I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who phoned and wrote to check on my well-being after attending my first USGA Annual Meeting Saturday at the price-gouging Fairmont, Newport Beach (really Fairmont, $18 to move my car 150 feet so it could rained on for 6 hours?). The greetings I received were all incredibly warm, or at least, brilliant impersonations of warm greetings while the bluecoat in question was thinking, has anyone seen me talking to this lowly subversive?
Of course there was that one past president who, when I went to introduce myself to him after having phone-interviewed him a few times, greeted me as a Tate family member would Charles Manson. Maybe it's those Midwest winters.
The very first bluecoat I encountered was none other than the world's most famous Blackberry expert before Barack Obama's election, Walter Driver, who was exiting the men's room after giving president Jim Vernon one final pep talk that perhaps included a suggestion to step down from the podium in order to communicate with the little people gathered to celebrate all things USGA. Needless to say, Jim was probably relieved that he didn't have to introduce Walter and I just moments before his big night!
It was a great honor to finally meet Sandy Tatum in person as well as several other current and former Executive Committee members. Things got a bit dicey when former president tournament committee chair Will Nicholson told Jerry Tarde that he would like to talk to me. When Jerry brought Mr. Nicholson over, the former Augusta National tournament committee chair revealed that he "had a bone to pick with me." As the word "pick" left Mr. Nicholson's mouth, Jerry and Golf World co-hort Ryan Herrington were speedwalking to the nearest wet bar. Thanks guys.
Blessedly, Mr. Nicholson only had a minor issue with the phrasing of Prairie Dunes' construction from my recent Golf World story, and was not pulling out my various rantings about rough at Augusta (which he said we'd discuss another time because he had them all memorized by date and a vitriolic linguistic scale score invented by Glenn Greenspan before he moved on to less stressful jobs).
As for the actual meeting festivities, I had been warned yet was not truly prepared for the sheer volume of navy blue fabric assembled under one hotel meeting room ceiling. (If you don't believe me, check out the John Mummert image from USGA.org, left).
Nor did I realize that the meeting attracted so many powerbrokers, friends of the game and devoted volunteers along with a disturbing number of folks I recognized to be golf architects, rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull...err I better stop there before Mel Brooks sues me. Anyway, there were just many grown men there who would never need Cialis again if George Will would just start writing about golf instead of baseball.
After having to give an ovation to every outgoing and incoming Women's Committee member, and we cleared up the ballot error that left off a new XC member, elected the new officers and XC, then heard from Joe Dey Award winner Dick Rundle (pictured right, courtesy of USGA.org), who delivered a wonderfully heartfelt speech. Vernon delivered his excellent address which, other than mentioning the 14 points of course setup light three times too many to keep 14-point visionairy Walter Driver from having a total tantrum, went over well.
Dinner, for the staffers living vicariously through me at this point (how sad for you!), consisted of a nice ravioli starter, salad, chicken and chocolate cake to prepare us for O. Gordon Brewer's speech to accept the Bob Jones Award. Oddly, I was seated with, among others, Pete Bevacqua and XC member Irv Fish. There were also four others dressed as empty seats. I wonder why! Surely it couldn't been little ole me that sent another table 14 assignee and editor of a very popular golf magazine to a table far from what I thought was the prime podium view.
I was quite excited to hear Mr. Brewer actually utter words since the lone conversation I had with him at Riviera during the 1998 U.S. Senior Open consisted mostly of grunts and other mumbled phrases (lesson learned: never ask someone what they think of a course the day after they miss the cut and are stuck hanging around wearing a USGA logo on their shirt). He delivered an eloquent speech off the top of his head, with one room-squirming mention of a "downside" to the recent distance explosion. That was followed by a couple of great caddy stories, prompting Brewer to declare, "let's work together to keep the caddy as part of the game."
There were too many other fascinating conversations to mention (well, and to protect the innocent). My deepest gratitude goes out to the USGA for allowing me the privilege of attending the event, and in advance, my sympathies to those who suffer repercussions for any intentional (or otherwise) encounters with yours truly.