Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Just me and the girls, hanging out at the CC

"I expect some good practice round pictures at least..."
- Sparky Duck, June 5, 2007.
Well, Sparks old buddy ... I hope the above snapshot qualifies as a good picture! That's me and Paula Creamer after her practice round today. After missing a couple of opportunities to grab the photo, it looked like Paula was heading back to the clubhouse to call it a day, so I quickly commandeered an unsuspecting spectator and gave her my camera and called to Paula, who politely agreed. The poor kid.
The day began early. I got to the course at around 9:00am after a little more than an hour drive and shuttle bus. I figured I would walk the course with someone and take in the sights and sounds of my first live golf tournament. What I didn't realize was how accessible the players would be. Once that became obvious, I abandoned my walking idea and spent most of the day hanging at the practice green (between the first tee and the clubhouse) and watching the players wander around and tee off on their practice round.
By the time I got there, Paula and Nancy Lopez were already on the course, and as she wandered out of the clubhouse to play another round, I asked her to autograph my hat, which by this time already had some significant signatures, and would wind up with a lot more.
The hat contains the signatures of Se Ri Pak, Sherri Steinhauer, Morgan Pressel, Christina Kim, Nancy Lopez (blue), Paula Creamer (pink), Pat Hurst, Mi Hyun Kim, Michelle McGann, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, Reilly Rankin, Brittany Lincicome, Lorie Kane, Stephanie Louden, Kim Hall ...
and Annika Sorenstam.

OK, so I'm a geek. There, I said it. I haven't chased after autographs in years, and I wasn't expecting to do it today, either. The players were so close and it wasn't very crowded, so it was kind of easy. That, plus the fact that most of the girls are very nice and they make a point of stopping and signing things for people who ask politely. I had to buy another hat to wear, since the one I bought first is now a museum piece at MSM HQ.
Oh, and the pink ball. She uses pink balls on Sunday's. Well, I had that already, unsigned, and after Paula finished her practice round she was hanging around again - she does a lot of hanging around - so I decided that I might not have another opportunity to get it signed, even though I still maintain that an autographed golf ball is among the oddest things to get signed - but there it is. I took it with me thinking that it would be the only thing I would have signed, and it turned out to be almost an afterthought.

So, as it was, I only saw one hole of actual golf. Paula and Nancy took off on their second round, and I decided to stay at the practice green until they got to the 9th hole, then I would walk the rest of the course and take off for home. I caught up to them on the 8th green, watched them play the 9th - then they called it a day. The practice is interesting and a little strange. They hit at least 2 off both the men's and women's tees. play all the balls from the fairway and putt around the green for a while. The caddies throw out circular paper coasters to act as surrogate holes, and they putt at each of them to simulate the way the holes move during the tournament. They chip a few from the fringe, talk a lot and generally loaf around each hole.

Once they were done, I was getting pretty tired from standing in the sun for the past 5 hours, then someone said that Annika Sorenstam was due to emerge at 3pm. Sure enough, she came out to do some putting, and sign some autographs.
Even though Lorena Ochoa is number one (deservedly), Annika will always be the best player on the tour in my book. She's the one responsible for getting me interested to begin with, and her recent back problems have opened the door for Lorena and some others to slip in.
The photo is Annika on the practice green, where the sign specifically says "No Chipping". One of the spectators mentioned to me that she was in violation, and I replied, "Are you gonna tell her?" Something tells me that Annika can chip from the fringe of the practice green if she wants to.
By then, it was nearly 3:30. The hat was full, my neck was red from the sun and I was getting tired and thinking about my early day on Thursday, when it starts up and the girls put on their game faces.

I had some nice conversations with my fellow golf fans, bought some cool LPGA wearables (including another hat) and had a great time hanging out. It turned out to be a much bigger day than I had expected, and it served to reinforce my opinion about what great people the girls of the LPGA are.
Thursday's first round pairings are out, and if I want to see Paula on the first tee, I'll need to be there at 8:30. She's paired with Karrie Webb and In-Kyung Kim, one of the hundreds of "Kim's" playing this weekend - or at least until Friday. Check the Golf Channel for first round coverage, running from 12:30 to 3:30 EDT. I promise not to wave at the camera while Paula is putting.

Meanwhile, here are a few more for Sparky...

Morgan Pressel and Se Ri Pak enjoying something mildly amusing on the first tee.

Paula Creamer on the first tee.

Morgan Pressel and the creepy disembodied hand.


Sparky Duck said...

Son of a you know what. The practice rounds are the best day to take pictures and you got some good ones. I got some good pictures at the Heritage during the rain delay, but they were of guys.

well done sir, well done

rattln along said...

That hat is worth more in gold than all of Barry Bonds' drug connections!!!

Wow! Cool! And you got your ball signed, too!!!!!

kimmyk said...

Very cool Anthony!
I bet you were like a kid in a candy store huh???

Did you drool...I hope you didn't drool. That's not very attractive.

Firestarter5 said...

You dog you! You want this Creamer lady don'tcha? How old did you say you were again? You don't look to old to me.

You dog....

Save that hat.

Too bad you didn't have two of the pink golf balls, that would have sounded great asking for an autograph then: "Excuse me Paula, could you sign my balls here?"

You'll be on the Jim Rome show next..

Anthony said...

Kimmyk: No drooling. More like "Shock and Awe" without the bombs.