Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
By Frankie O
I just want to start off with a thank you to everyone who helped me with the raffle for F.I.R.S.T. and those who bought a ticket or made a donation. The final tally should be a little over 3000. Thats awesome!
Also awesome was the help of the Notre Dame athletic department in ensuring a wonderful experience for the winner and his entourage. One of my bar regulars (go figure!) was the lucky person. (I wont reveal his name here, but some do refer to him as, Shoe Alan.) That he was able to enjoy the game with his son made it even better for me.
They sent me pictures from their time on the sidelines and finished off their long day with a beverage at the bar, with whom I would think would be their new favorite bartender. How cool is that?!
As for myself, I had my own pretty cool experience last week. For just about as long as I can remember, Ive been going to the Thursday round of the Western Open. Of course when it was the Western, the tournament was played over the July Fourth weekend and drew huge crowds. That Tiger always played here, since he liked the course and liked hanging out with M.J. and taking his money in golf wagers, added to the excitement.
For the last three years the tournament has been moved to September, had a name change (The BMW Championship) and Tiger? Well, weve gone over that enough, but he still gets your full attention when you see him with a driver in his hand. Now usually, I like to walk the course once, eat a pork chop sandwich on fourteen, (you can smell them all over Cog Hill!) then pick a spot to hang out to watch the featured pairings come through, most times by the sixteenth green.
Ive had a lot of fun over the years, maybe even more since the changes have been made. One thing about the September date is that it isnt nearly as hot. For a big man lumbering around miles of hilly terrain, this is no small consideration. The other immediately noticeable thing about the September date, especially on a Thursday, is the size of the crowd. It has to be a third of what it was when it was held during the summer. And, for whatever the reasons, this year was the smallest gallery Ive ever seen following Mr. Woods.
As a golf fanatic, it doesnt get any better than to be able to get up-close to one of the top seventy in the world, walk the course with them, and see them do what they do. Or does it? One thing Ive never done too often, at any tournament, is to sit at eighteen for an extended length of time. Its always too crowded number one, and number two, since Im a commoner, I dont get to sit in the fancy-shmancy seats with the hoidy-toidys! Well, stop the presses!
Due to the largesse of another one of my regulars, (I wont reveal his name here, but some do refer to him as, Greek George.) I was able to enter a world that I could heretofore only dream existed. Its known as a luxury box. Whoa! We decided that before we walked around the course, we would see what the life of the privileged had to offer. It offers many, many things! After climbing stairs that reached to the heavens, we reached our destination. Inside, giant white leather furniture abounded, some of which conveniently surrounded large flat-screen TVs. On which if you were, say, a fan of the baseball team from the southside, you could watch their afternoon game while not missing the action on the green at 18. Thats because right outside the glass doors, were 5 rows of comfy, movie theatre style seats, overlooking the green.
After sampling one of each of the 20 food items being served, twice, and watching the Sox stumble to the end of the most disappointing 7-3 road trip ever, it was time to focus on golf. The fancy seats were no more crowded than the course below, which offered an ideal vantage point, without sacrificing comfort. Do I sound like I belonged? The next perk was something I did not expect but took full advantage of. Because who should be sitting in the seat one in front and one over from me? None other than Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks! Now Ive known Ernie for several years due to his frequent visits to the restaurant. And much like with Harry, many times as Im walking past his table, I seem to invariably find myself stopping by to hello, then get to meet a new cast of characters, and soon become engrossed in an entertaining conversation.
Ernie, like Harry, always seems to be surrounded by interesting people, and more to my amusement, is always surrounded by people doing or saying interesting things. This is due to the fact that Ernie, like Harry, is so approachable. But when people get close, they then realize who they are talking to and will say about anything in their nervousness. Always the gentleman, Ernie greeted all comers, even those who did not root for the Cubs (who always were harassed by the peanut gallery!) or those who might have been a little young to know who he was. The one constant though, and this is something that always come up when I talk to people about their Harry remembrances at the bar, is the connection that existed.
Everyone always has a story about a prior meeting that a loved one had before and the subsequent effect that prior encounter had. Or it was simple as someones father had been a big fan and they felt compelled to just say hello. Neat stuff. Turns out Ernie is a big golf fan, hes locked in, and especially a fan of Tiger. We sat discussing each group as they came in and what they needed to do depending on their approach shot. Soon enough, the beverages were flowing, the conversation was all over the road and we had watched about 13 groups come home.
Could 4 hours really have gone by? Since theres no one left on the course, I guess were not going to be doing much hiking today. The time just flew by, and it would soon be time to go back to the house and punch in. As I was on my way home, reflecting on what had just happened, I just laughed and thought to myself, well thats something you dont get to do every day! Then I laughed even harder when I thought that next year, Im going to be sitting in the same spot. Ive seen how the other half lives, and I like it!