Since the statute of limitations has finally passed, the curtain can be lifted so I can share that I had the privilege of being at the 117th U.S. Open in 2017! The Open was located at Erin Hills Golf Course in the township of Erin near Hartford, WI in Washington County contained within the great state of Wisconsin one of the 50(!) United States on the continent of North America located in the Northern Hemisphere of the bestest planet I’ve ever lived on: Earth, which is one of the planets of our Solar System in the Milky Way galaxy somewhere positioned in a petri dish of cosmic giants of RevlarØ-3:5^Feldnen♣kraTz™.
And to answer the question that none of you were asking: no, I did not play in the tournament. As my trophy case was overflowing with countless fawning accolades already, I stepped aside, giving someone else a chance to win. Truth be told, my golf game is so horrendous, right now there is a research team earning their doctorates by conceptualizing the mathematics necessary to measure my ungodly non-golf abilities.
Using science, they scienced hard and unearthed that there are innumerable people, places, things, and ideas hitherto unknown to science that have a better golf game than I do. (To name just a few: the Crazy Horse monument, Shetland ponies, the late Sir Francis Drake, the more recently late and much missed Santa Fe Gordita from Taco Bell, the not-late members of the One Day At A Time cast, post neo-existentialism, and the following colors: indigo, maroon, and umber (but not burnt umber, curiously enough).)
One of the research team members, Almost-Dr. Heracles Flenderson has even discovered through months of dreadful research that if a golf bag filled with clubs and balls is left sitting in a broken golf cart, it will have a better statistical chance of making par than if I wielded those same clubs and balls on the course. Boy, that science sure can be scienterifically amazing! Keep on blowing through that grant money, kids!
Despite this research, my reasons for attending the Open were purely job-related and to be honest it was quite an experience. However, golf is not a sport that I know very well whatsoever. My experience consists of watching Caddyshack, Caddyshack II, Happy Gilmore, the Three Stooges short Three Little Beers, and reading/watching the golf chapter/scene in the book/movie of Goldfinger. (Oh, and there’s some golf in Bringing Up Baby and I’m only bringing up Bringing Up Baby to bring this up, baby.) Beyond that, I’m at a loss. I can cover up my ignorance by quoting Caddyshack ad nauseum, but that only takes me so far, which as it turns out has been quite far in the long run.
When I was a mere budding hopeful youth, my parents enforced my taking golf lessons over two summers. I was a complete loss. I never really held a club before in my life except for the random putters of miniature golf. My way of addressing a ball consisted of a crude baseball batter’s stance. This doesn’t work, as I quickly learned. (Plus, if I could barely play baseball, I don’t know why I thought that technique would work in another sport.) With practice and actual motivation, I’m sure I could have achieved levels of mediocrity heretofore unknown on the links. But alas, that wasn’t to be. My brother, who is more of the golf participant and fan than I ever was, blissfully told me that I would have to unlearn everything that I was taught over the course of those lessons anyway, so I’m hopeless.
The course at Erin Hills on the other hand was anything but hopeless. These once anonymous farm fields from my childhood had been converted into a lovely course indeed. Even more impressive was how the incredibly teeny community of Erin withstood a national and international onslaught of players, players’ entourages, officials, vendors, volunteers, staff, and tens of thousands of irritating golf fans. The logistics alone would make me cry uncontrollably. (I think I can understand why they stuck St. Andrews into the cold and wet wilds of Scotland to dissuade the tumultuous crowds.)
You see, I grew up in nearby Hartford, WI. Back then if someone would have come up to me saying, “Hey kid, there’s going to be a U.S. Open in Erin someday!” I would have pedaled my bike away from this loon as fast as possible all the while wondering why they’d play tennis in Aaron someday. Who was this Aaron anyway? Why was he so large to handle having golf played in him? My 11-year-old mind would have been undeniably reeling, wondering why my audible jokes fell so flat on the written page that I would one day compose years later.
So what did I do while attending the practice rounds of the illustrious U.S. Open? After ensuring that my job-related reasons for being there were well in hand with other plucky members of the team, I had a chance to peruse the grounds, soaking in the experience. Soaking in the sun as well because it was hot, just flat out hot. That’s not hyperbole either, folks. People were just bursting into flames all around me. Only the golfers from Venus were having any success during the “hey, these don’t count” rounds.
