the tournament, two of the Ams had reasonable birdie putts, and strokes, making the putts for net eagle. One guy blew it by and could make no more than bogie net par, and the other double hit the putt and blew it by eventually getting a double. No help. Finally on our last hole, a 490 yard up hill par 4, Palmer hit two good shots to the green and rolled in the putt for a birdie to get the team to -7. It was still fun.

Carla had a similar day, amateurs all over the course and a pro who was just stumbling along spending more time practicing than playing. I never heard her on the radio and she never heard me. We did, however, hear lots of people calling in score corrections, device problems, and various other problems. Some had very basic problems understanding the competition, for example not kowing that it didn't matter how many players birdied a hole, only the best score counted. The fact that the tour had converted 2 par 5's to 4's created problems too -- everyone who knew the course argued that a 4 on 5 or 8 was a "birdie", but it wasn't.

Winning the Lottery at the BMW

Today, on the first day of the tournament we knew for a long time we would have the 5th group off each tee. Our committee chair said early on he would pre-assign the tee times and not play favorites with whoever wound up in the group, though he had 3 couples with groups that he assigned to the same time off both tees and he let them trade if they wanted. After the finish of last week's tournament we looked
at the tee times on the web and it seemed Michelson would be in one of those 5th groups. Carla is a big fan and wanted to score for him ever since we started doing this. When we checked with our committee chair Wednesday though he had different groups for those times. We didn't know who was right.

This morning I got up practically unable to walk. The question wasn't who I would get in my group, but whether or not I could actually do it. As it turns out I've become a firm believer in chemistry. A couple of generic Advil's over a few hours got me to the point where I could be a "limping scorer". We checked the tee times on line again and even checked the golf channel's tee times and they all said Michelson was in the 5th group off the first tee. Sure enough, that's who Carla got, along with Chesson Hadley, who we remembered as the "rabbit" in the Hotel fitness last year --the bottom man in the field on Sunday who was sent off alone and determined to finish as fast as possible, playing 18 holes in less time than the rest played 9. My group off the 10th tee was no slouch, Angel Cabrera, Daniel Summerhays, and Kevin Chappel.

We checked in at the bunker (I don't know why, but scorers and standard bearers are usually headquartered in the course's cart barn, which on most is a concrete dungeon under the clubhouse -- nice and cool, spacious, but not all that interesting), well before lunch, went down to be the first in line for lunch, then back up to the clubhouse to pick up our stuff. Climbing the hill to the clubhouse twice convinced me that I had enough
drugs to make the round. We met our standard bearers, both local women with limited experience at this, and waited for our players.

While waiting I watched Phil go to 1 looking a bit grim. Carla said he seemed unprepared, wanting some time to study the pin sheet, but he was
first up, and immediately sent one way left. Carla said his round was one of the most extreme examples of "Phil the Thrill" she had seen. Even he admitted it was a very unusual round to the fans. He kept missing fairways and making incredible recoveries for par or birdie, along with some
inexplicable misses (a flubbed sand shot for one) and in the end finished even par, not too bad as it turned out. All day she was surrounded by fans who were urging Phil on. In the end though Hadley was the star of the group, finishing at -2 in a big tie for 4th, one behind the leaders.

My group started strong, and Chappell birdied the first two to get up on the leader board. Then things went into neutral. He'd birdie, then bogie, alternating between 2 and 3 under all day. Cabrera started badly, blowing up to +3 on the first few holes before recovering on 16 and 17. Summerhays was just having a bad day, going slowly backwards most of the day.

Scoring for a group that's struggling is always tough, because they go everywhere. It didn't help that Rory was in the group ahead of ours, meaning there were tons of fans everywhere, making it difficult for me to see the lies when two of them were on one side and the other on the other. Clearly they struggled with the altitude effect. The best example was 7, a dogleg par 4, where all 3 hit great shots only to discover that all were not only over the bunker at the corner but through the fairway in to the right rough, where a TV truck was parked and had to be moved to finish the hole. One of the finer moments for my crew was 17, where Cabrera and Chappel both made it to the island green, though Chappels ball went off on the right and barely stayed out of the water. He took off one shoe to hit the shot, but got up and down for Bridie to go to -3, and Cabrera birdied to get to even par. I thought something good would happen on the front 9, where 1 and 3 are driveable par 4's, but they all screwed up those holes (3 shots even with the green in deep rough left on 1, and on 3, two over the back on the 4th tee and the other in a bunker short. No joy.

The only problem I had all day was with my scoring PDA, which started making a silly chirp every time I said a shot went in the hole. I discovered that one of the buttons on the side was a volume control for sound effects and apparently I had turned it up by accident while pulling the thing out of it's holster. (The battery in the thing won't last for the 4-1/2+ hours it takes these guys to play in 3somes, so they gave us a belt mounted holster, which I think tricks the thing into thinking it's docked and turning off the display to extend the battery life, but it's tough to pull it out of the holster without hitting those buttons). They quickly provided me with the solution. A far cry from the constant reports of scoring or location errors in some other groups. Carla's only radio time came on a hole where Phil had hit into some awkward spot that he thought he might get relief from and called for a ruling (he didn't, but hit a great shot anyway).

This time, unlike Wednesday, we finished at about the same time, confirmed the scores, collected some signed balls and got our hats signed, then staggered home (on some party bus pressed into service as volunteer transport -- too bad they removed the bar :-)

Ahead of my group McIlroy was again demonstrating he's the new Tiger, getting at one point to -5 without a lot of drama. Then he bogied 8 (a 275 yard dead flat par 3) and 9 (a 490 yard par 4 with maybe 50 feet of uphill), so Chappell and Hadley are only one shot back. Mostly we all had a blast, even if some of our players didn't. Scoring is great fun, and by now we know both the technology and how to scout out the course and maneuver through without getting in the players' way or getting lost, so we can focus on watching what happens from a perspective nobody else gets.

Tomorrow is an off day for us, a round of golf in the AM (weather permitting) and maybe a little spectating, but no pressure. Saturday
morning we are back on duty again, knowing up front what times we have but not who is in it. I basically really like this system a lot better than
what others have done -- reshuffling assignments to put personal freinds or well connected people with the top players. It's better to leave that up to the luck of the draw, at least when you have volunteers that you know are capable of handling the job without problems.

Another BMW Parking horrorStory

I don't know.  This is the 3rd  BMW tournament we've done and the 3rd to have a major problem with Parking due to weather.  It had rained a bit at the end of the day and in the day a couple of groups on each side had a hole or two to finish, and it had rained a bit overniht but we didn't give it much thought.  We started with a round of golf at Saddle Rock, a muni in Aurora, CO that has hosted some state and local championships. It's another housing course, but the houses aren't in play. Other than needing better hole maps (those gaps in the fairway in the little maps on the scorecard marked as "rough" were often full of hazards) it was a great experience, interesting course and good pace of play.

After a quick 18 we went to the volunteer lot to go into the course only to be told that Thursday evening's rain had turned the field we were parking in into a hog wallow and everyone, public, VIPs, and Volunteers was being parked in the lots at mile high stadium, near downtown Denver, 15 miles north up I25. Without thinking, I got on the interstate, and realized half way there what I should have done was gone back to the hotel and walked the 1/2 mile back to the shuttle from the light rail station right next to the volunteer lot, which was still running. We parked at Mile high though, and rode in, at least avoiding the tedious walk around the clubhouse and through various exhibits from the public lots and got to watch some golf. The surprise to me on Friday was seeing Ryan Palmer second on the leader board. In the Pro-Am the guy couldn't find a fairway and couldn't figure out the greens -- he learned I guess.

Phil was having a bad day, and we watched him go in the water on 17 for another bad bogie. As we walked onto the front 9 towards the merchandise tent we stopped at 1 green to see Phil play the drivable par 4, and I was surprised to see JB Holmes standing in the rough in front of the green -- he had hit is drive on 4 there, way right of target but crazy long. After not liking the relief options he had for the TV tower he just hit over everything and onto the 4th green. Phil played 1 well as I recall, and Carla wound up getting one of the last 3 Mondo mark sets they had as a souvenir. There was an army of people in "Team Phil' shirts following Mickelson -- apparently the local KPMG office gave them to all their staff as well as giving them a pass to go out and follow him. We figured KPMG could make a tidy sum by selling those shirts,but they didn't.

After watching a few folks finish we headed down to catch a bus, and joined a line that wasn't moving. No bus came to the volunteer entrance for maybe 45 minutes, and eventually the parking people (not volunteers) came to tell us there was some accident on the street they used to get into the lot and as a result couldn't get the busses there and we had to walk out to the main road for pickup. Nice to tell us. The fact that at rush hour the trip to Mile High and back probably took 45 minutes or more vs less than 10 to the "normal" lot probably didn't help, but they did come up with two busses to get us back to mile high, where all that remained was for me to spend another 45 minutes in rush hour traffic going right back to where the bus had taken us.

Saturday, Scoring Again

We checked the website before departing and learned that Parking was still screwed up.  It seemed silly to drive 15 miles north only to ride right back to within 1/4 mile of our hotel, so we decided enough of that, we would just walk to the train statin and catch the public shuttle from there, which gets us close to the bunker used as the headquarters for scorers anyway. This morning I had the group off  1 -- JB Holmes, Brendan Todd, and Bill Haas, a great group. Carla had Matt Kuchar Brian Harmon, and Erik Compton going off 10 The only bad news was my hip was shot from the walk to the train station and to the bunker before I even started.

While waiting to tee off we encountered a Norwegian Couple who had shared a bus with us on Thursday. They, like us, enjoy volunteering, and Norway has no professional golf events, so when after they had attended the BMW once they got an invitation to volunteer, and as it turned out worked the one two years ago in Indianapolis as well as this. They were in our hotel as well. They had the group ahead of Carla's (He scored, she carried the sign, and both were enthusiastic about it.

My group started well with JB birdieing the first two holes to get to -3. Bill had a birdie somewhere in there. Brendon made a great par on 2 after hitting his second in the water beside the green. He dropped in the light rough near the green (red hazard) and chipped in. Two holes later he had a similar chip in for birdie. Holmes had several opportunities for birdie, but missed the putts until he overpowered 7 and birdied there to get to -4. Brendon and Bill were mainly in neutral, each had one birdie (Bill on the driveable par 3 3rd), and a bogie.

10 wasn't a good hole, with Todd hitting it right onto a steep bank above the fairway bunker, while Holmes was in that bunker. Todd had to punch out and bogied.

After hitting his tee shot right on 11, Todd  snapped his driver over his knee and left his caddie to figure out what pieces, if any to save. Not the
highlight video TaylorMade wants you to see. Haas and Holmes were both in the fairway of this par 5, and Haas took out his driver again to go for it. The crowd liked the shot, but it was short in the rough in front of the green. Holmes hit a fairway wood to the same area but in the fairway. Haas got it up and down from there for a birdie, while JB's ball rolled back on a false front and he only made par. Todd saved another good par.

After that my routine at the tee got easier -- Todd no longer had a driver so I didn't need to worry to much about what club he pulled out on the long holes.  At 13, Todd seemed to get on the bogie train. He hit decent shots, but his attention didn't seem to be on his play and he missed putts he should have made.

Holmes birdied 13 to get to -5, which put him well up on the leaderboard. Then he had a disaster on 14 -- The dreaded latteral iron after a drive in the left rough.  As he walked towards it he yelled "get me a rules official" towards me.  The rules guy showed up almost before I finished the call in.  It was an easy situation.  He took a drop from behind a grandstand but made  a poor approach that lead to a bogie. Oddly enough though I'm sure I put in all his strokes when I went to confirm the PDA said "4", not "5", so I had to call in the correction.  Nuts.

Haas had what was probably the shot of the day on 15 -- a long par 3 -- it was almost in on the fly and finished two feet from the cup. Holmes rolled a long one in before Haas tapped his in to go back to -5, and I thought he might birdie 16 and 17 as well, both holes where length is a big advantage. No magic on 16 though, and on 17 Holmes hit his ball so far left it was on 3 and he had to lay up (he waited a long time to
get the fans to stop moving. He was just hitting some lofted iron over the fans and the trees and didn't care that they were in his line as long as
they didn't move, but somehow the fans didn't trust the guy who hit that awful drive to pitch the next one over them and kept scrambling out of the way. Todd, without a driver had to layup as well, while Hass went for it in 2, and at least stayed on the island, though not the green. Todd hit a great shot to make a much needed birdie, and Haas got up and down for birdie, but JB couldn't sink his putt -- bummer. Worse bummer that JB bogied 18, but at least I managed to limp through the whole round.  (Getting to the 18th green was the real challenge -- it's WAY up hill at the end and the Marshal's opened the crosswalk in front of it way to early leaving me to fight throuh the crowd to get there before anyone struck a shot.  Good thing these guys take their time around the green.)

Carlas group was fun, if not exceptional players on this day. Kuchar was the best of the 3, and of course everywhere he went, even after a bad hole, he would be greeted with cheers of "Kooooch". Neither of us had any real disasters, like the scorer two groups behind me who couldn't figure out how to enter strokes for any but his first player (not observant or didn't attend the training), or any one of several who were having trouble with drops and penalties or having the Shot Link spotters question whether the ball was really in the place they said it was. (Actually figuring out when a ball is really on the fringe, in the fairway, or the first cut isn't always straightforward, particularly when the area is a bit ratty and as a result the border is a bit irregular, but many people were putting in fairway instead of deep rough, or green instead of sand.) When you are scoring, not having to use your radio is a good thing.

Behind me Palmer and Horschel turned out to be the ones who played best of the leaders, while Sergio and Rory had lousy days. Given that this is the course Arnie made a sunday charge to win a US Open on in the early 1960's, I'm sure there are folks puzzled by watching "Palmer" high on the leaderboard, but it's a blast having spent a day with him and his amateur partners 3 days ago. It's really odd to look at the PGA Tour report on the round and review the play of the people you scored for and realize that all those statistics and stroke trails are in fact the direct result of my 4-1/2 hours of work. Tomorrow is another off day for us, at least as we now see it, though I'll probably come dressed in my uniform just in case they need another round scored. No telling where anyone will park yet. The Broncos are playing late afternoon here and we obviously can't use their lots.

Final Sunday, an anticlimax

Late Saturday we got the word that parking for Sunday would be back to the original "hog wallows".  That's fine with me.  Who knows where they would have parked us if that didn't work, probably somewhere even less convenient than Mile High Stadium.  Sunday we did indeed go in dressed to work if they needed us.  That let us park in the volunteer lot and go in the volunteer entrance as a benefit (They had made a call for all volunteers willing to work to come dressed for it)  As it turned out they didn't need us, which left us free to spectate.  We spent most of the morning in one of the suicide zones near the 3rd green.  3 is a driveable par 4, and lots of balls come into the crowds left and right of the green.  We saw a lot of great pitches and a few birdies, but no eagles.  Carla played Marshal at least once on one of those shots.  We left after all our players in rounds 1 and 3 had come through and before the last 2 groups, had lunch, then got into the grandstand behind the 18th tee, eventually winding up against the left edge where you could see lots of 17 and 3 as well.  A great viewpoint.  Again we saw plenty of action on 17, and cleared out with about 3 groups to go to avoid the worst of the end-of-day crunch and beat the Broncos crowd to thelocal watering hole. 

With good luck on the bus and only a short return to the hotel we actually saw the finish on TV.  It's an odd feeling to watch the last hole and realize that you were there less than half an hour earlier.  It's been a great year of volunteer assignments.  We already have 3 lined up for 2015 (US Open, Senior Open, and PGA), and we may do at least one more.  This is becoming a serious addiction :-)

The 2015 Palmer Cup

The Palmer Cup is a relatively new event, basically a 3 day ryder cup style competition between teams formed from European born and US born college students. The difference in college athletics between the US and other countries is very apparent. Many aspiring young golfers in Europe go to college here because European universities don't in general have golf  at all, and certainly not scholarship programs. As a result, most of the contestants went to school in the US and many were in the NCAA competition last week. The difference effects coaching too -- The US team had two US college coaches as their coaches, while the Europeans had Jean Van De Veldt assisted by Janice Moody.

The tournament is at Rich Harvest Farms, an unusual private course 20 miles from us with a connection to NIU, and we've done several events there. This is a very different volunteer experience from a pro event. Rich Harvest coordinates the small number of volunteers needed. There's typically no fee, but you get a free shirt and hat, sometimes a jacket. This event was free to anyone to come, a great opportunity to see a very private course.

We had been watching the weather all week, hoping for the forecast to improve (it alternated between thunderstorms, heavy rain, and just overcast). No luck. It rained moderately, but steadily most of the night before, and dawned damp and rainy. Still, we headed in to get there in time to get our shirts, change, and be ready to go off with match 4 in the foursomes (alternate shot) competition. Our players were Anders Albertson and Jack Macquire for the US and Mathias Eggenberger and Gary Hurley for Europe (both not US college students). The rain pushed back the tee times 45 minutes, but the delay didn't really improve he weather at all. It rained on and off all morning. We watched the two groups ahead of ours tee off, and the second one start by losing a drive to the right into 3 foot high grass, fortunately marked as a lateral hazard, allowing a drop. Our players were both in play, and after a little excitement on the green (poor first putts) halved in pars.

The second though was a disaster for Europe. It's a reachable par 5 where going for it requires hitting at least 200 yds over water. The US team was in the fairway and while they didn't reach the green wound up dry in the front bunker. The European drive was just a bit right in wet rough. After the first try splashed they dropped in lighter rough and got the second one over, but still in long wet grass short of the bunker. It took 2 more shots by them before they got closer than the US, allowing the US pair to hit the bunker shot safely on and letting them concede the hole.

I was hoping to see Arnie in the thin crowd around the first tee but when he wasn't there I thought maybe he wasn't going to come out today. Wrong. As we approached the 3rd (a short par 3 halved routinely), I noticed an old man in a cart and several security people in the area. I had to look hard but from the right angle, yes it was Arnie, watching. We got a nice lesson in why everyone loves the man. When Carla noticed someone else getting his autograph, she thought she would ask if he would sign her volunteer hat. Before she got there the security people turned her away. Arnie must have been watching, because halfway down the next hole he pulled up next to us and called her over to sign the hat and thank her for coming out.

The 4th hole had other excitement -- it's described as the toughest driving hole in golf, an elevated tee to a narrow fairway that doglegs left through big trees to a little raised green. Both teams hit the fairway and the green, then the US rolled in a 15-20 footer to go 2 up. 5 and 6 were both played well and halved, but 7 was another adventure. 7 is a 600 yard par 5, downhill and with a lake to carry if you go in two. The US drove into a fairway bunker with a steep face, no chance to go, but a decent layup. Europe was way right, which as it turns out wasn't bad on this hole. One quirk of Rich Harvest is that because the course was built in stages with no intent initially to have 18 holes, many of the original holes have multiple fairways and tee boxes that when the course was less than 18 holes allowed it to be set up to play the hole from different angles, distances, and even par so that he could get 18 different holes out of fewer than 9 greens. The wild drive on 7 landed on one of the alternate fairways with a clear shot to the green, and they hit it into a greenside bunker. The US stuck their approach though and sunk the birdie winning the hole - 3 up. (When I noticed the drive on the alternate fairway it made me wonder whether that would count as a "fairway hit" for statistics, if anyone were keeping them. The PGA tour is very fussy about recording where tee shots land for those statistics, but I don't know how many courses they play with lots of alternate fairways and whether they've ever had to decide whether hitting a fairway other than the one you were aiming at counts as a fairway hit.

On 8 another wayward drive got Europe in big trouble -- it went into an area of 3 foot high grass and swamp. I was amazed they actually looked for it. They weren't successful, but with some help from Van De Veldt they dropped with a pretty good line and got the ball near the green in 3, and the US approach wasn't that close. It was good enough though when Europe failed to hole the chip for par, and that put the US 4 up. -- it was looking like a short match. (Moody and Van de Veldt were very recognizable and spent a lot of time with our group. The US coaches did as well but were of course less recognizable to us at least. It really did feel like a Ryder cup watching that.)

9 had another wayward drive from Europe, and another alternate fairway providing a route home. The putting wasn't great but good enough to halve the hole. On 10 it looked like Europe might have the advantage when the US couldn't get to the green from a bad lie off the tee, but the US stuffed a pitch, forcing a good 2 putt from long range to match it.

11 was a turning point. Another long par 5, not usually reachable, and another drive from Europe lost to the right. This one landed in a patch of
2 foot high grass and thistles not marked as a hazard. Their provisional was in a fairway bunker, while the US drive was in the rough on the left.
The rules official called back to the tee to ask if they wanted us to look for the drive, which they did, so Carla and I took our shot at finding it
(not successful) before the caddies and players arrived. With 6-8 people they managed to flatten a lot of the crap enough to find half a dozen wrong balls, then the ball of interest.

I was near the spot and it has to be one of the worst lies I've ever seen, buried in long stuff. I thought they might be able to take an unplayable and go back on a line from the pin and drop in the normal rough to have some shot, but marshals can't volunteer advice. (I think he actually did consider the drop eventually.) They debated it a while and ultimately concluded he had to try to hack the ball out. I couldn't believe it. He took the club back several times and aborted the swing, each time coming up with a wad of grass. Finally, he hacked through and a miracle happened, the ball popped out like a bunker shot and landed in the middle of the fairway. At that point I noticed that while the US was technically a stroke ahead, they had about 250 yards, most of it over crap, out of a downhill lie in heavy rough, while Europe was now
10 yards closer on flat lie in the fairway. Both got their balls up near the green though, and then both on, the US in 3 and Europe in 4. When
Europe missed the par putt and the US lagged their birdie putt pretty close I thought the US would go 5 up, but the final putt rimmed the cup and popped out, still 4 up. (At some point one of the US players asked our rules official whether the grass removed with the aborted swings in trying to hack out violated the rules. I thought it was potentially a problem, but they apparently ruled it wasn't.

12 is called "Snead's Crotch", because apparently Mr. Rich once played the hole with Sam Snead and told him where to hit his drive on this tricky tree infested dogleg by telling him to aim at the crotch of a tree. Snead hit it in the crotch, right where he was told, then hacked it out and got up and down for par),  Both teams had good drives and approaches, no blood. On 13 though the Europeans started back, holing a 12 footer on this par 3 for birdie to narrow it to 3 down. 14, another short tree infested par 4 had opportunities for both but ultimately was halved. 15, a crazy long (527 yard) par 4 with the second shot over a lake was dramatic. Both balls were in the fairway a mile down the hole, and while Europe's ball was muddy (about a foot from where it landed), they stuck the approach close and birdied it to narrow it to 2 down.

Europe took another with a birdie at the uphill par 3 16th (a good 15 footer or so), and yet another birdie on 17, playing today as a long par 4 with the second over a lake.  All square going to 18. Then another interesting hole. The US was in perfect position in the fairway, while Europe pulled the drive into long grass again. By now we were actually accumulating a crowd since all the other matches were done, so I stood on the fairway ready to signal for quiet and watching them contemplate what to do. Between Europe and the green was a creek surrounded by long grass as well as bunkers and some trees that might have been in the line short. At some point looking at the scene I was reminded of the 18th in the Open where Van De Veldt had his meltdown and thought it was ironic to see him coaching others in a similar position. In the end they hit a nice little punch hook around the trees to layup short of the creek, while the US pulled their approach into a bunker well short of the green. The Europeans put their 3rd on the green in good position while the US was on the back fringe further away, and it looked like Europe might overcome a 4 hole deficit to come back and win. The putting was sloppy, with the US coming up way short and Europe going a bit past. In the end though the US made the par putt while Europe missed a 3 footer to lose it on the last hole. It seemed a shame given the fantastic comeback.

Originally we had planned to stay for some of the fourball in the afternoon, but it was still raining, and our shoes and pants were soaked, so we headed home after lunch. It was still a great match and a great experience in spite of the terrible weather. I'd love to go back tomorrow for singles, but that's not in the cards. Somehow I have to figure out how to make 2 rounds of volunteer uniforms water bottles, golf shoes, rain gear, and tons of other stuff fit in a suitcase so we can leave for Chambers Bay on Sunday.

The US Open, Chambers Bay 2015

The US Open is an experience just about any golf fan or volunteer junky wants to have.  It's not just a major, it's THE major, bigger than the PGA, and more accessible than the Masters or the Open Championship.  We had worked one US Open back in 2003, our first volunteer experience, but had been waiting for the volunteer list to open for Chambers Bay ever since we knew it was coming there.  We had played the course several times and knew it would be interesting, and it's hard to turn down a chance to go to the pacific northwest to escape the miserable hot wet summer in Illinois.  We thought that volunteering for the Sahallee Senior Open and two Boeing Championships might get us an early invite, and sure enough, because we worked leaderboards at Sahalee, we got invited to sign up for that at Chambers.

But when we went to do it, all the committees were open, including Walking Scorer.  I debated a bit whether we would lose our priority if we named Walking Scorer first, but we met all the requirements and they should be glad to have us, so in the end we listed it first, and I apollogised to the nice guy who had been our chair at Sahalee (who said no problem, that's his favorite job too.).  When the assignments came out a few months later we couldn't believe it -- Walking scorers for the US Open.  I had heard from other walking scorers how hard that usually was to get, and how you had to work your way up to it.  I guess we did, having scored for two other USGA championships plus some PGA and Web.com events.  Then it was a scramble to make plans.  All the best hotel deals disappeared long before the volunteer opportunities opened, so we were stuck with an old and beat up Days Inn in a bad neighborhood, but heck, it's the US Open.

Look what they've done to my golf course! (First Practice Day)

Carla and I have actually been to Chambers Bay twice since coming out on Sunday (3 hours late thanks to Unitidy Airlines, which did get our bags on an earlier flight, but somehow soaked my stuff, probably by leaving them out on the tarmac while loading in a thunderstorm in Chicago.) This is no doubt the tournament with the worst logistics we have worked. (Well, the Ryder Cup in 2012 wasn't good either, but at least for that one volunteers could use the volunteer lot for the whole week and missed the worst of the long bus rides. What's really amazing is that the course is unrecognizeable. I wondered how they would ever accomodate the crowds. In part, they simply took over the adjacent public park to house the merchandise tent and other "entrance" tents, and a new driving range (the one I remember now has tee boxes for 1 and 10 on it as well as a bunch of tents including those for the volunteers. The 18th grandstand structure can probably be seen from space with the naked eye. Amazing.

Today, not having a work shift we parked in the most convenient public lot, not realizing we would spend 45 minutes on a
bus to reach Chambers from there. (Not awful going, but on the way back the bus had no A/C, was probably 120 inside, and everyone came out nearly passed out from the heat. Just getting to the bus from where you parked was a 1/2 mile walk, then probably a mile from the entrance to the first tee, all over dusty crushed rock.

If you played Chambers, you might want to check out the USGA online description of the holes -- amazing. Most of the par 4's play 500 yards or more. Of course it's dry as dust here, doesn't look like they have had rain this year, so the fescue rough is dead and the fairways and greens are faster than a cart path, so everything will run a mile. We didn't get to watch any real big names ( Icaught glimpses of JB Holmes, Bubba, Jordan Spieth, and Snedeker, but only a few glimpses. Much of the course is hard to recognize. The pro shop and caddy shack near the first tee is completely lost in tents and granstands. Even the restaurant and shop on top of the bluff is hidden in tents. Many holes have tees way behind where even the longest tees were the last time we played (the exception being some of the par 5's, which are playing as par 4's from shorter tees, but that doesn't make them easy.

One complication you might not notice on TV is how you have to get around inside the ropes. The other tournaments we have worked have used crosswalks to let the players and others cross public areas. At Chambers most of those crossings involve climbing stairs to elevated walkways. I have no idea how we will get from 3 to 4. Normally this involved walking up a long asphalt path past the bathrooms and halfway house, going past several other holes on the way. Now, it seems that they want you to cross from the 3rd green onto 11, then sneak around the back of the 11th green, climb stairs to cross to the 12th tee, and then another set of stairs to get to 4. We saw more than one pro gingerly descending the last stairway looking like his knees hurt. I predict more than a few caddies will simply take the public walkway.

Another challenge here will be figuring out just what the players are hitting out of. There is very little normal rough, just fairway and long
fescue, some of which has been mowed a bit. On many holes it's hard to see where the greens start. The players need to know if the ball is on the green so they can mark it, but I can't see how they will on some of them.  (Scorers need to know that too because they want the putting statistics and off the green doesn't count.

Walking the course for a spectator is just as much of a challenge as I expected. What's really awkward is the maps they give you don't show where spectators can walk, and we came across a bunch of people looking to get to places and frustrated because there was no crosswalk or they couldn't walk the rough on one side of a hole. (I don't know why, but somehow I'm the one who gets all the questions from fans. I guess white hair just looks authoritative. Normally I don't mind, but in spite of playing Chambers half a dozen times or more often I couldn't tell where the fans could go.) They have the info -- there was an interactive map in volunteer headquarters with all the spectator paths marked, but for some reason they don't put that on the maps they give out.

Tomorrow, bight and early we get our on course training and do a practice round with the pros. That should let me see all 18 holes, something I
didn't quite get today (we saw most, but getting around outside the ropes isn't easy, and everywhere they have put down powdered rock dust which on a hot day was making it miserable walking.

I don't know whether to expect really low scores, because you can hit the ball so far, or high scores, because those long shots will run into fescue or bunkers if not perfect. Certainly I saw a lot of second tee shots from even the straight hitters. 8 and 12 should both be interesting holes -- 8 is a longish par 5 with a narrow fairway and an abyss on the right, and 12 is a reachable 4 with big gravel hills on both sides. (I lost one on the right bank once, found the ball, but the stance was so bad I think it took me 3 to get the ball back in play from there. The pros are better, but nobody is that good on that stuff).

What a differencd a day makes (Practice Tuesday)

Yesterday, we were frustrated by the bad logistics at the US Open. Today was our first "work" day. what a difference. We got to park at a highs school maybe 5 miles from the course so the bus ride wasn't bad (still a pain that they dump you miles from the action though). We got there early -- before 7AM, for training. Training turned out to be a couple minutes discussion with the tech guy who really didn't answer any of the hard questions about the course. Good thing we've done this before. Fortunately the USGA is using the same PDAs they did the last time we did this, not the tablets we saw them using at some tournament in between (must have been an unsuccessful experiment).  There were some new twists, like the need to enter the players' clothing, which the ball spotters use to figure out who is who in the group.  The woman at check in told us to join a group on the 10th tee, but the handheld they gave us (one for two of us, we traded every 4-5 holes) was set for number 1. Carla thought about getting that changed, but they were already busy with the next set of volunteers, so we headed to 1. Just being inside the ropes was going to be so much better we both said we really didn't care who we got. When I looked around the tee box though I couldn't believe it:
We won the lottery! Better yet, they were talking about setting up a money match so it was clear they were going to play 18, and make a serious score on each hole, something many competitors don't do on practice days. Perfect.

Even before they teed off we learned it was Phil's birthday (every group of spectators sung it to him as we passed. The guy has amazing tolerance, or at least the ability to fake enthusiasm the 53rd time he's heard something.

Phil and Rickie played well from the start. Snedeker struggled a bit at first, and Jimmy Walker was a bit like a deer in the headlights. He'd miss
by just a little and wind up with a hopeless lie in the rough or a bunker. Still, he was good tempered and gracious, introducing himself and thanking us at the end of the round (none of the others did, but I didn't expect it on a practice round.

Being with a group of stars means you have lots of people following, both inside and outside the ropes, and there are always surprises. On about 4 I noticed a woman with a long blond ponytail and very short skirt walking with the group who looked familiar. Having scored for her Carla sugggested Natalie Gulbis, which was shortly confirmed when Phil noticed her and started talking with her. I guess she's doing commentary for Fox on the tournament, because she left for a while in the middle of the round for meetings "in the compound", then came back. Somewhere on 8 I noticed a familiar looking older man and when I read the tag he wore it was Tim Finchem. He didn't stay with the group long, but on 9 Greg Norman joined and walked the whole back 9 with the group. Butch Harmon joined for most of the back as well.

It's fascinating to hear some of the conversation. On 16, we waited a long time on a tiny tee box under the one tree on the course, and Phil and Greg Norman were talking about playing money matches on Tuesday of tournament week to get ready. There were some interesting stories about pros who got the yips and whether playing the match ahead actualy helped avoid it.

Phil played a lot of good shots, including some real Phil moments, like deciding to play his bad drive that lodged in the junk left of the 12th green and hitting an awesome flop shot to about 4 feet. The biggest moment though was Snedeker's, a hole out eagle on 10. We couldn't see it but it
was obvious what happened from the reaction in the stands ahead. Phil had hit his right plugged in a bunker. The crowd wanted him to hit it, but
given the hole was over for the match, he dropped 3 balls into a bunker on the left very close to the pin, took the pin out. One landed in the cup and bounced out, another when straight over the top, just a little to hard, and the 3rd finished within tap in distance as well. This guy is good.

Fowler was hitting the best shots most of the round and finished by our reckoning about -3. Mostly though I was impressed with how consistent these guys are. Most holes 3 or 4 balls were in the fairway in a tight clump. We heard a lot of strategy discussion. On 18, most players took driver, but Phil hit a hard draw with an iron. When we got to the balls sure enough, Phil was in good position, and Jimmy Walker's shot that looked great was in a bunker that Phil described as a wedge out (yeah, it was a deep hole on the right side).

