YOU MAKE ME SICK.
You have no idea what it's like, do you? You sportswriters are all alike. You sit in your press tent and eat your catered lobster bisque and look up at the scoreboard and cackle. He's bogeyed three holes in a row! What's he playing with, gardening implements? If Greg Norman isn't leading the tournament, you file an official grievance. Who cares? This guy will be running the Topeka Putt-Putt inside of six months. You howl about how any pro could make a 7. For chrissakes, I could do better than that!
No. You couldn't do better than that. I know. I know because that's exactly what I used to howl in the press tent over my catered lobster bisque. But now that I'm out of the press tent and actually playing on the PGA Tour regularly...well, now that I've played in one Tour event, last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am...I have only one thing to say to the whole lot of you do-nothing, late-sleeping, easy-living media swine:
Can I come back now?
It is difficult to tell exactly when I realized that playing in the AT&T was a mistake on the order of, say, New Coke, but it was probably at some point between the sight of 1) my first shot of the tournament still rising as it sailed over the first crested waves of Carmel Bay on its way into the vast Pacific and 2) Charles Schulz, the harmless 70-year-old creator of "Peanuts," beating my butt by seven shots—gross—last Thursday.
No. I take that back. I probably knew it the day before, during a rainstorm at the putting green at Spyglass Hill, when I noticed all the other caddies holding umbrellas over their players. I hollered over to my friend and caddie, "Two-Down" O'Connor, the world's most avid golf gambler, that maybe now was a good time to start thinking about getting out the umbrella. "Good idea," yelled Two-Down, who pulled out the umbrella and held it over his head. "Gettin' kinda wet there for a while."
Like the 1970s, this all seemed like a good idea at the time. This is how it happened: Boss throws out his back. Boss already shelled out $3,500 to play in the AT&T Pro-Am. Boss has no choice but to send freeloading 15-handicap writer in his place. Writer nearly pulls groin yanking invitation from mailbox. Writer immediately regrips ball retriever, buys 11 new sweaters and steam-cleans head covers. Tournament still three months away.
If you didn't have a bad back before coming to this tournament, you might get one from hauling home the loot. For the $3,500, an amateur player gets an AT&T answering machine-phone, a Waterford crystal clock, an ugly decanter with golf tees in it, invitations to three celebrity-stuffed parties and a framed picture of his foursome, which in my case included my pro, Dennis Trixler, and Schulz and his pro, Jeff McMillen. Of course, since I paid exactly nothing for this tournament—and since it wasn't really me who was invited in the first place—I realized it wasn't fair that I get to keep all these expensive gifts. I am sending my boss the ugly decanter.
The phone was nice. It made me think it would be a smart thing to go up to Robert Allen, the chairman of AT&T, one of the most powerful and busiest businessmen in the world, and say, "Hey, thanks for the phone." As though he'd actually packed it himself. As though he might say, Did you like it? I wasn't sure if brown was O.K. or what. I've got the receipt if it doesn't work out.
What I really wanted, of course, was what every Pebble Beach amateur wants: to play on Sunday. At every party and lunch and practice putting green you hear it: