Inside the Ropes

26 July 2016 (Pasadena) A few years back I decided to volunteer at the Kraft Nabisco to get a look inside the proverbial ropes. I have always enjoyed the LPGA so I thought I would be a group score-keeper to get up close to the big-league action. This major is hosted every year at the Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, CA and was formally known as the Dinah Shore. A statue of Ms. Shore graces the venue today. When I first arrived I was greeted by the volunteer coordinator who asked if I played because the Golf Channel was looking for scoring “spotters” to cover all of the featured groups. Instant volunteer upgrade! I was mic’d up, given a scorer’s sheet and sent off to the Sandra Gal group on day 1. I was inside the ropes! Standing on the first tee I began what would be four days of major championship golf viewing that would culminate on the 18th green on Sunday with Stacy Lewis and Yani Tseng battling it out with Lewis earning the privilege to jump into Poppie’s pond. All in all I walked 120+ holes (in 105+ degree weather) that week with the greatest female golfers in the world. I had the privilege of shadowing Michelle Wie, Brittany Lincicome, Sandra Gal, Christie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Karri Webb, Juli Inkster, Paula Creamer, Inbee Park, et al. An experience of a lifetime. My greatest takeaways from the week were how effortless these professionals swing while generating so much power, the surgical precision of their short games, the friendly demeanor of the majority of these professionals, and the large-scale effort needed to put on such an event. The most lasting impression,however, came on Sunday. When I arrived at the volunteer tent, I was informed I was assigned the last group, Stacy Lewis and Yani Tseng. My assumption (and excitement) was that the eventual champion would come from this group, and it did with Lewis eventually winning. But I was struck that Tseng, while approaching the first tee box, grabbed the championship trophy and hoisted it over her head before the final round even started! There was a startled hush among crowd and volunteers alike. I could see–or perhaps projected–the slight that Lewis felt at that moment. What the hell was Tseng thinking? On the same tee box with your day’s opponent and you give her real-time locker room material to motivate her even more? Game on. Now I can’t say for sure that this competitive faux pas lead to Lewis’ victory, but last person standing with the trophy over their head is the champion. Evidently, Tseng does not have the same golf superstitions I have. And having tracked her for several days that week I have no doubt she was just being playful and meant no disrespect to Lewis. But as the golf gods would have it, the matter was settled on the first tee that Sunday afternoon and only those inside the ropes or just outside them got a glimpse of that defining and slightly bizarre championship moment.

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