It was also interesting to watch them play the bounces. Phil did that a lot, discussing where to hit into a par 3 and often playing to the side and
watching it kick off a bank towards the cup. That's what you want to do in links. At one point I heard him say he did that kind of thing because it gave him an amazing margin for error. (On 8, a hole where I remember playing shots off the slope behind the green they all practiced them after someone hit one and got it to come back. I think a lot of competitors will get a lesson in links play this week.

Walking inside the ropes is clearly the best way to see the course and play. Many holes that had no view were open to us. It's too bad the public won't get these views in person, even if the cameras will.

The round took about 6 hours to finish. We were dead then, having never sat and having to navigate a lot of stairs and steep paths. Another scorer followed the group for half the round and commented that she thought a lot would fail to make 18. I don't know, walking scorers are nothing if not determined. Tomorrow is going to be a rest/recovery day though. We plan to park in the blue lot, which is much closer to the course.

We won't know our groups for the rest of the week until later. At this point I don't really care, walking inside is a blast with anyone, and its
actually easier with players that don't draw crowds. At least during the tournament even the name players won't have such crowds walking with them as today. At times I think we had at least 50 people with our group, which made things very tight in some places where there's no room to spread out around the tee.

And the Tournament Starts

We went to the blue (Ft Steilacoom) lot, which is indeed much closer to the course, and more compact as well (less walking from your car to the bus. A win on almost all fronts (only problem -- school busses for transport. I don't think I would have fit into one of those seats when I was 10). The course was even dryer than it was on Tuesday. All the public walking paths were basically soft sand. really tough walking. Lots of complaints about it but not much anyone could do. It was treacherous inside the ropes too -- we saw several caddies fall on the slopes off the tees, one requiring medical attention (apparently broke something in his arm, I heard he was out on Thursday with a cast.

On Thursday we arrived in time to see a few groups tee off on 18 before checking in for our afternoon shifts. The 18th grandstand turns out to have real seats, and a decent view of 1 as well. The pin was way in the back, and we watched a lot of good shots that didn't reach the tiny tier it was on, then roll back leaving them to struggle for a two putt. The other benefit to that granstand was no USGA green paint, which we got on our butts on Wednesday from a bench style grandstand.

When we checked in to find our groups I got Daniel Summerhays, Thomas Aiken, and Danny Lee. Carla had Daren Clarke, Lee Janzen, and Ollie Schniederjans. Both decent groups. I wound up the the same standard bearer who accompanied us on the round with Mickelson, who while he wasn't a golfer and couldn't do the numbers on his own knew how to navigate the course and keep out of the way.

My guys started out with a lesson in links. Two of them were left of number 1 (which means at the bottom of a big hill next to 18), and Aiken failed to get it far enough and rolled back for an eventual double. Lee went through the same thing on two. Summerhays played solidly, hanging in at even and one over through the front 9 while the others went steadily up. The course was crowded because Spieth and Rose were the next group behind me, and Tiger and Ricky Fowler behind them, so we could do no shortcuts -- lots of climbing rickety wooden stairways over bridges to cross the public walks.

Carlas group played similarly. The first shot she actually recorded was a Penalty for Clarke who hit it into the fescue above a bunker on the right of 1, took an unplayable and dropped behind the bunker, eventually getting a double. Jantzen played a bit better but still grinding, while Schneiderjans (who was the top ranked amateur a couple of weeks ago when he played at the NCAA finals, and who we saw a week ago at Rich Harvest) actually got under par.

After a few holes I became aware of the giant sucking sound two groups back. No surprise that Tiger was picking up more than a few bogies, but I was amazed to see Fowler's score. After watching him play so well on Tuesday I don't know what happened, Lack of experience probably. I knew what they were shooting because of the new USGA scoring system. For the US open they have abandoned the old manual scoreboards in favor of electronics, like the PGA tour uses, which can show a bunch of stuff. They even have their own version of Shotlink, where volutneers spot the balls with lasers and the scoreboards show the distance to the pin for the player hitting. All that runs off the scorer's PDAs, so as a scorer I have to be very careful about which player I select as being about to hit since he will go on the board. When those boards don't have other things to show, they show the scores of the two groups following you, so I could see that Spieth and Jason Day were
playing okay behind me and Tiger and Ricky were probably missing the cut.

12 was clearly going to be a fun hole. Another scoring duty is to call in the club or putt distance whenever anyone makes an eagle, and there were tons of eagle reports on the radio from 12 (that's the narrow uphill short par 4 that's driveable for most). One group had 2 eagles and a birdie. When we got there all 3 were on the green, though only Summerhays was close. The pin was WAY in back, and he looked about 4 feet, while the others were probably over 100 feet. Aikens actually played a wedge off the green over the bumps to get it back there. Summerhays missed the eagle, though he birdied it, and Aiken and Lee parred it. The tee sign on 13 says it's 534 yards, and it's uphill. I can't imagine that, but all 3 of my guys put it long in the fairway, and all 3 hit it pretty close and sank their putts. The marshal at the back of the green said it was the only group of all birdies. That got Summerhays to -1, and I thought maybe he'd be able to make a run. Not happening -- the PBFU times 3. The next hole (Cape Fear, a huge downhill dogleg where you can carry as much gravelly waste as you want to shorten it), had Lee hit it
into the waste area and the others on the fairway, but all 3 came up just short of the green. They tried different shots to get over a big bump and
back to the pin, none very successful, and I had to tell my standard bearer to change all the nuumbers again.

Summerhays held in at even par, missing short ones to go under on a couple of holes. Lee had a screwup on 16 -- missing a short par putt than missing the tap in to double it and go +7. I think he gave up after that, missing another short one on 18. I thought for sure there would be birdies on 18, but Summerhays put it left and wound up in a bunker behind an island of crap. He hacked out -- and into the next bunker in another bad lie. When he waived the others away from where he was aiming that one I noticed it was between two bunkers so deep you would probably need to call in helicopter rescue if you fell into one I thought this could be really bad, but he found the fairway, stuck the approach, and sunk the putt for a routine par. Schneiderjans was the only one of Carla's group that finished under par, tieing Mickelson and Montgomerie at -1. (We actually saw Monty finish on the way in. I'm not surprised he's playing okay, but I don't think he's long enough to win there).

The rain held off until night, and then wasn't much. We have another afternoon round today, provided I can get my legs to function by then (no
slam dunk, that course and all the stairs really take it out of you. We have preliminary word on who we will get, but all that can change, so I'll
leave you all in suspense :-)

Winning the Lottery Again

Thursday, they gave us preliminary information on which groups we had for today it was nobody special, but the group numbers and players were inconsistent, and eventually we figured out they read the players from the 1st tee when we had groups on 10. When we looked it up Carla had -- Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, and Angel Cabrera. I had the next group up, Liang, Hearn, and Fujita, not a bad group given they all had a shot of making the cut.

We arrived in time to watch a bunch of groups, including Spieth and Tiger play 18 (halfway through their rounds). Tiger looked tired, and played tired. Plenty of cheers, but more like acknowledging past greatness than what he was doing this week. Spieth was playing okay, but Rose only so so  Today 18 played as a par 4 and 1 as a 5, making 18 a definite bogey hole. At about 1 we got our equipment, met our standard bearers (mine was a golfing college student who could do the numbers just fine. Carla's was a non golfer college quarterback, but
she had a scoring supervisor with her to help out so that worked too), and headed for the 10th tee.

I got there in time to watch Phil tee off -- lots of love and encouragement, but not a great tee shot. Apparently Carla's first recorded shot was again a penalty -- Cabrera, who plugged it into a steep bank of long stuff and took a drop. My guys were all playing okay, but not a lot of birdies early at least. 12 was again a fun hole. We waited a while before being waived up by the Mickelson group. Apparently Bubba had blown one way right onto a gravel path and needed a ruling (no relief, it's an integral part of the course, but it took a while for the rules official and Carla to figure out how to get there to determine it) My group all hit the green and were close. I thought for sure I'd get to report eagles. (When someone gets an eagle the USGA wants you to call in with either the club for a hole out or the distance for a putt. No, all missed, but 3 birdies wasn't bad and help get the numbers down.

It didn't last, nothing awful, just the occasional bogie because someone went in the wrong place. Carla's group was much the same. Phil kept making bogies and missing putts. Bubba wasn't much better, and Angel dropped shots too, but made some birdies to stay reasonable. It didn't help that my group got on the clock on about 15. Suddenly we weren't waiting for Phil any more, which I didn't understand. Yes, they had some trouble, but not a lot. Being on the clock is no better for a scorer than a player. -- the players start trying to hurry and sometimes hit out of order and run up to greens so it's tough to keep track of what's going on. Mainly it just accellerated the suckage.

The round was no faster than Thursday. 2-3/4 hours to make the turn at 18.  On 1 my standard bearer went crazy with the numbers before I caught him -- he thought it was a par 4 and they all made bogies or doubles, but today it was an easy par 5 -- still way too many strokes. We finally got off the clock on 4, mainly because our rules official told us all to exit the 3rd green onto the public path and walk up it to 4, rather than sneaking around behind 11 and taking "the stairway to hell -- an arduous climb over 3 bridges with about half a dozen ups and downs to reach the 4th tee. I was delighted, having fallen twice on the stairway between 10 and 11. Those stairs are slick and rickety, a bad combination for anyone. On 4, Hearn and Liang hit great shots and birdied, and Fujita made a 3 putt bogie to bring all to +4.  That's about the time I started hearing requests from other scorers for the cut line and currently that was it. Yes, all 3 might make it.

No way -- bogies on 5 and 6 made that problematic. 6 was really painful for Liang, who had the bad luck to hit right of the green onto a long fescue downslope to a bunker and could only punch it into the bunker, then get up and down for bogie. 7 was a mystery. 3 grood shots in all rolled into collection areas. Late in the day the greens were increadibly crispy, and it was impossible to figure out where the ball would roll. Liang putted it up a slope, then had it roll into another collection are. Hearn nearly did the same thing. An ugly hole that pretty much ended their chances, so they thought at least. On 8 we had good drives and seconds, but no birdies, after a long wait for Phil to hit out of awkward position on the right. Later I learned that he birdied the hole -- his only birdie on the day. Nobody saw it of course, since 8 is completely incaccessible to spectators.

9 was playing off the back upper tee, someting like 230 down a huge hill. None of my guys saw where their shots went. Hearn was looking short before someone told him it was over. Fujita was in a bunker over the green and Liang was on. Hearn was down a slope next to a public path, and needed a ruling.  Nobody could get down there without a lot of slipping, but eventually they got someone and he got a drop -- onto a 60 degree upslope, from which he almost got up and down.

The sad part was the cut eventually went to +5, and Fujita would have made it, if he hadn't missed getting up and down out of the bunker. Carla's group did little better. Phil had a miserable day, going from a contender to a morning starter on Saturday. Bubba finished at +7, done for the weekend, while Angel thought he was dead at +5, only to wind up playing when bogies at the end of the day meant something like 16 player tied for 60th place at +5. That meant the first tee time would be at roughly 8, and they wouldn't all be off before nearly 3PM.

All day we heard disasters over the radio. Tech failurs, scoring corrections, and some physical problems. One player (Every) withdrew with
medical issues half way through his round. A scorer somehow fell and couldn't get up behind 16, and it took maybe 20 minutes to get someone to him. My PDA stopped working several times. That's not unusual, and I've learned to just keep scoring and keep a paper trail, and fortunately it recovered every time, but others weren't as lucky.

In the end we left the course after 8:30. A very long day, and the only information we had for Saturday was to be there as close to 7AM as we could (a neat trick, given they wouldn't open the gates until 7, and it takes maybe 15 minutes to hike from the entrance to the volunteer tent.

A disappointing Saturday

To make the early time, we left almost before dawn, reaching the course before they opened any of it (unlike the announcement, you couldn't even get to the range before 7, then raced up the path to get to check in not long after 7 and of course they had no information. Ultimately,
came a disappointment. We weren't assigned to work, we were "relief", which meant if another scorer went down or failed to show we would take over. That didn't happen, so we spent the morning watching the early groups play 7. It was easier than yesterday, but not much. At noon we turned in the radio as we were no longer on the hook to take over, and watched a bunch of play on 2 and 16. Phil continued to suck, unfortunately, but ultimately everyone else did too. I kept telling spectators that the USGA usually tries to insure that the leader doesn't get to -10, and this looks to be no exception. Tomorrow we will go again, as spectators, and watch a bit (though probably not the finish) before flying on to Sacramento for the Senior Open next week.

Overall, this was a fun experience, but I'm not sure how many US Opens I really want to do -- too crowded and as a result the logistics are really bad.

A big Finish on Sunday

Carla and I had no work shift on Sunday, but having had to make the arrangements long in advance we went to the open anyway. The blue lot continued to be a big win in terms of spectator convenience. Today going early we weren't more than a short walk from the bus depot and it's only a 15 minute ride. Getting there we went straight to 7 grandstand and stayed there much of the day. 7 is a fun hole anyway, and today with the pin forward a bit there was more than a bit of drama from shots that teetered on the edge and then rolled back -- some into the right hand bunker, some into a collection area on the left, and some 100+ yards down the hill either into the fairway or the bunkers on the right of the hole. The trouble is that hitting out of the right hand bunker was like pitching a bowling ball down the lanes -- if you weren't careful, it came right back to you. CT Pan hit 3 shots out of that bunker before getting one to stay up. The first one came back right into his footprints. After the second he rushed to smooth that area because he knew he didn't hit it far enough and sure enough it came right back (which raised a rules issue in my mind -- is that really legal? Raking a bunker when you know your ball will come right back into the area you are raking? It wasn't flagged for a penalty, so I presume it must be okay). A couple of others were unlucky enough to have one of those shots roll through the bunker and into an island of long grass in it sticking in a bad lie. A few people birdied it, including a couple of really long putts. We saw most of the field (except the last few groups) play it. Phil just looked dejected. We watched him double the final hole from the TV in the volunteer tent. (Like most tournaments, the Open has a hospitality tent for volunteers with drinks and snacks and TVs. Not much, but it's a place to rest and sit.)

We finished the day watching a couple of groups play 16 and 17, and left after Rory's charge fell apart somewhere down there because we have an early flight tomorrow. (We watched the finish from a TV in a brew pub over dinner. What a show.)

Some observations:

The crowds today seemed way less. The 7th grandstand never really filled up. Maybe it was that people wanted to be on the back 9, maybe it was some people holding multi-day passes were discouraged by the logistics and didn't come. Maybe it was that the USGA moved the ropes overnight, opening up some areas (mostly tee boxes) to spectators that relieved a lot of congestion.  Anyone who stayed home missed a good show, whether they stayed for the end or not. The USGA must be happy with a result that was close with only a few players finishing 4 days under par (and nobody in double digits). The volume of souvenirs npeople were hauling home from the two giant merchandise tents was amazing. Someone's making a bunch of bucks on this.

The new electronic leaderboards the USGA brought out got mixed reviews. Yes, they are more informative than the manual ones, but they are also harder to read. (I don't know why people who design electronic displays always seem to go for fonts and type sizes that are "pretty" instead of readable at long distances. There were also a whole slough of technology problems. The board on 7 was dead most of Saturday, and failed mid day today. It came back, but with bad areas. The boards were always showing the wrong distances, players, or scores. I talked to some of the people doing the "ball position" job (measuring where the balls are with lasers), and they all complained that they weren't getting timely information from the walking scorers. The fact that nobody explained the system to both groups together probably is somewhat responsible, but the connectivity problems of the scoring devices no doubt made this worse. The new system also clearly has some limitations and quirks -- like the fact that the "thru" board display, which in the old days displays the players' scores through the previous hole and isn't updated to reflect what happens on this hole, still looks the same, but now updates (i.e. someone sinks a birdie and the player is listed at the lower score through the previous hole). One of the things that the ball position people use is a description of the clotthing colors for the players to help identify whose ball is whose. Unfortunately that system is primitive -- there's no purple, pink, and no way to put in outfits with multiple colors on the shirts. The players also have a nasty habit of winding up in pairings where all dress in the same colors. It's hard enough to keep track of who is who as a scorer, when you are with the group for 18 holes. I can't imagine how the laser guys figure it out as the 3rd group of players in head-to-toe black walks up the fairway.

I know there was a lot of anxiety over Fox's coverage. From what I've seen (mainly in the tent and brew pubs), they did a credible job. Maybe I'm looking at it differently, since just about anywhere they present a camera view I can immediately identify the hole because I was probably standing right there. They used a lot of high tech toys -- a little robotic camera cart that would chase your group walking off the 1st tee (really kind of creepy), a drone, which most described as a nightmare giant wasp that took pictures near 15 and 16, and several large robo carts that would wheel out into the fairway behind the players, position the camera, then come back again. I didn't see nearly the number of camera lift trucks that NBC/Golf Channel used, but lots and lots of tower cameras and crews with handheld cameras following the lead groups. Some of the stuff was over the top (like constantly showing Tigers falling in the fescue or Phils second place finishes, but overall I enjoyed it.

I've seen more of Tacoma than I ever wanted to. I now know every surface street way to approach Chambers bay, and lots of new brew pubs in the south Seatle/Tacoma area, as well as a new favorite course in the area (Druids Glen). Now we get to pack it all up so we get on a plane tomorrow AM for SFO and drive out to Sacremento in time to do it all again.

Watching the finish I was really wondering how they would handle a playoff. Some of the USGA people must need to be involved both here and Sacramento. Maybe they just rely on the fact not many people need to be there on Monday.  As it was it isn't a problem, but it made me curious. I'm also curious what really happened to Brendan Grace on 16 -- both why the heck he aimed it out over the bay, and why he wound up playing the provisional with the ball clearly found and no white stakes in site. Maybe there was a local rule declaring that area OB, but I never saw it marked that way, and if not why wasn't he simply up against a boundary fence (i.e. hosed). I doubt the answer mattered to the finish, but it added some drama at the end, as did Spieth and Johnson's putting on 18.

Watching today with Binoculars though I could definitly see the balls bouncing on the bumps in the greens. It didn't roll smooth like Augusta or most tour stops. I guess that's just part of this being my impression of a real world Open -- not played on manicured perfect grass with bunkers filled with perfect sand, but on a real rough track with little imperfections everywhere. It was fun to watch the pros hack out of some of the kinds of things we get all the time (like footprints in bunkers, tufts of rough, or just putt on bumpy greens with little lumps of poa growing in them. That's real golf, not an agronomy exhibition.

The 2015 US Senior Open (Del Paso CC, Sacramento)

A few weeks after we signed up for Chambers we got the invite to Del Paso, and once again Walking Scorer was open and we got it.  Wow.  Doing two tournaments in consecutive weeks isn't easy and has some downsides -- you miss the volunteer party on Saturday before tournament week, and miss most pre-tournament training.  The latter wasn't a big issue, since we just told them we would be scoring for the US Open.

Sacramento felt like a different planet after Tacoma. It's in the upper 90's here and supposed to be over 100 by the end of the week, but "it's a dry heat". The course is way different from Chambers Bay too -- manicured greens and fairways, pristine white sand bunkers, and almost dead flat. A walk in the park for scorers and players.  I wonder how the 3 players who were in the field last week (Montgomerie, Jimenez, and Janzen) will compare the two, but if I interpret the groupings right we may get some of those folks in our Friday round.

Carla and I spent this morning getting a lesson from Mcilroy -- not Rory, but Jason, an 85 pound kid who hits it about 240 off the tee and dead
straight nito the green. We paired with him and his dad on the Alastair McKenzie course at Haggin Oaks. It's a muni, but in great condition and
shows some of McKenzie's signature design even after 70 years of abuse. Jason probably shot in the upper 70's off the combination of tees he was hitting (mostly the senior or better women's tees, picked to match what they will set up for some junior tournament he's playing there next weekend.) I was hopeless with the rentals, even though they were new and in good condition, though Carla didn't play badly. Following our round we went to the course for a longer look than the quick look we got yesterday. We saw a lot of legends in the game (Funk, Jimenez, Irwin, Cook, Watson, Stadler, and many more) getting in some practice. The course is so different from Chambers, and so much freindlier to walking for both spectators and those in the ropes. So far no crowds at all. (In fact our only problem was finding the parking, which is at the California State Fair grounds, but so few signs it's hard to sort out. This should be a fun low key week for us after last week. We even see a couple of courtesy cars in the parking lot of the hotel, probably hopeful qualifiers (I gather most of the big names rent a house for big tournaments, I guess they can afford it).

There's nothing really special we can see about the course, plenty of tough holes with doglegs and/or water and certainly plenty of trees (though
Jason's father told us they took out over 1,000 trees in a renovation a few years back). I guess there's a reason we've done 10 senior opens, the tournament has a familiar feel now, big enough to be interesting, but not so big logistics get ugly.

Practice day

We went out Wednesday for our practice scoring. Thanks to a screwup in reporting and tee times, Carla and I wound up scheduled to go out together and standing on the tee box after the last group teeing off one in the morning went. We finally went with Doug Rohrbaugh, an unknown (to us) who was only going to do 9 and convinced the starter to let him sneak off before the first group off 10 made the turn, but we figured we would catch someone else teeing off 10 to finish. Practice scoring for 1 player isn't a big challenge, but we didn't really need the practice, just a good look at the course from inside the ropes to figure out where we wanted to stand and where we had to go to reach the next tee on every hole, so that was fine. On 3, he had caught up to the group ahead and didn't want to wait, so he decided to waive the next group up and join them.  That was a group that started on 10 and made the turn.  The players that came to the tee were Rocco Mediate, John Cook,  and John McClure. Plenty of action to practice on now.

Rocco is a stitch. Coming from the green to the 4th tee he waived off an offer of "fresh water", saying he'd rather have stale water, just like he
didn't want any of that old wine, he wanted the new stuff. His caddie was towing the bag on a pull cart, and had some kind of strange indie music blasting from it. Rocco was always talking to the fans and cracking jokes, deliberately topping shots off the tee before hitting the real one. Some USGA guy hassled his caddie over the pull cart and the caddie  replied "anything to piss off the USGA", then mumbled aside about not being able to get comp tickets for his kid and having to pay a deposit on towels. Carla asked him whether that was serious, and he was dead serious, saying it's not as if they don't make enough money off the event.

The rest of the front 9 went by quickly, and when they all quit we just walked up 10 and caught the next group, two more journeymen out to see the course. They hit lots of shots from different tees and it was interesting to see the experimentation. ("let's just see where the 5 lands here (short, so he hit a 4 and almost holed it)). Meanwhile on the radio we heard that ahead of us Jimenez had aced number 2 and eagled 4 (the shorter par 5). Someone we thought might play well.

There are some birdie holes out there. 1, 2, 4, 9, and 10 look birdieable. The last 4 though are some of the toughest I've seen. 15 is a 620+ par 5 that runs the length of the property. It plays even longer because of a large elevated bunker that these guys can't clear off the back tees. 15 is
a long par 4 with the second over a lake. The USGA had them stop cutting the right side of the fairway, which made it a dogleg (and brings the lake more into play). The fairways grass grown to rough is nasty thick and deep. We were walking with another scorer who was a member there and said they lose almost every shot hit into that area. 17 is a 225 yard par 3 over a lake, and 18 is a medium to long par 4 with a creek right in front of the green. I expect big numbers there.


We then went to the course late, after playing a round at a local course (Diamond Oaks).  By then it was approaching 100, and we parked
in the only shaded grandstand, the one on 10 green, and watched most of the afternoon players play it. It should be a birdie hole, but we saw only 3 or 4 birdies there and more bogies and doubles. The trouble is the green is shallow and elevated, and the landing area in the fairway narrow. Any ball not hit from the fairway has almost no chance of staying on the green, and even on the green everyone misread the putts. most of the approaches were long of the front pin, and the come back putts were alwasy woefully short and didn't allow nearly enough for break. Collin Montgomerie sunk the only long putt we saw holed, though Russ Cochrane almost holed out from the fairway.

Tomorrow is our first real work shift. We are on for an early morning group, and if we are reading the times right will both get groups with star
players in them. Should be fun. Today, most of the crowd came out early. By the time we arrived at around 12:30, the number of people going home exceed the number of arrivals all afternoon. By the time we left at about 4:30, there were only a handful of people around 11 to watch Kenny Perry and Corey Pavin play the hole. (Pavin holed a long putt that I thought was a birdie, but not according to the final score today.)

When we got back to the car the car said it was 106 out. Really? I thought it was just the sun, but we drove for some time at speed to get to our dinner (Hoppy's brew pub, highly recommended), and the temperature just climbed -- to 108, then 109. All I know is it was really hot, but unlike our midwestern gigs it's dry, meaning lots of water and cold towels will work to keep us going. Tomorrow we are early enough to avoid the worst of it, and while we have later shifts on the weekend days it's not supposed to go out of the low 90's.

Winning the Lottery Again

I don't know what it is about this trip.  After Chambers I'd have been content to have a few quiet rounds with unknowns.  I said we might have groups with star players. Indeed, Carla and I had the 7:42 AM groups off both tees. I had Monty, Langer, and Tallent, an amateur
who probably wasn't going to make the cut but kept his cool. Carla had Jimenez, Sluman, and Lehman, none playing especially well but all looking like they could make it.

I have no idea whether our experience figured into this. Originally we had been assigned only two shifts, Friday PM and early Saturday AM, but at some point they changed it to give us these groups and mid-late groups on Saturday and Sunday. We reported real early for that, not being sure whether we read the sheets right, and found out we had. My standard bearer was a young girl in the first tee progam who had never done it before, but she was a golfer and had walked a practice round. Carla had a similar kid. With our group was a rules official who was clearly experienced and knew Monty's caddie well enough to talk with them, and an FBI agent assigned for security. Our rules official talked about Monty being a bit testy about where people stood and how they moved and I assured him I'd done this before, with star players and media and would keep us out of the way. After I told him to move on the 12th hole (our 3rd) because he was standing directly behind Monty's putt I think he realized he didn't have to worry about me.

Monty started at -2, two behind Watson, who amazingly enough was leading the tournament, and Langer at +1. Both played well out of the gate, and Monty quickly got to -3, then gave one back and almost immediately got the shot back. Some time on 11 I heard Carla call in that Lehman had eagled number 1, the only eagle report I heard while we were working. (The USGA wants details on every eagle, the club and distance, and if there was a putt the distance of that.) That's the last I heard from her (a good thing, it meant no problems). Talent made a few birdies, but always followed with a PBFU and made some more bogies beyond that. We had a lot of gallery and just enough media, but nobody famous that I noticed since we weren't on live TV at that point.

On the back 9 Langer caught fire with a couple of birdies, including the difficult 3rd, a par 5 converted to a 4 for the tournament. Monty was
hanging in there as Langer eventually went -4 for the day and -3 for the tournament to tie him. About then the breeze died and the temperature went sharply up. I was grabbing water for me and Abbie, my young standard bearer, who was doing a lot of work changing Tallent's numbers. Most of the time we were walking in the dreaded R2 -- the USGA's serious rough, 6+ inches long and really thick. At some point our FBI guy said that walking in the stuff made it twice as long. I don't doubt it. On a few holes I escaped it because I had to cross the fairway to see where a shot went, like 16, where Monty hit a draw that went dangerously near a lake, but finished in the intermediate rough and after a good approach he nearly birdied it. Mostly though it was slogging through the deep stuff. Abbie was counting the holes as we finished.  Approaching 9 when Abbie, our rules official, and I were saying it was our last hole, we learned our FBI guard was going to do an afternoon round too, with Tom Watson.  He was wearing a black shirt in addition to several pounds of "equipment". 

My only radio report of the day was from 8 where the marshals told me the scorer in the previous group left her fannie pack and badge. There was no way i could carry them so I reported where it was and figured she could get it after the round.

As we came to 9, our last hole, Monty was in perfect position while the others were in the rough. Monty left himself something like 12 feet, but
this time he made it to go -4 and tie Watson. I was glad not just for him, but because I knew it would put him in a good mood. Sure enough I got them all to sign my hat (my souvenir of these gigs) and get signed balls from Monty and Langer for both me and Abbie, who was thrilled. I think she really enjoyed the round in spite of being exhausted by the end. The really odd thing is that the round didn't seem unusual to me, I suppose because I spent most of last year's Senior Open following Monty or Langer with Roger Maltbie, so watching those guys hit and hearing what they said to each other was just like last year. Still fun though.

Carla's players didn't do as well, but Jiminez and Lehman will play the weekend. Tallent and Sluman won't. After lunch and some serious time in the air conditioned volunteer tent we spent the afternoon in number 10 grandstand, again half empty in the afternoon, watching the afternoon
players. Watson is amazing. he got to -7 on 9, then bogeyed 10, and apparently somewhere else to finish at -5, still tied first. Monty and
Langer are both in striking distance and I'd still bet on one of them to take the title, especially if it cools off a bit. Today was just as hot as
yesterday, and the afternoon groups were struggling. We watched Rocco come to the hole playing 4 under for the day and -2 for the tournament, and go over. His caddie, always a character, walked to the ball and kicked the microphone placed by Fox out of the way, faking a foot injury in the process. 10 continued to play tough, with a lot off bogies. Anyone who didn't hit the fairway was in trouble because nothing stopped on the green.

Tommorrow and Sunday are crap shoots. Who we get depends on how many players make the cut and where they finish. At least scoring 2 players is much easier than 3.

All day long we heard plenty of disasters. Lots off technology problems, and the scorers didn't always know what to do (hint -- if your PDA is
working but not connected keep punching in shots, if it's dead, make sure you keep the paper trail and catch up later, and don't bug the scoring
people with it other than to report you need a tech fix). One called in to report that he didn't know whether one of the players had 4 or 5 putts, and apparently neither the caddie nor the rules official knew either. (Some rules officials keep score, many don't and have no clue what the players are shooting for). After lots of discussion, Sue in Scoring Control (the same calm voice who has been at all the USGA tournaments we have worked either as scorers or leaderboards, who never gets mad at anyone and always has something useful to say), told him just to go with the caddies best guess and let them sort it out when they verify their scores. That's not bad advice, though I've had a couple of groups, including this one, where the cards the players keep for each other didn't match my score. In each case my score matched what the player thought he had (otherwise someone would have told me the scores were wrong on the standard), and whatever player was keeping the card had just missed a putt or stuck in an extra stroke somewhere. Not surprising given that if you are playing your primary concern is what you are doing, not the player whose card you are keeping.

It's supposed to be a little cooler tomorrow. I hope so. By the time we left the car again said it was near 110, and the water in the volunteer tent was all hot. The ride back to the parking lot in a school bus designed for 5 year old midgets is always special, and driving 30 minutes or so to a brew pub for dinner always feels like a long haul, even if the beer and pizza were great.

Saturday -- the bet laid plans . . .

Some time about 8PM last night someone missed a short putt and suddenly there were 71 people who made the cut. That, plus Fox's schedule
requirements caused the USGA to play the 3rd round in groups of 3 off both tees starting at 9, rather than twosomes starting at 7 or7:30. While we had assigned group numbers for today, the change threw that out, and we wound up with the first group off each tee (the middle of the field, basically.) Carla's group off 1 included Idoki, Andrade, and Hoch, mine was Verplank, Lehman, and John Levitt. All starting at even or one over. My group puttered along a mix of birdies, pars and bogies (nothing better or worse). Verplank may have gotten to -1 at one point before falling back. Levitt went mostly backwards, but I think he was just happy to have made the cut.

Mostly things were uneventful, though I had a little concern on 11, when Verplank sunk what I thought was a birdie and got no reaction from the crowd. I wondered if I had missed a putt somewhere, so I confirmed it with his caddie, who was more than happy to help. The crowd was just not very responsive. (later in the round Lehman nearly holed his 3rd shot chip on a par 5 but there was no reaction when he tapped in for a birdie, while Verplank's birdie putt got a big cheer. I guess the crowd at the green doesn't see enough of how they played the hole to know how they stand.  On many occasions I heard fans congratulating a pro on making a birdie when he hadn't, probably because he sunk a longer putt and nobody noticed that he reached the green in 3 instead of two because of having to chunk a bad drive out into the fairway.

I realized about half way through the front 9 that there's a real hazard to being the first group out, when my rules official said the group was on the clock. They weren't especially slow, but with nobody in front there are no excuses. Any group in the middle will do a lot of waiting, and you aren't held accountable for pace of play when you have to wait. I presume they got off the clock at some point, but we never caught up to the leaders, unlike other rounds I've scored for the first group off 10.  Carla's group had a bit more excitement when Scott Hoch started making
birdies and at one point got to -4, near the lead, but he pissed it away in bogies on the back 9 and in the end had a similar finish. My guys were
constantly extracting themselves ffrom the thick rough. The oddest moment was on 3, when Verplank hit it so far left he was inside the ropes on the adjoining 4th, where Tom Watson was playing. The trouble is the Watson crowd was trying to stream past to follow him, and it took me, the marshals and two rules officials to stop them long enough for Verplank to hit it out (a good shot back to just short of the green). That was about the time I was listening to the worst scoring disaster I had ever heard -- one of the scorers had been reversing the scores for two players for 4 holes before she figured it out, and then had no idea how to unscramble it. She was reading numbers and "stroke trails" (the list of where they play from, like Tee, Rough2, Greenside Bunker, Green Green). for several minutes trying to unsnarl it but scoring never got the same totals she thought was right. Meanwhile, me and about 20 other scorers on the course were being distracted by this so they finally just sent someone else out to unsnarl it in person.

