Saturday, June 13, 2009

Round three of four, and my feets still hurt.

I had a good feeling about Paula's third round. There was a concert at Ripken Stadium on Saturday night, so our parking/shuttle area was moved to a corporate campus in Belcamp. On the way, I passed a Creamery Lane. An omen? I don't know. It sounded good at the time.
She started the day at even par, teeing off at 12:14pm (in the noonday sun, as they say) and it was a challenge for her to stay there, and it wasn't until the 16th that she got into negative numbers with an elusive birdie putt.
She managed to finish the day at one-under par, but it will be an uphill (if not impossible) battle to win with so many players ahead of her, and the leader at minus 10. So let's reflect on the week so far:
FRUSTRATING: The shitty directions to the Belcamp parking area provided by the LPGA. First, they said, "go west on Route 563" but 563 runs North/South (odd numbers, don't-cha-know). It went downhill from there. We're back to good-old Ripken Stadium on Sunday.
MOST INTERESTING MOMENT: Me and three other spectators helping Suzann Pettersen find her errant second shot in the out-of-bounds weeds on the fifth hole on Thursday.
OTHER MOST INTERESTING EVENT: Leaving my newly-bought umbrella at the 13th green on Friday and not realizing it until I was at 18. Deciding to walk back for a $23 umbrella was a ridiculous proposition, so I gave it up for lost. On Saturday, as Paula got to the 13th green, there I saw my umbrella, still lying where I left it 24 hours ago. I picked it up and brought it home. A souvenir with a story.
OTHER INTERESTING STUFF: Among others walking the course with Paula Creamer was a photographer who was working for Getty Images. He was also taking photos for a Ricoh ad that Paula is doing for their Japanese branch next week. He told me he sent 1,000 images on Friday and will be covering her the entire weekend. I guess, after roughly 2,000 photos they'll find something they like. What a job. We agreed that film blows.
NEAT THING FOR A GOLF GEEK: Walking the course for two days with Paula's coach, David Whelan. Today, her ball fell of the tee at 10 just before she hit, and the chunking sound and subsequent 50-foot shot left us speechless. Because of the elevated tee, all we saw was a dead tee shot accompanied by the chunk. I asked him if his heart stopped beating for a moment, and David said, "You should have been able to take a picture of my face when that happened."
DISTANCE WALKED SO FAR: Approximately 25,000 yards (15 miles) in three days. The three burgers and one breakfast sandwich may equal the caloric output, however.
SUNSCREEN USED: 1 metric ton.
SUNBURN: Rear of calves and partial face, in spite of SPF 45. I hate summer.
THE LOCAL COPS: Are using Cannondale mountain bikes to patrol the perimeter, which I am told "suck." They had a fleet of Trek's which were stolen (how funny is that?) from their trailer and taken to Baltimore. They were left with the sucky Cannondales which "don't feel right." I told them they should get the department to buy them Specialized bikes, since aluminum is yesterday's news.
NOT SURPRISING: I got caught in stalled traffic on I-95 coming home on Saturday. At least once during the week, I'm guaranteed to be stopped on the highway. This time, I enlisted my Garmin Nuvi and got off at the first exit, made my way through Kennett Square via Baltimore Pike and kept moving. Stalled traffic 12 miles from the Delaware Memorial Bridge is no way to spend a Saturday evening. It may have been out of my way, but at least I was moving.
So, other than having Paula fetch a game ball for me and getting my picture in the local newspaper, it was still quite a week. The custom-made CREAMER 1 shirts were a big hit on the course. Several people wondered where I got them and I'm guessing that I may be a trend setter of sorts.
It's a shame I can't sell them for a huge profit.
I said "goodbye" to a few people today, but I can't guarantee that I won't go back for the final round on Sunday. Stay tuned.
You will, right?

Friday, June 12, 2009

I'm the local news.

