Saturday, March 31, 2007
Cactus Dave Scores at The Safeway
I walked around 1.3 holes with Laura Davies (-2) , Shi Hyun Ahn (-2) , and Heather Young (+10). They were already on the green -- had marked their balls the night before. Heather Young was already in the hole . . . the other joked that she might not show up at all just to finish one hole . . . Laura Davies & her caddy were ebullient, boisterous.
It was raining, or misting heavily, if you prefer. It was very eerie out there in the half-light of a rainy dawn, just the 3 golfers, 2 caddies (the other huddled under a tree by the next tee), the hole scorer, and me, the walking scorer.
When the hooter hooted, Ahn stepped measured her putt, a nasty down-hill 20 ft. slider, and holed it, very business like. Davies quit joking then, but missed her birdie putt, a nasty side-hill 15 fter. Then, as she lined up her l-o-n-g come-backer, the wind gusted and my umbrella, open, on the ground, moved. I grabbed it and stood perfectly still, but we (me and my umbrella) happened to be right in her line of sight. I was standing right beside the hole scorer, 30 feet from the hole, but she still glared at me, then missed the par putt. She tapped in, and they raced off to the next tee while I fumbled with the paperwork.
Heather and Ahn laced their drives right down the middle on 18, but Laura, in a manner I was ascribe as petulant of a duffer, made her tee by slamming her driver in to the turf, teed the ball up on the incipient divot, and without ado hit a 300 yard drive out into the middle of the pond on the left.
It all made me feel a little shakey.
I think Ahn and Heather made pars, and Laura made bogey . . . while I fumbled with the paperwork, they raced up to the scorer tent and were well into their reading of scores by the time I got sat down. . . .
"4-4-4" read Ahn.
"No!" said Laura, that should be "4-3-3 -- what do you have, Scorer?"
"U-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h, what hole would that be ma'am?"
"Yes, ma'am, that is what I have: 4-3-3."
I am definitely feeling somewhat lightheaded now . . .
When the scoring was complete, Heather stood up, presented me with an autographed ball and a 10,000 Watt smile you could steer thru fog by, and left.
Ahn stared at me inscrutably, to use a cliche, while Laura looked at me like a landlady at delinquent tenant. "Thank you, Scorer!" she boomed. . . then they were gone.
I went on jelly legs back to the scorer's tent and turned in my sheets. In addition to reading my scores in I did a couple of others, too, to help out, which I found very educational as to the standard of neatness and accuracy. Very Helpful to myself. I felt like I had been bloodied in battle.
I scored for Brandie Burton, Jennifer Rosales, and Victoria Zorzi. Brandie is a veteran of many campaigns. Rosales looks like one the new wave juniors that seem to be taking over now, except that she seems a little hardened by years on tour that don't show yet. Zorzi has the kind of long, lanky Swedish Academy swing that stops men in their tracks, causes them to lean sideways to watch, causes their mouths to fall open from the distance she gets.
Rosales started out hot, 3 under after 5 and 4 under after nine, with 2 really swell par saves, including a sandy, but she was even par on the back 9, which made her temperment swing wildly from cockiness to surliness.
Zorzi seemed to come up short on every approach on the front 9, but then she got hot on the back and made some birdies that made her light up with self satisfaction common to Scandinavians, if you know what I mean. . . as far as I know she does not speak English . . .
Burton was cranky the whole round, asked us to move once, rather impatiently . . . she did not commune with her younger competitors or me at all, except once on the back 9 to ask rather peevishly if anyone had seen her ball when it went left of the green. She never showed pleasure once, not after birdies nor difficult par saves.
After our 18th hole, I made for the scorer's tent with an alacrity that bordered on the pell-mell. Each golfer read her score to her marker without acknowledging me. I merely nodded silently my confirmation, just in case anyone cared. When done, Burdon looked at me, just as Davies had done, and said "Thanks for showing up." and left. Zorzi made an embarrassed, abrupt departure. Rosales sat slumped, with her chin on her fist, then said, "May I see the stats, please."
I gave them to her, but I was embarrassed at the 4 or 5 mark-outs I had -- then I was humiliated when she absent-mindedly made a correction on my sheet. Sheesh!
I reckon she was only ruminating on chances she let slip away on the back 9 . . .
I wobbled back to the main tent, turned in my scores, gnoshed a cold sandwich like a refugee, then left with only the most insincere promise to show up the next day. I had had my fill of cranky women.
My twosome was Hall of Famer and the 2006 Safeway International Champion Julie Inkster and another one of the ubiquitous swedes Louise Stahle. Right away, I figger I am in for another funfilled morning, as this is the first group, the worst scores that made the cut. I am making all kinds of excuses for the women while I waited on the first tee for those reasons, and sure enough Stahle's handshake was perfunctory, but Inkster shook hands with the standard bearer and all the 1st tee marshals and announcers, but not me -- OK! I said, I'm Invisible! I dig it!