There were plenty of other screwups, including one I called the stroke trail of tears, someone correcting an 8 to a 9 -- I think the guy had 4 shots out of the rough and 4 putts. Easy to see how you could miss one. At one point my group complained to the rules people about marks on the green, and apparently they weren't the only ones. Someone was clumsy preparing the greens. The caddie bibs were the wrong color in at least 3 groups. I can't imagine how that happens.

In the end we both finished with no scoring errors. Most of our playes stayed about where they were (in fact Hoch and Lehman will play together tomorrow). When I checked in the equipment there were big orange signs up all over saying that apparently the USGA was going to try something else on Sunday -- twosomes starting at 6:45. Oh goody. Well at least it means we are probably going to work tomorrow. If they went in 3's again there were probably too many scorers, but they will need 36 scorers tomorrow and probably won't be using the one who couldn't keep her players straight.

Having lunch we heard a bit behind one of the odder stories of the tournament:  Mike Keymont. Someone in volunteer headquarters had met the guy trying to register for the tournament (he was late doing it). He's a teaching pro from Orlando or some place like that and after playing a
practice round said that the course was really hard. After two rounds he was +40, way more than anyone else I've seen in a USGA open. But, he did have an ace on the second hole, I think the only one during the first two rounds (Jimenz aced it in a practice round). Good thing, without that he would probably have been at least +42 :-)

So, as of now we have no idea whether we will be working and if so when. Hopefully they will answer that before we go to bed. (Yesterday they didn't, but with 9AM as the first tee time we didn't need to be particularly early even if we got that one, which as it turns out we did. 6:45 is
another matter, particularly given it's our last day here and we have to pack up and check out before reporting to the course. We hope we get
someone in the middle of the field again.)

Sharing our Sunday with the Pros

The word came out about 8:30 last night. Yes, they would go off in pairs, and Carla and I had groups 5 and 6, 7:21 and 7:30. Some might complain, but finishing early on a day that was going to get hot and we would have to drive back to SFO wasn't all bad. Carla had Greg Bruckner and Hale Irwin, while I had Jay Delsing and Paul Goydos. I didn't realize at the time that Delsing worked for Fox as well. Goydos I had certainly heard of and didn't realize he was already eligible for Senior events.

Standing around waiting for our tee times, I noticed the same odd woman who had been at the ropes on the putting green every morning.  She looked and dressed as a native american, and held what looked like a pair of drumsticks with funny coloured fuzzy heads up, and every once in a while one of the caddies would come over and she would pound on his back.  Today I overheard her talking with one of the other early spectators.  Apparently she's a pratitioner of some kind of massage, and has been doing this for 20 years, offering to relieve stress mainly for the caddies but also for players.  She goes to more than a few tournaments and has worked on many famous players.  She mentioned that she worked on Graham Marsh before he had a record setting round to win some tournament and that got her more takers.  Another kind of Volunteer tournament junkie I guess.

As Carla's group was introduced they introduced Irwin as a two time champion of the event. I remember him as dominating the senior tour for nearly a decade, but he's 70 now, and starting to show it both in not being quite long enough for the course and getting a bit slow alking 18 holes in tough conditions. Still, he likes coming out. He didn't play that well, but everyone loved seeing him there and he was gracious with Carla and her standard bearer, thanking them for sharing their Sunday with him. 

Goydos started out with two birdies. His putting was exceptional all day long. On 3 though he hit his second long and ran onto the intermediate
rough up against the longer stuff behind the green, and after making a bad chip and a bogie berated my rules official that the transition between IR and R1 should have been bevel cut. I thought he may have been joking, but I think he was serious, not that the USGA rules people have anything to say about it. Gosh these guys are fussy.

he came back with a birdie on 4, meanwhile I heared that two groups behind someone had aced number 2, and my rules guy heard it too, and heard that in the process the shot slam dunked and wrecked the cup. After putting some effort into repairing it they concluded it would need to be re-cut, but decided to let the next group hit up because one of them was a known slowpoke. I never heard who that was.

Delsing bogied number 1 but played okay and eventually made a birdie to get back to +7. He was clearly just playing out the day. Goydos's hot putting streak took a pause on 6, a simple looking par 4, but after hitting it outside the ropes on the right and chunking it out short of the green he chunked two pitches and eventually doubled it. He was hot, and tossed his putter at his bag, missing that one too and nearly beaning a spectator. After apologising to her he whacked it into the bag again.

After that he got control and settled down, and continued to make amazing putts. Ultimately he made 7 birdies, and several long 1 putt par saves (including parring 15 have hitting a drive into the dreaded Rought 2 on the right, chunking out, hitting not all that close but sinking a 15 footer.

The back was otherwise uneventful. Delsing continued to hang around his original score, while Goydos picked up more birdies and another bogie. After the round both players were in an okay mood and happy to sign my hat, and give me and my standard bearer signed balls. I went into scoring even though they were sure they wouldn't need me since both agreed with the numbers on the standard (I have to turn in my paper traces anyway), and got pulled aside by a USGA official who wanted a count of Goydos's putts --24, quite impressive, though not as it turns out the low for the day.) He said some interesting things in scoring about the round, first saying it figures he always has a hot putting round when he's playing early on Sunday instead of starting in one of the final groups. Then he said that Del Paso's greens were probably the best he has ever putted. He said Augusta would kill for greens that good. Afterwards I realized there's a corelation here. The first groups out on Sunday get the greens after they've been cut and rolled and are perfect, the leaders get them after they've been played by 60-70 golfers and walked on by twice that many players and caddies. not surprising they aren't as good.

We watched a few groups play through 10/11/12 (on this course you could find a spot in the shade and see the play on all 3 greens, only a few steps from the public entrance). Those included Tom Lehman and Scott Hoch, Lee Jantzen and Billy Andrade, Rocco and Jay Haas, and others, most of whom we had scored for this week or last. We didn't think we could wait for the finish though, not and get to SFO in time for an early night and early flight tomorrow. (Turns out we were right -- I have no idea why I80 would be total gridlock at 2:30 on a Sunday in the middle of nowhere in the central valley, but apparently it is. That made as little sense as finding the mall and restaurants next to the airport totally packed on a Sunday evening -- Where I live malls are closing every year because nobody goes there. The only time they are full is the day after thanksgiving. I'd think in the birthplace of the internet and online shopping malls would be a thing of the past, but I guess not, Californians do seem to love to go places in their cars even if they have no real reason to do so.

Tomorrow it's back to our regular life, for at least a month. Going to feel weird not getting wired up with a radio and PDA and introducing myself to 2 or 3 pros every morning like I've done most days in the past 2 weeks. I can see why this becomes an addiction for people. I'm still amazed at the USGA rules people, who are also volunteers and not only have to buy their spiffy uniforms and pass all the exams, but often get stuck with even more brutal schedules than we have. I talked to at least a couple who had worked double shifts -- 36 holes in a day, the second round in temperatures over 100, becuase they were a bit short for this tournament. That's real dedication, and most do several of the championships a year.

The 2015 Western Amateur (Rich Harvest Farms, Illinois)

The Western is one of the oldest tournaments in the US, and most of the great players from the last 100 years have played in it. It's an invitational and international field, mainly college students but a few older amateurs. Some news stories on it described it as
"the masters of amateur golf" (yep, the guys who run it do things their way and even wear green jackets). This one was played at Rich Harvest Farms, the ultra private course about 20 miles from where I live that hosted the 2009 Solheim cup, the recent Palmer cup, and lots of college and junior events. By now it's familiar territory for us though I've never played the course (Carla played the original 9 holes back in the 1990s some time when she and the owner were on a fund raising committee).

Actually Rich Harvest is worth an aside. If you ever have a chance to attend an event there it's worth it just to see what you might want to do if you ever win a big Powerball jackpot. It was built as Jerry Rich's private course, and then opened to membership (rumored to be a $1M buy in). The setup for members is different from the tournaments. They have a different clubhouse and practice area, and play the 9's in the other order. Tournaments originate from an area built for the Solheim cup, which includes a separate practice complex, a big indoor practice area, and about 20 lodge rooms. The whole estate is like someone's utopian vision. There are a bunch of "cottages", several large houses (in different styles), even a church with a bell tower that plays chimes on the hour (and he doesn't turn that off for tournaments -- heh). Mostly it's always in drop dead gorgeous condition. Everything is done to get things in perfect shape. Even the trees are protected (lightning rods to prevent damage in strikes).

This is a very different volunteer experience from a pro tournament. It costs nothing to volunteer (for this one we got a shirt, for other events
like this we got shirts, jackets or hats, but usually not all). There are only about 100 volunteers, and many, like us, do different jobs on different
days. We worked 3 days. On Wednesday and Thursday, our job was to stand near one of the greens, catch each player after they walk off to get their scores on the pervious 3 holes and radio them in. Tuesday and Thursday were full field events with only 78 players playing in the morning and another 78 in the afternoon, so on Wednesday we saw half the field in our afternoon shifts.

I was on 12 green, Carla on 15. 12 is a weird 400 yard dogleg par 4 through lots of trees with a small elevated green. I think most of us would have trouble making the corner of the dogleg. Not these guys, some were managing to get it around the corner. Most hit wedges into the green so I saw a lot of birdies. The area I was in is also probably the best viewing area on the course, very near where Carla and I had a leaderboard during the Solheim. If I stood in the right place I could see the flags on 8 greens. Way too much going on on my hole and 13 (a par 3 entirely visible to me) to pay attention elsewhere, but a great place to judge what's going on. Carla's hole is a long par 4 with a pond in front of the green. Most players avoided the water and there were more than a few birdies.

Because it's an amateur field most of these players are ones nobody except rabid fans of college golf would know. We recognized a few players we saw either at the Palmer cup or at the US Open, but most were just great college players, and given the rapid fire pace it was impossible to remember who hit most of the shots. After Wednesday, the field was cut to the top 44 and ties (45 as it turns out), and they played 36 on Thursday, so we got to see the whole reduced field play the same two holes then.

The weather during those days was about as good as it gets. 80ish, light breeze, and mostly sunny. I thought that might bring out some spectators, since it's free, but not really. Most groups had nobody following them, and no more than a dozen people with any groups, mainly friends and family. Really too bad for the quality of golf. Over the two days I saw at least half a dozen approach shots on 12 get within a foot of the pin. I kept waiting for one to go in, but none did. At least 3 groups had 3 shots within 10 feet on Wednesday, but only one group sunk all the putts. I complemented them on being the tightest grouping of shots as they approached the green and one said they did that on every hole. I came back saying I'd find that out when they read out their scores. That guy started to read his scores as "1 1 ...".

Then there were the "other" shots. The guy early on Thursday who ran over the green into rough under a tree. Not a bad lie, but the pin was really tight to the back of the green. I think the big problem though was that most of these guys were from schools in the south and probably played mostly on Bermuda grass, and they didn't understand what the club would do in our rough. This one chunked two short and ultimately doubled the hole. Most who were back there (and there were a lot of them given the pin was very close to the back edge) got it on the green but not close and bogeyed. One memorable shot, one of the several Asians in the field, holed out a chip from an awkward stance back there for a birdie, and another holed one for par after coming up short on his approach then rolling over the green with a bunker shot. The worst disaster I saw on Wednesday involved a guy who I think 5 putted the hole, then tossed the ball into the woods behind the green. When he read his scores I knew why "4 9 8". (11 is a long par 5 with lots of long grass and carded some big numbers when they lost balls. There were volunteers stationed in most of the places where these guys might lose a ball in the rough, but finding a ball in 3 foot high grass full of thistles, nettles, and other nasties is not guaranteed even when someone sees it go in.)

On Thursday the pin was at the front of that green, and few people went over. More went in the bunker, and a few short of that. I saw some great flop shots to get it somewhere near the pin, and a few that went too far. I think there was only one double, from a guy who I think had to go back to the tee after losing a ball when he hit a tree. Many players hit trees on the way to the green as anything other than a perfect drive will leave you having to go through big oak trees. Some went over, some under, and some played huge curveballs to go around, but a few hit trees and dropped in odd players.  Only one group had two birdies, and that came when one player hit it close and the other came up short in the bunker, then holed the bunker shot (only time I heard an actual roar from the 10 people around the green all day)

The college players are always fun to watch. They are all very good golfers, but clearly their judgment and experience varies, so sometimes you
see them try things a pro wouldn't consider (like some of those tree dodging shots). I did get an interesting rules lesson from one group. One player was behind the green in the rough and another on the back fringe. The player in the rough wanted the ball marked, which the other guy marked then held the ball in the same orientation between his thumb and finger while the guy behind played and replaced it. Most players probably wouldn't realize they couldn't clean a ball in this situation, and I doubt more than a few would take such care to preserve the exact state of the ball. There were also more than a few debates over whether something was a spike mark or a ball mark. The players settled that on their own. We were chatting about that with a rules official that we hitched a ride back with (our holes were probably a mile and a half from the entrance area and while they had some volunteers running shuttles for people it was often hard to catch one at the end of the day so we wound up crammed into whatever cart would take us back.) The guy gave the best explanation I've heard about the spike mark rule -- the intent is that you can only fix damage to the green that happens as the result of golf, not incidental damage. I can understand the distinction, but I'm not sure it stands up to much scrutiny. By that logic you should be able to repair divots or someone else's pitch mark in the fairway (Cleary the result of playing golf), and I'm not sure there's a huge distinction between marks made by the ball and marks made by your feet. Oh well.

The Caddies were interesting. Only about half had caddies. Some were clearly family or friends, a few were clearly hired from the course. Someone told me it cost $60/round to hire a caddie from the course. That doesn't sound like a lot to me to get a lot of help, but these were college guys not getting anything for being there. After spending a lot of time on one green I knew how most of the putts broke and it was interesting listening to them trying to work it out. Most were roughly right in the breaks, but the problem was that the green had subtle slopes in it and any long putt took 2 or 3 turns along the way, meaning if the speed wasn't exactly right the putt wandered off in some unexpected direction as it died. (That's what set up that 5 putt). Some guys with parents caddying clearly demonstrated the problem in that strategy. It was tough when they disagreed about a club or a read and I heard a few arguments on that, and of course when the player screwed up there was the extra pressure of looking bad in front of mom or dad. There were also more than a few using pull carts, both the players and some caddies. Not surprising, it's a long course and they were playing 2 rounds on Thursday, a lot of walking.

For most of the time I had no idea how the players were doing overall. Sometimes it was obvious who was playing well and who wasn't. Sometimes fans with the group or caddies (I'd say half had caddies, half handled their bags alone) would say something about how their guys were playing. Carla had an advantage in having a leaderboad behind her hole and knew what the standings were. That got painful towards the end because she knew who was struggling to make a cut. (After Thursday they cut to 16 to play match play.)

Only 16 players start on Friday. The previous year's champ (Beau Hossler) was eliminated on Wednesday, and another favorite college player (Bryson De Chambeau, who is easy to recognize in a "pork pie" hat) missed the sweet 16 by one shot after apparently tripling 17. Ouch! Taylor Funk was one of the early leaders, but collapsed on Thursday. I heard the scorer on 9 radio in "6 6 6" (a bogie and two doubles) for him on that, his last hole of the morning Apparently he started round 4 with a comparable bunch, dropping from I think -9 to +1 in 6 holes, and he never recovered. (He was one of those hitting to a foot and tapping in on 12, but that was one of his few bright spots. Really sad.

Friday morning we showed up expecting to go out as marshals with match 6, which turned out to be Charlie Danielson, someone of local interest since he plays for the University of Illinois, and Jake Knapp, a Californian from UCLA. Charlie had his family out walking and a college buddy caddying. He was one of the leaders in the early rounds though faded a bit on Thursday PM. Jake was alone, with a hired caddie. As we got to the tee the volunteer coordinator asked if we could do some extra work -- seems lots of volunteers didn't show, so in addition to minimal marshaling duty I got to be "sign boy" (Carla carried the bib with the numbers -- it required hips to keep up and there's no way it would stay on me). We were all asked to spot balls, including the 3rd volunteer in the group. Originally the plan was trade jobs, but the 3rd guy had a bad shoulder and couldn't take the sign so most holes he went ahead to spot and I kept the sign the whole round. It worked well for the most part. That sign was really heavy, and with no shoulder holster I needed two hands to keep it up much of the time, but there was no real crowd to control. The other member of our team was the "observer".  In most tournaments "observers" are just that -- fans somehow selected (mostly by having paid or donated something) to walk in the ropes. Here though the observer had a radio and acted as announcer of the result after each hole and radio in the result. He and the others doing that job were "tournament directors" for the Western Golf Association.

The day was perfect again, though a bit windier. Our match started well -- pars on number one (Charlie got up and down from a bad lie behind a bunker), and 2 was halved in birdies (Jake got up and down from behind a collection area on a reachable par 5). Then things changed. Charlie hit a decent shot to the par 3 3rd, but after Jake hit the two fans on the green screamed and it was apparent it went in -- hole over. Suddenly we weren't behind schedule any more. 4 was halved in pars (amazing, it's a maze of trees with a teeny elevated green. Then Jake birdied 5, 6, and 7, while Charlie watched helplessly to fall 4 behind. He didn't hit bad shots and had birdie chances on all those holes, but Jake was always closer and sank everything. On 7, his drive must have gone 400 yards, 100 yards past where players in any other group I was with in any event. Yeah, the fairway was downhill there and dry, but the wind wasn't helping. 8 is a dogleg par 4 with a creek that mere mortals have trouble carrying. These guys hit it 100-150 yards past there, bending their shots around trees. (In fact I think Charlie hit a provisional when he got no signal from the fairway his drive was safe (the spotter had no idea there was any doubt since the ball was square in the middle. The provisional nearly made the green. Amazing.) I thought Charlie might get hole back when Jake missed a bit, but both parred. Jake birdied 9 to go 5 up. His front 9 was -7, without anything but gimmee length putts conceded, which is I think near the course record for 18.

The back didn't go quite as smoothly. After pars on 10, Charlie was just a bit right on 11, a long but potentially reachable par 5, and as a result had to lay up, while Jake went onto the back left fringe. Jake 3 putted though while Charlie hit a great flop shot and sunk the putt to get one back. 12 had perfect drives and approaches and two pars (493 yards through a forest and they hit some kind of iron and then a wedge). On 13, Jake was a bit right in the rough and like so many other southern players failed to get up and down, letting Charlie's good one to the green get another back, now only 3 down. Jake was in trouble again on 14, going into a fairway bunker and then coming up a bit short in the rough while Charlie had only a little flop to the green after a perfect drive, but both eventually got home in 4. 15 again looked like Charlie might get one after Jake went right into trees, but he hit a beauty over a big tree onto the green and both parred. Finally two pars on 16 closed out the match. Fun to watch, but the locals were definitely a bit bummed.

We took a ride back to the first tee (mainly because they would need the sign and numbers for the afternoon match. That let us see Match 5 finish. The match had been squared up coming to 18, and both players had trouble off the tee. Eventually a great up and down fro a collection area in front of the green for birdie won the hole and the match. A player from Texas carrying his own bag. He dashed into the players lounge in the lodge for a quick lunch before going out and playing his afternoon match with Jake. (As it turns out the last match went to 19 holes, so that the last match of the afternoon is way late, but the weather is expected to hold just fine.

That's the end for us, we won't see the finals tomorrow because we are playing in our own club tournament for 2 days, then off to Whistling Straits for the PGA. It's sad though, there were very few public fans. We got some friends from our course to come out and watch and they really enjoyed it, but it seems few people really understand match play. I was constantly explaining that to fans asking why there were so few golfers out. Even our WGA observer didn't always seem clear on the concept and wasn't fluent in the language (when is it dormie?). I'm glad I did this though. I'm sure I'll see a lot of these players out on tour. (And yes, that's certainly the history. We got to look at the trophy up close while waiting to go off. The winners until about 1950 were inscribed on the trophy and hard to read, but since then they added a base and the names of the winners are on the sides of it. Not every top player won it, but many did, and I suspect most at least played in it.) It was a perfect time to see a great course, and a fun experience as a volunteer. (More stuff for the resume or the bucket list).

The 2015 PGA, Whistling Straits (Wisconsin)

This is Major?

Well, that's what the PGA keeps telling us about their championship. Carla and I have been in the area of Whistling Straits for 3 days now, and even with 4 "weather warnings" yesterday managed to walk the whole course and see a bunch of players. This is our 3rd PGA, and coincidentally the 3rd hosted by Whistling Straits. (We didn't do all 3, but we did do a Senior Open here as well, so it's very familiar territory by now.

The course hasn't changed much in the 5 years since we've been here. They have the championship setup down pat now, with a paved entrance area and bus depot (they bus people only from the north public lot and the VIPs at the Kohler resort, the rest of us walk in, something unusual for a major championship). Some of the holes have minor tweeks (new tee boxes or narrowed fairways, but not much different. (The bunker Dustin Johnson grounded his club in 5 years ago to miss the playoff has now been covered up by a corporate tent area, but there are still plenty of others out there. The details for spectators change a bit. In 2010 all the big tents (merchandise, sponsors, etc.) were directly at the entrance area with a long walk from there to the course. Now they moved the tents into the area where that walk was and left you walking a long way from the entrance to the tents. This is the only tournament I know that plays music from hidden speakers as you walk in. Weird. Maybe part of trying to up the hype, or maybe just trying to distract you from thinking about how long and hot the walk is.

It is a great field. We had a chance to see a lot of players, especially on Wednesday. We say a couple of holes of Phil's money match (Fowler, Spieth, and one other I didn't recognize immediately). We also saw such incongruous entrants as John Daly, Jimenez, and Monty, all testing the course out. We even saw Rich Beem on the course, though we didn't recognize him (lost a lot of weight from the last time we saw the guy). We saw Rory play 8. He looks mostly okay, though he's got a bit of a dip in his iron swing I don't remember. We didn't catch Tiger or Dustin Johnson, so no intel there.

The course will look a lot like Chambers Bay or the Old Course, except a bit greener. Apparently while most of July was dry here they've had enough rain to turn some of that long grass green and the fairways look lush. That might favor the big hitters. There are a lot of long holes on this course, and without the run of a dry links course only the big guys will be going at holes like 11 and 16. Weather is supposed to be decent all week here, after a bad day Monday (we got drowned playing Whispering Springs in Fond Du Lac, on the way from our middle of nowhere lodging in Oshkosh to the course. Wisconsin isn't the most amply supplied with hotel rooms for these things).

Tournaments here have a bit different atmosphere than most. Most of the people you see here are of course from Wisconsin, a state better known for cheese, beer, bratworst, and the Packers than golf, and most that we talk to seem to have some connection to one of those industries. They are mainly a polite bunch (no "mashed potatoes" yelled on the tee box), and mostly knowledgeable golf fans glad to see the top pros come to their home turf. Our volunteer committee is chaired by a couple from the St Louis area who are apparently also volunteer
junkies and have done a lot of tournaments as well, and we swapped some stories of our experience. I don't think they go as far as we do to get
into some of these, but they are dedicated "professional volunteers". (They will apparently take merchandise tent duty to get into some of them, something we haven't considered.)

Wisconsin has embraced the brew pub, and there are more good places to have a brew and some food after a long day on the course than we will be able to frequent in our week here. (I can highly recommend the Courthouse Pub in Manitowoc, Stone Cellar in Appleton, and Fox River Brewing in Oshkosh, all nice places to eat that also have great home brewed beer.)

Tomorrow we have a day off and will play the 2 courses at Lawsonia. Then Thursday we start our job as leaderboard operators. We have 11 on Thursday PM, and 12 on Sunday PM, both good locations. (Friday we get to handle volunteer checkin and critique how the boards look, since now they have cameras on all of them and want to make sure they are all neat and up to date).
It should be a fun week.

Day 1 -- the straits are really do whistle

After a day off and another morning round before going to the course, We arrived in time to watch just a bit of the morning play. The wind wasn't too bad in the morning and scoring was good, though as it came up stronger from the west we saw several players get to 5 or 6 under before screwing up the incoming holes on both 9 which play into that wind.

Just before our shift they were still playing pretty well. We saw some birdies on 12 and 11, an not a lot of wild shots. As our work shift
approached though it was clear the afternoon wouldn't yield as good scores as the morning. We were delayed a bit getting to work by Ben Martin playing an errant drive off a gravel walking path on 15. (The only reasonable thing to do with it. Not a bad shot but I think a bit short and into a bunker at the green). The wind was blowing hard off the land, so everyone was having to guess how much drift would come into play.

Carla and I took the "through" board, which shows the players on the hole, because we are good at changing the numbers and letters quickly and for that job you have to change everything for every group. For the PGA this is more complicated that the USGA events we've done, mianly because there's no room on the platform to keep the boxes full of letters and numbers, so one person has to go down behind the board and re-file the old names and pull new ones each time. The wind made it extra hard. Normally we would keep 2-3 groups pre-pulled on the floor of the platform, but the wind was strong enough to blow the magnetic letters and numbers off the board (as well as water bottles, chairs, the PDA, and everything else not nailed down.)  By the end of the shift we, and the volunteers working the leaderboard were using rocks and feet to hold down any letters or numbers we kept on the platform, and sometimes it still wasn't enough to keep things from blowing.

I don't know how the players managed in it. Mainly they didn't.  Lots of missed putts, poor pitches, etc. Mickelson hit the best shot we saw, a
pitch that nearly went in for eagle after he laid up in 2. Spieth 3 putted from short distance. Many did worse, chunking pitches into bunkers or over the green into bad lies. Pace of play turned glacial towards the end, no doubt influenced by the wind, and by the end we were very glad to put the last letters and numbers in the boxes and lock up. (If you don't do that some fan usually puts his name on the board and takes an illicit picture, not a terrible thing, but the letters and numbers get lost or scrambled as a result and before long you don't have the right letters for the board.)

Friday we have easy duty, checking in volunteers and helping check the boards to see that they look right, all done from inside the cart barn, not a bad place to be if they get the predicted bad weather. Then Saturday we are just fans and Sunday we will be back on a board on the 12th, a nice little par 3.

Not seeing Day 2 at the PGA

Carla and I tried to get there bright and early to have an hour or so of spectating time before our shift, but the traffic left us with time to see
just 2 groups tee off one and a couple play into 9 before entering the cart barn to work our 5 hour shift checking people in for leaderboard shifts and solving any other problems. The only golf we saw after that was on the TV monitors, which wasn't much since our table area was in the far corner of the cart barn. The day wasn't without excitement though. We had a lot of time to talk with our committee chairs, a couple who also chaired the leader boards for the 2012 women's open but as it turns out are not local but from the St Louis area and travel to do tournaments like us. We swapped a lot of war stories about bad setups, weather disasters, and other problems.

We knew it was a different air mass when at about 7:15 as wel left the hotel it was already hot and muggy.By the time we reached the course it was definitely uncomfortable. By noon it was heatstroke weather and it started to take it's toll. We heard calls for medical help from a couple of
leaderboards (leaderboards aren't supposed to get involved in things like that, but they are prominent and have radios so spectators report problems to them and whoever is on the board tries to get help.

Most of the volunteers checked in fine, one reported that she couldn't stay for her late shift because her husband with 2 hip replacements hadn't
handled the walks well and needed to go home. I hope I do better. It turned out she was one of our replacements, and since nobody checks in after 3 that was fine, one person can handle the return of the late shift volunteers returning radios and PDAs.

Around noon another came in to say his wife had been taken out on a stretcher, and wasn't going to be able to make his late shift. We assured
him we could fix it somehow and sent him to find his wife with our best wishes. Another board complained about being short handed even though their second shift help had checked in. Since it was close to the cart barn I went out to relieve them until it could be worked out. I wasn't there more than 15 minutes before they sent out a junior volunteer to take over. Eventually we located the guy supposed to be there -- on the "monster" board instead of the "main" board. (Someone needs better terminology). I also was unhappy to see that the 3 giant concession stands where we had planned to use our lunch tickets all had giant lines. Attendance was far outstripping expectations. I waited until almost 1 to go to lunch, but if anything the line was worse -- 45 minutes of standing in line to get a sandwhich and a drink. While there it was apparent from talking to others that food and water was running out all over the course, and it was just getting hotter. Someone fainted in line in the next concession stand over and needed medical help. I returned with my food and Carla went, only to wait an hour in line, by which time they were out of water and gatorade everywhere.  WHile she was there at least one other fan fainted in line.  Apparently part of the problem was that when someone decided to wait for whatever they wanted that wasn't yet available, the clerk couldn't set aside their partially completed order and everyone behind had to wait too, even if what they wanted was available.

Things weren't any better inside. The volunteer "tent" ran out of water, and a couple of leaderboards radioed in that fans in their area
were near rioting because there was no water available. Someone else called to complain about a drone operating on the course (I didn't see this one but I suspect it was a camera used by the TV people like they had at Chambers Bay.

Fortunately most of the rest went smoothly. There was some problem over how people on the back 9 were shown on the leaderboards. (Is a guy starting on 10 and now playing 5 shown as being through 4 or through 15? The answer is supposed to be 4 with a star, but apparently the information sent to the leaderboards wasn't consistent.  I discovered they had two different devices to relay information to leaderboards, the "hardened" PDAs used by the walking scorers and throughboards, and windows tablets.  They had different applications and even different radio networks, and that was no doubt part of the inconsistency.)

They were still short some people when we finally got our relief at about 3:30, almost 6 hours after we started. We had originally planned to watch some golf, but just wanted out of the heat.  By then the west wall of the cart barn behind our checkin area was radiating heat.   Good thing we left early. We drove through a shower on the way back, and got to our hotel just as the horn blew and the deluge started at the straits. I feel sorry for all the 3rd shift volunteers and especially the players and caddies near the cut, who have to wait out tomorrow mornings finish of round 2 before they can tell if they are playing round 3. With no more weather problems though things should be back on schedule by Sunday, our next work shift. (Tomorrow we are just spectators again).

Blown Away at the Straits (Days 3 and 4)

Friday's storms turned out to be more severe than was apparent when I made my friday report. The storms damaged seveal of the big tents, the golf channel booth, and it destroyed or heavily damaged half a dozen leaderboards. The leaderboards are probably particularly vulnerable because the board is a large expanse of thin steel sheeting supported by poles, and while it and the platform have some back bracing to keep it vertical none of that is any match to a blast of wind. The result of all that and the need to finish round 2 was a lot of scrambling in the morning.

We arrived just in time to see the first group go off for round 3. It was really rushed to get round 3 finished going off in groups of 2. As a result
there were no pairing sheets with the groupings, and even the walking scorer and standard bearer were late getting setup and had to run to catch Morgan Hoffmann playing with a marker half way down the hole. With almost none of the leaderboards functional there was no way to see who was coming unless you had a phone with a connection to the PGA, which not a lot of people did here

We headed for the big grandstand behind the 6th green, which has a view of both 6 and hole 3, and watched groups play through those holes most of the morning. 3 had the pin in the back left, which meant a lot of players were going in the bunkers below this little projection of the green. Phil bogeyed the hole after having what looked like a bad lie in the long grass next to one of those bunkers. Hole 6 had an equally nasty pin position. The green has a deep pot bunkerr splitting the front of it, and the pin was in the front of the green right of the bunker, while the fairway lines up with the left side of the green. As a result all the players were laying up, mostly way back from where I thought they might. I realized eventually that the reason was that laying way back was the only way to wind up with a line where you had a lot of green behind the pin, allowing them to play a shot that landed long and spun back. many (including mickelson) hit good shots and birdied the hole. If you hit further off the tee, you wound up with an angle that had very little green either in front or behind the pin and couldn't hit anywhere near it.

We left after Mickelson, expecting to get our lunch from the stand behind the grandstand, only to discover that not only did it have a long ine, but they were out of everything except hot dogs, so we fought our way through the crowd following Mickelson down 8 and through the woods to the back 9, where the stand between 10 and 18 had no lines and more selection. (It also had a much better system, like a cafeteria where you picked up what you wanted from displays and brought it to the cashier. People could wait for things that weren't out, but they didn't hold up anyone else by doing so). After lunch we headed down 11 and watched a few groups, then spent much of the afternoon around 14 and 15 (there was some shade in front of the hospitality tents on 15). I was surprised to see they playing 15 at well over 500 yards. The hole has a cross bunker maybe 125 yards short of the green that was probably intended to come into play, but didn't, because even these guys couldn't reach it. Plenty reached the bunkers on the sides of the hole though and many couldn't get from there to the green. By 3 we were
burned out and headed home as the leaders teed off. (We actually watched Jones play out of a hospitality tent from our hotel room. I'm not surprised he played from the tent, the area he would have had to drop in was nasty, but I'm more surprised he could hit it far enough and high enough to get it into that area which is a long way off the 9th tee.) While the board we were supposed to work on Sunday wasn't being used on Saturday, our chair said he expected they would get it and some of the others back in shape for Sunday.