I stopped at a Havre de Grace 7/11 on my way to Bulle Rock today to buy a few newspapers. As you may remember (you do, right?) I had my photo snapped by a Hartford County newspaper photog while walking the course with Paula Creamer on Thursday. I was figuring they wouldn't print it, with me being from New Jersey and all, but lo and behold (whatever that means) here it was, on page 10 of The Record (serving Havre de Grace, Aberdeen, Perryville and Port Deposit):
It beat the Hell out of the story on page three of the Aberdeen man who was killed while trying to cross Route 40. I took a shuttle bus.
Meanwhile, on the course today, I had another opportunity to enjoy the company of Paula's mother Karen. I wanted to tell her how impressed I was with her daughter's kindness toward me on Thursday, and she remembered meeting me the past couple of years on the course. We chatted and walked the course with Paula in the mid-June Maryland heat.
The morning started off promisingly, with clouds and a cool breeze. The clouds reminded me that I had forgotten to bring my umbrella, so I beat a retreat to the souvenir stand, which coincidentally was selling umbrellas. For $23.50 it seemed like cheap insurance. It was, for a while.
Five minutes before Paula teed off (at 1:09pm) the skies brightened and the wind stopped and that Maryland heat kicked in. The umbrella was an ornament now, and truly a souvenir. Unfortunately for me, I'm absent minded, and the heat makes my mind wander, and once I was standing on 18 (Paula teed off at hole 10) I realized I had left the umbrella on the ground near the 13th green. Either I go back for it and miss part of the second half of her round or I let it lie and (a) go back for it later or (b) leave it for the squirrels. I decided on b.
I finished the round with Paula, who had started the day at 2-over (and in danger of not making the cut and going home early) but finished at even par and assuredly playing on Saturday, with me likely in tow. Along the way, I got a few nifty tidbits from mom and met her coach David Whelan, who was walking the course as well. I thought about going back for the umbrella, but if someone had offered me $23.50 to walk the 1,000 yards from hole 9 (where Paula finished) to 13 (where the umbrella may not still be waiting) I'd have said, "Thanks, but no thanks."
As it was, I didn't leave the course until nearly 7:00pm, and may have missed the last bus to the parking area had I gone back for the rain gear.
So, there she is, 7 shots off the lead but still playing on Saturday. Anything's possible in golf, including, but not limited to, finding my umbrella in the lost and found on Saturday, or having Paula come from 7 shots back to win the thing.
I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A brush with greatness

Some things take me by surprise. Mostly, because I'm cynical by nature and partly because I'm just surprised.

As faithful readers know, I'm a fan of LPGA golfer Paula Creamer. Following golf requires that one pick a "favorite" and when I attend an event or watch on television, I like to have someone to root for. Rooting for Paula is easy because she embodies everything that I imagine athletes to be: Appreciative of her fans, friendly, easy to like and generally a good person. Two years ago, upon meeting her mother on the course at Bulle Rock, I told her that Paula was "my favorite professional athlete." What happened today cemented that belief.

As usual, I spent the day walking the course with her group, which included Nichole Castrale and Kristy McPherson. Today, I went to the LPGA Championship garbed in a custom-made Paula Creamer T-shirt (above) and evidently, was the envy of my fellow Creamer followers. To the extent that a local newspaper photographer asked for my name and home town, because she took a photo of the back of my shirt that may or may not appear in the local Havre de Grace newspaper on Friday morning. I'll let you know.

Anyway, I stalked the 6,350 yard course step by step with Paula. It was obvious that she was uncomfortable, more so by some illness than the 2-over par she would shoot. After the round, a small group gathered at the scoring tent at the 18th green where the players sign autographs for their adoring fans. Paula signed a ball and hat for me last year, so I wasn't all that anxious to bother her, but the group wasn't very large, and I had a hand full of souvenir Bulle Rock balls that I bought at the gift shop. Travelling light.

As I handed her one, she sadly announced, "Oh, I'm sorry, I can't sign that." She has a deal with Precept, and the Bulle Rock balls are made by Pinnacle, so it's technically a breach of her contract.

