Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Wichita Open

Yesterday I got out to Crestview Country Club to watch the second round of the Wichita Open, a golf tournament part of the Nationwide Tour. This year I had free admission, based on being 62 or older.

I watched a group hole out at the 18th green, then wandered down to the 17th, where I watched another group hole out. Then I went to the nearby 13th green where I watched a threesome hole out, and I decied to follow this group around the rest of the way as that was aobut how far I wanted to walk and how much sun I wanted to get. The group consisted of Ewan Porter, from Sydney, Australia; Ben Bates, from Havana, Florida; and Bryce Molder, from Conway, Arkansas, and they were an interesting study in contrasts.

Porter did something on the 13th green that I've never seen. He obviously had given up on the tournament, and carelessly 4-putted on his way to a triple bogey. He just knocked the ball back and forth without studying any of the putts at all. One shot was a backhand, using the wrong side of the putter. After figuring out what was going on, I realized that he had come into the hole 3 over par, while the expected score needed to make the cut was 4 under. So, he would have had to go 7 under in the last 6 holes to make the cut, and obviously he felt like not even trying, at least on the 13th hole. The irony is that he birdied each of the last 5 holes, to go back to only 1 over!

Molder was a real sourpuss, complaining constantly abut the quality of the greens, and throwing his clubs around several times, once barely missing his caddy who shot a dirty look in his direction. He reminded me of a guy from my hometown, Dick Mast, who has a history of tensing up in the final round and falling apart. I hate to think of how irritable Molder will get during these last 2 rounds, as he did make the cut.

Bates was just the opposite of Molder. He was congenial, laughing at his good shots and at his bad ones. He reminded me of Rocco Mediate, the 45-year-old journeyman who won all of our hearts recently at the U.S. Open when he almost became the oldest first-time winner of a major championship. Instead, Tiger Woods holed a 12-foot-putt on the final hole, forcing a playoff, and Rocco then lost the playoff to Tiger. But Rocco's good humor and joviality certainly made an impression on everybody, and the world surely could use more folks like Rocco and like Bates.

Seeing a couple of Australians in the list printed in the paper, I decided to count up the foreign-born players at the Wichita Open. The count is 13 for Australia, 3 for Canada, 2 for New Zealand, and 1 each from Argentina, Mexico, Sweden, and South Africa. Given that 60% of the field was eliminated yesterday, it is truly amazing that all of these foreign-born players made the cut except for the Mexican, the South African, and one of the Kiwis.

As I write this, at 8:30 Saturday morning, it is raining, so it will be interesting to see how they manage to get in the last 2 rounds. The rain entered into an interesting human interest story involving a guy named Tyler Aldridge, who found out during a 3-hour rain delay Thursday that his wife had given birth back in Idaho. I see from today's paper that Aldridge did decide to stay and play yesterday, but he shot an 80 and finished with the highest score of those who played both rounds. Having your first kid can be pretty distracting!

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