On Sunday we arrived early, in order to see some golf before our shift. Indeed not only had the numberr 12 leaderboard been fixed, but most of the others were back in operation too. This time we went straight to the back 9. I wanteed to get into the Chase hospitality tent for some cool air and figured we could watch some coverage of the players on the front before we had play on the back. I've had the credit card that gets you in there for years and never managed to take advantage of any of their perks for card members. The tent exceeded expectations. Nice free food and a couple of free gifts. It had a good view of 15 and 12 and some view of 13 and 14 as well. We alternated wathing live play from the deck and TV coverage, and chatted with some other volunteers doing the same thing, including a father and daughter who were walking scorers for some of the final groups.

The leaderboard on 12 is on the slope between the 12th tee and Lake Michigan. Because it's low down you don't have a view of the surface of the green or the tee, but you can see the players swing and putt on the green. We were there for about 2/3 of the field. Carla and I were again on the throughboard, and we had a 3rd volunteer wo had originally been assigned to one of the boads still not useable. That turned out to be good, since on a par 3 you have very little time to change the information, especially with the board near the tee box, The wind was only modest down there, enough to keep cool but not much of a problem. Our PDA worked pretty well, though the leaderboard crew sruggled getting scores on their tablet. (The storm knocked out some of the auxilliary cell towers put in place for the tournament as well.

The pin on the hole was in the little back right corner, so like 3, lots of balls were coming up short in the bunkers. A few actually got it right of the pin, a daring shot and one not rewarded. Nobody made the putt from there. Most hit short and lefft and rolled up. We saw a few birdies, some bogies, and a couple of disasters (one involving going back and forth between bunkers, and another at least 4 putts. It was interesting watching all the players come through just a few feet from the board, Many did look at it, and witht he tablet working better the leaderboard crew was busy making lots of changes. Ours was pretty easy duty, except for running short of some numbers. (somehow lots of the players in the late groups had one or more "h" in their names and we only had 4 of them to put on the boad). I was happy to see Day's lead holding up. When he came to the hole and came up short in the bunker there was a gasp, but it looked like a decent up and down for par. Spieth an Johnson both had birdie putts, but both on the right side of the hole and neither made them. (Spieth actually showed a bit of anger and taking a swipe with his putter. I don't know what really happened there, it was quite unexpected.

The funniest moment was actually not a player on the hole, but Matsuyama, who was apparently playing 15 and somehow wound up in the rough in front of the grandstand (I can't imagine how, since the granstand is between where he went and the tee and it's a LONG way off the hole. He studied the shot for a while and had to work around the players on the hole putting out, but eventually hit it towards the green. Looked like a decent shot.

After the last group was through, we locked up and headed out, rather than get caught in the crush around 18. We did see the finish from a pub we stopped at along the way. Not a bad ending at all. Overall it was a good week, but another example of how tournaments never go completely according to plan. Most people are unaware of the amount of work that gets done behind the scenes to recover from weather problems and other hangups. It's also too bad that they couldn't have done a better job on the concessions. The food quality and selection was actually among the best I've seen at tournaments, but they clearly underestimated the demand and weren't really prepared to handle it. The result was a lot of people who went away hungry and thirsty before they had planned (a big bonus for local sports bars as it turned out when fans stopped at the first place they found with beer and a big screen TV). It's also too bad that they couldn't have somehow shortened the walk into and out of the course, which was probably nearly a mile from where people parked or got off shuttle busses. Golf fans have a limited capacity for walking, and those long walks too and from the course mean less energy to walk the course. Maybe they will do better for the 2020 Ryder

The Hotel Fitness, September 7-13, 2015

We did this tournament in 2013 as walking scorers and really enjoyed it so we signed up again, especially since the sponsor committment to it was only 3 years and the future isn't certain. 

Welcome to Fort Wayne

This is a tournament that 75 guys are probably glad to be at, and 75 were trying to avoid. The happy 75 are the top 75 on the web.com tour, 25 of which already have their tour cards and are playing for priority and the rest have a chance at getting a card. The rest are guys who played on tour this year but failed to make the top 125.

We spent Tuesday watching practice rounds, probably the only fans out there. Really weird. We did this tournament 2 years ago so were only out there to see some golf and remind ourselves of some of the holes. We started behind the 15th green, where one of us is scheduled to work radioing scores on  scores for the Wednesday pro-am (a little uncertainty over what the plan is given they were expecting massive thunderstorms Tuesday night and Wednesday). It's fun to watch the players approach some of these holes for the first time. 15 is a par 5 with 4 creek crossings and a tiny elevated green. They can reach it in 2, but a miss could wind up in the creek, OB, or in one of several bunkers. We watched a couple of players who were clearly new to this venue explore the area around the green and one walked into a grassy pit behind it and said "gee, a grass bunker. Haven't seen one of those in a long time". I don't know where the guy played to get here, but after hitting several lousy pitches towards the back right corner of the green he called over to his playing partner and said "Cody -- if you go in here, just stick a fork in your ass, you're done." Eventually he figured out that a better option than trying to hit some kind of flop out of deep crap into the tiny landing area was to chunk it out against the downslope of a tier boundary where it would run into that back corner and stop. That's why these guys play practice rounds.

"Johnny" Vegas was in one of those early groups through the hole. I don't know if he recognized me as someone who scored for him 2 years ago. At least he knew where to hit it. In a later group we watched some veterans play the hole. John Rollins hit a few out of that grass bunker and just about when I thought he was going to give up and I debated suggesting the sideways bank shot he hit it. I guess you learn those kinds of things if you spend enough years on tour grinding it out.

We then wandered over to 12, the other hole we might get in the pro-am.  It's the other par 5 on the back 9, 560 yards long with the tee shot over a big lake in the corner of a dogleg, then your second (and most of these guys do plan to go in 2) over a creek to a green barely 20 feet deep. Many wind up in fairway bunkers off the tee and have to lay up. (One guy apparently put 2 in the lake and decided to quit). Ricky Barnes hit the best shot we saw into that green after a layup, a wedge stuffed to a foot. Many who went in two were then extricating their shots from bunkers or deep rough.

By then it was getting late and we followed an unusal group of 4 players (most played in smaller groups) in. Harold Varner III, who actually made the top 25 on the web.com (meaning he has his tour card) after someone else missed a short putt on 18 on the last tournament. We had seen him interviewed after it and he couldn't figure out how to react. (The really weird thing was that the guy who mised the putt was also in and wasn't hurt by it. Since that top 25 is determined by season long earnings, that missed putt brought Varner into a tie for a higher place and gave him a few extra bucks as a result to nudge out someone else, without impacting the position of the putter. Imagine being the guy nudged out. (What? I missed out because someone else missed a putt that didn't matter to him?) The others in the group incoulded Bud Caulie and Luke Guthrie, both of whome we had seen before. Like the others they took lots of time working out shots around 14 and 15. Varner hit a bad drive left on 15, then another that was still left and a second that caught two trees and nearly went into a creek. After he finished the hole his caddie tossed me the ball. I guess he didn't want it and we were closer than the woods).

On practice days you sometimes find a lot of balls on the course. Some were clearly left over from the Monday Pro-am (held by Mad Anthony's brewing, a northeast Indiana chain of brew pubs with great food and great beer), but others are just shots the pros hit and didn't want. I won't pick one up unless I'm sure it was abandoned. Walking in along 16 I found a pristine ProV1 next to the cart path in an area of trees between 16 and 10. The only guy who could have hit it and been interested was the one who had just teed off on 10 and was walking towards a ball in the fairway. I thought I'd just wait there until he passed, while the foursome hit their tee shots on 16. When I saw the bag of the guy on 10 I thought "oh no" -- Andrew Loupe, a guy who acheived some fame last year by trying to assert his right to play as slowly as he wanted after being put on the clock. Sure enough, he stood forever sizing up his approach to 10, backed off the ball 3 times before hitting and moving on, and showed no interest in the ball in the woods (probably not his anyway). Meanhwile the foursome came past and they congratulated Loupe on making it (something like 198 on the PGA tour list), while he congratulated Varner.

It got me thinking about the odd competitive ethic of golf and how unique it is in sport. Imagine a quarterback congratulating a defensive back on a game winning interception, or a pitcher pitcher giving a high five to the batter who hit a game winning homer against him. Wouldn't happen, yet in golf I've rarely seen a player fail to acknowledge a good shot by a competitor or congratulate the winner.

Like I said, Wednesday is iffy weather wise and we aren't sure what's up yet. Thursday we will start 3 days of afternoon shifts scoring. Probably be in the TV coverage window for this one, though no clue who we will get to score for or for that matter whose on TV. The Golf channel is here and has a more elaborate setup (towers on more greens, etc.) than 2 years ago. Given there's no PGA event this week they probably plan to show a lot of it. Lots of familiar names in the field. In many ways this is probably more signficant to the people playing here than the Fedex playoffs are to the players there. Yeah, those guys love to win and the money is much more, but anyone in the top 125 is probably a multi-millionaire already and has a ton of endorsement deals, and most important is assured of riding the gravy train next year. The guys in Fort Wayne are playing for a ticket to the that train, and if they miss, they get to spend another year on the Web.com tour, where if they are lucky they make enough to cover their travel and living expenses, and play well enough to get back here (or wherevere else the first playoff even is) next year. Making it to the big tour probably is much more life changing than winning the Fedex cup.

When you work tournaments, you have to be ready for change

Just after I sent my last update, we got the word -- no scorers for the pro-am, but if we wanted we could come and help put together the standards for the first two days. Fine we thought we could knock that off in an hour or two and maybe play the afternoon, so after checking tee times and finding mid week in Ft Wayne you can walk on just about anywhere we headed out. My phone rang half way to the course. They decided they weren't going to have a rain problem and wanted live scoring for the pro am, so we arrived at a bit after 10AM, picked up radios and got ferried out to holes 12 and 15, and spent the next 8 hours there relaying scores.

Pro-ams are interesting if for no other reason than watching guys no better than us butcher the holes. I took 12 (since after we scouted it out 15 had access to a bathroom but 12 was in the middle of nowhere and didn't, and it would be easier for me to pee in the woods if I had to). It's a big par 5 with a lake off the tee and a creek at the green. The pro-am game was that the pro played his own ball down, while the amateurs all drove (off the red or white tees) , picked the best of their drives, then they all played their own ball with their own handicap from that spot, and the team score was the lowest of the 5 net scores produced. That leads to very low scores. The morning leaders were -21 for 18 holes. On 12 many of the pros got in a bunker or rough and laid up, some went in 2. Because their tee was way forward, most groupsof amateurs had a drive in the range of 150-200 from the green and they all went for it. More than one group was "all in" -- the creek. Otherwise they went every place you could imagine. Left into trees on the far side off the creek, into every bunker and grassy depression around the green, and of course the sides of the creek. Worse yet, most groups would invariably pick the longest drive, even if that one was in the rough and blocked by trees. When they dropped their water balls (and they invariably did that even when they were out of the hole), they would do so on the downslope to the creek in front of the hole, instead of dropping further back on the fairway. Sub-rookie move.

It was interesting to observe the shots into the green from the layup area where everyone was hitting wedges. The pros shots from there invariably stopped dead or spun back, while the am's shots usually bounced like they hit concrete. I wish I knew how the pros manage to hit hots that don't bounce. Never got that lesson.

The afternoon dragged on and on. At some point they brought out lunch (not bad, gourmet tacos). All the ams seemed to be loving it and happy to see thier names on the scoreboards as the result of our efforts.

Carla's hole was the signature hole, a par 5 with 4 creek crossings. The pros play it in 2 shots to the green mostly, but of course the ams went
everywhere, and everyone had to play their ball out, even if they dropped twice already and someone else had a short eagle putt. Not pretty. I
finally got off at about 6:30, and got a prompt ride in to the clubhouse (sharp contrast to the western amateur, where we had to ride the back of the rules guys carts to make the 2 mile trip back from those holes). That gave me a chance to get a tour of the web.com tour truck and a beer as well as a refresher course on the scoring system. Carla came in an hour later, after being recruited to help round up some extra golf carts along the way (you do what needs doing in these things). A quick bite at scotty's brew house (awesome draft list, but it was tough to find a dinner that didn't come on a bun. Sorry burger guys, but my view has always been that dinner doesn't come on a bun :-). It was a short night for an early tee time Thursday.

Thursday AM dawned clear and we had an 8:15 tee time at Chestnut Hills, right across from Sycamore Hills where the tournament is. We played pretty well given our short night, and got to the course plenty early for our afternoon rounds. Carla and group 30 (Li, Yun, and Faustro, an international set. I had group 31 -- Aiken, Barlow, and Mullinax. Aiken is an older South African I scored for at the US Open. He didn't remember me though. Barlow a beefy recent college grad, and Mullinax a young gun who hit it a mile. Aiken's caddie was a surprise. A young woman who looked more like a model than a caddie, probably a wife or girl freind, carrying his clubs in a small bag he clearly borrowed. She made 18 holes though with no apparent problems, not the easiest course to hike. Barlow's caddie was a jovial guy who looked like he
could have played wide receiver somewhere and was always joking with the others and us. I had an older guy from the area as a standard bearer. Fortunately he was a golfer and experienced at this and mostly could take care of himself.  Carla's standard bearer was less experienced, but sharp about golf and didn't need much help getting the changes right. Really good, since the Web.com tour's scoring technology is really flakey.

My guys started okay, and on 2 looked to get at least a couple of birdies, then my scoring PDA locked up -- nothing I did would cause it to unfreeze. Yuck. Call it in, get out pencil and paper and start tracking what they are doing while scoring figures out how to help me. "Try to get the menu to come up" (Nope). "Try the top of a tee" (Carla said that after she had fixed problems on hers. No dice for me). At that point the guy gave up and said he'd come help. I reconstructed the stroke trails for 2 on paper, then radioed in the totals and started tracking 3, a short par 4. Half way down the hole the guy caught up with me and confirmed it was locked up, but after a few minutes of poking buttons he got it going and stuck in 3 tee shots on 3 to catch me up. By then of course they had all hit to the green, and I was still catching up. The thing continued to be balky for a while. I don't know what's to blame. They went through 3 of them back in the volunteer tent before finding one that would properly initialize for me. The device is some kind of PDA ("Trimble") tethered to a belt containing a heavy battery and an antenna. The things are a real pain even when they work, especially on guys whos hips aren't wider than their waiste, because the battery pack keeps trying to slide down, and in hot weather the thing is really hot. As with 2 years ago, they work by line of sight radio to the tour truck, which while parked in the highest spot they could find isn't high enough to get past trees and houses so they have trouble on all the distant holes. Most scorers were having trouble on holes 4-6, and I was just approaching the 4th tee. Carla had to radio scores from 5, but while mine went bad again on 5 it recovered by the time we reached the green and no problem.

My players had an up and down kind of front 9. At first I thought Aiken and Barlow would leave Mullinax in the dust when they made a birdie or two and he was bogeying, but he recovered and got back to even. Mullinax was clearly the long player in the group, which didn't always help him. On 5 he got in a fairway bunker trying to hit it far enough to have a short club into this par 5, then chunked out accross the fairway into another. Another mediocre bunker out to the area in front of the green and an up and down gave a disappointing par. On 8, after a birdie on 7 he hooked one behind some little trees. I thought for sure he would just lay up (two creek crossings between him and a green nearly 200 yards away, but he waited for the group ahead. I couldn't see how he could hit the iron he had out and not hit the trees, and waited for the crash, but the shot had that clean soft plop of dead solid contact, no crashing trees, and when he asked where it went because he couldn't see it both his caddie and I responded "straight at the pin". A fantastic recovery.

Barlow had lots of luck. On 7 he hit an iron a little fat and bounced off the rocks that line the lake on this 200 yard par 3, winding up on the back of the green. He canned 30+ foot putts everywhere, and reached -3 by the end of the 9. When he birdied 10 I thought he might go on the leaderboard. The morning leaders were at -6 and nobody on the afternoon was doing much. Wasn't to be though. He got in a bunker and bogeyed 11, then nearly wound up short in the creek on 12 and failed to take advantage of a perfect drive. Mullinax continued to hover around par and -1 in spite of clearly having some great game. He'd hit a bad shot and get mad, then make a great recovery. 15 was typical. It's a big par 5 with 4 creek crossings. All 3 players hit big drives, but mullinax was a little left and under a little tree that impeded his swing. After lots of consideration and discussion with his caddie he admitted defeat and took out a wedge to lay up and nearly birdied from there. The other two reached in 2 and Barlow's 2 putt birdie got him back to -3. On 16 Mullinax hit what might have been the drive of his life. It's maybe 470 yards with a creek in front of the green, and everyone hits driver. It's also one of two holes they measure drives on. All 3 hit what looked like good shots and as we came up to Barlow and Aiken's balls in the fairway about 300 yards out the drive measurers were just finishing up. Mullinax kept going and I thought his must have caught the little tongue of rough just ahead -- but he kept on walking. Then I spotted it, in the fairway maybe 20 yards short of the creek. I never saw anyone within 50 yards of that spot. Neither had the marshals or the drive measurers. They had to pace off the last marking at 350 to get 382. Apparently it caught a little downslope just perfectly. These guys are way too long. Both Barlow and Mullimax birdied to get to -4 and -1.

17 should have been an opportunity for more birdies, but Mullinax and Aiken went over and struggled to save their pars. On 18, Mullinax hit a hybrid that I saw heading for the woods. We saw it land next to a red stake and I thought great -- penalty time. Mullinax took a whack out of one of the tee boxes in frustration. When we got there, the ball was short of the hazard in deep crap. I hung around in case he needed a ruling for a plugged ball, but he didn't. Barlow was in the fairway but Aiken nowhere to be seen in spite of the fact we saw the ball go for the right side of the fairway. Apparently it kicked dead right next to a tree which restricted his swing, and while he hit a great out, carrying the lake and reaching the green it went over into a collection area and he bogeyed back to even -- story of his day. Mullinax on the other hand hit another great shot out of deep crap, then holed a pitch from the fairway in front of the green for an unlikely finishing birdie. The guy has game if he can keep that temper under control and stop the screwup shots.

Carla's group struggled more. Fraustro picked up strokes in double bogeys getting to +10 at one point before finding some game and getting a few back -- still dead last. Yun and Li had up and down rounds winding up at -1, not too bad. It was after 7 by the time we rolled off. Still
supposed to be rainy today (Friday), but we will be back dressed for wet conditions. I expect it will be another long day.

Swinging in the Rain

Well, today turned out to be a mostly yucky day. Not heavy rain, but persistent rain. We arrived in the rain and were basically stuck in the
volunteer tent for 2 hours waiting for our tee time. (There was some screwup over times and we were later than planned). I had Steve Alker (An older New Zealander Carla scored for 2 years ago). Jason Allred (A young fresh guy, and Jonathan Randolf (another recently turned pro college guy). Allred and Alker were -2 and -3, safely in the projected cut, while Randolf at +2 had work to do. Carla had Julian Etulain (Argentinian), Robert Garrigus (a veteran grinder from the tour) and Travis Bertoni (A younger guy trying to get his card). We debated long and hard about how best to handle the weather and finally picked jackets and umbrellas as having the best chance of keeping the technology dry and happy. It worked okay, though wrangling an umbrella with all the other stuff you carry is kind of a pain. We both had standard bearers who had done it before, not as self sufficient as yesterday but good enough and eager to do the job right.

My guys played mostly steadily. Nothing worse than a bogey, no penalties or provisionals. We went off the back and played the early holes well enough. Alker got some bad breaks, but hovered around -2. Allred picked up a few shots and got to -5 or -6 by the turn. Probably the most interesting hole was 18, when Randolf hit one way right near the hazad (he wasn't in it) then hit his next behind the scoreboard near the green. I quickly went over to call rules if he needed them but the rules guy was already there telling him where to drop, and not much happened as a result. The radio was giving constant evidence of problems in other groups, wrong scores, dead PDAs, and a couple of withdrawals. Early in the back 9 the rain stopped and I could put down the umbrella, which was nice. On 16, my standard bearer found a towel on the ground walking off the tee and I told him to pick it up since it might be from one of our caddies. It was in fact Randolf's caddie, and my standard bearer, also irish, hoped it was good luck for Randolf. He made some progress in the early holes on the front but was still +2 (3 over the
projected cut, on 5. I said making the cut was possible, since 5 is a par 5 many birdie, and 6 and 9 are short par 4's they can birdie. Randolf birdied 5 (good up and down around the green), and canned a long putt on 7 to go to even, only one shot off. He made a good up and down on 8 to stay there and gave himself a birdie try on 9, but it wasn't to be. Alker on the other hand safe from the cut at -2 hit one left off the 9th tee and hit a tree near a creek. He didn't go in, but his ball was on the hazard line and he had to stand well below it on the bank of a creek. He punched it out and got pretty close, but missed to finish at -1 nervously (he did make the cut in the end). Allred birdied 9 to go to -7 and tied for 5th. He's a very nice guy and was always talking to me and my standard bearer. As we walked up 9 he asked if this made us want to play the game. Mys Standard bearer, an older guy who had played and was now sidelined with a disk problem said yes, while I came back with "what it really makes me wish is I had your game". He laughed. Easy to do that when you are playing well.

Carlas group was more challenging. They made a hash of 11 (double and triple on a par 5 some eagle), with provisionals and penalty shots galore. Garigus and Etulian got to the point where they were just playing out a missed cut, but Bertoni was close and ultimately made it on the number. Along the way she had a total technology failure and had to have her PDA swapped out, but she can handle that.

She finished early enough to chat with our committee chair, who was busy handling the ups and downs of tournament changes. Among other problems was a walking scorer who volunteered only if he could have the last group on Saturday and Sunday. Being short of volunteers she had agreed to that deal, but he called in today saying he couldn't do Saturday. In the mean time the PGA tour had told her they needed experienced scorers on the final groups on the weekend, and he had no experience, so she told him she would have to move him up and he begged off in a huff. That wasn't likely to go well anyway. Tomorrow we supposedly have groups 22 and 23, in the middle of the pack, which is fine. The tour's insistence on experience might change that though, since the two of us are probably the most experienced in this crowd. I can understand the tour position. dealing with the media and crowds following "star" groups poses some challenges and you don't want someone doing it who won't get the scores right. We will see what happens tomorrow. At least the weather is supposed to be more cooperative

Wrapping up the Hotel Fitness

We got the word early on Saturday that our chair had found a way to work out the schedule so we didn't have to work Sunday PM. I had mixed feelings. It would have been fun tto do the final groups, but we didn't need another overnight in Ft Wayne, and my legs were glad to get a day off, so Saturday was our final walk. Once again things changed, we had groups 23 and 24. That mean Carla had Lucas Glover and Ricky Barnes, and I had Ryan Spears and Steve Marino. We did a bit of research to be reminded that Glover and Barnes finished 1-2 in the 2009 US Open. We also found another odd connection. Glover's grandfather played a season with the steelers (in the year we were born), and Barnes' father was the punter for the Patriots in the first year we had season tickets. (Yeah, I remember the name now and he was pretty good. He had to be, the Patriots punted a lot in a 3-11 season :-)

Nothing so interesting about Spears and Marino, and while both were freindly enough on the tee things never went well for them. My standard bearer was interesting, a student at the local university (IPFW) on the golf team, but he was also a volunteer junkie having been a standard bearer for many tournaments and carried the sign for a lot of big names, including Mickelson. He also caddied for a freind in the Western Amateur, where Carla and I spent two days relaying scores. I'm sure he would have been there then. That of course meant he knew everything he needed to do the job and I didn't need to help him much. (Most of the time when a player was close for birdie or was in clear danger of missing par he would pull the appropriate numbers and stick them behind the ones already on the sign so he could change them instantly. That's planning!)

My players were up and down most of the front 9. Spears lost some ground and somehow didn't manage to take advantage of the birdie holes, and while Marino held closer to even for the day he missed a lot of opportunities. Spears was clearly getting frustrated, letting loose a chorus of the F word after missing a short birdie putt on 6. That was nothing though. On 9, from the right rough he came up short in a deep greenside bunker, then chunked it out barely on the bottom right of the green 3-putting for double to a back left pin. He steamed off the green before Marino finished (rare, mostly they stick around until everyone finishes. His drive on 10 was left in the trees and I thought he was dead there. Instead, he stuck one to about 6 inches. It was a bit of a surprise to find it that close when we reached the green, because there had been no reaction, but there weren't a lot of fans and the marshals on the green weren't paying much attention. Another bunker related bogie on 11 though.

12 was interesting. Spears isn't a huge hitter, and as a result laid up. Marino was in perfect position, but on the way to the drives I heard Carla
call for a rules official for the group in front on the green so I knew we would be waiting and I let him know to expect a wait. It was at least 5
minutes and we wondered what took so long and why Glover seemed to be dropping in some place nowhere near where Carla and the rules official had started. The explanation proved interesting and instructive.

Glover had hit it into the creek in front of the green, which was marked with red stakes. Knowing the rule about dropping equidistant on the other side of a lateral hazard he called rules to work out exactly where those points would be. His ball had gone in across the hazard from the pin, with a bunker in the bank of the green in between. He could have backed up onto the fairway on that line, like most did, but when the rules guy got there he wanted to measure distances. Rules didn't have a rangefinder, but Barnes had one in his bag and tossed it to them (over the creek --yikes). When they worked it out, "equidistant on the other side" turned out to be signficantly right of where he was, in heavy rough but with a flat and unobstructed (no trees or bunkers) line to the pin. Unfortunately he didn't get up and down for par from there, but it was an interesting lesson in the rules, (even if it lasted long enough for me to drink a bottle of water and eat 2 granola bars).

I don't know if the delay effected Marino. I thought he hit a great shot, fading towards the pin, but it came up a foot short and stuck in thick
rough, where he failed to get up and down for Birdie. Barnes and Spears fared better. Spears stuffed it close from a layup and got his birdie,
while Barnes stuck it in 2 for an eagle. 13 though was a disaster. Marino and Spears both hit left into bunkers (new since 2 years ago I think) with steep lips. Marino hit first and chunked it, dribbling into a creek -- so much for my thinking I hadn't had to enter a penalty shot yet. Spears hit it heavy too, but got it over the creek and into a greenside bunker, and erupted into another 4 letter word chorus, slamming his wedge into the bag. Marino dropped on the fairway and I thought he could still get it up and down for bogie, but he hit a thin rocket over the green that was lucky to stop near the green. A poor pitch ran maybe 20 feet past and I thought Yikes -- that putt is for double. He canned it, and Spears actually hit a great bunker shot and saved par.

That was about it though. After that both leaked shots coming in to finish 3 over for the day -- a sad performance. Both signed my had in scoring though and had balls for my standard bearer (who has a large collection of them. Barnes and Glover did a bit better, but neither one would be contending for the lead.

We hung around for the rest of the afternoon watching the rest of the field come in. The exciting moment was Lahiri's play of 18. He hit his drive right into the trees and wound up dropping off the cart path. It was dark and cold by then and we really couldn't see it very well. The next thing we were aware of was a bang above us in the grandstand, and the few fans up there scrambling with one woman grabbing her leg. Apparently the shot bounced off the stand before hitting her leg -- then disappearing under the stand. Someone wondered if he would have to go under there to identify it. Apparently not, he got to drop next to the stand, but was shaken enough he hit a poor pitch and bogeyed anyway. What we were hanging around for was the volunteer party. This was a really small affair, hosted by the "premium" concession stand on the 9th green (a local restaurant providng big burgers, jumbo dogs, and a variety of beers) It was low key, but nice, especially after a long day. Many of the people who stayed for it were out-of-area volunteers like us and we had an interesting time talking about the tournaments we had been in and speculating on the future of the championship. Apparently the guy who financed it (Bruce Dye -- not sure if he's related to Pete but it wouldn't surprise me) sold the Hotel Fitness business, so I doubt they will be the sponsor next year. I hope it stays in the area, it's a fun event and a great place to volunteer.

We did go to the tournament on Sunday to watch some of the people we scored for in the first half of the field play. None were playing all that well. Finishing at -1 at the same time meant Marino and Spears would play together again, but not the same game. At 9, Spears was soemthing like +5 (and missed a putt to bogey), while Marino was -3. Spears seemed resigned to having a poor day. Carla was almost as anxious about how the caddie for one of her players, Travis Bertoni, was handling the round. He was an older guy with heavy duty knee braces and was clearly struggling to get around on Saturday. He was trailing the pack up the hill to the 9th green, but still making it. I really wondered what kept a guy like that Caddieing on the web.com tour. I'm sure the caddies for the better PGA tour players make enough for a good life, but that's not going to happen on the Web.com tour. You've got to really love the life I guess. 

We didn't stay for the end (in fact we got home in time to watch the last few holes on TV. This is our last volunteer stint this year, and all have
been memorable. We are looking forward to doing at least 4 tournaments next year.

The 2016 US Women's Open (Morgan Hill, CA, 7/2-7/10 2016)

We did this tournament in 2013 as walking scorers and really enjoyed it so we signed up again, especially since the sponsor committment to it was only 3 years and the future isn't certain. 

We knew the way to San Jose (But Untidy Airlines didn't)

We signed up for the Women's Open at Cor de Valle early.  Not only was Walking Scorer open for signup but the course was in an area we had visited for both golf and wine tasting and we knew it was a great area to do a tournament.  We planned to go out in time for the volunteer party, usually late afternoon, and were surprised when the party was earlier in the day, but with clear weather in Chicago and San Francisco we expected an early flight arrival in plenty of time to make the volunteer party.  It was not to be.  We expereinced a 7 hour delay due to multiple plane and gate changes and minor maintenance issues that never should have happened.  Such is air travel in 2016.

Getting there too late for the party, we played golf and tasted wine, playing at Cinnabar Hills, San Juan Oaks, and Coyote Creek.  Cinnnabar was lovely, even if it was crowded and expensive.  A top notch course that's scenic and fun to play.  The clubhouse has an extensive "museum" with replicas of trophys and many artifacts from the history of golf.  San Juan Oaks was the highlight of our local play.  It was a course we had played before with freinds, and this time on July 4th played alone without waiting or being waited for, with time to savor the course and the wildlife.  Coyote Creek was a disappointment.  A Nicklaus course he might want to forget.  It wasn't in bad shape, but it was a cramped and confusing layout with few memorable holes. 

Cordevalle is a beautify course, in top condition. There were probably not many more than 200 fans out on the 4th, but all the players were out and we had a great time walking around seeing people like Lydia Ko, Karrie Webb, and a host of Korean and Japanese stars play the course. Wow they hit it a long way. The normal rough isn't bad, but there are lots of natural aras with dry fescue to get into as well as water and big oak trees on many holes. What I think will really challenge the players is elevation and wind. The elevation changes are hard to see because the course sits in bowl and it's hard to judge what's flat and what's not. The wind swirls and in the afternoon comes up hard on some holes. I thought the 470 yard par 5 15th would be an easy 2 putt birdie for most of these folks, but it's up hill and into the wind and nobody I saw reached it. (lots of big bunkers too.

After burning out our legs walking we collected all the volunteer goodies we didn't get because we missed the party (they mail the clothing, but everything else you have to get in person, and headed back. The guy sitting across the aisle in a school bus from us had a shirt with what looked
like the Ryder cup on it, but no familiar info, so I asked him. Nope, was the PGA cup, a match play event for PGA pros played at the course. Turns out the guy was a Cordevalle caddie who worked that one (played at the course a couple of times), and picked up a bag ffor the women's open. We mentioned what we were doing and chatted a bit about the course and the challenges for unfamiliar players. He was
delighted to be high enough on the caddy list to be one of 7 locals picking up a bag (there are lots of amateurs and qualifiers without regular caddies, but many of them use freinds or family members, probably a mistake if you want to make the cut, but understandable.

Our hotel has at least half a dozen competitors in it, judging from the number of courtesy cars in the lot. The ones we saw in the first couple of days were  unknown and foreign (Asian and one from France). It's not surprising really, the Gilroy/Morgan Hill area isn't lush with hotels and the one we happen to be in is actually nice (much better than the roach motels we got stuck in for two of the tournaments we worked in the
Seattle area), and it happens to be about as close to the course as you can be without staying in the resort. (Probably real convenient for the foreigners -- we wondered how many of those young foreign women would actually be able to drive those courtesy car Lexus SUVs).

We saw the rest of the tournament course Tuesday. There are some scary holes on the front, 5 in particular, a long par 4 with a carry off the tee then a lake in front of the green. 6 looks intimidating with 2 fairways and a green surrounded by trees and bunkers, but these women hit it so far off the tee most of that isn't in play. Our training was at the end of the day. The USGA has made the walking scorer setup more challenging, now wanting us to record the condition of the stance and lie and some club selection info, as well as a lot of other changes to the interface. Ross (the scoring supervisor) and Sue (the woman who monitors and runs scoring at USGA championships for the last 20 years) tried to make it sound less intimidating, but it's going to be a challenge. I'm glad we've scored for both USGA and PGA tour events, since this new system is a mix of both. Practice tomorrow will be easy, but the first two rounds, with 3 players, are going to be interesting. (No clue what we are doing beyond that, apparently the USGA wan'ts to look at how people do in the first two days before deciding how to assign scoring for the weekend).

