Amateurs have no HopePro am event a chaotic and colourful sight
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
BERMUDA DUNES, Calif. -- When you talk to the golf pros, they all say they love starting their season at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
Surely they are talking about the weather, the benign conditions, the opportunity to play five competitive rounds in a week and the relaxed atmosphere that allows them to ease their way into the pressure of another season.
One thing is certain.
No matter what they say, their enthusiasm for desert golf can't possibly have anything to do with having to ply their profession amid the chaos of a pro-am event.
At most tournaments, there is a pro-am on the Wednesday, where folks with enough cash fork over a few thousand dollars to make fools of themselves in front of actual galleries. At events like the Hope, they get to endanger those galleries not just for 18 holes but for an entire four days.
There are even celebrities who do, this for some unfathomable reason. As if they don't get harassed enough in public without willingly pursuing embarrassing situations.
Which takes us to the fairways of Bermuda Dunes Country Club.
Mike Weir, the defending champion, is making a serious attempt to put together a competitive round under the Rocket's red glare.
Be assured, Weir is thrilled to be paired with Roger Clemens. It's just that Clemens' nickname, the Rocket, bears absolutely no relationship to any laser-guided munitions. There are no smart bombs in Rocket's arsenal.
With Clemens, it's grip and rip it and "FORE LEFT!"
Clemens, TV host Carson Daly and an amateur named Jeffrey Altman were Weir's team yesterday. Today, Weir will be the centrepiece for another group of chops trying to prove something, though it's hard to imagine what.
For the first 10 holes yesterday, Weir was in his zone. He had birdied half the holes and was never in any danger of making a bogey. There was every indication he was picking up right where he left off as champion of this event in 2003.
There were times when it seemed as if he was playing alone, in that his playing partners often went several holes between shots hit off the fairway.
Then, with three bogeys in his last seven holes, Weir plummeted back to earth, a victim of that utterly fine line that exists between great and not-so-great in golf.
"That was the most unbelievable nine holes of golf I have ever played," Weir said, speaking of the last nine that produced the three bogeys.
"This could have been a round of 10-under, with my eyes closed," he said. "I hit the ball perfect. Somehow the ball wiggled out of the hole at the last second so many times."
As it turned out, Weir sits at two-under-par, hardly out of it but well off the pace set by the leaders at nine-under.
Worse, there are 60 players ahead of him after only one round.
Even on his front nine, when things were going well, Weir had several more putts lip out or graze the hole.
Now, the Canadian lefty moves on to La Quinta and a whole new slate of amateurs who will threaten the galleries who foolishly stand in the line of fire.
Pro-am play is one of those golf traditions that has as many supporters as it does detractors. On the one hand, it is an unsightly mess -- golf played at the club level never was meant for national television.
FOR A GOOD CAUSE
On the other hand, millions of dollars are raised for worthy causes all over the continent at events like this every year.
One thing is certain: if you want to understand just how good the Tour players are, just watch them on the course with guys who believe they are decent amateurs.
Maybe one of the reasons the pros get a kick out of this event is the fact they can put all the wannabes in their place.
If you want to go out on the course with the big boys, be prepared to be humbled.
Apparently, there's a long line of wannabes.