Disclaimer: I freely admit that I am a latecomer to the practice of attending LPGA Tour events. With this in mind, the persons and events recounted in the following may seem commonplace or (dare I say) par for the course, to some. From the minute I walked into the gates of Corning Country Club, however, I had the distinct feeling of having entered a parallel universe.
I am not entirely sure what my expectations were, really. Enjoy a day off? To be sure. See some quality golf? Somewhat. Admire certain standouts? Yes. Have a few beers? Indeed. In no way was I prepared for the all-encompassing clown fest which ensued. This isn't to be, as is perhaps fashionable, demeaning of the LPGA Tour. I certainly don't believe the Tour is in any way deliberately attempting to attract the most bizarre galleries possible. Neither do I feel that the gallery I encountered is in any way representative of LPGA galleries at large.
Additionally, I am aware that public events attract, and probably always will attract, interesting individuals. I've had a multitude of strange encounters at PGA Tour events in the past. This event, however, was silliness to the tenth power. From the moment that I was ushered into my parking spot by a moderately incoherent limping geriatric from the Kiwanis club, I knew I was in for an experience.
On the subject of geriatrics, the first thing that struck me as I marched through the trampled grass and parked cars, was the extraordinary number of elderly persons roaming about. Roaming, or perhaps, wandering, is the operative word, as none in the aging hordes seemed to have any idea where they were going. Further, they appeared to have no idea what was going on inside the gates. I never saw the cavalcade of buses from senior living faculties which much have arrived and jettisoned their passengers, but I can only imagine that they came en masse sometime shortly before my arrival.
Corning Country Club is not a fabulous venue for golf, but it's an all right place to watch the sport. I don't think this is what attracted the majority of patrons to the spot, however. Beyond the elderly, who were sleepwalking around the premises, there were a few of the usual suspects: parents with children, groups of business men hungrily pounding $3.25 Michelob Ultras, very close female friends and the inevitable golf spike wearers.
As a side note, I was truly surprised by the level of interaction between players and spectators, even on a Friday. Both players and caddies talked freely with fans on the putting green and while walking to and from tees. The galleries were much smaller than I expected, even following Morgan Pressel's group, which I may or may not have been doing quite devotedly. Both of these things were quite unexpected, as well. Both paid considerably more pleasant dividends than the other unexpected fixtures of my day.
There were certain standouts beyond those already mentioned. Five, in particular, come to mind.
The Autograph Seeker
This guy was the worst. I was standing by the putting green, minding my own business when a player (Australian, not sure who) attempted to leave the green and proceed the 20 or so odd yards into the clubhouse. However, The Autograph Seeker emerged from the throng surrounding the the area and was not about the let this happen without an autograph, or two, and a conversation.
On a day of weird attire and overall creeptastic demeanors, this man was the standard bearer. He looked like he'd spent the better part of the past 20 years in his parents basement playing computer games and styling himself after Stephen King. He was the definition of awkward, unshaven and greasy haired with coke bottle, wire rimmed glasses. With a dirty red trucker hat, short shorts and old golf spikes (replete with gray crew socks) he approached, pen and program in hand.
After recovering from the initial shock the Seeker's presence, our LPGA player generously signed the man's programs and exchanged the usual pleasantries. She handed him back his pen, said goodbye and began her walk towards the clubhouse. For a moment, I thought The Autograph Seeker was going to let her get away. Alas, after she had taken a few steps, he set out in hot pursuit, tapping her creepily on the shoulder as she approached the entrance.
He wondered, of course, if she would be willing to sign a golf ball for him. With incredible patience, the player agreed to. This ritual having passed, she attempted once again to enter the club house. "Not so fast," The Seeker said, in a roundabout way. He proceeded, then, to converse with her at an unnecessarily close distance for several awkward minutes. Finally, somehow, he let her go. She didn't run into the club house, exactly, but she definitely moved at a noticeably quickened pace…
Mr. Tweed Shorts
Picture this: an aging boat captain, scrawny, fully gray beard, large glasses, dirty sneakers. The real marrow of this exceptional golf fan was contained between the neck and knees, however. Behold, a red wife beater with full salt and pepper chest hair on display and, a pair of shorts so short and tight that they could only have been purchased in the children's section or homemade.
I cast my lot with the latter. I believe the man, or his wife, must have cut up and old tweed blazer (red, gray, professor style) and sewn it into these magnificently indecent shorts without pockets, leaving nothing to the imagination as he staggered about with a plastic cup full of beer. I applaud his resourcefulness, I guess.
Camera Phone Guy
I couldn't believe this guy. Morgan Pressel had hit her tee shot into the woods. I wouldn't say I rushed over to her ball to be amongst those nearest to her as she played her next shot, but I did move with a sort of determined briskness. Anyways, after the usual preliminaries, she addressed her ball and was prepared to hit when some bro in a cutoff and baseball cap pulled out his cell phone and, I kid you not, started taking video.
I think that my jaw literally dropped. None of the adept marshalls were in the area, so it was up to Pressel herself to turn around say "Sir, could you please…" At which point, he apparently realized that professional golfers don't generally appreciate you taking video of their swings during a round, especially when your cellphone makes annoying shutter sounds. Who knew?
The Toothless Lounger
The Lounger may or may not have been drinking moonshine out of a Mountain Dew bottle. I almost tripped over this guy while walking in between holes. He had positioned himself beneath a tree in a folding camp chair and was mumbling to himself. He may or may not have been sporting a NASCAR hat with work boots. He was sprawled out in his chair in such a fashion that his mouth was agape, his hat pulled low on his brow.
It was at this point, upon seeing into his mouth, that I realized he had somewhere between three and four teeth, none of which were in very good condition. He seemed to be on the verge of passing out in his chair, from the way his head was flopping about. I had a lot of questions at that moment. Where are his teeth? Why is he here? What's the meaning of life? However, I just kept on walking. He may be reclining.
Ms. Full Tank Top
It's not that there weren't a number of strange women at the event, it's just that the men were so much more demonstrative and potentially predatory. However, in the interest of fairness to both genders, I include Ms. Full Tank Top.
She wasn't exactly what you might call a "classy woman." She was unabashed, to be sure. Over thirty and moderately overweight, she strolled outside the ropes in a pair of white shorts which were much too short, much too tight and much too see-through. However, the centerpiece of her horrifying attire was a red tank top (essentially the same that was sported by Tweed Shorts). It was, by any accounts, much much too small. Additionally, she was quite large in the chest (think watermelons) and she was, as was obvious to anyone, forgoing any form of support whatsoever. The results were… not good.
For as much as I enjoyed the golf itself, the gallery was where the real show was. I confess I had a moment of uncertainty upon waking up as to what attire would be appropriate. If I would have known that I could have worn anything from athletic shorts and a dirty undershirt to a suit, I suppose I would have felt much more at ease. The motto of the patrons had to be "anything goes" or "everyone welcome," with neither formulation being articulated in a progressive or moderately decent way.