I need to learn some Korean

Wednesday is practice day for us as well as the players. It's also the chance for Walking Scorers to walk the course with a group putting in scores and mostly figure out where to go. We showed up for our 8:06 time, (which was really 8:11 -- because Number 1 and 10 tees are very close they stagger the tee times to avoid interference, and we were scheduled to walk with a group going off 10) to find out that they were sending us out in a group of 3, the two of us and a local who works 4 or 5 tournaments a year mostly in this area (2 at Pebble beach, the old Frys.com, etc.) He had scored on the course before and though the holes had all been renumbered knew where to go. Our initial group was supposed to be Amy Yang, Q Baeck, Charlie Hull, and another Korean amateur. In fact Charlie dropped back a group to be replaced by Sue Kim, so we had basically 4 Koreans jabbering away in Korean.

The first challenge was deciding which 3 people to score. I had the scoring PDA on the first tee (actually number 10), so I made an executive decision to score the 3 pros since when there was no good way of identifying them and the name on the pro's bags would help. The next challenge was it was cold, so everyone had extra layers of clothing at first that they started to shed. We were supposed to be helping the laser ball spotters practice, and they need to know what the players clothing is to know who hit a shot, so we had to keep changing the clothing as they peeled off layers. (The worst was Q Baeck, who took off her white vest every time she hit a shot and put it back on again immediately
afterwards. What do you put in as her shirt?)

Not much real golf is played on practice rounds. They hit extra shots everywhere and rarely putt out. We were constantly making up scenarios on how they would finish given they mostly hit no shot from where any other shot had landed. Made it interesting. We also experimented with the new features of the scoring devices -- recording provisionals, free drops, and the player's lie and stance. We debated the stance on every shot -- is this really uphill or sidehill? There's no consistency in how volunteers will assess this. My guess is that someone in the back office wanted this for statistics but never explained to anyone (not the programmers who implemented it, and not the people training the volunteers) what they really wanted, so everyone is guessing).

Our round was enlivened right from the start when the walking scorer coordinator for the Pebble Beach tournament was standing in the landing area passing out his card looking for volunteers to score there. The weather typically sucks, but we will actually think about that.

All our players quit on 9, as did our 3rd scorer, so Carla and I took the radio and PDA and went to the 1st tee to pick up another group. We didn't wait long, Hanna Jang and Lauren Stephenson (An ammateur from South Carolina with her dad caddying) came to the tee and we joined them. They were playing some kind of match so played out their first ball on every hole -- all pars and birdies). Jang was animated and having fun talking to the crowd and us in English. She was playing well and enjoyed it. Stephenson was a bit more intense, but also enjoying the round. Her mother and sister joined us on about 5, and the whole family quit at 6 (back at the clubhouse). We followed Jang for the last 3 holes. She hit a ton of flop shots around 7 and 8 greens. Mostly amazing shots, with one bladed into a creek. Even the pros aren't perfect.

By the time we reached the 18th fairway, we were the only ones still out there scoring and a represenative from the company providing the technology came to ask us to come in at the end of the hole. Apparently they had been trying to reach us with that, but the radio we had was so bad we never heard them. (We get a variety of radios on these gigs, but this one had a headset design we had never seen that made it impossible to get the earpiece anywhere near your ear, so it's not surprising we never heard anyone trying to reach us. I tried to reach them several times just to say what we were doing, but nobody ever responded, so I'm guessing the thing was broken anyway. No big deal, we got some brownie points for being the last ones on the course and might get assignments for the weekend as a result.

After that we watched a few groups hit into 18 (shaded granstand near the clubhouse where we turned in our gear). It's a reachable par 5 with a lake in front and a very high risk shot to clear it (basically if you miss you are probably dropping again from over 200 because of the
positioning of a creek and the lake). Few actually made it. A few more wound up in greenside bunkers from which they mostly got up and down.

Our groups tomorrow are mostly unknowns and late in the morning "wave", I'm hoping we won't have too many penalty shots to record. The course clearly can be had for birdies if you know where to hit it and execute, but there's lots of bad lies and hazards lurking for anyone who is less than perfect, and our players don't look to be perfect.

Or maybe Spanish

Our first  women's open story actually came from breakfast at our hotel, where a woman recognized our volunteer shirts and asked us about what we were doing. In the conversation it came out that her daughter was first alternate for the field. Normally you would think that was good, but thestory really made me wonder about the USGA. It seems that they wanted her to come out to be here all week, but wouldn't let her practice on the course. Today she was to stand on the putting green with her caddie until the last groups went off just in case someone cancelled. She couldn't even go to the range. Somehow that's wrong. I don't know for sure, but I don't think whe ultimately got to play. The player plays on the Symmetra tour (the LPGA's junior tour) and is actually quite good, but not enough to give her qualifying status.

We had looked up our groups and found that my players were Paula Hurtado (Columbia), Gaby Lopez (Mexico) and Rinko Mitsunaga (US -- Georgia), while Calra had Haeran Ryu (Korea) Christine Song (US, Tennessee) and Spencer Heller (US, California). I was clearly going to hear a lot of Spanish.

We picked up our gear and our standard bearers (I had two girls, trading off, one of whom had done this before at tournament we worked in Sacramento last year.), and met our rules official on the tee, an older woman who does 3-4 tournaments a year for the USGA. Things were exciting from the start -- one left, one right, one center. Lopez and Hurtado were long hitters who were great when they were accurate but lost it. Mitsunaga almost never hit driver and as a result was laying from 50+ yards behind the others, often off line -- not a good combination. She droped back while Hurtado and Lopez traded birdies and bogies for a bit before Lopez got to -2 and basically stayed there. I made a rookie mistake off the bat -- failing to mark a putt holed out, but quickly corrected it so scoring was happy with me.

Our first "event" was on 15 (our 6th hole) where Hurtado had hit it left and as I went over to see where the ball was a Marshal cornered me to explain the ball was lost in a hazard. I could clearly see though the caddie put the bag down in the rough and Paula lining up her shot further than 2 clublengths from the rough (meaning she didn't drop)  -- don't trust the marshals. Mitsunaga went from bunker to bunker to bunker on the hole and dropped back to about +4 and I felt a bit bad for her, but she stopped leaking shots about then in any serious way.

Hurtado kept trying to get under par and then shooting herself with a bad drive. On 18 (our 9th) she hit it left into a hazard and as I went over with Kate (our rules official) to look she was already marking for a drop. She dropped and went to pick it up when it rolled towards the hazard and Kate stopped her. As long as the ball doesn't go into the hazard and doesn't go nearer the hole the ball is in play and shouldn't be touched. (It didn't matter that she would have to stand in the hazard, which is why she was going to re-drop). That told me that she had never played a USGA championship, since those who have never take drops without help from the rules official with the group, while tour players have to call for rules help and learn to do simple drops on their own. She hit an okay recovery, but 3 putted for an ugly double.

She came back with a birdie, but then came number 2, a really ugly hole. Hurtado hit it way right off the tee while the others hit shots to the fairway and left rough on this par 4. She started to walk off and Kate suggested she hit a provisional. I wasn't sure why, since you could see the red hazard marking in the area the ball went, but what the heck. She hit a second drive on about the same line as the first, and said she'd find one of them (right, I thought -- this is going to be fun). Well, she found the first one maybe 15-20 yards deep in dry grass and trees, then started the discussion. Nobody was sure whether her ball had actually crossed the hazard line in front of the tee, though she thought it had. With the original ball found the provisional was definitely out of play, and eventually she decided she would play the original ball. It looked straight out of "Tin Cup", deep in the woods and while we started to clear for a pitch out she was going to play under a tree towards the green (an impossible shot), meanwhile my other players hit into the green and I had to make sure to catch the shots. I was really hoping Hurtado's shot would at least reach the rough, and it looked good, then lots of bangs off the tree. At that point she and her caddie along with Lopez and her caddie started combing the junk looking for it babbling in spanish about every lost dog they found in there. I searched the edge (they tell us not to help unless asked because of the risk you will step on the ball but it was pretty open, as did Kate and a Marshal, but no dice. By now we had a rules supervisor to discuss the situation. They decided that she could, under one stroke penalty, go back to the last point she crossed the hazard. Everyone forgot nobody really knew where that was and she went back about 100 yards into the farthest right part of the rough not in the hazard and dropped, hitting 4. She hit a good one to in front of the green, but took 2 more to get down, while her playing partners both bogeyed. I had to confirm all the scores with the caddies, who were sprinting so as not to get put on the clock. (And, oh yes,
the next hole was a long uphill par 5).

Hurtado birdied the next 2 to get those shots back, then lost another one right into hazard. I saw it kick off a bank into the hazard, and the marshal saw about where, so we found a place where she crossed. Then something smart happened. She looked at the pin and decided she could play under the normal water hazard rule by dropping on a line to the pin and manage to drop 50 yards back on the fairway with a level lie rather than a crazy slope in the rough. That limited the damage.

Hole 7 brought a new "situation". There is a long span of high voltage power lines that sag over holes 7 and 9 and all day long I had heard scorers wonder how to handle it when someone hit them and was allowed to repeat the shot. Our PDAs weren't programmed for that. (answer -- just ignore
the do over and the system will correctly record the hole). Lopez hit the wire in my group, but nobody noticed, and we were all 50 yards off the tee
before one of the marshals caught her to tell her. I think that rattled her a bit because she missed a birdie putt on that hole and after two good shots made a bogey out of a bad lie next to the green on 9, a closing par 5 to finish only -1.

This was one of those rounds you are glad to have finished without any real mistakes. Half way up the 9th fairway Kate told me how nice it was to have someone who knew where to go and what to do scoring (yes, I thought, I doubt I could have handled the second hole without the experinece I have by

The scoring trailer revealed no problems (Scoring was interesting with two of the players and caddies verifying their scores in Spanish.) Lopez is not only a great golfer but very gracious, signing balls for me and both my standard bearers and thanking us, as did her caddie. (Many pros do this,
often it's just the caddie doing it. Amateurs generally don't, but then again they don't get the balls for free.)  I didn't get a ball from Hurtado either -- maybe it's not traditional on whatever tour she normally plays, or maybe she was just running low :-)

Carla's group didn't have any big disasters, just the usual bogies and birdies to finish all at +2. One player birdied two of the last 3 holes to get there, but no lost balls, penalties, or anything worse than a bogey. She thought that was pretty good, since one of her players, a local with a fan club, was a pro but played on something called the Cactus Tour (where she was coming off a win last week).

Tomorrow we have the second to last groups in the afternoon, guaranteed to be over 5-1/2 hours (about what we played in today), and starting at 2:30 it's going to be cold and nearly dark by the time we finish. Still no word on what, if anything we will do on the weekend. Makes it tough to plan.

I hope the tournament gets some more people out for the weekend. The crowds weren't bad today, but not huge, and they are still short of volunteers. I guess there are just too many tournaments in this area for people to get excited. Lots off fun for us though and a good chance we get more work on the weekend.

Catching up on the women's open

Friday was one off the longest days we've had volunteering, so it's time to catch up a bit late. We knew we had the second to last grroups going out at about 2:30, and that meant finishing after 8PM, so we were in no hurry starting. We talked a bit to the woman whose daughter was first alternate and unfortunately as I thought nobody withdrew and she didn't get to play. They did get to watch some great golf and didn't regret the trip.

We showed up way before required and spent the time watching golf mainly from 18 grandstand (some shade and no need to walk far). 18 is a par 5 with two hazards to cross and a risk/reward aspect, so it's a fun hole to watch.

For the day Carla got Jane Park, Jaye Marie Green (both US pros) and Sau-Chia Cheng (Chinese Taipei). Jane started even par with a good chance to make the cut, while the others were +4 and +7, but it quikly got very windy, and all their scores blew up. The highlight of her round came late,
on 15, a short par 5 that Cheng eagled. (I was surprised to hear Carla on the radio for the first time all week calling in the details. The USGA wants to know the club hit and the length of the putt on eagles). In the end though none of them made the cut.

My group was even more promissing. Kotone Hori, a Japanese Pro, Caroline Inglis, a young pro from Oregon (I think she played on Oregon's NCAA team just recently), and Hye-Jin Choi, a Korean Amateur. Choi and Inglis were even, and Hori only +3. Things started badly though when Choi pulled her drive into a hazard left of the 10th tee (just dirt under a tree and barely across the line, but her swing was obstructed). She bunted it out of there down the cart path and ultimately got a double, following that up with a bogey on 11. Not good. On 12, though she turned it around, landing a shot on a bank right of this 200 yard par 3 that ran down and a marshal said narrowly missed going in. The somewhat pesky Fox TV spotter with my group said they put it on TV. She birded the hole to get a shot back, then made birdies and a couple of bogies to finish the front 9 only a little worse than she started. Hori mostly parred, finishing 9 at +4, while Inglis struggled a bit and wound up +3 even with a birdie at the turn. The course was unforgiving -- little misses often got big penalties.

There were the usual scoring disasters -- people making corrections or failing to record shots. Nothing really weird. Our front 9 wasn't fast though -- almost 3 hours. I began to wonder both about sunset and the power level in my PDA, which started at only 85% and lost 5% just waiting to tee off. One big help I had was that they ran out of kids to carry signs, so I had no standard bearer. The downside was lots of people asked me the scores, but that's still easier than having to change both the "today" and "total" numbers for 3 players after every hole, particularly when your group isn't making a lot of pars.

My rules official was an older Japanese american who was easy going and if anything too talkative. He kept marveling over how far these women hit it. Coming in to 18 I noticed a smoke plume to the northeast of us and he said they had a radio report on that and it wouldn't bother us (right -- that's all I didn't need to worry about). It didn't in the end, but it got a little smoky for a while. At the turn he told Inglis and Hori to have a solid back 9, and I think it was a curse. We managed 1 okay, but they began to leak shots and Inglis doubled 2 as I recall at least to go to +5 with most still reporting the cut would come at +3. Not good. They all played 3, an uphill par 5, well, and escaped 4, a long par 3 without trouble, but on 5 the wheels came off Inglis, who missed her tee shot just a little right and kicked into a hazard. Given the pin today she couldn't drop back on the fairway and had to hit off a silly ball-below feet lie after her drop. The green has a backstop and I thought her shot would come down, but it stuck on a little strip of rough leaving an impossible shot and another double. Hori meanwhile hit a drive that must have gone 350 into a collection area left of the green, but this wasn't a forgiving hole -- no birdie. On 6 Choi practically drove it and did birdie. It was now getting near sunset, windy and cold. After riding the shuttle to the 7th tee our rules official said we were nearly out of position, so they started rushing. (I don't know how this happened, we were always waiting until 5, but after that never saw the group ahead). Inglis hit a great tee shot on 7, which caught a bunker and a bad lie resulting in another double, getting
to +10. Hori had leaked a few shots to get up to something like +6 by now, and on 8 she rolled just over the green, hit a pitch out of deep rough long, then 4 putted, ending her chances. As we cleared 7 I heard Ross, who is in charge of scoring for the USGA ask his long time assistant Sue (the
freindly voice on the radio who never gets mad no matter how badly you screw up the scores) how many groups were still out there and what was left. It was probably 8PM. most groups still out were on their last holes, we had two to play and the ones behind us 4. Silence. After absorbing that all he could say was "okay". A late night ahead.

9 was a bit of a blur -- a par 5 with two hazard crossings. Inglis and Hori were in the rough off the tee and both made weak shots that we thought might not have cleared the first hazard. Eventually we found both in the rough just over the hazard, and both players layed up in 3, while Choi hit
two perfect ones up there. Hori's 4th went over into a bunker where she got up and down to only lose one more and finish +10, while Inglis got up and down for par. Choi parred it to finish at -1, the low amateur making the cut by at least 4 strokes. Scoring was a bit frantic. Choi's american caddie hadn't realized she had made no pars until late in her first 9. There were lots of discussions among the players on scores and at one point I had to disappoint Inglis who thought she had birdied the last hole, but that par felt like a birdie.  (She ultimately thanked me profusely for preventing a scoring error and potential disqualification)  Carla was already in and we stubled off, with a promise from our committee to give us a sunday assignment and maybe saturday as well.

When I got back to the room I checked the stats and saw that 72 players had made the cut. That was bad for our chances for a Saturday round because it meant the USGA would probably send them in 3's. Indeed that's what happened. No Saturday assigbnment (a chance to recover a bit), and a Sunday round with the bottom two groups in the field (who go off the 10th tee last at the same time the leaders go off 1). We thought we had pretty good odds of getting known players even so because a lot of known players were +3 or +4 and barely made the cut. (one more player at +3 and there
would have only been 60 playing and they probably would have gone in 2's.

Saturday morning at breakfast I nearly bumped into a young woman going for more juice and I noticed she was dressed as a golfer and had Canadian flags on her sleeves. Sure enough, she sat down with another almost look alike and I recognized the Henderson sisters. One thing that's different about the women's events is that they tend to stay in the same kinds of places we do, not rented houses or pricey resorts. Carla smilled at them without saying anything as I was sure they would rather not have to deal with fans while getting ready to play. We did go watch Brook tee off (perfect) and play some holes. She had a mediocre day, unfortunately.

Of our players the first two days, I think only Gaby Lopez and Mye-lin Choi made the cut. Both played decently today and Mie-Lyn will probably get low amateur. We watched a lot of golf today, again mainly from grandstands and shade resting up. It was nice to see Christina Kim get a couple
of birdies and look like she was enjoying it. The golf coach at NIU is a freind of hers and told us that Christina went through a bit of a a low point over the past few years before finding her game again. She lives and plays in this area so it was nice to see.

Nobody is running away with it, but Lydia Ko continued to advvance and took the lead. She's much like the Tiger of the women's tour, someone who's never out of it and usually wins by playing solid while others stumble.

We kept trying to guess who wold wind up in our groups for tomorrow, but I never would have guessed it. I get Yanni Tseng, Morgan Pressel, and Hana O'Sullivan (another ammateur who made the cut and birdied a hole we watched her on). That should be fun if they aren't too annoyed at playing in the last group. Carla has an international group: Sophia Popov (German) Beatriz Recari (Spanish, on their winning International Crown team 2 years ago), and Erina Hara (Japanese). Again, should be fun if nobody is too turned off by playing in the bottom of the field.

Now it's time to get some rest for tomorrow's round.

Oh, No, not again!

We showed up early for our Sunday round and spent the time at the range, a place we hadn't gotten to before then. The course had an unusal range -- you tee off way up hill at several greens perched in various places up the hillside. We watched a lot of players hitting flawless shots up that hill. In the process we identified our players and got a little head start on the player clothing. Carla didn't get a standard bearer for her group. Apparently they continued to struggle with a lack of volunteer staff. My conclusion is that golfers in the bay area are spoiled. We heard tales from people who had volunteered at other tournaments, and the volunteers payed little or nothing and got benefits (like a free round at Blackhorse/Bayonet). The USGA doesn't give freebies and charges enough to cover at least their cost for the clothing. The effect was that they were short of volunteers all around, and apparently had some no shows for standard bearer. My group got one, even though we were last off the tee, because they figured there would be
interest in them (Morgan Pressel, Yanni Tseng, and Hana O'Sullivan, who turns out to be the top rated women's ammateur at the moment, a high school graduate who will apparently be going pro after her exemptions to competitions like the open are used, rather than going to college). My standard bearer was a student entering UC Davis, who may have been the best I've had. She knew golf and had done the job before so she basically needed little guidance and could change all the numbers just from my confirming the scores. That was a big help.

On the tee all the players and caddies introduced themselves. All seemed in a good mood. I think you have to be realistic when you are playing in the bottom group on Sunday. It might not be where they wanted to be, but how bad can it be to be playing on Sunday in the top tournament in your sport?

Our round started badly, when Yanni Tseng hit a drive that went way right (I knew it was trouble when all the caddies started screaming "fore right". The ball went into the gallery lining hole 1 for the leaders. She didn't have a bad lie but needed time to consider, meanwhile my other players were hitting their shots from our fairway and rough. I got it all recorded, and Yanni recovered to par the hole (more than I can say for Hana). 11 didn't go much better, but we survived. Pressel leaked a shot or two, as did O'Sullivan. The first real excitement came on 15, a severely uphill par 5 with lots of bunkers. Yanni and Morgan were supposedly okay off the tee, while Hana reacted like she caught a bunker on the left. (She was right). She got out and reached the green for a par. Pressel laid up a bit short, while Yanni's ball had reached a bunker on the right. From 201 yards out she hit a 6I out of the bunker that rolled over the green and about a foot into some thick stuff. Morgan hit a decent one onto the green with a good birdie chance, while Yanni set up with a sand wedge. I'm not sure if the shot she hit was intended -- it was a low bobbler that ran to the pin and dropped. I was surprised when my PDA asked me to confirm that was an eagle, but someone in the crowd behind me yelled "nice eagle", and I realized that was her 3rd shot on par 5. Pressel ultimately sunk her birdie.

Eagles are unusal enough that the USGA wants the scorer to get the details of the key shots (usually the distance of the approach, the club hit, and the length of the putt) and radio them in. That's all very well, but of course the player with the eagle has the honor on the next tee so catching her caddie to ask about it had to wait. 6 is a par 3 and after all 3 players teed off I ran to catch Yanni's caddie (who sounded Australian, as did several of the other
caddies of the top asian players). He was happy to oblige and I reported it. After 3 pars they were all over the hole again on 17, a downhill par 4 with a narrow fairway. Yanni was off the green again after a bad tee shot and long approach, and again played a long bobbly shot that rolled in the cup to get to -1 for the day.

That caught us up to Carla's group, who we hadn't seen in some time. She said they started okay, and her Japanese player even had some Japanese TV crew following her for a while, then they started pitching shots in bunches. 18 was a disaster for them. Her German player (Sophia Popov, a tall skinny blond) was pacing in a ditch way on the left way short of the normal landing area when we arrived. Apparently she had hit into the hazard, and was trying to evaluate if she could get a better lie dropping on the other side. No. While she was working out options the other players hit their second and 3rd shots, with Carla stuck with Popov and trying to figure out what they were doing 200 yards down the fairway. Ultimately Popov dropped and pitched out to the right (too far right) and I think doubled the hole. Her Japanese player didn't get into real trouble until she came up short hitting into the green, which has a shaved bank down to a lake. By that time my group was in the fairway watching and I saw her drop, hit again, then drop again -- yep -- didn't hit the first pitch long enough to stay on the green, eventually getting a 9. (That's a pain, since the paper score sheets we get only have room for 8 shots, afterwards you have to put them elsewhere and reference)

When I finally got the to the green I saw that the volunteers on the thru board (which shows scores for the players on the hole) had the "6" Hana's 16 upside down. I considered calling to get them to fix it, figuring her fans in the granstand deserved to know her real score, but I got too busy recording shots and noticed when done that someone had fixed it without notice from me.

By now the wind was screaming. That made managing the standard a real problem. I had to help my standard bearer steady it while she changed the numbers, but I was really impressed with her ability to keep it steady. 1, 2, and 3 play uphill and into the wind. Yanni lost a shot somewhere
in there and played okay, and O'Sullivan had stopped slipping back back, but the wheels were coming off for Morgan Pressel. She couldn't seem to catch a break. 3 is an interesting hole, another uphill par 5 with a creek crossing. Pressel and O'sullivan both laid up, while Yanni had a discussion with her caddie after pulling out a fairway wood. He ultimately talked her into a layup, from which she pitched fairly close. Pressel started shouting as soon as she hit her approach. It wasn't awful, but way right of the pin it wasn't what she wanted either. I think she 3 putted from there. I was impressed that all 3 of them hit the long par 3 4th and routine pars followed. 5, a short par 4 with water right and in front is always an adventure. The others approaches were fine, but Pressel came up short in a bunker. From there she sculled one over the green into deep rough with no hope of getting the next one close -- double. Yuck.

I thought 6, another short hole for them at least would have birdie opportunities, but no. By now there was interesting traffic on the radio. Apparently Lexi Thompson had a shot where the ball might have moved, but they reviewed the TV footage and decided it was inconclusive. (That really
doesn't seem right to me. Golf ought to be about your game, not the resolution of someone's TV footage). There were many scoring problems and at least one scorer with a dead PDA. Fortunately not me or Carla.

Seven was predictable. O'sullivan was in perfect position in the fairway, while Tseng ran through a bunker into a sidehill lie above it and Pressel caught a bad lie in another bunker. O'Sullivan sunk her longish birdie putt and got a big cheer from the limited gallery following her. On 8, a short par 3, Yanni was left in a short cut collection area and decided to putt -- bad move, she barely got it to the green and bogeyed.

Coming to the 9th tee I was thinking it was a good day because I hadn't had to record any penalty strokes. Bad thought. Pressel lost one right into a hazard, and by the time I got there was sticking tees in the rough to measure for a drop. I confirmed it with my rules official (another older guy who didn't talk that much other than to suggest I might consider going to rules school to work his job. I have to wonder if the USGA has a potential problem with getting people to do rules in tournaments since the ones I get in these tournaments are mostly old enough they don't have a lot of years of walking tough courses left in them and I don't know if they are getting younger people to do it). After the drop she was still behind low hanging
branches and just punched out, eventually making another double to wind up +20. Not her day. O'sullivan was in the deep rough on the left and also had to punch out and bogeyed. Tseng had a chance at a birdie but didn't made it. All 3 were gracious and signed balls and hats for me and my
standard bearer on the spot. I followed them into scoring (a challenge, since you have to walk behind 18 green where the last group was approaching and it was full of media set up with cameras in the area we walk). O'Sullivan also got waylaid by autograph hounds. Eventually players have to get
hard hearted and not sign before they go to scoring and verify and sign their cards.

We went through scoring with the usual discussions between the players over their cards. I never realized before that actually there are a lot of mistakes on the players' cards. Each player usually knows what they shot and agrees with the walking scorer, but the player keeping their card often has
missed a shot here and there -- not surprising, you have a lot to worry about.

While playing 8 I saw an amazing leaderboarrd, showing that Ko hadn't run away with it and was in fact not near the lead. Nordqvist had come out of nowhere to get to -6 and tie Brittany Lang, still on the course. I started hearing Ross tell the leaderboards on 16, 17, and 18 to stay on duty and knew immediately what that meant -- playoff. There was a lot of discussion over how the playoff would be scored and displayed. I learned that scoring for the playoffs is done by USGA supervisors, but the leaderboards and standards are done by volunteers, and they had to dig up staff where people had already left. Not my problem though. I met Carla in the dungeon (check in for walking scorers and standard bearers are almost always in the courses cart barn, which is usually under the clubhouse or pro shop. In this case we shared the dungeon with Caddie Hospitality. The caddies actually had a nice buffet and other amenities. We had chips and a water cooler (with no cups), and one TV. We briefly considered staying for the playoff, but figured
we could use the delay in the mass exodus to get in front of the crowd and get up to our airport hotel before we got stuck in too much traffic.

As a result all I know about the playoff is what I've read about it from various sources. The USGA seems to have laid another egg. It's bad enough to be using TV pictures to call penalties, but then to have the timing of when the players were notified impact the way they played 18 is clearly wrong. I'll say the same thing I said after the Dustin Johnson fiasco -- "One rule" has a lot of appeal and simplifies things. I'm not a big fan of the "no grounding
your club in a bunker" rule to begin with, and if it's so subtle nobody notices at the time something is wrong.

The 2016 International Crown (The Merit Club, Gurnee Illinois, July 2016)

The International Crown is a unique event in Women's golf created in 2014.  This was the second tournament, which is slated to become an every other year event held in the years they do not play the Solheim Cup.  It is a team event, with 4 member teams from the top 8 countries in Women's golf participating, and both those 8 countries and the membership of the teams are determined by their world rankings.  This creates some odd situations, such as the fact that the 2014 Champions from Spain were not competing in 2016, nor was the top ranked player in Women's golf -- Lydia Ko, because there weren't enough high ranked players from her country (New Zealand).  Nevertheless the 2014 event was exciting and the 2016 one promissed to be the same.

The event was slated to be held at Rich Harvest Farms, close to where we live, when we signed up, but 6 months before the scheduled dates they moved it to the Merit club, a private course in the far norther suburbs of Chicago.  Since we were signed up as walking scorers we decided to stay on board with this and booked a local hotel room.  The drive was an hour and a half without traffic, but that was through the Chicago suburbs where traffic is often a problem and the tournament was being held in prime "weather delay" season.

First Look at the Crown

Carla and I went up to the course hosting the International Crown for training on the Sunday before the event and got our first look. The course looks nice. Not much chance for us to walk it, but I can tell it's a pretty open layout with a lot of long grass and water and not that many trees, and much flatter than CordeValle was. Construction of the spectator facilities was nearly complete, but there was a lot going on still. This isn't like a Ryder cup (which had more than a million square feet of hospitality tent space and I think took over a year to construct), but there are plenty of grandstands, merchandise, sponsor exhibitions, and concession stands.

Scoring for this is going to be an adventure. We will use a PDA and keep a paper record, like other tournaments, but the format is quite different. The first 3 days are fourball matches (best of two players on each hole vs best of their two opponents). We don't have to note where they all play for, but we do record all the strokes and doing that for four players is going to be tricky, especially since the teams have uniforms, so the two players on any given team will be dressed alike (and unless one is someone you recognize it's going to be hard to pick out which of the members of, say, team Taiwan or team China is hitting).

The real fun is going to be recording the gimmes and the "give ups", and recognizing which it is when a player picks up. It won't help that with each group there will be media, player guests, and others inside the ropes. I'm hoping it's not going to be as crowded in there as the Ryder cup, where
every group had about 100 people with them, but making sure we can see all the shots and keeping out of the way of the media is going to be a challenge. We've already been warned that the standard bearers will probably be kids who need minding.

It is of course a small group of Walking Scorers for this event, given there are only 8 matches to score each of the first 3 days and 10 on Sunday. I think all the people there have scored for an event before, but I doubt many have done match play and I expect there will be some screwups. Another reason to be a bit uneasy is that unlike the other events, where the person running the scoring and available on the radio to fix screwups is a professional or at least a volunteer who has been doing it for many years, for this one that job is going to be done by the walking scorers. Everyone gets a turn in "Scoring Control".

After we finished training and walked out of the spacious media tent where they held it we saw a player and caddie walking onto the range. Nobody I recognize, but I guess not all the contestants are playing in Toledo today, and anyone who wasn't might well have come to the Merit Club to get a head start on her practice. This is going to be interestiing.

If we understand the schedule correctly, Carla and I will be scoring matches on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. We have the 3rd and 4th matches on Thursday, the 1st and second matches on Saturday, and the 6th and 7th matches on Sunday. Friday we will be in the scoring trailer for the first 3 hours of play. Hopefully by then we and everyone out there scoring will have figured out the technology and procedures and everything will run smoothly, but the fact that it's forecast to be in the mid 90's Thursday and Friday won't help.

We came back to the crown Wednesday PM to get a look at the course and the players who were out there for a pro-am.  When the tee times came out Tuesday.  we learned that the two matches we have tomorrow are Team Taiwan against Team Japan. Probably among the least known players out there. Worse yet, when we cane the the pro-am today they were all wearing their team colours -- magenta shirts and black shorts -- both of them! It's going to make keeping track of what's going on challenging. I was feeling a bit nervous about not knowing how they wanted us to handle all the situations in which players pick up during a hole and presented several scenarios to our commitee chair with questions. She came back eventually saying nobody has really told them anything, and she doubts anyone else doing scoring really knows either. One thing going on is that very few events score fourball matches, and there are many more scenarios where players pick up in those than simple head to head matches. (e.g. your partner sinks a putt that makes yours irrelevant) Supposedly all will be revealed tomorrow.

The course looks nice. Lots of wildflowers, ponds and long grass. There's at least one driveable par 4 (6 -- drivable, but with 2 lakes guarding it). One of the players I'll score for tomorrow drove it and had about 12 feet for eagle, but neither she nor any of her ammateur partners cold sink the putt. There are plenty of places on this course to make birdies, but lots of water and long grass that will take you out of a hole fast.

The spectator setup is great -- the best grandstands I've seen, with generous individual seats even in the public sections. Several of them have built in bars attached to them so you can refill your drinks without ever leaving the grandstand. There are lots of sponsors tents with giveaways and contests, and a better equipped merchandise tent that I expected. All amusements for others I'm afraid, we will probably be working for most of the competition, which actually suits us fine.

Change is Good?

After a long night of waking up every 20 minutes because our oh so wonderful hotel seems to have broken alarm system that triggers a false alarm that often and naturally the alarm and key operated box the front desk uses to silence it is mounted on the other side of the wall separating our room from the lobby, we got there bright and early for our first shift. As hoped for they had a practice PDA so we could explore all the menus and discover some of the surprises in the technology, which mostly worked simply and surprisingly well. We didn't get much further guidance on how to record players picking up when the hole was settled (which turned out trip me up, more later). Goup 1 took off plenty early and we waited around, still being half an hour or more early. Eventually they handed out our radios and PDAs and sent us to the tee, saying we would meet our standard bearers there. I was puzzled at the time that the equipment for group 2 was still sitting on the table unclaimed, but thought little of it. Sure enough, before reaching the tee
and after making that final pit stop to try to go 6 hours without needing to find a bathroom one of the scoring guys found us and asked if I could take group 2 instead of group 4. Uh, sure. Not that I had any clue who was in group 2. He swapped out my PDA and radio for the group 2 set and
being now within 15 minutes of group 2's tee times I headed for the entrance to the tee area.

