My Experience with Golf
As a kid, I was a big sports fan. Growing up in Colorado I ran track and cross country, played basketball and softball. I went to Denver Broncos games since my family had season tickets, and became a crazed football fan.
I never imagined that one day I’d be chasing a white ball around the golf course. Or sometimes, a pink one.
The first time I played golf was in Hobbs, N.M., where I landed my first professional job as a sports reporter. To be honest, there wasn’t much to do there. Golf was a hobby that many of my co-workers loved. I was invited to play in a tournament at night with glow-and-the-dark golf balls.
It probably wasn’t the best decision to play without ever having hit balls, but I sure had a blast. And I wanted to play more.
At that time, Ocotillo Park GC had tee times for $4 after 4 p.m. on weekdays and $5 after 5 p.m. on weekends. It’s been 20 years, and I still remember those deals. I covered sports for the Hobbs News-Sun, and our editor was a golf fanatic. I told him I was learning how to play and asked him for advice. He said: “More golf, less talk.”
He knew me very well.
I would’ve never expected that my start in golf would later turn into me covering golf as a sports writer. That led to me being afforded so many cool opportunities.
When I worked at the Los Angeles Daily News, I was asked to become the golf columnist. I was told no one else knew much about golf. It was an opportunity that led to me covering dozens of awesome events. I loved it. I had much to learn and still do, but I’ve had the pleasure of covering everything from high school golf tournaments to four U.S. Opens and the Masters. I’ve met a ton of wonderful people along the way.
I’ve played in many charity golf events and watched first-hand how a golf tournament can raise an astounding amount of money for a great cause. And participants have fun doing it. I’ve called on my golf contacts to help my own charity of choice, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, and they’ve responded. Every year I host a charity poker event and auction. My friend Rachel Rees, who I met covering golf, works for Puma and Cobra, and donates items for my auction and raffle.
Scott Medlock, the talented artist from Moorpark, runs the Scott Medlock-Robby Krieger Celebrity Golf Invitational benefiting St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. He often emails – unsolicited – asking if I’d like a painting for the charity poker auction. We’ve auctioned his paintings of Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson, and those are always favorites.
I’ve played Sherwood CC and Riviera CC for media days. I’ve played La Costa and so many others. I enjoy working on my short game at par-3 courses like Van Nuys GC.
Recently, I’d stopped playing golf. It wasn’t a planned decision. My driver and I were no longer friends, and I’ve never had much patience to practice. I couldn’t believe it had been almost two years since I’d played when Medlock asked me to play in his tournament in August. I wanted to get back out on the course, and this was a great reason to do it. I didn’t even go to the driving range beforehand.
I had the opportunity to play with my friend and fellow golf writer Bob Buttitta. Also in our foursome was a sheriff and a man responsible for helping engineer the chemicals between the bag that goes in sunscreen spray bottles and the edge of the container. I look at sunscreen bottles differently now, and that was all made possible by meeting new people on a golf course. How cool is that?
I’ve had so much fun driving golf carts and talking and laughing and having snacks at the turn. I’ve lost a million golf balls. I played in a charity tournament run by an Italian, and we putted with frozen meatballs. What a blast. I’ve watched people have meltdowns and tried not to laugh. In one such case, a fellow golf writer took off his socks and shoes and played every shot the rest of the round with a 7-iron. Golfers are funny.
I played golf with Fernando Valenzuela once for a story. He was a 2-handicap at the time. I’ve never registered a handicap. Almost every time I see Valenzuela in the press box of a Dodgers game, he mentions my golf game. Anything I can do to entertain people.
Most people know I’m not a good golfer, and they still enjoying playing a round of golf with me. I love the people who don’t mind, those who have fun and don’t let my golf game affect them. And why should it? I have good golf etiquette and always keep up the pace, even if that means I pick up my ball. Remember, I never record my scores.
I love walking golf courses like Riviera and Pebble Beach and Augusta National and Torrey Pines. I think it’s more fun to cover tournaments and walk inside the ropes than to play, but that’s just me. You see amazing golf swings up close, hear the banter between golfers and caddies and have beautiful scenery as your office.
I watched Tiger Woods win the U.S. Open in 2008, the last time he won a major, hobbling around the course on one leg. He and Rocco Mediate went to a 19-hole Monday playoff. I never thought I’d say any sporting event would compare to Denver Broncos playoff games, but golf has taught me that some of the greatest duels happen on a golf course standing over 3-foot putts.
After playing at North Ranch CC for Medlock’s tournament, I got the golf bug back. I’ve talked to a couple of friends about playing soon and heading to the Rancho Park double decker driving range. What a fun place.
I ran into friend and broadcaster Ross Porter at a Chaminade High School football game recently. Two days later, he called to invite me to play in his tournament, the 11th annual Ross Porter Celebrity Golf Classic benefiting Stillpoint Family Resources in November. I’d played once before.
Of course, I said yes. It will be a chance to see old friends and make new ones while helping a wonderful cause.
I never would’ve thought golf would become such a big part of my life. But the best things in life aren’t planned.