NGAWire® | 7Jun04
Louis Song (NGA® Far East Division Writer)
The 2004 Bank of Ann Arbor Futures Tour Golf Classic event has come to past with Lindsey Wright winning the tournament by one stroke with an even par round Sunday. That, however, was not the highlight of the weekend. More memorable was the opportunity for I to experience my first professional golf volunteer assignment. It all began with an idea of being around great players of the most passionate game known to humanity- with all its grandeur and agony entwined within our soul.
Having failed to attend the scheduled volunteers meeting, I called the volunteer chairperson, Dianne Loy, and met her at Lake Forest Golf Club the Wednesday before the tournament. As I ascended to the clubhouse, I sensed quite a different feeling than I would typically experience at a golf course. Blood was rushing into the farthest reaches of my being and my beady eyes widened with excitement as visions of young, athletic women darted in and out of my sight, whiplash was imminent. As the tingling sensation continued, I pondered at how wonderful it is to see so many aspiring players committed to being the best of the best. Speaking of the best, I had the privilege of meeting some of the most talented players the LPGA will surely enjoy.
The first star is Allison Hanna, a Futures Tour rookie, who has exceptional grace on and off the course. How do I know, as Andy will attest, this young lady can stripe it off the tee with a full, fluid, rhythmic swing. More importantly, she is pleasant, cordial, and eloquent- an obvious result of good upbringing and intelligence. Andy and I didn’t see her again until the 10th tee where she let us play through since she was waiting for a couple of ‘ringers’ to complete her foursome. Yes, these gals can hit it but not as far as my driver or Andy’s 4-wood- well…. on this particular hole. Anyways, his ball landed in the fairway some 15 yards ahead of Allison’s (we were hitting from the same tees as her all day) prompting him to write a note and leaving it near her ball. While on the green, echoes of laughter filled the air as we turned to see Allison and her playing partner reading Andy’s words.
I met up with Allison on Friday after driving the cart for another three-some that morning (two made the cut while one still needs much work). She thought that I was a friend who flew in from Oregon, her home state, since she couldn’t really tell from my hat and sunglasses disguise. At an instant, I wanted to say ‘yes’ only for a big hug and smooch (Kurnczism Theory, p. 84). Nevertheless, I was respectful and explained that we met Wednesday. Asking about her round, she responded gracefully that she played all right but had issues on the greens- “17 greens and 38 putts will not win a tournament,” she claims. Sticking to the positive, I told her that hitting 17 greens was awesome and told her that her putting will come around. Then I asked her to autograph a golf ball while explaining that the autographed ball would be pasted in http://www.nagyhillsgolfassociation.com. I told her that we are just a bunch of fun-loving guys who like to play and that we would follow her career on the site. I also gave her my e-mail address and she will send me her business card when ready. With only two tournaments under her belt, she is proving that she has the talent and ability to play and play damn good – coming in 3rd and tied for 12th, respectively. My not so bold prediction is Allison will win a LPGA major within four years from today.
On Saturday, my oldest, Erica who will be 9 in August, and I walked with the second to last group assigned as stander bearer and scorer. The players were Katie Connelly, Kristy McPherson and Naree Song. Of course, Naree was coming off a high having won the previous event in Indiana. Again, I am amazed how effortlessly these pros strike the ball. They don’t hit it far but they do hit it straight time and time again except for Kristy. There is no doubt that this Southern girl believes in physical fitness since Kristy’s arms have well-defined biceps and triceps. When she got a hold of it, she pumped it about 270 down the fairway. Actually, all three were ‘sneaky long’. I would give my left eye to Karl to hit it like them. All three started the round at three under but only Naree could hold on and finish even par for the round. But, she could have done better or worse, no one will ever know.
Here is what happened – on the 10th tee, a par 4 slight dogleg right with a blind tee shot, Miss Song (no relation) push-faded her drive into the hazard. Unfortunately, the volunteering spotter had no clue where her ball landed (they should have a tougher requirement for spotters because these guys stunk; they couldn’t see jack unless the ball landed on their head). Everyone was looking in the hazard some 20 yards closer to the green to no avail. I, having the undistinguished experience of hitting countless balls right knew that they were looking in the wrong area. I went back to another clump of wet jungle and found a Titleist 3 with small black dots surrounding the “3.” I motioned to the group and Naree’s caddie confirmed it was her ball. Sadly, the lie in the hazard was unplayable and she dropped outside the hazard finishing the hole with bogey.
The issue is this – if she would have taken a drop from where everyone was originally looking would she have carded a better score. Perhaps she could have holed it from the drop for birdie or hit it closer than 30 feet and made par. It may have launched her on a big run and she could have won two in a row. Or, she could have shanked it into the gunk and walked away with triple eventually missing the cut by one. Was I wrong to look in a more likely area? Should I have not said anything and picked up the ball as a souvenir after the group left the fairway so she would have a shorter shot to the green? No one will ever know. All I know is that there is a fine line to what may appear to be equitable for spectators. As for me, I would have preferred to find my ball, be disheartened that I couldn’t make a reasonable swing, taken the drop and stroke, and eventually finish the hole; this would be the right call- to take my medicine and go on. Since none shot laser beams from their eyes at me, I knew that it was the right call, quite unlike Tiger getting relief from a one-ton boulder. It would have been nice to pocket the ball, though, and sell it on eBay when she makes it big (Kurnczism Theory, p. 37).
Naree did finish alone in 5th while Kristy placed T30 and Katie T48. These kids were great. They autographed Erica’s hat and Naree even signed a ball for Erica from one Song to another. My hat goes off to these skilled players and hope they have instilled the embodiment of etiquette to my daughter for someday she may be out there grinding over five foot par putts. It is good that the ladies have a precursor to the LPGA, some place where they can hone their skills as professional athletes and professional people. Sure, there were some distant individuals with some appearing cocky and aloof. Yet, better than their male counterparts, many are sincere and seem honored just in having the opportunity to compete at this level. No, the purses are not lucrative and the courses are not all pristine but they have made the commitment and dedication to this game and have the heart and desire to win. Most being young are away from family and friends but still have the ability to smile and be gracious.
My only contention is that the Futures Tour committee understands this devotion and improves their position in this sport’s market. The prizes are low, sponsorships are mostly local, and the venues could be better. In fact, many national sporting news agencies like the Golf Channel, CBS, ESPN, CNN, etc… do not regularly recognize this tour. The goal will be for groups like the NGA® to promote higher spectator and sponsorship participation to drive revenues and purses up. Let all who peruse these pages leave with a newfound obligation to spread the word. I had a super experience and anticipate supporting the future of this tour with grand excitement.