The place was packed. Group 2 turned out to be Chinese Taipei vs Australia. My Australiians were going to be easy to recognize, Mingie Lee, and Rebecca Artis (Who I didn't know, but knew she wouldn't look like Lee). Taipei would be more difficult -- Candy Kung and Ssu-Chia Cheng. At first I
thought I'd have to notice tthe subtle stripes on the shoes, but then realized the Cheng was wearing those white sleeves many of the asian players wear in sunny locations, and Kung was bare armed. (Kung is someone I've seen elsewhere and is clearly a bit older, but that's hard to see from 200 yards away. I had 2 standard bearers, both yong girls who were golfers but never did that job before, plus a bunker raker. A girl who is in a caddie scholarship program and would follow the group and rake the bunkers for players and caddies. My "referree" who handled rules and announced each hole's results was a senior USGA rules official who was pretty easy going. Because we were the second half of the Austrailia/Taipei match we missed all the pagentry. There were diplomats and other dignitaries on hand and a military honor guard. For the first match of each pair they had a flag raising ceremony and played national anthems. Carla got that with her match and said it was cool. We had none of that, just handshakes for everyone, quick introductions, and we were off the tee.

My match was a real battle. I don't think anyone won a hole with a par, and lots of holes were halved in birdies. 2 were won with eagles. Lee is a huge hitter for a small woman, and both Kung and Cheng can bomb the ball. Artis was a little less accurate, but made some key shots and putts to keep Australia in the game when Lee's shots weren't perfect. Likewise the Taipei pair traded birdies. The match kept alternating between square and 1 up Taipei most of the day. Just when you thought it would move more someone would can a long putt or stuff an approach. We didn't have a big galery, which was a shame, it was great golf. 6 was a really fun hole, a 262 yard par 4 with lakes on both sides. Almost all of them went at it (the advantage of
fourball matchplay). I had one player in a lake, but she recovered fine, and the others scattered in rough and bunkers around the green. Lee was in the bunker and I think got up and down for birdie (kind of hard to remember all those specifics. The weather wasn't as brutal as predicted -- more overcast and often a bit of wind, but it was still HOT, especially in the still areas. Mostly things ran smoothly but it was clear that all of us were struggling with how to handle the "pickups" at the end of the hole. My standard bearers were self sufficient for the most part, which was good. I kept pushing water at everyone, not wanting anyone to get dehydrated or overheated as the standard bearer for one of the later groups did. My bunker raker didn't have much to do -- only two players in bunkers all day, but she enjoyed the chance to watch the golf (she was an older girl from the inner city of Chicago who spent an hour and a half each way on public tansit going to a private school on scholarship -- that's ambition).

As we came off the 13th green, an elevated spot, I noticed dark clouds to the east -- strange I thought. Stranger still in spite of the general pattern being wind from the south, those clouds were coming towards us -- oh oh. The course is maybe 10 miles west of Lake Michigan, and having grown up in that area I knew what was happening. On hot days the heat rising over the land draws the cooler air in from the lake, probaly like sea breeze in other areas, but here it's often a violent confrontation, with wind and storms. Half way through teeing off on 14, a short par 3, we got the wind. 3 players had hit, 2 of them close, but Artis was still on the tee when everything started blowing away. She backed away and reconsidered, but it didn't really let up -- probably a 25+mph cross wind. She hit the green but well right of the pin. The support carts for the teams exchanged their lightweight "parasols" for golf umbrellas about then, and it actually got cold. 15 played hard into the wind, but all 4 players reached the green or the fringe in regulation. By then it slacked a bit and didn't look like it would storm, but it was still windy. Taipei had gotten 2 up and I thought the match might end on 16, especially when Artis tried to cut too much off a dogleg and wound up in long stuff. Lee kept the Australians in it with an eagle on the hole and cut the lead to 1. I thought they were going to end it again on 17, but the hole was halved and we went to 18 dormie. 18 wasn't great for the Australians, with only Artis having a birdie putt. After one of the Taipei players holed out for par and Artis missed her putt the match was over and it was hugs all around, not just for them but their teammates who had finished their match (Taipei won that one too). Carla's match behind me finished on 17, so they did interviews on the green before finally finishing up. My standard bearers and bunker raker got signatures and balls and I got my hat signed.

Carla's match was similar, but the level of play wasn't quite as good. Thailand won that one and I think they halved the other match. It was only later over lunch I noticed something curious -- the jumbotron reported the final score on my match as up 2 at the end while I was sure it was up 1. Eventually one of the scoring people got me and said there was an error on 18, and I had marked a conceded birdie putt as an X. That didn't make sense, but he said the players had agreed on that, even though our referree had agreed with me. Eventually I figured out what must have happened. After Australia missed it's last chance
to birdie the hole and win the hole to halve the match, the match was essentially over, but apparently the rules allow them to finish the 18th hole even if it can't change the match result. At that point one of the Taipei players still had a birdie putt of maybe 15 feet, and apparently the Australians conceded it, giving them the 18th hole and a 2 up win. Not something that was easy to see with the crowd around the green erupting and everyone picking up the balls and going for hugs and congrats. I guess giving the outstanding putt like that is a sportsmanship gesture and allowed under the rules which probably say the match isn't over until everyone has either holed out or conceded, but it still seems a bit odd. next time I'll know what to look for.

We watched the rest of the play (not much by then). The US lost 2 close matches in the end for no points. Korea and China played spirited maches that both came to 18 with chances for halves, but Korea won one and China the other. Not looking that great for either of the top "seeds" (US and Korea) in this event. At Volunteer headquareters cooling off (and killing time until dinner) we were approached by another volunteer who was trying to figure out what she was supposed to do. Apparently she signed up, paid for her uniform, then heard nothing from them. Unfortunately everyone in authority was gone by then. We found one of the committee chairs to point her at but I don't know what the outcome was. If you volunteer, normally we look frequently at the volunteer
profile website for info on what to do and where to go and find it. A quiet dinner in one of those places I had fond memories of going as a kid but hadn't been in 25 years finished us.

It turns out they did something else for scoring control, so we have tomorrow off. We will go and watch some great play (assuming the thunderstorms about to roll across us don't do that in)

Finishing just in time

Friday was our off day, but with nothing else we wanted to do we went to watch. Not wanting to walk a lot in the heat today we went out to 6, the drivable par 4, and parked in the shade to watch the matches go through. No eagles today, and lots of water balls. At least 3 went in after rolling off the right side of the green. Since one of my players did that Thursday and survived, I can only conclude that they mowed the bank closer overnight, perhaps trying to compensate for the rain we got. In any case it was I'm sure frustrating for players hitting what looked like good shots to have them either suck back into the pond or roll too far and down the bank.

After a bit of lunch and helping a couple of fans find the hospitality area on 14, we parked by the side of the 15th fairway just in time to see the first match putt out. 15 is another shortish par 4 with a narrow fairway and lots of trees, so also fun to watch. Mainly they played conservative off the tee, but there were some incidents. One involved Holly Clyburn and Jodie Ewart-Shadoff. After a good first shot from the tee (which we could only sometimes see due to lots of carts parking in that area for the shade I guess), there were screams of fore right for the second drive. I looked towards the tee and saw a ball land as the fans backed a way and start bounching down the rope line straight towards me. I started to get up to move my chair, but the ball came to rest about 3 feet short of it and nestled in the roots of a small tree. It had an English flag on it and "HC" written on it, so there wasn't much doubt who it was. We cleared some space and helped a rules official lay the ropes down as she walked up to it. At first I thought she might be able to clear away some loose twigs and get a decent shot at it, but those "twigs" turned out to be little roots still attached to the big ones -- not movable. She started to set up for apunch back to the fairway, but when
Ewart-Shadoff hit the green with about 15 feet for birdie she picked up. Another fan said he wanted to see her hit it. Carla volunteered she needed her club for the next two days, and Holly added "and my wrists". Smart move.

The big story was Melissa Reid playing alone when Charley Hull was too sick to play. She took the match to the 18th hole losing 1 down in the end, an amazing effort playing the best ball of two japanese stars.

A couple of matches ended on 15, including one of the US matches. The amazing thing was that after all was done nobody is really out of it, because both the US and Australia which got skunked Thursday came back to win a match and tie another, so everyone has at least 3 points and only two teams I think have more than 4. Saturday should be fun.

We tried to figure out what groups we might get in the first two matches on Saturday. Carla was pretty sure it would be China and Chinese Taipei, and some high ranking guy from UL (the sponsor) who talked to us at the volunteer party said the same thing. Turns out that was wrong, we get England/Thailand. My group is the one with Charlie Hull, so I hope she will be able to play. (I also have both the Jutanagan sisters, playing together for the first time this week). Carla has Clyburn and Ewart-Shadoff and the other two Thai players, one of which she scored for on Thursday. Should be fun.

The party was one of the better ones, with decent barbecue and bottomless refreshments (including beer and wine, which were nothing special, but many of these events limit you on food and drink). The Thailand and Japanese teams came to give their personal thanks, as did some of the other players and LPGA officials, which was nice. It was kind of eerie though, looking around a tournament course at 3:30 in the afternoon and seeing not a soul on the course. Some of the players were on the range or putting green, but other than the volunteer party nobody else was there even though there were hours of daylight left. Matchplay events are different.

We got to the course early on Saturday and spent almost an hour just waiting for the technology team to arrive with the radios and PDAs. With everyone still eligible to go on to win this was sure to be a day the players would grind it out. The weather was impossibly oppressive. I knew it was bad when I could see condensation on the plastic windows of the volunteer tent. I was glad to see Charlie Hull on the putting green outside the tent, meaning she would almost certainly be able to play. Finally about 10AM we got all our equipment and headed for the tee.

The first tee at this tournament is an experience. There are two grandstands and a tent with supplies and space for digitaries that encolose it, which of course meant that it was basically an oven. Carlas group went off first, while I waited outside and met my standard bearers and bunker raker for the day. Both experienced and not needing much guidance. Inside the ropes I met my rules official, who had a uniform this time and looked sharp (well for a few holes at least before we all looked wilted) We stood right behind the trophy for the event and lots of people took pictures (picture policy for this tournament is a bit looser than most in that apparently all they really don't want you photographing is players actually playing.) The players and caddies introduced themselves, and the announcer announced the teams to rauccous music. It was clear I would have no trouble telling the players apart. Ariya Jutanugarn towers over her sister, who is petite enough to look like a doll next to her. Charlie Hull and Mel Reid wore their hair differently enough to be easily distinguishable. Everyone
hit pretty well off the tee, and we went forward.

Both the Thai sisters played well and won a few holes with birdies to get to 2 or 3 up after a few holes. Maybe the most impressive one was 3, a par 5 with a split fairway, where Moria had layed up and then come up short in water at the green, while Ariya hit well down the right fairway (where the green is) but kicked left on the slopes of a hazard. From an awkward lie she stuffed her 3rd and saved the hole. On 5 though Charlie Hull began a long streak of birdies and eagles that won holes and turned the match around. By the turn England was 3 up.

One thing that continued to amaze me was the length these players hit. Everyone was long. On 6, the hazardous driveable par 4 both the English players hit driver or fairway woods and wound up over the green. Both the Jutanugarns hit irons (It's 260 on the tee marker). Moriyas was in the throat between the ponds, a good layup, but Ariyas was no layup -- it was pin high in the left bunker. On 10, both Ariya and I think Charlie practically reached the over 550 yards par 5 in 2, and on 11, the tees were up tempting people to drive it, and Moria drove it. The lead seesawed a bit between 3 and 4 up for England during those holes, while I kept hearing Carla announcing ever larger leads for England in her match. Finally she said they were dormie on 13 tee and done 6 and 5 at the end of the hole. Amazing. Nobody got a lead like that Thursday or Friday.

The heat was bad, but not unworkable if you just kept drinking whether you were thirsty or not. By this time we were in the TV coverage window and suddenly there were a lot of media with our group, as well as the rest of team England and Team Thailand. That made it tricky to navigate some holes. After 4 good shots on 14 and a couple of birdies we were dormie too. (Actually that's not what my rules official said, he said they had been asked not to use that
term because some people thought it was insulting to the underdog. I'm guessing many people don't know what it means). The crowds were getting really crazy by then. On 15, both Thai players hit left with good lines to the green, and both the English pair hit left with some trees. Charlie Hull had laid up and I thought had no shot. Amazingly she hit something high and etremely long up and over all the trees landing in the throat on the green. Mel Reid yanked hers over the back left of the green into a hazard -- oops. While she was figuring out what to do, Charlie stuffed a pitch shot and was as I recall conceded par so Reid just picked up. One of the Thais canned a birdie though and sent the match to 16, with a roar from the large Thai fan club following the match.

On 16, a dogleg par 5 that these players simply cut off, everyone was around the green in 2. After Moriya and Mel had pitched on, Charlie Hull putted for
eagle and was concded birdie. Now all that mattered was Ariya's chip from the fringe -- which went in for eagle. On to 17! 17 didn't go as well for the Jutanugarns. Nothing awful, just no magic. nobody had a really good birdie putt, (Moriya had a birdie chip), and after Mel Reid had made par and Aryia missed her birdie it was over (so said my rules official -- or was it?)

Carla's match had finished in a similar way and she had radioed in the score the rules official announced, 6&5, but scoring said the golf channel showed 7&5, indicating that a birdie putt for England that had been picked up on the green was actually conceded extending the margin of victory. Having had that happen twice, I had a discussion with my rules official to ask him to ask the players whether any of the putts remaining after the match was decided were conceded if this happened in our match -- and he did, before announcing no, and the match ended 2&1. Guess what, half an hour later eating lunch the board showed 3&1. I had a long discussion with the chair of scoring on this and it seems nobody knows what's happening. Our guess is that the golf channel is basically assuming all those putts remaining are conceded in figuring their score and the tournament scoring is trying to follow that. If that's the case I wish they would explain it.

I like match play, but this buisness of giving putts that don't mean anything at the end of the match -- sometimes -- is very confusing. And given that at the end of one of these matches everyone rushes out onto the green for a group hug it's impossible to see or hear any signal that something was conceded.

At that point I was just glad to finish. The sky was looking dark the the west. After the long walk back to the tent to turn the gear in Carla said people were seeing lots of red on the weather radar, but that the tournament hoped it would miss. We watched a bit more and had our late "lunch", but as it got darker I decided to get out before the US matches finished (both were likely wins and likely to empty the course of fans and crowd the busses). Good move. By the
time we reached the bus lot there was thunder in the air, and play was suspended with 2 matches still on the course.

With the weather here looking bad for some time, it's not clear they will even get to finish those two matches today, let alone the playoff for "5th" that's supposed to determine the field for tomorrow. It's not even clear from the description exactly how the teams in the playoff will be decided. That's all someone else's problem. We will get some dinner and sleep, and check our email late to see what they have decided to do tomorrow. Nominally we are scheduled to score for two matches starting around noon, but I'm guessing the times at least will change. All we have heard is that the gates still won't open before 9:30, which suggests the whole schedule will slip an hour or two because of the need to finish 2 matchees and whatever playoff is required.

And Now for the last putt of the 2016 International Crown . . .

(That subtitle is a tribute to a freind who ran a golf outing in Columbus Ohio for 20 years and would use that line to announce the finish, but one year when his son had that putt he missed it several times.  That's what today was like).

The plan for Sunday was to finish the two matches that hadn't finished Saturday before the storm, plus the playoff to determine the 5th team to qualify for singles play later in the day. We were told that our match times wouldn't change. We woke up early on Sunday (who wouldn't, with that blasted fire alarm going off every 20 minutes in the hotel), and after breakfast I tried to get some information on what was happening. The finish of Saturday and the playoff were being done without spectators, since the public wasn't allowed in until 9:30. The storms dumped over 2 inches of rain overnight, so it wasn't clear to me they would actually be able to start as early as 7AM, but when I logged in I could see that one match was already finished, and the other finsihed soon, with Korea winning both and as expected getting to second place in the overall points. That left China with 6 points in one "pool" as the 3rd place team, and
Japan and Thaland tied with 4 in the other. Only Australia was eliminated at this point.

The Playoff was two people from the 3rd or tied for 3rd teams in both pools, so 6 players teed off on the 16th. The 16th is a dogleg par 5 that's a good match play hole since you can cut off a lot of the dogleg and go for it in 2 with risk or play safer. Everyone of course went in the playoff, as they did in most rounds. Watanabe sunk a long putt for eagle to win for Japan (good thing, 17 and 18 are kind of boring holes unlikely to produce a spread in results).

That didn't yet tell us exactly who we would get in groups 6 and 7 off the tee. There were two uncertainties -- one the mysterious tie breakers which would detemine how the teams with 7 points would be ordered, and the second which specific players would be slotted into those matches. We were pretty sure from the information that Carla would get a Korean second highest point total) and I would get someone from England (top point total), but we didn't know who team 4 would be or which players any would put up. When we arrived at the course we got the answer. Carla got Ingee Chung (Korea) and Teresa Lu (Chinese Taipei. I got Jodie Ewart-Shadoff (England) and Ssu-Chia Cheng (Chinese Taipei). I had scored for Ssu Chica before, and Carla had scored for
both my players (Ssu-Chia in the women's open 2 weeks ago).

It was also clear that the rain had an effect. Everything was squishy around the clubhouse area where all the spectator facilities and volunteer tent are. We waited in the lightly air conditioned tent for our tee times, watching some players warm up on the range. Finally, half an hour before tee off we got our equipment and headed for the tee. The Standard Bearers were a "just in time" operation, ferrying 2 kids and the sign to the tee at the last minute, while the bunker rakers were all lined up around the tee box, so I spent some time talking to my bunker raker, another kid from the inner city of Chicago with a
scholarship to a private high school and working as a caddie at a north shore golf club. They were all great to work with.

The tee box was packed and the atmosphere festive again. After Carla's group went off I picked up my standard bearers (two young boys, one the son of a reporter from India covering the tournament who tagged along with us at times. Our players and caddies introduced themselves, and we met our rules official, a middle aged woman who I think officiated LPGA events. After some discussion it was clear we all knew the drill by now. Since we were the 4th from
the last match and the next up involved Lexi Thompson many of those fans weren't for us, but that was fine. They cheered anyway.

On the first hole Ewart-Shadoff had a chance to win with a birdie but didn't. She had better shots all the way and I thought maybe the magic England had yesterday would continue. On 2 though she hit an awful shot, going over the green on this par 3 into a hazard, while Cheng was on the fringe close putting for birdie. She didn't make it, but par was good enough to win. That seemed to shake Jodie a bit. 3 and 4 weren't bad, but on 5 she hit it in the woods and bogeyed to go 2 down. 6, the short par 4, was interesting, with Cheng laying up near the left hand lake than practically holing her approach, (conceded birdie), while Shadoff went over the green when going for it, and hit a bad pitch back to go 3 down.

When Shadoff sunk a 15 or so footer for birie on 7 I thought she would get one back but Cheng rolled on in on top. I think she did make up one with a birdie on 8. 9 was a mess -- two bogies. I think the only hole I scored halved in bogie. Shadoff picked up another on 10 when Cheng 3 putted (weird, both went way too long, but Shadoff made the comeback. 11 and 12 were halved with routine pars. During that time though I could see the clouds building to the west
and thought we were probably running out of luck. I could hear all the match results and knew that the US was having a big day and there were lots of people out on the course following those matches. Carla's match was up 4 for Chinese Taipei and likely to end on 15 or 16 and beat the weather, but mine was clearly going to go on a while.

On 13 I thought both players had hit good tee shots down the left, but as we got there Shadoffs was a bit too far left or not long enough to clear the corner leaving her with trees in her path to the green. You could hear thunder by now and I was surprised we hadn't been called off the course. Cheng hit hers on the fringe maybe 20 feet from the pin, but Shadoff just ticked what we locally refer to as a cast iron bean tree (these trees have giant seed pods that resemble
twisted black foot long lima beans in the fall, but also extremely hard and stiff wood such that hitting a twig usually means stopping a shot dead). It dropped not far in front of the tree, and she hit an okay but not great 3rd into the green. As it continued to rumble, Cheng put her putt from the fringe close and had it conceded, and Shadoff looked nervous considering hers. About then our rules official told her they were about to blow the horn and she could putt or wait, and she marked it almost immediately. The horn blew and chaos erupted. Over the radio we got a message to go back to the volunteer tent on any available
shuttle. As we descended from the 13th green towards 14 a bunch of shuttles arried and everyone hopped on. The one I was on was basically all volunteers, my crew and marshals. Our rules official went with Shadoff and her caddie. We passed a lot of fans trudging towards the clubhouse as we went back, and another radio message said walking scorers should stay with their rules official and go to the clubhouse -- fat chance.

My shuttle deposited me at the volunteer tent, with no real opportunity to ask for anything else, and by  now it was starting to rain so I went in. Most of the scorers and all the bunker rakers and standard bearers were in there. Our chair asked me where Carla was an I said I didn't know but would find out (I realized both of us had radios), and to shut off our PDAs because nobody knew how long the delay would be. I got Carla on the radio and found out she had
gone to the cluubhouse, having ridden in with a shuttle full of cops having no idea where to go and because in the past our isntructions were to stay with the players she went there. No problem, we would wait out the delay in separate areas.

It took a while for the weather to really hit, and everyone said it was a small storm and we would get out. During that time Carla showed up in the tent. Her rules official and players had disappeared and she figured she'd rather wait with me and the others. We knew they would try very hard to finish, because most of the players and caddies had evening flights to England to play in the British Women's Open next week. About then the rain hit -- hard. 15 minutes of firehose rain, so hard that it started gushing into the volunteer tent after running down the sides and onto the platform floor. Then it stopped and the sun came out -- and nobody knew what was happening. On our radios we kept hearing someone trying to locate the tournament director for a decision on when to go out. Our chair at one point had 3 radios on 3 channels pressed to her ears trying for news. Eventually we got the word. Get immediately to the back of the clubhouse and board shuttles back to our holes. I gathered up my bunker raker and one of my standard bearers (but not the standard) and headed over and spotted Ewart-Shadoff's caddie. We got on the same shuttle they did, and the driver said they had two. When I spotted Cheng and her caddie I pointed them to the other, where our standard was. No sign of our rules official, but they seemed to have their own transport, so I signaled to the drivers that we were good to go out and we went. Sure enough, Missy, our rules official met us out there. The ride left the standard and several people's pants covered in muddy water. The course handled the rain well, but not perfectly.

Shadoff immediately started looking at that putt again. I reported that we were ready to start, but there were people going to more distant holes and she probably had 10 minutes of considering it before the horn blew to start, and she rolled it in. I doubt she would have done that before the break. Both players played quickly, and played good shots in to the par 4 14th. Shadoff sunk the putt and squared the match. I think that put the projected result of the US and
Chinese Taipei tieing at 13 points into question. A par for England was good enough to win 15 and get to one up for the first time. Meanwhile Carla's match ended on that hole. Lu simply outplayed Chun. She did have a chance to ask Chun's caddie about the unusal nickname Chun seemed to have "Flying
Dumbo". At the Women's open she had a big fan club with t-shirts emblazoned with that, and it's on her bag. Apparently it's something that her coach named her for hearing everything (big ears) and being optimistic and curious. A bit inscruitable I'd say.

Before the break I thought maybe Cheng would win 14 and another hole to be able to end the match on 16, but it was now clear we would go past that. In fact 16 was eventful, because after perfect drives Shadoff hit the left grandstand leaving an awkward pitch, but Cheng didn't make a good 3rd shot either and they halved it in pars. That was very tedious. 16 green was a sauna. After the rain we thought it might cool off but no luck, same heat, more humidity. I was starting to worry about Missy, who while not large wasn't thin, and was clearly suffering from the heat (very red, wet, and standing arms out to the wind at every opportunity.) There was no air moving on 16, and we just got steamed, while they spent some time finishing. 17 wasn't eventful (except for the challenge of figuring out who had the crucial first putt), but I could see the weather building to the west again and really hoped we had enough time to finish. Meanwhile I heard a lot of matches finish and a lot of wins for the US. By the time we were on 18 there were only two other matches out there, and both finished before our last putt. Cheng went into the first bunker either player had been in all day on that hole, and it was a good thing she went in the dryer part of the bunker, not the area where the rain had pooled. She made a great bunker out, while Shadoff put the ball in good position, but when Cheng missed and Shadoff left it 6 inches from the pin the hole was halved in pars and we were done. Fortunately in all the other excitement we didn't have a lot of media dogging the match and we go through the thanks and signatures from the players quickly, so I could go turn in my gear, collect Carla, and find the last two sandwiches in the concession stand and caught a bus before the weather hit. We drove through a big storm on the way home -- another near miss for the tournament, but maybe a benefit to the players, since I'm sure it stopped air traffic at O'hare and might have given them a bit more time to make their flights. (One of Carla's caddies really wanted time for a shower before sitting on a plane for 9 hours, and I can't say I disagree :-)

I hope the event was as much of a success as it was fun. The US fans clearly had a big week, but even the fans of teams that didn't make Sunday seemed to enjoy coming out. It was a great experience for us, and quite different. We figured we scored for half the players in the field, something you don't get to do in a normal tournament. The matchplay format was fun, and the elite field made this a real treat. Definitely something I'd do again. For now, though, we will spend 2 weeks recovering before we do it all again in Columbus for the Senior Open (where maybe it won't be so hot or wet? Hah!)

The 2016 US Senior Open (Scioto CC, Columbus OH, August 2016)

We were walking scorers again for this event.  We didn't know what to expect, since this course is very near Muirfield, where they play the Memorial every year, and the preliminary communication suggested that there were a lot of volunteers who worked that event who were very well (maybe too well) organized but not familiar with the USGA.  There were some clear quirks about it, like not giving volunteers lanyards for badges (I improvised one out of the straps for my binoculars, which in turn had been salvaged from something else to replace the original strap, and worked well)  It was also the first USGA event we would be doing as scorers where Sue would not be at the other end of the radio to fix scoring errors.  The big issue though is weather forecast -- great for the practice rounds, but awful the rest of the week with thunderstorms every day. Good luck with that one.

Carla and I arrived in Columbus Saturday for the volunteer party -- decent food, minimal drinks, but not bad overall. The course looks nice, and on Monday we got a better look. This is an old school course with tiny pushed up greens surrounded by bunkers. It's a tight layout where there's not much walk from one hole to the next (which is good for players and volunteers). It's a great spectator course where people can get between most of the holes and see action in multiple places, and it's pretty easy to follow a group through the course, unlike a lot of the venues we have worked.

On Monday and Tuesday at Scioto for practice rounds, we went to 16/17/18 to watch Colin Montgomerie and others. Still not a lot of people out there and a great opportunity to get close up. You can watch the second shot and play on the green on 16, all of 17 (par 3) and the tee box on 18 from one spot. This course is really tight, and I expect some hangups in play while players wait for a break in the action on adacent holes. There are a lot of spots like that where you can see a lot o holes.

After that we went to the front 9 to see Tom Watson, Fred Funk, and others play and finished on 9 watching Vijay Singh and others play in. Vijay still looks like a real tour pro, unlike some of the others. On the way over I was flagged down by a leaderboard volunteer who recognized my Omaha country club shirt and said he worked that tournament and the one in Oklahoma as a walking scorer but couldn't get into this one that way. We mentioned they were still
looking for scorers for Thursday and Friday, and he said he had already volunteered. These tournaments really need to keep lists of people with experience in volunteer jobs to tap when things go bad, but they don't seem to figure that out. Later I recognized a volunteer with a shirt from the Oklahoma City senior open. He lived there and decided to travel to do this one, but missed other tournaments because he couldn't get in as a scorer. Again, they really need a better way of identifying people who can do these jobs.

One funny moment. As we watched Monty and Estevan Toledo play 16 Toledo asks Monty what the difference was between a Canadian and a canoe -- a canoe tips. The spectators around us didn't get it and started speculating on whether it had something to do with the Olympics. Toledo is actually a funny guy. Yesterday as we walked past him and others on the practice green he let loose a string of mixed english and spanish cursewords, then turned around the to
the spectators and apologised. On 18 tee they were talking about the heat, and Toledo turned to Monty and said it was a lot like Oklahoma City and I recall you did pretty well there. (He won it). Of course lots of fans got pictures with everyone, even Tom Watson finishing 9 posed with everyone who wanted a picture. Practice rounds are great.

At 4 we went to our training. No suprises for us, but about 1/3 of the people there had never scored and maybe 2/3 hadn't scored a USGA event. They were only beginning to realize what they were getting into. When confronted with a pile of slides on how to record shots one of the guys behind us said "this is harder than what I do for work -- and they expect us to keep it on paper before? I've got a secretary to do that for me. (Welcome to the real world guys, and I won't even tell you what happens if it rains).

Tomorrow we do our practice round. I can't wait to see how things work. The forecast for the next 3 days is awful, but who knows. We escaped today just as the horn blew and didn't even get wet (the bus was waiting and we parked close to the Smokehouse brew pub where we had dinner. Nice smoked
meat, okay brews, and a fantastic coffee stout that was really desert in a glass.

Practicing with Vijay and Freinds.

On Wednesday we showed up a little early for our assigned time, and they sent us out together with an earlier group: Vijay Singh, Tommy Armour III, Jesper Parnevick, and Lance TenBoeck. A good group of known players. They were playing some kind of match for the first 9, which is always good because it means they will try to finish the first ball on each hole and that makes for good practice scoring. It wasn't real serious. There was a lot of joshing around. On
one hole some guy I didn't recognize in a Fox sports cart kidded Vijay about playing with the old guys now. He just said "it happens". One of the funnier moments was on 17 (we went off 10), a long over the water par 3, when TenBoeck's caddie turned to the others and said this would be a great hole for $100 hole in one caddie bets. Apparently the idea was $100 from each other caddie to the caddie of any player holing out. After some nagging (Vijay's caddie didn't want to bet on Vijay, oddly enough), they were in, and TenBoeck teed off -- splash one. Vijay put it on in good order, while Parnevick was right (away from the water) and Armour splashed. After Armour hit his second a bit right, he slammed his club down and had it slip out of his grip and summersault into the ropes behind him -- oops). Nobody won the bet.

I don't know who won the match. Vijay played solidly and was clearly the longest of the bunch (surprise). Because they were a bit serious they played some really foul balls -- Parnevick hit one so far right on 16 that he waiting for the group on 18 to tee off so he could hit his second over the tee box, which he put in the throat of the green and recovered.

On 18 they hit a lot of pitches from behind the green and Armour and TenBoeck were making the observation that the first cut of rough was harder to hit from than the second, because the ball invariably burried in it. Not really surprising to anyone who plays in the midwest. At 18, the match was over and everyone but Vijay quit. Carla and I went on with him, as did our standard bearer. The weather forecast was dubious but the course is so small it's not a big deal to walk in if they blow the horn. With nobody waiting for him Vijay went into full practice mode. He hit lots of shots from everywhere. He also did more than his
share of the "Caddie work", including raking a couple of bunkers, retrieving and repairing divots, and even toting his own bag from time to time. The bag clearly wasn't light -- in addition to some kind of practice aid club (it had a steel shaft with a metal cylinder on the end that made some kind of noise if you swung with the wrong tempo), he had two drivers. There was a hole on the front, 2 I think, where he hit about 4 tee shots with different swings and
drivers. He ignored the perfect shot he hit in the fairway and instead stuck one from a crazy slope on the far right and another out of a bunker.

At 7, we heard the ominous instructions to the leaderboards to put up the weather warning. After some discussion they said the rest of us were fine, but they wanted to start to get the fans out of the grandstand and thinking about getting under cover. It wasn't all that dark, though it dripped from time to time all day, which gave us the opportunity to see if those silly little umbrellas we brought to protect us and the equipment would actually do any good -- a little for the equipment at least.

At the end as Vijay was signing balls for us and the standard bearer we got him to sign our hats too. If I had any doubt about him as a hard worker and decent guy on course that round answered my questions. He was I think the only one who played 18 on Wednesday, and if I were inclined to bet I would have put money on him leading the tournament on Thursday.

Time for a quick bucket?

I don't know that I've ever scored the first day of a tournament, but Cala and I had groups 1 and 3 today, the first two off the first tee. They don't put the top stars in those groups.  The sun is barely up, there aren't a lot of fans, and you can still see the maintenance crews working on some of the holes.   I had Brian Mogg, Jeff Gallagher, and Geoffery Sisk. Gallagher has been a grinder on tour for a while and probably recently qualified for Senior golf. I didn't know much about the others. Carla had Steve Pellgrine, Greg Bruckner, and David Plumb. She scored for Bruckner at last years senior open (paired with Hale Irwin
as I recall), but knew nothing of the others.

Thursday morning the forecast wasn't awful -- just really hot and humid. They told us immediately that the caddies wouldn't weare their coloured bibs beecause of the heat. That makes life tougher for scorers and "ball position" workers (that's the USGA's version of Shotlink, a patented PGA system to record where every shot goes). Not a big deal, we have to know how to recognize every player without their caddie standing next to them anyway. They also asked me to help with some last minute training -- a scorer set to go with group 8 who went to training and a practice round, but never got to use the PDA, and she wasn't comfortable. The plan was that she would score the first hole and handle the preliminaries while I supervised -- oh fine I thought, but when I asked her if she had ever scored and she said yes, but not with a PDA I realized one hole wouldn't be enough (but of course that's all there was time for.)