Inkster had a roller coaster day, at one time 3-under, but wound up even par. Stahle wound up -2. She seemed to be having a wonderful time, in excellent spirits. At one point she turned to me and said "Isn't it a gorgeous day?" I was struck dumb, so the only other time she spoke to me was after she'd spun a hook in tight on a par 5. "Ooooh," she said, while she futilely tried to stuff her shirt tail back into her hip-huggers, "my pants almost fell down on that one!" I'm afraid my barking laughter put her off after that.
Inkster was un-social, except at times with Stahle. Usually she marched off in the lead of our little coterie, as if she would still be champion, out front to recieve her accolades, separate from us, except there was only ever a scattering of observers. It seemed to me that she'd resolve to hit nothing but fairways and greens, and get the heck out of Dodge. But on the first hole, from the middle of the fairway, she pulled her approach into a cavernous bunker left of the green. I winced from the psychic vibration I felt from her, but she made an outstanding sandie par: that trap was so deep we couldn't see her hit the ball.
But she played the kind of game that defines the difference between the winner and the also-rans, as an also-ran: she was on the wrong side of the hole for several birdie putts she missed; when she missed the greens she sometimes failed to get up and down on those greens that were running 13.5 on the stimpometer; she didn't hit loose shots, but some approaches were "just wrong". As the round went on and her hard-won strokes slipped back away, her frustration rose.
She made impatient gestures and grotesque facial expressions; she raged inarticulately after approaches -- not curses, nor keening ululation, just exasperations; she tossed her club once after a poor shot; she slammed her clubs into the ground -- once after a missed birdie, she slammed her putter into her foot so hard I was sure she would break something. She suffered terribly, as if the competitive fire within her was consuming her instead of fortifying her.
In the tent, I nodded silent assent to the scores they read each other. Inkster tossed her card to the Scoring official and sagged in her chair morosely staring off into nothing for two long minutes, then jumped up and left without a word. Stahle made gracious sounds then asked me if I wanted a ball. "No, thank you," I said, "just a handshake. It was a pleasure walking around with you today."
She signed a ball and gave it to the standard bearer, along with a grandaughterly hug. I decided I wasn't young enough to be interesting to my golfers, nor old enough to be safely grandfatherly, just that awkward age of the assholes that pester them everywhere they go.
I was finished by 11 am. They hadn't gotten lunches for the volunteers out yet, so I just grabbed some cookies, an apple, and some water and headed home. Took a shower, went to lunch and a movie with my wife, and got home by 4 pm, in time to see the leaders in the tournament play the back 9. Very satisfied to see Lorena Ochoa win, but Petterson looks to be formidable in the near future, too.
I've had time to think about Julie Inkster since then. It would be so easy to talk about her childish behaviour, her self-absorbed, self-pitying poor sportsmanship, but I don't think it would be correct.
There was something profound and eternal about her situation, champion last year, last, this year. . . but it is not that neat, she finished ahead of many golfers by playing even par on Sunday . . . .
Perhaps it should fall to the walking scorer to whisper into the ear of the champion on the 18th green, as if to the Tribune in his chariot in his Triumph, "Sic transit gloria mundi" to prepare these young women for the turn in fortune -- rarely is that turn so wrenching as Inkster suffered this year.
Trying to access the profundity of what I had witnessed, thinking over it this week, this is what I came up with from "To an Athlete Dying Young" by A.E. Housman:
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
I remember from Jim Bouton's Ball Four his review of this conceit, "Crap", meaning it could be true only if one romanticizes success in ways that professional athletes do not. As if from the school of sappy sports journalism of George WIll or Doris Kearns.
I think the Truth I can't quite get to lies somewhere in between the privlege of throwing a competitive tantrum and the agony of falling so short of personal standards that feels like Death, but is not quite. But, when I tho't the Insult of Irony could not be more ham-handed in its treatment of Inkster, I was wrong, because on each hole of her back 9, we could see the tv cameras being turned on, in preparation for the competitors to follow. Ouch, baby, very ouch.
This baksheesh of giving an autographed ball automatically is a tiny thing, and I know Mr Science treasures his collection, but I don't like it. I gave him my Heather Young, which he took because the signature was remarkably legible, but, he said, he prefers those balls he's gotten himself, those hold the memories.
I did get a ball from Inkster: her caddy gave one to me and to the standard bearer on the 18th fairway, not very graciously. He put the ball in my hand with a jab like he was paying off a bad bet. He thanked us too, for her, like you'd thank your bookie.
I hope it is not too much "sour grapes" if I say that it was not an autographed ball -- I really have no idea if she even actually used it. That's ok, I'm no collector and I can always use a good ball, practically new.