I said, "I'm sorry," and she asked if I "had anything else I could sign."
"No, I don't, I'm sorry." There were a lot of sorry's going on. Meanwhile, I think she knew I was the guy in the "1 CREAMER" shirt, so maybe I had that going for me?
She replied, "I'll find my caddy and I'll get you a ball."

Dumbfounded, I said, "OK" and stood there while she signed for the rest of the people who were waiting behind me. I was a little (a lot) confused, because I couldn't imagine that she would go out of her way to fetch a ball from her caddy to sign for me, but that's Paula.

When she finished with the others, she asked me to follow her to the other end of the practice green where her bag was with the balls. I double-timed it over there, and she pulled a "game ball" out of her bag and signed it for me (pictured below). I thanked her and asked if she "saw the shirt." She said, "Yes, I did" (how could she miss it?) and threw me a smile and the thumbs-up sign.

The black line is where the players mark the balls to line up their putts. The Pink Panther logo is her nickname, and Precept makes the balls especially for her, which is why it's so special to me.

The thing that made it so dramatic was that she was ill from some sort of virus and had barely a speaking voice, but found the time to sign a special ball for a fan and (in my opinion) go out of her way to make me happy. It's why I'm a fan (for life) of hers and why I go to LPGA tournaments. It's not the type of thing you'd hear a Major League baseball player do, or for that matter, most other LPGA players.
Paula is the number 3 player on the tour, but as far as I'm concerned, she's number one, and always will be.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My feets hurt.

Today began my annual four-day trek to Maryland to see the McDonald's LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock Country Club. It will be my final time, because the tournament is in the last year of a 5-year deal, so next year's Championship will be held elsewhere. In the past, I've added up the total distance I walked during the tournament. Suffice it to say, it's enough to make my feet hurt and my aging knees swell a bit. My love of the LPGA is exceeded only by how much I love complaining.
Wednesday is what they call the practice round, but mostly, it's colleting autographs and photographs of the players while they mill around the putting green, driving range and various parts of the golf course. I collected about a hundred photos and some autographs, most notably Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak.
To the right is Natalie Gulbis, who you may recognize from her recent appearance on Celebrity Apprentice. I think she was fired. She was doing an interview with a local TV station shortly before being mobbed by fans waiting for her to leave the putting green. She posed for photos with about 20 people, smiling and signing autographs. I asked her caddy if "it's like this everywhere she goes." He said, "This is kind of tame." It's a shame she doesn't win more, because she'd be a great representative for the LPGA. Much better than Lorena Ochoa, who has the personality of a six-iron.

I followed Suzann Pettersen around for a little while, but during the practice rounds the play is slow (even slower than normal) and players often hit two or three balls.
Suzann is a great player, but she isn't what you'd call "personable." She's from Norway, which should tell you everything you need to know about how personable she is. I'd like to see her liven it up a little, but not everyone can be Paula Creamer. I followed her until the persistent heat caught up with my enjoyment of watching her stand around.
Speaking of Paula (and I was) I got to the course at 8:00am and somehow missed her completely. She tees off at 9:16 Thursday, so I'll be on the road early to walk the round with her. Maybe I can get in before it gets too hot.
I don't know what it is about the earth south of the Chesapeake, but the heat is different somehow. I think the temperature was around 80 degrees, but the sky was hazy and I'd guess the humidity was about 75%. I've determined that I could never live there because there isn't enough sunscreen and bottled water to keep me going until I die, which is interesting because two of my favorite places are Baltimore and Washington, DC. NOTE TO SELF: Don't forget to take a hand towel with you on Thursday.
I went through most of the day with white specs from napkins on my face from continually wiping my face. The thing that interests me is that I look around and I don't see anyone struggling with the heat the way I do. I drank 36 ounces of water in four hours, so I was hydrated. Of course, part of it was coming out of my body in a different way that it went in, so who knows what's going on.