I had her do the player clothing, and surprise, Mogg and Gallagher were alost identical (white hat, red shirt, and off white pants, with Gallagher's being a bit more light grey -- Gallagher the grey I kept telling myself). I had gotten us on the tee box near the big Rolex clock that's always there because that's usually where they want you to stay, but a photographer asked that we not block the clock because they are a sponsor. He said we could stand along the ropes at the back, but we might be in his shots. That was fine with us, so I may be in someone's publicity shots for the tournament. There were a whole lot more people around for this than is typical for the other early AM groups I've had a lot of over the years. Nowhere near the level of hype the International Crown had, but I'll bet it was more fuss than my players were used to getting over their tee shots.

Scoring went okay on hole one mainly because nothing wierd happened. Two in the fairway, one in light rough, everyone on the green and two putts. Still, my trainee almost gave one of them a birdie by accident even after I warned her about the trap she nearly fell into (forgetting to click "return to group" after the first putt misses so when they tap in it looks like you have already given the player a second putt, but haven't. It didn't help that she was left handed, and the clipboards they give us are set up to favor right handers unless you ask for a lefty one (they switch which side the paper sheets to keep the score on paper are on so you don't have to put your hand on the PDA to write on the paper). After 1 I sent her back to the tent to collect her PDA and crossed my fingers it wouldn't be too bad, while I cleaned up the paper trail on the hole.

It helped me a lot that my standard bearer was a sturdy middle aged Scioto member who always had the standard updated before I finished verifying the scores. My rules official was from the DC area and had done some of the other tournaments I've done as well as the first International Crown, so we always had things to talk about when things got slow -- which they didn't until the back 9.

For most of the front 9 my group hovered near or just under par. Mostly pars with a few birdies and the occasional bogey. Nothing wierd, nobody in bad places. I groaned though when Group 8 was in serious trouble by her 3rd hole, getting scores wrong or not getting the hole finished (a common mistake that happens because you forgot to specify that the last putt went in the hole). It was worse that her group included Rocco Mediate and Bernard Langer. If I had
known that I might have offered to trade, figuring more people would be interested in them than my group, but I'm not sure that would have helped, and my group, being first off the tee was playing at warp speed and often out of order making scoring a bit more challenging. Eventually they sent out two people from scoring to go the rest of the round with her. She wasn't the only one with problems. At least two others wound up getting help for the rest of their round, and there were many corrections called in. It didn't help that people were complaining about the caddie bibs (most wore them but sometimes the colors didn't match what they were supposed to), and Pat in scoring control was constantly asking for verification of where shots were hit from because the scorer's record didn't match the ball spotters. I never got asked any of that, and Carla got asked only once, when the ball was 10 feet off the green on the fairway cut and
the ball spotter called it "fringe".

My groups smooth sailing stopped at 8, a hole that plays as a par 5 for the members that the USGA made a 500 yard par 4 with a creek in the fairway and a lake short and left of the green (it apparently had a moat around the green a few years ago, but they took that out at the insistance of Nicklaus in an attempt to restore the original Donald Ross design -- a big improvement in my view) At that point we were a hole and a half ahead of Carla's group and probably way ahead of the pace of play (too fast I thought -- we were sure to get to 9 before everyone had teed off 10.) One of my players had a bad lie in the right rough and had to punch out short of the creek, then almost saved par, but Sisk had a disaster. After a good drive his second kicked off the left side of the green into the lake. he dropped and then failed to get up and down for a double to go +2. Unfortunately that shook him and he kept piling up strokes on the back 9 to finish +6. Mogg made a birdie or two on the back, but he screwed some up too and slipped to +2. Gallagher played the soundest, though not perfect. He missed a lot of birdie putts all day, but he made some. On 12 I think he was the one who was left of the fairway and had to have the ball spotters laser scanner moved to play his line, but recovered nicely on the par 5. He was one under when they got to 17, and stuck his tee shot 3 feet from the tough back pin position (I wound up at lunch with one of the marshals on that hole who said that they saw only 2 birdies in the morning. I had by then noticed that Vijay Singh was working his way to the front and had gone to the lead at -3. As we came to the green on 18, I noticed he got to -4, but I also saw Gallagher on there at -2. Not many people under par. Gallagher had another birdie opportunity on 18, but didn't make it, but -2 is still good enough for tied second as I
see this.

Even after the time spent sorting out drops and making big numbers on 8 we still finished 9 too early and waited maybe 15 minutes to go off 10, then waited on every shot for the back 9. That clearly didn't help the players either, since all 3 of my guys were clearly accustomed to playing quickly.

Carla's group didn't play as well. Bruckner was solid, but one of her players was +10, and a bit shocked by the scale of it all. He never played in a major championship with all that goes on. He will have good experience, but not on the weekend. Bruckner in her group has a chance for the cut, as does Mogg in my group. We watched some of the play on the front after our shift, but it was so hot we opted for an early exit and cooling showers.

Tomorrow we have the second to the last and 3rd to the last groups off 1. We each have players at +4 or +5 with a hope of making the cut, but one of mine is already +14 and one of carlas is nearly in double digits. We just hope the weather is as "good?" as it was today (i.e. no thunderstorms) and allows us to finish and the tournament to make the cut for the weekend. The weekend forecast is hopeless (near 100% chance of thunderstorms both days), so I'm not expecting much, but you never know what's going to happen at these things.

Swingin in the rain (not)

On Friday, Carla and I were scheduled for groups 47 and 49 off the first tee. Basically the second and third to the last, teeing off at about 3PM. That didn't sound promissing given the weather forecast. We hung around in our hotel room until late morning, then went in to view a bit of golf from the sides of 5, 8, and 9, but didn't want to do too much walking.  As we were eating lunch another scorer approached us and wanted to trade Carla for group 45. That was fine. The guy knew the caddie of one of the players in group 47. None of these groups have big name players likely to make the cut.

The start of my round wasn't promissing. I picked up my radio and PDA and went to the standard bearer tent (a little oven outside the air conditioned volunteer tent), and nobody but the organizers around. They said they had already gone through their 7 alternates and thought some kid would show
up to carry the sign but weren't sure. At 20 minutes to tee time I went to the tee to make sure I got started. I had Touma -- a grinder tour pro with a shot of making the cut. Dave Bunker, a Canadian amateur who at +5 might also make it, and Bodney, who I was told was a former PGA tour officer, but at +14 he wasn't going to play Saturday. 5 minutes to tee time a cart pulls up with 2 kids and after some straightening out I got mine -- a very small and young boy who played golf and carried the sign for a practice round but never had to change the numbers. Oh goody. Friday PM is the hardest for scorers and standard bearers because you have 3 players, you have to post both the "today" and "total" scores, and late on Friday PM they make a lot of big numbers so you are always changing 2 or 3 scores.

My players started out left, Left, and LEFT!!! (somewhere near the 8th green). After a lot of bad shots I think we had a par, bogey, and double. Alexander was willing and able to carry the sign but couldn't hold it while changing the numbers and struggled to find the numbers in the bib they carry. I had to hold the sign when he was changing them, but of course I have to keep up with the players, especially in a group like this one, so as a result we got the sign right about the time we got to the green on the next hole. Hole two was little better, and by now we needed to put 6's on +4 and +5 players and Alex couldn't find them
(so we used upside down 9's, which read "9+" I was going to call for help but never got a chance. He said they promissed him help at the turn. Okay, by the end of 3 he had found his 6's, and things were starting to go okay for us. 4, a little par 3 wasn't bad, and on 5 all 3 of them hit it in the fairway for the first time. Then a second miracle occurred -- his "relief" came early, a tall high school girl who was a golfer and could not only carry the sign in the wind but with a little help from Alex change all the numbers without my help. We might survive the round!

It didn't go as well for my group. Touma and Bunker continued to drop shots, while Bodner played near level par. On 6, a 560 yard par 5 Bodney hit the ball out of sight -- past where Vijay hit it in the practice round. It didn't do as much good (no eagle), but it was nice to see, and he did make birdie. (After that drive he tossed an old ball to Alex saying he hoped it would do more for him. After he sunk the birdie someone said he should have tossed that ball long ago. Unfortunately he then had a PBFU on 7 as I recall at least) The others kind of stabilized, but were already seriously over the cut, in spite of the fact that the cut was now at +6 and sure to rise.

Carla's group was better, and she got a great standard bearer, an older woman doing her second 18 who was independent and able to handle all the changes. Her players (Doug Garwood, Joel Edwards, and Stephen Dodd) were steadier players, not losing a lot of shots but just starting too far

As my group came up 8, I heard the dreaded words "leaderboards put up your weather warning". That was followed by the only somewhat reassuring voice of Ross, the guy in charge of USGA scoring who said we were safe out there but there was a cell that might hit the course and they just wanted to get the fans out of the grandstands now. Okay, we play on.

Over the radio there were constant tales of woe. Again, the caddies didn't have to wear the bibs, and many didn't. Some scorers complained of having trouble distinguishing the players. (That was tricky in my group since Touma and Bodney both had a white hat, white pants, white shoes, and blue striped shirts. I could sort them out but I'm not sure the ball spotters could.) I was beginning to feel comfortable about the round though, then we came to 11. It's a short par 4, a birdie hole for some, not my guys, who were hacking out of rough. After the second shots I knew that Bodney had kicked off the right side of the green and was in the shorter cut of rough near the pin. I figured I didn't really need to go over there to see him hit it since my other players were hacking in from the left side and that's where we have to go to the next tee box. After Bodney set up for his chip and took a swing I saw no ball come up and he looked puzzled and stepped away, before hitting again and chunking. After a 3rd chunky chip I wandered over to my rules official and asked him whether that first swing was practice or a chunk or whiff, and he said he chunked it and was now lying 5 on the green. After two putts for what I thought was a 7 I thought I better
confirm that with his caddie just to be sure. I expected he would say either 7 or 6, but was surprised when he said "8". Bodney himself overheard the conversation and said "yeah, I double hit the first chip". Oops. At that point I could have spent a few minutes re-doing all his shots to stick in the penalty but decided that would only put me further behind and just put him in for 7 and called in the correction. It took several conversations to explain what happened. Double hits are not unknown, but they are rare.

That was basically the end for Bodney, who then started leaking a shot a hole while the numbers on the standard mounted. At 15 I got done in by my standard bearers, whowere asking me who made par and bogey and I got careless and gave a tap in to the wrong player. No problem, so long as
the one I gave it to made his short one -- he didn't. Yuck, I had to call in another correction.

On 14, a long par 3 that had been moved up, he missed a short putt and then swatted the ball in when it had barely stopped. My rules official couldn't see it but knew something odd happened and I said he missed it then swatted it in. Was it stopped? I told him I thought so, but wasn't sure, and he could ask Bodney. He thoough about it, then decided a guy that was now +21 and had called the double hit on himself didn't need to have that discussion, so he
dropped it. About then they decided the weather threat had passed, and we would actually be able to finish. On 16, loud music from a party in one of the houses across the road from the course was drifting in and my players thought someone was having more fun than they were. By then my players knew they weren't making it anyway. A couple of them started asking me to read the sprinklers since I was usually in the middle of the fairway watching players in the
rouggh on both sides).

We missed the excitement on 17. When Carla played it there were a bunch of rowdies on the porches of the hospitality tents who thought this was the Phoenix Open and were yelling at the players. Apparently they started up when Daly played the hole. I saw that from 11 -- he's unmistakeable. He started the day at even par, but wound up something like +10 and not making the cut. Someone called security and they shut up by the time we got there. It was unremarkable except that Bodney dropped two more shots with bad chips from right of the hole.

Coming up 18 I asked my rules official if Friday PM was always this painful, since my experience has been that late Friday PM rounds are often a struggle. He wasn't sure, telling me that these guys really could play (which I didn't doubt, they all made birdies and all had awesome shots). Scoring went quickly and they all headed out to go home so I didn't bother trying to get any signatures. (Amateurs rarely do that anyway).

Carla's group finished a bit better, with Garwood making the cut, and everyone signed her hat. Mainly we were just glad to have finished the round.

63 players made the cut, and with bad weather forecast the USGA went to 3somes off both tees. That meant only about half as many scorers were needed, so they sent most off us out in pairs. Carla and I were together with the 3rd group off 10 (just below the middle of the field). We had Grant Waite, Mike Small, and Tommy Armour III. Mike is the University of Illinois golf coach and has actually qualified for the senior open more often than not after becoming eligible. The others are known pros. We got a capable standard bearer, and went off planning to switch who did the scoring every four holes or so with the other one assistiing in spotting and managing the standard bearer. They started +5, +5, and +4 -- not awful. The weather was okay at 8:06 and supposed to hold. Within a few holes though the wind was howling. Leaves blew out of all the trees and I began to worry about balls moving on the green. It didn't start well for Small, who hit one into the creek on 10 and made a double. The others played solidly just leaking a bit as we played the back. Nothing bad, but nothing great either. I was nervous as Armour teed up on 17 remembering what happened in the practice round, but he put it on and wasn't unhappy. Still I was glad to turn the PDA back to Carla at 18 for four holes and do the more restful? job of minding the standard.

Our group was behind almost from the start. The wind played havok with the shots, but Armour is "deliberate". Among other things he always has his caddie stand his bag behind him on the tee and pulls the club himself, and if for some reason he gets interrupted he puts the club back and starts over. He also spent a lot of time surveying his shots, especially when he was hitting from somewhere odd. Small was clearly a faster player and frustrated by the pace.

6 was an intersting hole, where Armour hit a tree on the left and walked 100 yards up the rough to see if there was any way to hit through the trees and cut the dogleg. There was an open tent somewhat in that line and he tried to get relief from that, but our rules official said he couldn't unless the tent was directly in line with the pin from within 1-1/2 club lengths of where he was, and it wasn't, so he punched out and eventually got up and down for par. Not bad.

The hole was dramatic for me. Waite had the best drive, in going at the green in two hit right, while Small punched out of a bunker short of the green. I didn't realize where Waite was until Small reached his ball and it was too late to cross the fairway behind them. I hung out off his line behind him, but he asked me to move back. I just had to guess at Waite's lie. Waite hit it just over the green and when he failed to sink the chip and tapped in I was puzzled that it said it was for par. How could that be? He missed his approach, then missed the pitch on and failed to sink where it landed? I hadn't remembered he went for the green in 2, one less than regulation, so even the sloppy finish was a par. On 8, Armour and Waite both hit well left and Armour failed to get up and down. Ugh. On 9 I thought we had 3 perfect tee shots to a short par 3, but Armour was over the green and Small was short and neither one parred.

On 7 I think Armour got pissed off at the TV people driving carts in the rough left of the hole. After yelling at one for not stopping when he was setting up to shoot, he took off into the rough to chase the cart. I don't know what happened. I was thinking we might need to figure out how much time he be allowed to come back and play if he got distracted, but he reappeared in time to hit his shot.

In scoring Small disappeared quickly. Too bad. I was going to complement him on the performance of the Illinois golf team in the NCAAs and I was glad to have scored for him. Armour and Waite both stuck around and signed balls for me and signed my hat. Armour was cool, nothing like the hissy fits being displayed on course. After lunch, the competition was basically over, and we went home to clean up before dinner. Just in time -- lots of rain during the afternoon and dinner.

Not finishing on Sunday

The USGA had scheduled 3somes again for Sunday, and we were set to go out with the first group off 10 at 10:45 (Bart Bryant, Duffy Waldorf, and Larry Mize). WIthout the internet I looked at the weather radar and it didn't look promissing. No rain early, but a line of storms that looked like it would hit just before our tee off time. We got to the course at about 9, and it immediately started raining. Not good. After half an hour someone announced that they
were delaying the start by at least half an hour because of the rain and they would give us an update in half an hour. Mother nature supplied the answer with thunder.

That's how the day went -- more rain, more delays. We spent the day in the volunteer tent playing musical chairs with the others stuck in there and watching the Olympic golf on TV. We did get to talk with other scorers, including the woman running the scoring for this tournament, who was an experienced walking scorer who had been scheduled to go to Rio to help with the olympics but was asked by the USGA to be "scoring central" here. We learned a bunch about how tournaments pick scorers and who the contacts are that may be useful in getting assignments in the future, in addition to commiserating about the problems here.

Finally at about 2PM they said they would start play at 3:30. Yes, I thought -- just enough time for our group to finish so we could go home on Monday. As the time approached the rain finally stopped, and we collected our equipment and an experienced standard bearer and headed for 10. There weren't a lot of fans and not manyplayers on the putting green. As we walked into the 10th tee one of the marshals said he heard Scott Hoch say he just got a text saying because of course conditions play would be cancelled for the day. What? Carla asked the USGA tee announcer and he had no idea so he went to talk to the people on the green. Just as he came back I heard the answer on the radio -- no play today. The courses looked okay, but the marshals said there was water over the bridges on 12 and 16 and standing water on some fairways. The USGA really hates a Monday finish and almost refuses to shorten its championships to 54 holes. One reason is that it costs a lot of money to open the course on Monday because they need to have parking lots, busses, concessions, and food for the volunteers.

So, at 3:15 that was the end of the day. We went home to pack and sleep to be back at the course at 7AM. Carla still has the Bryant/Waldorf/Mize group, but I now have the second group off number 1 (Martin, Sakiyama, and Lehman) At least I won't have trouble telling them apart :-) The weather forecast is still lousy, and who knows what will happen.

An Anticlimactic finish (well for me at least)

Monday we had been set to score for an early morning round. When we got up though it looked like the "mother of all thunderstorms" was over Cincinnati
headed straight for us. It was still clear as we pulled into where we thought we were supposed to park, but there were no cars or busses, just the 4 portable toilets left over from the week. I pulled up next to another lost car and recognized the occupant as another scorer who didn't know either, but I spotted a bus running from the hospitality lot so we headed over there. Indeed, because of anticipated light attendance everyone was supposed to park there.

By the time we had walked from the inconvenient "hospitality" entrance where the bus took us to the volunteer tent it was nearly time to gear up, and looking dark to the west. We were still go for a 7:30 start, and they had even swapped me for group 1 so Carla and I had the first groups off the two tees. Once again we picked up our standard bearers -- two sisters, young girls who had done it. Their father took pictures of the girls and their standards near
the first tee. We each settled into position and I saw two of my players on the putting green and started entering their clothing. We were prepared for rain, with umbrellas and rain jackets in addition to a plastic bag from the USGA to cover the PDA and paper score sheets. It wasn't to be though. The tee official soon told us that play was delayed until 8:15. We knew that was hopeless, but slogged back to VHQ for more breakfast. No good word at 8:15, just rain,
and by 8:30 they told us there was a high wind warning and herded us all in to the Tennis clubhouse to go into "red alert" configuration. As the rain intensified the food vendors, grounds crews, and even some USGA people joined us, where it was standing room only (we occupied a big lounge with some couches, two locker rooms with benches, and even a fitness room where people were sitting on the stationary bikes.)  Everyone with a phone kept pulling up the radar and it didn't look good. We had turned in our PDAs but still had radios and our radios and the chatter wasn't good either.

The most interesting discussion during the long delay was from a group of marshals debating rules situations and bringing in the help of one of the USGA officials. One posed a situation he said he had seen, probably at the Memorial, where many volunteers here had worked, where a ball was caught up off the ground in tall fescue near the OB line and being blown back and forth over the line. Is it OB or not? Can the player hit it even if the ball is in motion from the wind? They never got an answer. Carla got an answer though for an issue that she noticed during one of her rounds. A player with a pre-putt routine that involved setting the putter down several times in front of the ball (between the ball and the hole). Her rules official didn't say anything, but she wondered why this was legal given the prohibition against touching your line of putt. Apparently there is a specific exception to that for this behavior because that putting style used to be extremely common.

As it approached 10 I heard from several others with radios that the projection was now that they would restart at 1:30. That was too late for us. Even first off the tee we couldn't expect our groups to finish much before 6, and after scoring, turning in equipment and getting back to the car that meant starting for home at 7PM or later and arriving well after midnight even without traffic, not something I was in shape to do. I used the radio to find one of our chairs to discuss the situation. We felt really bad leaving early, since they were short of scorers but the USGA had half a dozen scoring supervisors qualified to do it
and he said they could cover it. He said he couldn't confirm 1:30, but it would be at least another hour to restart, and no certainty there wouldn't be more rain
delays, so we headed home early.

As we left they were saying the weather was more hopeful, but they also reminded everyone they said that on Sunday too. From the bus I saw the grounds crew working on 12 in the rain, and there was water running across the low spot on the fairway and standing in many parts of the hole. No way I thought.

Well, they did restart, at something like 11:30. The leaders finished around 6PM. Still too late for us to have stayed. We drove through rain all the way to within 15 miles of home -- a really strange weather pattern. We watched the last 3 holes on TV. I'm not sorry Sauers won. He was the one Monty edged out in a playoff in 2014, when I was ferrying Roger Maltby around the course behind them, and certainly a deserving champion. I suspect there were big
sighs of relief when Sauers made the putt to stay ahead of Woosnam and Jimeneth to avoid a playoff because I'm not sure they had daylight for a playoff.

The 2017 US Open (Erin Hills, Wisconsin, June 2017)

Given this tournament was close to home we were eager to get in, and with experience from Chambers Bay and half a dozen other USGA championships we got in as walking scorers.  This isn't easy without some kind of connection.  We got an early invite for having done the 2015 PGA in Wisconsin, but we still jumped on it as soon as it appeared over a year and a half in advance.  We also knew enough to make hotel reservations well in advance, but had a little problem.  Erin Hills is in the middle of nowhere, northwest of Milwaukee.  We suspected that parking would be either along Interstate 94, south of the course, or Interstate 41 or 43, east of the course.  We contacted the tournament and got some hint that booking along I94 would be convenient.  It was probably as convenient as anything, but not perfect, though by booking nearly a year ahead we got a good room and avoided price gouging, unlike our experience in some other majors. 

We had played Erin Hills, once, in 2012, and I remember it being all I could walk.  Now 5 years and another hip replacement later with bad knees and other issues I knew this wouldn't be easy.  I had mixed feelings when we got our shift assignments -- 4 rounds plus a practice round.  Yikes, that's probably 40-50 miles of walking in 5 days.  Still, we didn't complain.  Here's what played out

Dead in the water at the US Open

Well, it's almost US Open time, but the weather isn't cooperating. Last week was cool, sunny, and dry, but this week is hot, wet, and unpredictable. Carla and I have been here since Saturday and had a chance to go out and see the course. Like Chambers Bay we've played it (once, 5 years ago) and it's tough to recognize the course we played under all those tents and grandstands and with about 1500 yards added to it. The course looked great Monday. The greens are solid bentgrass and hard and fast, while the fescue rough is long but not overwhelming (i.e. unlike Blackwolf Run and even Whistling Straits the fescue hasn't yet been taken over by the invasive "crap grass", which grows too thick to make it possible to find a ball let alone play it). The fairways are generous enough but there isn't that much room from short grass to the fescue so I expect more than a few balls will get in there. The bunkers are deep and nasty, so while long ball hitters will have an advantage, that's only if they can hit it very straight.

We did get in a couple of pre-tournament rounds ourselves, basically revisiting RSG-Wisconsin venues. We played 36 at Lawsonia on Sunday. Both courses were in generally good shape (except for the bunkers, which were crap). The links was busy in the AM, but we basically had the Woodlands to ourselves in the afternoon. I guess golf is down everywhere these days, or maybe it's just the higher greens fees than I remembered. The Broadlands was in great shape, and running a special where they rates were just what they were when they opened something like 15 years ago. I very nearly got my name on the wall for an ace on 7, where Carla got one in an RSG-Wisconsin, but it missed (at least I did sink the putt.

Back to Erin Hills, the holes we watched were mostly on the back 9. 18 is a beast at something like 635 yards, with a deep bunker in the middle of the fairway where many will want to land their second shots. The landing area for drives is also narrow between bunkers, but longer hitters can get it through that opening to a wider spot. 8 is a hole I remember being scary, where you tee off towards a steep rise with one of the few trees on the property on the right. These guys just blow it over the rise though, but that doesn't make the approach to an elevated green with layers of bunkers in front of it any nicer.

We think the shortest hole (9) may give them fits. It was interesting standing behind the tee box listening to them working out what to hit at 135 yards way downhill with a good crosswind. The green has sides you can fall off of and lots of bunkers. A different challenge from the big holes. 12 is interesting too. There's a big drop near the landing area off the tee and some lay up on top and others hit it over the slope, but the risk is a downhill lie or running into the rough. The green is narrow but in a bowl where some errant shots will bounce down on it. If it doesn't though you get a downhill lie in long grass, or possibly a plugged lie in a little bunker on the right (every ball we saw hit there plugged).

Today (Tuesday) we were supposed to play another local course (Ironwood), but thunderstorms and a later outing there squashed that. Thunder also closed Erin Hills, which is why I'm sitting here at the keyboard instead of going out to spectate. We hope it will dry out for our training later today, but it doesn't look good for doing a practice round tomorrow. The rain did wipe out the Volunteer parking lot, about half a mile from the course, which became a hog wallow. The public lot closest to us is also on muddy grass and was barely usable today, not much hope. We were all told to go to the other public lot that's got
some gravel on it, about a 40 minute drive from where we were told to stay to be close to parking. That's what you have to roll with when you work a tournament.

The course held up pretty well. Greens are obviously slower but nothing looked bad in the practice rounds. We saw some interesting play on 2, a modest 340 yard par 4 that's driveable for these guys, but totally blind, so who knows where they will wind up. We watched 3 and 5 as well, both 500 yard plus par 4's, and 1, a 610 yard par 5 that is theoretically in reach, but the whole left side is marsh.

Training was interesting. Mostly we know how the technology works, but new this year they will not have rules officials with every group. That means we need to keep track of where everyone inside the ropes is walking and relay any bad news about weather as well as summon help in case of a ruling. Fortunately most of the scorers are experienced, and the standard bearers look like older kids and sturdy walkers. We also got the good news of no walking in the long rough and no need to go back to every tee box (yeah -- some of those suckers are 100 yards back and elevated.)

We have early groups on thursday. Carla has JB Holmes Woodland, and Kokrack, and I've got RusslelKnox and Martin Laird from Scotland, and Scott Gregory from England, the 2016 British Amateur champ. Friday PM, Carla has a notable group -- Matsuyama, Fowler, and Rahm, while I've
Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood, and Bud Cauley.  All good groups.   Saturday we have an early morning round, but Sunday we have the 29th and 30th groups off the tee, which figure to be near the leaders.

The forecast for tournament days changes every time you look at it. Cincinnati may be the Humidity Vortex of the world, but Wisconsin is the home of the midnight thunderstorms from hell that appear out of nowhere and sometimes go on all the next day. Too bad really because the course is first rate and will I'm sure produce an interesting finish -- if we ever get there.

Practice day at the US Open

Wednesday was the last practice day, and the day we got to practice scoring. Carla and I got up early (but not as early as tomorrow) to drive up to
the Red parking lot which is somewhat paved in anticipation of getting in at most 9 holes before a washout. We knew we had different groups, what we didn't know was we were each assigned partners to "mentor". Not sure why, since those assigned with us were experienced too, but maybe it was because we did two USGA Championships (they are very particular that the open championships are chamionships, not tournaments) last year and as a result had used their latest scoring system, which the others hadn't. (Oh the joy of trying to figure out whether to call a player's pink and blue striped shirts red, white, or blue, since you don't have pink or any combinations on the pick-list of possible shirt colors).

We drew badly on players, with Carla getting an amateur just out of college and the second alternate, hoping Phil doesn't get to play tomorrow and someone else pulls out, and I got Ikeda, a Japanese tour player of some note who spoke little English and doesn't play much in the US. Not important though, we were there to work, not to bask in glory. Carla had one other person with her, one of the other women scoring, who was unfortunately a type, constantly talking about her connections that got her the job, then walking in the wrong places and screwing up. After 6 holes she stopped for a bathroom stop and never rejoined the group, taking the radio with her.

My group was a bit better. I eventually had 3 other people with me, one local who had scored for other tournaments in Wisconsin who knew where to walk and was interested in learning how to do provisionals, stance and lie, all the new stuff from last year, another experience scorer who spoke a bit of Japanese and was useful, even if he did decide to make a last minute donut stop, with the radio and then not catch up until the 3rd hole, and one of our committee chairs who hadn't scored and was assigned as an alternate for the weekend. He was anxious to learn what to do and how not to screw up.

The big issue was would the weather hold. It wasn't promissing when we were encouraged to take pin sheets on the tee because they had the evacuation map on the back (players, caddies, scorers, and standard bearers get to head for the evacuation vans if there's lightning, but without a rules official with the group to show us where to go you have to find them). By the 3rd hole we heard Ross, the head of scoring for the USGA, instruct the leaderboards to put up a weather watch sign, then a warning sign two holes later. Warning doesn't  stop play --yet, just a sign to the fans to get out of the grandstands and think about going home.

The bad weather never materialized though and by 9 the signs were down and it was a hot windy sunny day. Ikeda played pretty well (he actually played out his first ball and was only +3 for the day, not bad), but it was clear he was puzzled on the greens, hitting lots of extra putts to work out the breaks and figure out how to take advantage of the roll. There are a lot of holes out there with collection areas, and it's a challenge figuring out how to play out of them.

At the turn most scorers and players quit, but both Carla and I went on. By this time Carla had no radio to report it (that's actually dangerous in iffy weather since her group wouldn't get early warning of trouble). I had collected the radio and PDA by then and was good to go, and one of my partners went on with me. The back had some surprising holes, especially 15, another almost driveable par 4, but with a green with massive roll offs on the right. Ikeda hit what looked like a perfect shot after his layup ball, left of the pin, and the grandstand clapped, then groaned as the ball came rolling down a 10 foot slope off
the right side. A hole straight out of Tin Cup, except for the watery ending.

Our pace of play on the back was really getting slow, mainly because some folks cut in on 10 to replace the ones who dropped. In aprticular Rory and Sergio 3 groups up, and Speith playing alone right in front of Carla's group. Kuchar cut in behind my group and must have been frustrated with the slow pace. Eventually Carla's remaining player (the alternate) joined Speith, so she walked with him for the last 2 holes. Ikeda played on alone, hitting more and more chips and putts as the sky darkened and the weather watches and warnings went up again. Just as we reached the 18th green Ross came on the radio to tell us to come in before we got stuck out there, so we left and made the long hike back to scoring headquarters to turn in the gear, grab a burger with our lunch
tickets (lunch at 2:45 tastes good after breakfast at 6AM), and get in the bus line, reaching the bus just as the horn blew.

Tomorrow we go an hour earlier and the weather isn't supposed to be bad. Best of all though is that everyone will play 18 holes, and we don't have to train anyone.

Holy Hindenberg! (Thursday at the US Open)

I knew this would be an interesting day, but I had no idea I'd see a blimp crash. I noticed a blimp in the sky around hole 6 or 7 in our round and thought nothing of it since they usually have one covering a major tournament. I was on the left side of the 10th green watching my group chipping and putting when suddenly the blimp didn't look right. It was end on and the tail was pointing skyward while the nose looked half deflated, and there was a bright glow from somewhere. It was also sinking fast and crashed just over the horizon, with several other people noticing and asking if the blimp just crashed. We heard later on that one pilot ejected, while the other went down with it and was injured. Not what I was looking for this morning.

Carla and I got up in the middle of the night to make the drive up to "red lot", a county fairground on the other side of Milwaukee where they promissed good bus service for Volunteers. We parked and got through security (just like flying, no liquids more than 3 ounces, metal detectors, and everything, but apparently not to sensitive since it has yet to trigger on my metal hips.) We got to the head of the bus line just as the bus left, and -- no more busses lined up. And none came for 10-15 minutes. We were apparently lucky to wait only that long, some said the wait swelled to an hour and a half later in the morning. We had lots of time, so we still arrived in plenty of time to pick up our gear and actually got a ride to the first tee.

My standard bearer looked like a little kid, but it turns out he was a golfer and part of another volunteer junkie family and had been standard bearer at 9 tournaments, including other US Opens. A very nice thing to find out. He in fact identified Russel Knox before I did. They all had very different clothing, which made it easy to keep them straight.

Laird started with 2 birdies (1 and 2 are birdie holes, a par 5 they can get close to in 2 and a drivable par 4. Knox marked time with pars, while Gregory, a very young looking amateur dropped shots about every other hole. As we left 2, we were surprised to see someone teeing off on 3. I could see Carla half way down the hole. Apparently Jason Kokrack had hit it way left into a hazard and after a long debate over whether he ever crossed the line beyond where the marking went from yellow to red went back to the tee. Carla said in the end he bogeyed the hole -- a very good bogey.

Laird dropped back with a couple of bogeys and for the rest of the round Laird and Knox traded places at even or one over for the most part. After balooning to +6, Gregory found his game on the back 9 and birdied 3 holes to finish at +3. They all hit into the fescue, but nobody lost a ball or failed to escape and mostly they saved pars. A very routine round.

