A quote sometimes attributed to Mark Twain but likely incorrectly, according to quoteinvestigator.com. Also the title of a book published in 1995.
I had an opportunity this past week to attend a day of The President’s Cup, a golf tournament here in Charlotte at the Quail Hollow Club. My brother, his son and a long-time family friend came to town from Ohio for the tournament and invited me to come along. I welcomed the opportunity to hang out with my brother for a few hours.
I don’t consider golf to be much of an in-person spectator sport, as it is difficult to really stay involved in the action on an 18-hole golf course. You either have to camp out at one hole and watch the players come by (which is a lot like watching a Formula One race where you can only see one corner of a 2-mile track) or you have to pick a group or groups to follow around the course. The advantage of the first option is that if you get to a good spot early you can stay there all day. The downside of moving around is that you have to either watch the less popular players or be prepared to look from the back of a crowd of people who were there before you. Neither choice is ideal.
I played some golf years ago but gave it up because (a) I stunk at it and (b) it can get pretty expensive. Buying the equipment just gets you the gear, but then you have to pay every time you play (unless you live near where I grew up in Sharon, PA where they have what at one time was the only free golf course in the country.) A decent set of clubs can cost more than a good camera, and I know that it is possible to spend as much on one club as a good tripod and ball head. The choice is pretty clear to me, and I’ve managed to make more decent photographs than I ever made good golf shots!
Quail Hollow is a beautiful golf course, and I was fortunate enough to have volunteered there during the early days of the Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) Championship, which was before the sport became as commercialized as it is today. In the early days, the tournament course was largely as it normally exists, with a few grandstands and hospitality areas. But for the most part the course was still the course, with lots of green grass, long views and a chance to sit in the shade and watch the players go by with little difficulty. It was a completely different story this time. There were huge grandstands, big hospitality structures where people could watch the tournament on television in air conditioned comfort, all with a great tax deduction for the corporate hosts. To even catch a glimpse of the first tee you had to be in the grandstand there or watching with binoculars from well down the fairway. And that assumes you had gotten there early enough to be able to see the fairway!
My cost of admission, which was not cheap, just got me in the gate. If I wanted to sit in any of the “premium” locations I needed to cough up even more money. There were a few “free” grandstands that were full long before we got there. And when I wanted something to eat, sheesh! I know it is usual at any sporting event, but $3 bottled water, $10 wraps and $11 beers can add up quick. And that doesn’t include the souvenirs. Shirts were selling for $80 and up, hats for $35 and up, and on and on.
There aren’t many things about golf that appeal to me any more, but what I always enjoyed most was the quiet solitude of a beautiful course early in the morning. A little dew on the grass, the sound of sprinklers and mowers in the distance and the occasional bird chirp. Instead, there was the chanting of team support of USA…USA…USA, strange outbursts of things like “mashed potatoes” and other sounds. It was kind of like plunking an amusement park down in the middle of a wildlife refuge! Add to that the (to me) exorbitant cost of attendance, the huge crowds and the 95 degree day with tropical humidity, and it was a good thing I went with people I enjoyed being with!