Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Mackenzie: Two days in Golf’s Equivalent of Grand Central Station

My last tournament assignment of the year was this past Monday and Tuesday at the Alistair Mackenzie Tournament at the Meadow Club, hosted by my alma mater, Cal.  I worked this tournament last year, though the venue was the Sonoma Golf Club.

My station for the first day, 36 holes, was the 6th and 16th holes.  There are five parallel holes at the MC.  In order, 15 goes north, 13 south, 6 north, 16, south, and 17 north.  Complicating matters is that for big hitters at least (and all these college players qualify), #6 is safer to play from either the 13th or 16th fairways.  (One played from the 17th, two fairways over, but I think that was a big miss.)  From the 15th, the player has a better angle to the green from the 13th fairway.  And right of the 17th is so penal, players err toward being in the 16th.    So you can see how complicated this part of the course can be.

The sixth hole, in a rare peaceful moment
It wasn’t uncommon to have players in the 13th fairway playing three different holes.  There was one memorable moment when there were seven balls in the 13th fairway—four playing 13, two playing 16, and one playing 15.  One drive hit another ball in the 13th, from players playing different holes  There were generally three and often four or five tournament officials in the area, and there were times that that wasn’t enough!

It was an incredibly busy day, and dangerous at times.  I was talking to another TO at his cart on the path between 13 and 6, and a ball from the 13th tee landed on the top of his cart, meaning it missed me by about two feet.  Another time, while speaking to another TO between the two holes, a ball bounced directly between us.  My suggestion for next year is that TO’s in that area be issued hard hats.

The second day was not quite as eventful, but still interesting.  I was to monitor 17 and 18.  There were very few issues on 18, as most players played an iron off the tee to the shortish par four.  Seventeen was, as the saying goes, a whole ‘nuther story.  The right side, a steep hillside featuring oak trees, weeds, blackberries, and numerous small bushes, got plenty of business.  (I noted that if I get that assignment next year, I'm bringing crampons.)  A player in the very first group was particularly unlucky.  He hit his drive up the hillside, which we never found.  I drove him back to the tee, where he hit his next ball even farther up the hill.  I told him to hit a provisional ball, which he put in the fairway.   We didn’t find the second, so he played his third ball lying five.  I presume he made no better than a triple and probably a quadruple bogey.  Two groups later, while searching for another player’s ball, we found the first ball.

Midway through the round a player hit ball up the hillside, and a small bush stopped it.  I stood by in case the player needed any help.  The coach instructed him that the best option was to come out sideways.  The player wanted to go forward, but because of where his ball was in the bush, it was much riskier.  Coach told him he’d only be gaining 10 or 15 yards, and with substantial risk  Coach then moved away.  The player addressed the ball to come out sideways.  Then he shifted over to aim forward toward the green.  I looked over at the coach, who gave a wry grin and shook his head.  The player eventually turned back and played safely back into the fairway.

Later on, another player hit his ball a bit up the hillside, and it came to rest in a similar lie.  His coach instructed the player to ask me what his options were.  I did so, but only later thought to add a fifth option:  “Do whatever the heck your coach tells you to!”

These two days were probably my most interesting days of the season.  And just when you think you’ve heard it all…

Midway through the second round, a call came over the radio.  It seems a player had played out of a bunker close to the hole and marked.  The other players putted out and headed to the next tee, as did he.  A fellow competitor asked him “Did you putt out yet?”  Nope, he hadn’t.  It was late in a long day, and everyone was a little physically and mentally worn out, but, still…  If he had proceeded to tee off on the next, he would have been disqualified.  Interesting little brain fart there!

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