Carla's group had more ups and downs. JB Holmes was the star, getting to -4 before dropping back and still finishing respectable. She had lots of provisionals (none used) and drops for penalties and relief, but nothing really bad happened. We were amazed to see the late day TV coverae and watch Jason Day and Rory throw up on each other, and everyone going into the long stuff and not handling it well.

What was scary at the end of the round was looking at the leader board. Carla has Ricky Fowler, leading at -7, tomorrow, while I have Brian Harmon and Tommy Fleetwood, both at -5. Of course they get to play in the windier afternoon, presuming it's not the stormier afternoon. Supposedly they are going to re-open the much more convenient volunteer parking lot tomorrow, but who knows.

It's a great experience as always. It's fascinating to talk with some of the other volunteers. Many have done lots of tournaments, and I don't know whether I'm cheered to learn how many seem to have inside connections to get these gigs. (One had scored for the British, which only takes about 3 volunteers a year from the US). We just kind of stumbled into this and get the jobs based on having done them well before. Some are fussy about who they get to score for or when they work. We are glad to go out with anyone and don't care about whether the TV cameras are on them. (In fact it's easier when your group isn't
on TV.) Unfortunately it's not going to be that easy tomorrow I expect.

Following the leaders (Friday at the US Open)

Carla knew she had a good group today from the time the pairings came out. Her players were Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, and John Rahm.
That was a group sure to draw attention and lots of media from 3 countries. My group sounded less distinguished -- Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood, and Bud Cauly. When we saw the results from the first round we realized we had what were probably the two featured groups of the afternoon. since Rickie was a leader at -7, and Fleetwood and Harman were only 2 shots behind.

Getting there was half the fun today. They re-opened the so-called volunteer parking lot, basically a muddy field. The mud here is especially treacherous, basically absorbing water and becoming like foam rubber when it rains, and a little gravel on top of it only created nasty chuckholes. Still it was very convenient and cut the overall travel time to the course by at least 30 minutes for us, also completely eliminating the need to buck Milwaukee's rush hour traffic. We got there 3 hours early (not much else to do with the time, and spent those hours watching the coverage of the morning round on the TVs in the air
conditioned volunteer tents. Seems odd, but when you have to walk 8 miles in the heat in the afternoon even the mile round trip to the nearest grandstand is something you want to avoid. Walking into the course we were overhearing lots of eager fans talking about maybe getting a glimpse of Rickie. Really strange when you are going to spend the next 5-6 hours with him.

I got a sturdy standard bearer, less experienced than the day before but knowledgeable and able, and because of the group a scoring supervisor to check on me (common practice with important groups.) She was the wife of another supervisor I had walked with before.

My group started okay, but without much fanfare. Fleetwood made a birdie to get to -6, and Harman had some narrow misses. Cauley, who started at +1 even made up a couple of shots. We had a couple of camera crews and a commentator walking with us, which makes things harder since there's never enough room for everyone to get in their prefered places, but we managed. Meanwhile I heard both roars behind me for Carla's group and noticed one of them hitting from some very strange places (long grass on 2, 50 yards left of the fairway on 4, etc. That would be Rahm, who unlike the others was not having a good week. Carla was worried he would start throwing clubs, but he didn't do that until 17.

The heat started to take effect. Two standard bearers got sick after only a hole or two, one for the group with Spieth and Dustin Johnson. They replaced them, and I urged mine as well as my supervisor to keep chugging water.

Our best hole was 7, which all 3 birdied. They did well on 9 as well and about then both Fleetwood and Harman got to -7. Rickie had gotten to -9 by then and Carla was already telling her standard bearer how to cram the numbers to get a double digit score on the sign. That never happened. (Someone at the USGA no doubt gave a sigh of relief.) Fowler dropped 3 shots in a row back to -6 where he finished. Matsuyama probably had the round of the day, -7 for the day to finish at -5. Fleetwood and Harman never got better than -7 but kept there, making birdies to recover from bogies. Cauley slipped a bit but at +2 going to the 17th tee all he had to do was make it past that tough hole and birdie 18, the easiest hole for the day. Nope -- he pulled one into the long grass and advanced it only 10 feet, then hit his third up to a collection area near the green. Having to hole out to stay at +2, he hit it long and missed the comeback -- +4 with the cut figuring to be +1. Fleetwood bogeyed too, after leaving a shot out of the collection area on the edge of the green and looking for a ruling as to whether he was on or off (rules said he was off). I really hoped Harman would birdie 18, but he didn't. Fleetwood did to get to -7, and at that point it looked like Koepka at -9 would lead at the end of two. Apparently Koepka doubled and that left 4 tied at -7, including my two guys.

It was weird that after going through scoring and collecting some signatures, then making the half mile hike back to the volunteer area the first thing I see on the monitors is Harman being interviewed about his round, the one I walked with him.

It was after 8 by the time we got away from the course, and after a couple of brews and a little food we are crashing. Tomorrow we have two early groups, nobody really noteable (Carla missed having Stricker by one tee time). That should actually be a relief. We just hope there's no rain and not enough rain overnight to re-liquify the volunteer parking lot (aka hog wallow).

Tiptoe through the Fescue (Saturday at the US Open)

Saturday we got to the course good and early having anticipated potential problems with lot N (AKA the volunteer hog wallow) after heavy rain overnight. It was bad, but not impassable. We got an odd compliment while waiting. One of the ball spotters approached me to thank me for being one of the only scorers to get the players selected early enough to help them, then another talked to Carla. To understand this you need to know a bit about how the scoring and tracking systems work. The ball spotters use laser rangefinders that are calibrated to their position on the course to tag where every shot lands. To do that
then need to know who hit each ball. That can be done manually, by the ball spotter recognizing the player and selecting them, but that's tough from 250 yards away even when they are given a description of the player's clothing (something else the walking scorers have to do right). The better way is if the walking scorer selects the player before he makes the shot in time that the system can get that information to the spotter's laser machine, where it pre-selects the right player. Carla and I have always selected the player as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to avoid delays when the shot is hit (I don't know if  the shot hit times are used in assessing time penalties, but the USGA especially told us to get that accurate), but apparently many don't.

I knew it would be a challenging day when my players teed off -- Cabrera-Belo blew it right into long grass off the first tee, while Gooch hooked it and wasn't sure if it cleared the hazard. By the time we reached the fairway a marshal and rules official were already trying to decide where it crossed the boundary before disappearing in the weeds, and he wound up walking back to drop on one of the forward tee boxes (the hole is a dogleg and the hazard is red), where he hit it into the right rough. He hacked towards the green, never seeing the fairway and eventually saving double on a good up and down from the rough. Raffa couldn't advance his far enough to reach the green in 3 and eventually bogeyed when he failed to get up and down -- this on a hole that yielded a lot of birdies and a few eagles.

It didn't get that much better. Raffa picked up the shot he lost on 2, a short par 4, but Gooch had another good recovery par. Raffa played solid from there, but Gooch couldn't find a fairway. On one hole (5?) he hit it so far left it was over a hill and behind one of the few trees on the course. (I think he recovered from that for a par). by 9 he was 2 or 3 over, while Raffa had gotten close to even. Gooch hit a good looking shot to this short par 3, but it trickled off the front into a bunker where he got an up and down par. Raffa hit it close on the other side of the pin where it held and he picked up a shot.

Our most adventurous hole was 12, a shortish par 4 they often birdie. The hole goes over a hill where the fairway is a saddle between two high hills of long grass. Raffa was in the junk on the left, while Gooch hit it so far right he decided to hit a provisional -- also right. My standard bearer and I stood in the fairway saddle trying to figure out what was going on, when Gooch's caddie came down from the hill to find a sprinkler and I could ask him if he found the first ball (he did, fortunately). He got it on the green, but 3 putted, while Raffa punched out and got up and down for par.

The conditions were still and getting hot, and there were reports of problems everywhere -- medical calls, technology failures, and trouble getting all the volunteers in position ahead of the first group which was playing speed golf. By 14 Gooch was in "fire and foreget" mode, blasting a drive right into rough. Because of the speed of his play and the fact that my PDA stylus was broken and I had to use a pencil eraser I managed to pick the wrong player when Raffa hit and didn't realize it until he hit his second shot and the PDA was still asking me what club he hit off the tee. Fortunately I know how to fix almost any scoring mistake and did.

On 15, Gooch tried to drive the green, got in a bunker and had his first shot roll back in. The second was close and got him par, but everyone else was using a backstop near the hole to get birdies. As I was waiting for the tee shots on 16, there was a commotion near me and a ball lands at my feet. One of Carla's players drives missed far enough left to hit one of the tee boxes on 16.

On 17, the marshals signaled both drives straight, and when we came over the rise to see two balls in the fairway Gooch raised his hands and started to bow to the gods of golf. In the end Gooch was 5 over and apologetic about his play while Raffa was one under for the day.

Carla's players were a bit better, but not great, and she had the fun of having her PDA die on the 18th green (no problem, just get it on paper and straighten it out in the scoring area). We were both dead and didn't stick around, which meant we watched most of the late afternoon play from a brew pub and were amazed at the low scores.

Sunday should be sunny and nice, and hopefully good groups. Carla has the low amateur at the moment (Champ), and Jamie Lovemark, while I have
Leishman and Chez Reavie. Should be fun, if the body holds up to another punishing walk.

Blown away at Erin Hills (Sunday at the US Open)

It wasn't just breezy today, it was crazy breezy. Carla and I spent much of the morning again in the tent watching the coverage on TV and talking to other volunteers. The course setup makes that the only reasonable thing to do -- just too long a walk to get anywhere else. It was soon clear that the wind would be a big factor and make the course play much tougher. Carla went first, having Cameron Champ, the leading amateur, and Jamie Lovemark. I had the next group with Marc Leishman and Chez Reavie.

My players turned out to be amazingly straight hitters. Through 16 holes nobody got in the long grass, and if they missed a fairway (and they didn't miss many) it wasn't by much. Leishman is long, and Reavie not as long but very good at hitting greens and getting it close with longer clubs. Neither player birdied 1 or 2, which were the best opportunities on the front 9. 2 was actually quite tricky, with the pin so near the right edge it was easy to roll off that side. As I recall Leishman did, and bogeyed the hole. He had series of bogeys, all from missing relatively short putts, and quickly dropped from -4 to even, while Reavie got to -5. By 8 the frustration was showing a bit, has he wound up in a back collection area and made a hasty swat at it, barely getting it on. Then he got a bit of a break in that he thought the ball moved and asked for rules. A rules official was sitting on the green and quickly came, deciding he could replace the ball without penalty, but that slowed him down enough to consider his 15 foot par putt and sink it. The magic didn't last. On 9 both were at the front left with the
pin in the extreme back right. Both made good approach putts, but Reavie sunk the par while Leishman missed it.

We were a little worried about the wind becoming so strong they would have to suspend play, but that didn't happen. The rest of the round was pretty routine, until 17. I was chatting with with my standard bearer -- a college golfer from a small college in south central Wisconsin who carried the sign for Carla on Friday -- about how the closing stretch would play easier downwind today. Wrong. Leishman pulled his shot left far enough I was pretty sure he found the nastiest strip of long grass I saw on the course. Then Reavie, very straight until then pushed his shot into the "primary" rough (3-1/2 inches long and thick). Yes, Leishman found the same strip of crap that did in Bud Cauley on Friday and like Cauley could only move it a few yards into the primary rough. Meanwhile Reavie turned his rough shot over and went in the long stuff in front of the green. He got up and down from there to save par, Leishman didn't.

They say there's nothing like walking up the 18th fairway in front of full grandstands on Sunday of a major. I don't know for sure, but it was pretty special, even if neither of my players were going to win. Both players got up near the green in 2. Leishman was very close, and got up and down for birdie, and got a good cheer from the crowd.

Afterwards in scoring there was some interesting discussion. Someone from the USGA asked the players what they thought of the venue, both as a course and for logistics. Leishman said it played much tougher today and asked if the wind was typical. It is, and in fact the course architect was on the property and interviewed and said this was the weather he designed it for. The logistics concern was that Erin Hills is a long way from anywhere, meaning a drive for the players from whereever they stay. Leishman though said that while he was much closer to Oakmont, it took him longer to get there. There are advantages in not having to deal with city traffic.

Carla's group played pretty well, but not quite well enough for Champ to get low amateur. Apparently it was close. He knew what he needed, basically a par and a birdie on the last two to win, but he bogeyed 17, and while 18 is a good birdie opportunity, he went left of the green in 2 and failed to get up and down, missing by one shot. Still pretty damn good to shoot even par for 4 rounds in a US Open.

The real tournament was well behind us. I watched the early show on the leaderboards, not parituclarly surprised that Harman held near even, but surprised that Koepka advanced. Hearing more about Koepka, not a player I knew well, I'm not surprised. Shooting well under par today deserved a reward.

We left when they had 6 holes to play to escape the mass exodus at the end and get some much needed rest, before flying to Boston next week to do the Senior Open.  In short, the week was a blast. I've heard estimates of anywhere from 8-10 miles for how far you walk around the course, and as much as 20
stories of elevation gain or loss. It's probably one of the hardest courses to walk I've walked (and I've walked some that were claimed to be unwalkable), but I'll deal with the aches and pains (and the mud hole that was the volunteer parking lot) for the experience.

The 2017 US Senior Open (Salem Country Club, Peabody MA 2017)

Less than a week after the last putt dropped at Erin Hills we were off to Boston to work the Senior Open.  It was a bit of a disappointment not to get walking scorer for this one, but apparently those jobs all went to insiders.  I later learned that part of that was that the long time PGA playoffs event in New England created a core of people who had done it for the PGA tour.  Still, leaderboards are fun, and we hadn't been back to Boston for anything in a long time.  It's a skill position and you usually get a great view.  The course is only about 10 miles from where we lived for 4 years, and besides, who can resist a tournament whose logo is a witch on a broomstick.

Waiting for the Walking Scorer, or someone like him

The tournament course, (the Salem country club) is really in the town of Peabody almost on top of the intersection of two freeways (128 and 95). It's heavily wooded, very green and somewhat rolling. On the practice days we wondered what the USGA might do to it to make it play hard for these guys given there wasn't much water or punitive rough, the fairways are generous, and the greens not fast enough to be real trouble.  Indeed, with the lead at -11 after two days it seems they didn't make it real hard.

We have the early shift all 4 days, and wondered why bother to get there at 7AM for a leaderboard on the 16th hole. We had reckoned without the fact that our headquarters was not in the convenient volunteer tent but of course in the fabulous "cart barn", half a golf course away next to the club's parking lot. (I should have figured that, scoring jobs are always in the cart barn, but that's usually convenient, not relegated to the far end of a large parking lot from anything else.)

On our first shift it quickly became clear that they were understaffed. Leaderboards can have as many as 5 volunteers (really too many), and Carla and I can do it as two, but 3 is really minimum to be comfortable, and that's what we got. I knew our 3rd wouldn't be much help when he couldn't spell "Montgomerie" in 4 tries (he kept putting C's in it), so Carla and I did most of the work and used the 3rd guy mainly to refile the magnetic letters (still a good amount of work and very useful, but harder to screw up).

Leaderboard/thoughboard is really a skill position. It's not hard, but you need to know how to spell out the names with magnetic letters on the back of the board put on upside down and backwards and do it quick, and you need to know how to change the scores very quickly between when groups are putting on the green. You also need to know how to cope with most problems, like sticky doors or bad letters, and you need to be able to tell the difference between the 9's and 6's, O's and 0s, and get the
8's and S's right side up, and most people can't. There are lots of tricks to doing this quickly. We could write a guide on it, but I'm not going to do it lest the USGA put me in charge of training (fat chance).

Thursday I got one curve I couldn't deal with -- when I went to put "Sutherland" on the top line I discovered that whoever assembled the board had simply put a lot of extra long bolts, with no nuts, into the connections between the top of the board and the "flying buttresses" that support it, and they blocked opening any of the doors for line 1.
I started trying to back them out, then realized that nothing else was holding the thing together and called it in. After some discussion Ross (head of scoring) sent out the repair crew to fix it.

It's always fun to have the radio doing any scoring job because you hear about the disasters. I had it Thursday, Carla had it Friday. We each had ample opportunity to learn the walking scorers for this tournament were far from perfect. Lots of scoring errors and lots of just plain odd stuff, like people who didn't know how to put in the players clothing (which helps the laser ball spotters know who it a shot), or simply never got the lesson on how to do provisionals. Several scorers wound up in such deep trouble the USGA sent out help. My dilemma over putting up Sutherland was quickly solved when I heard the scorer was off by 2 shots on him, but eventually they wanted Jimenz on the top line and I was glad to have it fixed.

Another "skill" for this job is the ability to climb on the structure of the board and get the top lines without using the ladder. You can use the ladder, but it's slow and always in the way, and much easier if you can just step up onto one of the supports, which even after two hip replacements I'm pretty good at.

After almost 45 minutes past our nominal end time two replacements showed up and we turned the board over. Neither was experienced or agile or tall enough to get the top lines without the ladder, and we didn't want to see what they did to the board.

Most of our afternoon was spent in the grandstand on hole 15, a long par 3. 15-17 are on the opposite side of a local road from the rest and few fans get there, and 15 is shaded! We thought the hole would be boring, but no, it was like watching a car race -- maybe 1/3 of the players hit shots way left of the green hitting the cart path, going in the woods, or in one case over a stone wall and onto the road. That was fascinating. The guy hit a provisional, but they found the ball on the road, and after some discussion with the USGA rules folks it turned out nobody marked OB on the hole and he played it -- through a little opening in the trees into the rough on the far side of the hole and eventually a bogey, but better than the walk back to the tee. For others it was often a geometry problem to work out relief -- If they hit the path and went in the woods they could take relief from being blocked by the grandstand or the shotlink tower, but whether or not that gave them a playable lie depended on where they dropped. Most took it. On Friday one player deep in decided to go back to the tee. (he made a decent shot but missed the putt).

Friday was much the same -- we worked the board alone (16 green) for an hour before a 3rd volunteer showed up. That was good, because within a few minutes I had to put 6 names on the leaderboard in quick succession.

All around we heard volunteers talking about how understaffed they were. They didn't have enough scorers and some groups had USGA people doing it. Leaderboards were way understaffed and most of the boards shut down way before the end of the day as a result. The USGA wanted to do laser ball position on all 18 holes, but only had enough to do 2 holes on the front 9, and even then didn't really have a full crew on each laser spotter, and even marshals were being asked to do double or triple shifts. It's a real shame, since it's a great venue and an interesting tournament. I don't know if the problem is poor local decisions or a decline in interest in golf in general, but it's not a good sign.

No idea what's up for the weekend. All the leaders finished, but the horn blew before the last groups were in (we were in a pub and quickly collected our check at that point to get under cover before the storm hit). That means we probably have an hour of play tomorrow AM to get through before the 3rd round. More later.

Report from Deep Space 13 (Saturday/Sunday at the Senior Open)

Carla and I spent Saturday and Sunday Mornings on the leaderboard at the 13th hole. This is about as far from anything as you can get on the course. The hole is interesting, a moderate length par 4 with a sharp dogleg and a small green, and you also have views of 14, 6, and 7. Good thing, because we didn't see much play on 13.

Friday's round never quite finished because of storms. We checked diligently for details of the plans for Saturday and got nothing before turning in, then checked in the morning to discover that some time after 10:30PM they sent out a request for volunteers to get there by 5:30. Not going to happen unless you tell me before bed time. We arrived more like 6:45 for our nominal 7AM start and were sent to 13, a hole with no play left from round 2 and that wouldn't see play from round 3 until just before our shift finished. Nevermind they were so short on volunteers boards were being shut down by 3PM with 3 hours left, and that nobody would care if anything were on 13, that's where he wanted us so that's where we went. We immediately got instructions to put up the full leaderboard for round 2 (even though everyone on it or with any
prospect of getting on it was done, and none were going to play that hole and no fans were there). I took a picture to prove we actually did it. Shortly after that they wanted it all down and only the top 3 on the board. We exercised a little common sense and kept the letters out for most of the leaders, and eventually put some back on the board.

We did see a few people playing 6 and 7, and 1 or 2 play 13 before we reached the end of our shift. 61 players made the cut so the first guy out played with the local club pro and played fast. He was an amateur and didn't do badly. The main entertainment was of course the radio. Lots off scoring mistakes, but the big item was the scorer for Colin Montgomerie's group calling in to request they be sent a new standard (the sign with the scores) because the pole in the one they rattled. Monty is apparently notorious for grumping at everything when he's not playing well. Later a marshal told us they had instructions not to use their paddles on Monty's group to signal where the balls went. I'm glad I got to score for him on a good day.

After shift we settled into the 15th grandstand to watch the show. Again plenty of balls hit right and into the weeds. One went so deep the guy had to go back to the tee. Before getting to the stand we asked the USGA rules guy about the lack of OB marking, and he turned out to be the one who officiated when the guy hit one off the road. They did mark OB, with little markers on the side of the road nearest the course, but the road has a curve and that guy's ball was just inside the markers. It didn't save the guy who hit it so deep he couldn't even take two club lengths to improve his situation and got shuttled back to the tee to take his double.

At the top of the leaderboard Perry and Triplett continued to move forward. The big surprise was Jobe, who had a big string of birdies on the back 9 including a rare birdie on 15. (he and his playing partner hit the two best shots of the day there and sank the putts). Corey Pavin birdied the hole with a putt that must have been at least 50 feet.
but there was a lot more bad stuff -- bunker shots that failed to escape the bunker, sculled chips, etc. Maybe the best shot we saw all day though was Jerry Kelley, who hit one right but still inside the ropes in front of the shotlink tower. He hit a super flop shot that landed about a foot from the pin and barely moved.

We got out before the finish and again watched it on a Pub TV, seeing Doug Garwood hit a shank on 18 that he reacted to with a shrug and a laugh. Not much you can do other than hit another and take your lumps.

Sunday we again got no real useful info before morning when we heard that our shift would start at 8. Again we went to 13, with little play before 11AM, but this time they were really short and we were on the board until 1PM and saw some golf. We actually put a few names on the bottom of the leaderboard as players started having good rounds. That was clearly a curse though. As soon as we put someone's name up they bogeyed and dropped off.

The scoring mistakes were if anything worse than before, with one scorer getting so hopelessly tangled they had to send out someone to straighten her out and train her on what to do when the PDA won't let you put in strokes for the next hole. (It's a rookie mistake -- basically you can't score a hole before all players have been noted as having finished the last one, and the mistake is not clicking "in the hole" when the last putt drops.)

Plenty of other foul ups, and pleas for more people to come out to work some of the leaderboards. During our time on the board Ross, head of scoring came out to retrieve the weather warning banners on our board. We talked a bit with him as his assistant recovered the 8 banners (their forecaster said 0% chance of rain today, something he never did, but he was right). He wasn't happy with what was happening in scoring this week and was eager to have us as scorers in the future, so we might just try to work another US Open some time (we are already in the senior and women's for next year).

After the shift we again retreated to 15 for most of the afternoon. The pin was indeed in the back left corner where we thought it would be and another fan in the grandstand said nobody had birdied it and it was the toughest hole on the course that day. Nobody birdied while we were watching either. No balls in the woods today, but as we were leaving one went over the green in the hazard. After considering his options he dropped in a drop area (1 penalty stroke for that) and nearly holed out his pitch to the green from there (but missed the putt -- double.) The leaderboard curse continued. Kelly got on it and immediately bogeyed. Glen Day got on and doubled 18, but basically everyone but Perry went backwards. He had a 3 shot lead when we left and while it got a bit closer it was never in doubt.

That's all the fun we get here -- a couple of days to see Carla's relatives and then we are off for almost 2 months from golf volunteering  The Senior Amateur in Minneapolis is our next event.

Once again it was a blast to do this even if we weren't always used perfectly. Volunteer hospitality and meals were great here and the course was fun to walk and watch. Again I'd encourage anyone out there interested to sign up to work a tournament -- the USGA in particular really seems to need more people for these things.

The US Senior Amateur (Minneapolis, August, 2017)

Carla and I spent last week working at the US Senior Amateur, at the Minikahda club in the Minneapolis area. The course is an old one, revised by Donald Ross nearly 100 years ago and still showing a lot of his handiwork. It hosted a US Open, an Amateur, the Curtis cup and other championships. It's not big enough for a modern Open or tour
event, but with lots of trees, slick crowned multi-tier greens, and tricky doglegs it presents plenty of challenge.

We knew this would be a low key event compared to the Opens, more like the Western Amateur. In fact it's probably even more low key. Some people come out for amateur events involving up and coming players that may some day become stars, but this one is for old guys like us who aren't good enough to play professionally but want the challenge of a national championship, and only their families, friends, and a few club members come.

Most of our assignments were in something called a "Walking Pod". Basically 2 or 3 volunteers walk with a group of players, one scoring, one as a forecaddie, and maybe one as a marshal (though in fact there were few enough volunteers nobody ever did that job, not that it was needed). Carla and I basically worked as a pair alone, each taking 9 holes of scoring and 9 of forecaddie. The format is 2 days of full field stroke play (156 starters in morning and afternoon waves of 3somes off both 1 and 10), then cut to the top 64 for 4 days of match play to determine a winner. The event is so low key that except for the 2 stroke play days we got to park in the club parking lot, right next to the "paddle house", which served as volunteer headquarters. (This is a little building that serves as the headquarters for "paddle tennis", some kind of tennis game played on miniature courts, of which they had 4 or 5, in addition to a center for full scale tennis). There are no grandstands, no refreshment stands (they sell food at the course halfway house and clubhouse, though we get box lunches and generous snacks for free), no flanks of port-a-potties (use the bathrooms on course or in any of the club buildings), and no ropes other than around the first and 10th tee to try to keep order.

The competitors can use carts, caddies and pullcarts in any combination, with the only rule that caddies can't ride in carts, and we saw every combination. They can also use rangefinders, something I'm personally less thrilled about. (Growing golf doesn't need people thinking they need to buy another expensive gadget, nor does it need an army of hackers lasering every pin when they could miss the shot with any club in their bags.)

The technology for scoring this one is different, perhaps a preview of the new scoring platform the USGA has threatened to introduce next year.  Instead of PDAs we had android tablets, sealed in little bags. I think they run off Verizon's carrier network, not WiFi, like the PDAs, and apparently they have limited battery. For this event it was comparatively easy -- you track the shots as they are made on paper, then after each hole enter the scores on the tablet through a typically clunky touch screen interface (you pick a player, but instead of entering the score directly have to scroll through a list of possible scores to pick one, then instead of selecting the next player have to hit "next".) -- plenty of opportunities to screw up if your finger isn't in quite the right place. Finally you have to post and confirm the scores, each with tiny buttons hard to hit that naturally appear in exactly the same spot (so, when after trying 5 times to hit "post", it suddenly decides to respond it instantly posts and takes another previous touch as "confirm", giving you no chance to see it.) No radios either, take your mobile phone and call someone. The bottom line is for this they didn't care much. They didn't even let us score 18, instead having the USGA people check the players cards against the entered score and enter the 18th hole. (Someone said this was to avoid having your entry of 18 collide with any changes they made in scoring, confirming what someone on a leaderboard said which was that the scorer's data often came in very late).

I hope they get the bugs out before next year's open championships.  Going through the carrier data network works fine on a deserted course, but with 40,000 fans and their phones at a US Open venue I'm guessing that would cause serious delays and lost data, and of course this presumes the data gets entered properly to begin with, questionable given  the problems with the interface.

Our first group of players (Pierce, Holmes, and Kmak) created excitement immediately as Pierce hit it onto a side slope of a fairway bunker in this chip shot par 4 (309 yards!) and struggled for bogie, while Holmes had a stress free birdie and Kmak threw his arms up in celebration first after hitting the green in regulation and then 2 putting. All 3 were from the south and clearly had some problems with the cold rainy weather and long wet rough. Pierce settled down and made a couple of birdies (and more bogies), while Kmak fell back steadily and Holmes parred the rest of the front 9 (maybe the easier 9, 3 par 3's and 3 par 5's, one of them fairly short). Then on the back Holmes fell apart after doubling 12 from an awkward bunker lie and just kept making bad shots. Pierce birdied 17 to finish only a couple over, and Kmak had a nice birdie at the last as I recall. All 3 had some shot of making the round of 64.

On Sunday, we had an interesting group off 10, Acker, Zachar, and Bodney (who the USGA tee announcer was joking sounded like a law firm).

Acker was a large man in shorts and a purple shirt who didn't look like much of a golfer. Zachar was a short guy walking with a caddie and looked somewhat the part, while Bodney was a dead ringer for our friend Tex (a tall guy who hit the ball a mile almost always straight. Everything about his game and demeanor reminded me of Tex.) The surprise was that Bodney struggled on and around the green starting with 3 bogeys, while Acker, always way behind the others off the tee was a wizard with shotmaking and around the green. He played the course exactly the way I would, hitting woods and hybrids into a lot of greens, missing, then getting up and down for par out of everything. Zachar was the most solid player.

Both those groups were easy for the Forecaddie. They were rarely in the rough, never lost in long grass. I think I marked only one shot (from Kmak, where his little miss off the tee put him behind a little tree). Bodney gave me a bit of a scare when he pulled a wood off a short tricky par 4 most were laying up on and hit it left, rattling the trees over my head, but he came up clean in the rough where the virtual cart path was (it was "carts on paths", but there were no paths most places so they marked the places they wanted them with little flags). Perhaps he did it because on the previous hole, a short par 5, he made the green in two, then hammered his eagle putt and 3 putted, unleashing a long string of self-recrimination).

In the end, Only Zachar made the matchplay from that group. Pierce made it from our first group, and Holmes +8 total put him on the bubble. 12 golfers teed off in 3 foursomes at 7AM on Monday playing for 7 spots. 4 washed out on the first hole, (including unfortunately Holmes), leaving 8 playing the par 3 11th. One guy doubled it to set the field.

On Monday our match was relatively late. Fogherty vs Fischer. Both were walking, with Fogherty's wife caddying for him and Fischer with a course pull cart. I had forecaddy duty first, so I got only occasional reports of the state of the match. Basically while both started well Fogherty pulled ahead and was 3 up at the turn. It didn't help that Fischer 4 putted the par 3 8th after being on the green while Fogherty made an indifferent chip and still won the hole. Neither played aggressively and both pretty solidly. On 10, Fischer got one back and kept it with a good up and down on 12. Then the wheels came off Fogherty. On the par 4 12th there was a backup since they were using the far forward tee and many tried to drive it. Neither of our guys did, and both hit to a good spot for a layup, but Fischer got the hole, and won again on the par 5 13th after Fogherty's 3rd came up short in a bunker. About then Fischer asked for a cart because his Atrial Fibrulation was acting up. It didn't effect his play though and he continued to play soundly, winning 13. On 14 when he took 3 to get there though and Fogherty was close in 2 I thought Fogherty would stop the bleeding, but no, Fogherty's chip was short and no better than Fischer's 3rd shot from a fairway bunker, and then Fischer canned a long putt (well, it wobbled around the back of the hole before dropping) to square the match. Fogherty stumbled again on 15 and 16, while his wife said he went from elated to discouraged to angry, and it wasn't helping his game. On 17 both made good approaches and 2 putted to finish.

Zachar won his match too. As it happened one of the rules officials working with our group knew him and liked him, saying also that his caddie was a club pro who made the cut in the PGA championship, probably a big plus. We had him again on Tuesday, playing someone who dusted his opponent 5&3. Should be fun.

On Tuesday we had Zachar and and Doug Hanzel in an early morning match. Zachar caught fire early, birdieing 3 of the first 6 to go 3 up even with Hanzel hitting some of the longest drives I'd seen and reaching the 4th in 2. I was forecaddie for the front 9 and got a reminder of why it's important when one of the players in the group in front wound up coming back on the hole to hit a second shot to the green after they couldn't find his first. Nothing like that in our match. After matching Hanzel's 2 putt birdie on 4, Zachar stuffed it on 5 and went 3 up.

Then things went the other way. They traded pars for a while, but Zachar butchered 9, and eventually dropped back even (I think after a nice birdie by Hanzel on 13. 14 was interesting and played a bit like Monday (Zachar reached the green in 2 (regulation), but after Hanzel was ahead of Zachar in the fairway he topped one into a bunker, then stuffed the bunker shot and matched Zachar's par). Hanzel eventually turned it around to 1 up as they went to 17. I had talked a bit to his wife, following the group, and between that and the program learned that he was a regular competitor in the amateur and even the senior open and a very solid player. I expected he would put Zachar, who was stumbling, away on 17, but he pulled his drive way left behind a tree. He had to punch out over the green into an awful lie on a slope, but got up and down to go to 18 1 up. Then he 3 putted -- all square at 18. They halved 1 as the first extra hole, and it looked like they might halve 2 as well, but Hanzel canned a long putt to finish it.

We hung around to watch a lot of the afternoon matches. Lots of great action, but hard to follow. Wednesday our duty was easy -- run the 6th hole scoreboard for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so we played a morning round then showed up. Allie (the volunteer coordinator) offered us another scoring round, but after seeing that two of the morning rounds went to 20 or more holes and the fact that we were beat from golf in the AM we just took the leaderboard. That was easy duty, and we enhanced the board by