Friday, October 12, 2012

Golf pros pay their dues – in Wednesday Pro-Ams

Think a golf pro’s life is a bed of roses? All private jets, courtesy cars, and million-dollar paychecks? Well sure, in the upper strata of the profession there’s a lot of that, and even the “bubble boys”, the guys who are floating in the nether-land around the 125 mark in the standings are making a hell of a living compared to your typical blue-collar guy, desk jockey, or even small-corporation CEO, but the guys (and gals) who play the game for a living pay their dues – every week in the Wednesday Pro-Am.

The Wednesday pro-am is a staple of every professional golf tournament, and along with skyboxes and hospitality areas, it is a big part of the income stream that supports professional golf’s commitment to charitable giving.

So, besides the obvious benefits that come to the recipients of the tournament’s charitable giving, the benefits to the amateur players are many: the thrill of playing a round of golf with a big-time pro; the good feeling that comes from knowing that their money not only bought them a great experience, but is helping one of the many local charities that are supported by the event; and bragging rights for a year about the time they teed it up with Ernie, or Vijay, or Phil.

But for the pros? What is their experience like? You might have to get a golf pro good and drunk before he’d admit it (these guys are not known to be prone to biting the hand that feeds them…), but many of them dread the Wednesday pro-am more than a root canal sans novacaine.

In addition to the same good feeling that the amateur players get – knowing that their efforts are helping charitable causes – they know that they are supporting the Tour which supports them by acting as a draw to bring the big-money amateurs into the fold. They also know that when they tee off with a threesome of amateurs in tow, they are in for a 5- to 6-hour round during which they will spend a lot of time doing things like standing over their ball in the fairway while a playing partner looks for yet another lost Titleist, and listening to excuses like “I carry a 10 handicap, but these new clubs just are not working out for me!”

The pro’s three partners are usually named Hooker, Slycem, and Chunk – or should be, if you go by the majority of shots they hit. They’re generally local business bigshots (LBBs), or the top salesman who works for a local business bigshot. Top salesman gets the pro-am slot when the LBB’s latest trophy wife swears she’ll divorce him and pull his bank account out through his ears if he doesn’t take her to Hawaii instead of to another damned golf tournament.

The three amateurs are either playing the latest blades – custom-forged and hand-ground by trolls in the Black Forest, surgical implements which the Tour pro himself wouldn’t try to hit, or grand-dad’s Tommy Armour Silver Scot irons with shiny-slick leather grips (“They’re the originals!”, he’ll exclaim with pride) that have more business being in a glass case in a museum than out on a golf course.

Off the tee they’ll hit screaming worm-burners or high pop-ups; on the rare occasion when they do get in the fairway they’ll hit smothered hooks, banana balls, or chili-dips so severe that the local planning commission has to approve their divot. Out of a greenside bunker – and oh lordy, do they find the bunkers – they’ll take a mighty swing that scatters two shovelfuls of sand onto the green, only to have the ball pop up and land at their feet; or they’ll hit a thinned screamer that sets a new Land Speed Record traversing 200 feet of green to find the other bunker – or a water hazard – on the opposite side.

The long-suffering pro plays through all this commotion and distraction with a smile on his face and a smoldering fire in his heart. He’s trying to get a read on the golf course so that he has a clue where he should be playing the ball tomorrow when the real action starts.

The pro wants his caddy studying breaks and grain patterns on the greens, not helping the amateurs and their drinking-buddy caddies find another lost Pro V1x, or reading the 40-foot, double-hump, triple-breaking putt that Amateur #2 left himself after skulling a 60-yard wedge shot 140 yards to the far side of the green.

After the round he’ll pal it up with his ams at the post-round awards banquet (like he wants to spend another minute with these guys…), and pose for a few more pictures with the ams and their former-cheerleader wives, cussing to himself and hoping that the sadistic tournament committee doesn’t parch the greens ’til they’re slicker than a linoleum floor for tomorrow – when the course becomes his office, and he goes to work to earn his living.

No comments:

Post a Comment