I suppose it is odd but even though I was at the U.S. Open, walking several miles at the course, I never saw any golfers or even golf being played. Oh sure, they were playing, and I had a gallery pass which meant I could have watched at any moment, but it just didn’t happen. I guess I’d rather walk and sweat instead of stand and sweat. Also being in the grandstands while the heat index is increasing faster than the amount of graph paper needed to chart it did not sound like an enchanting proposition.
There was no shortage of personnel running around. For instance, the checkout at the thankfully air-conditioned merchandise tent was incredible to watch. 50 registers going at once with numerous spotters directing the line to the next available cashier. It was quite astounding. I wanted to buy more stuff just to experience the process all over again. But how many “Erin Hills U.S. Open 2017” toaster cozies can one man own? (The answer? 13. Be sure to check your ticket and thanks for playing!)
Plenty of concession areas were available on the grounds. I didn’t have the chance to indulge as much as I would have liked, but when you’ve got an $14 hot dog, you know you’re at the U.S. Open. That hot dog must have been fall-to-your-knees-thanking-the-Almighty-as-you-hit-the-ground delicious, but I wouldn’t know. My only indulgence was a cup of freshly squeezed lemonade that was rather good. Given the heat however, I would have started lapping up puddle water as if it were dew sent from the gods, so I might not be objective here. But the lemonade was really good. So good I’m not even going to mock the otherwise obscene price I paid for it.
I am proud to state that I went to the bathroom in a porta-potty at an official USGA event! Not many can say that, but I certainly can and will say that. I will also say that I could tell from the condition inside of the porta-potties that evidently most of the attendees to the U.S. Open weren’t golfers. Many previous porta-potty guests couldn’t seem to…well…get it into the hole so to speak, most of the attempts were left behind on the green, not to mention the rough. Although I’m sure the spillages were mainly due to overjoyed distraction from imbibing too many of those aforementioned wonderful lemonades.
When attending an event such as the U.S. Open, and if you’re accompanied by others who have no clue about the game of golf (like my work team), never show an inkling of familiarity about the sport. These curious souls barraged me with a surfeit of questions that I simply could not answer. Sure, I can say with confidence that 1) the goal in golf is to hit the ball into the hole using the fewest number of strokes, 2) Arnold Palmer made a mean beverage, and 3) divot is not a French term of endearment for the 1980s band that played “Whip It”. Beyond that, my golf knowledge is pitiful.
My advice is to just make stuff up that sounds plausible. For instance, “Ernie Els is on 14 trying to get out of the so-called Witch’s Cauldron! The patchy rough is breaking slightly left but the transversal especially at that angle should give him enough on the chicane to get backspin to the green. It reminds me of Jack Nicklaus back in the day when he would use a combination of the Egyptian grip and the quadrilateral stance to conquer the hemispheric velocity.” (Sounds good, eh? And that was without me really trying!)
Getting through security at the Open wasn’t horrible but then again as this was just for the practice rounds, perhaps this was just practice security. My advice: get someone to drop you off because the parking was an unending yawning chaos. I believe we lucked out in finding a great parking space, but as it was in Iowa, it made the walk a mite long.
Also be sure to wear nothing whatsoever; it’s just easier. Just carry in a money clip with your ID, credit cards, and cash as you walk completely starkers through the metal detectors. Then go straight to the merchandise tent to purchase your new wardrobe for the event right there. It might be a touch nippy but remember you are in great air-conditioning and are hopefully only wearing a smile. After that, the only reason you’ll get stares from the gallery is due to your choice of garish clothing patterns. The only caveat: it is your choice if you want to buy your shirt before or after you have some $253 BBQ ribs at the concession stand.
As I fleetingly remember the end of that sweltering day, I can honestly say that I’m glad I was there. Because unless my children end up being some kind of golfing savants, I will never be going to any future U.S. Opens. Of course, I never thought there’d be a U.S. Open near Hartford, WI either and if there were, I never would have attended it. But there you are and there I was, sweating and wandering around, watching no actual golf, taking everything in like the non-golf enthusiast that I am. So, I got that going for me, which is nice.
(Well, I had to sneak at least one in there, didn’t I?)