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Sun, cigars and golf pro-am style

Sports Views

Posted: Friday, August 06, 2004

Sunshine, a couple cigars, a few laughs and 18 holes of free golf. Yep, the job of a sportswriter can be downright grueling at times.

On Thursday, I drew the enviable assignment of participating in the pro-am portion of the Kenai Chrysler Golf Championship tournament at Kenai Golf Course. For those of you not familiar with the pro-am format, it's a way to get a group of regular duffers like myself out on the course for a round with a real-life professional golfer.

My assignment (which I had little trouble choosing to accept) was to spend the day soaking up as much of the event as possible, then return to the Clarion offices and put together an article. Like I said, this job can be brutal.

Going into this job, I was admittedly a bit nervous. After all, my task wasn't just to be out reporting a story, but trying not to look like a complete idiot in front of both my amateur playing partners and the pro.

These words are proof I managed to accomplish half my goal.

Ok, it wasn't that bad. In fact, I even managed to keep the ball out of the woods from time to time. But when compared to "my" pro partner, Bryan Anderson ... well, let's just say I realized I've got some work to do on my game.

Anderson is a former winner of the Kenai Chrysler, the richest tournament on the state's professional circuit. Although it's not the Masters, the Championship is probably the most challenging tournament in Alaska, and attracts some of the better pros from both inside and outside the state. What this means is that Anderson is good. So good, in fact, that when he hits a "bad" shot, people like me watch in awe.

Anderson "struggled" on the front nine Thursday, mixing mostly pars with a couple of disappointing bogeys. Not a great day for a scratch golfer, but still pretty good compared to us mortals.

Fortunately, the pro-am portion of the tournament isn't where Anderson makes his money. The pro-am is just a way to let the pros spend some time on the course while the rest of us tag along for the ride. And since the event is pretty much for fun, Anderson was able to shrug off his bad holes and just have a good time. A good time comes pretty easily to the bleached-blond Anderson, who kept things light by cracking a few jokes and never getting too upset when he didn't put the ball exactly where he wanted.

"If you think I'm fun now, you should see me when I'm playing good," he said.

If I'd played like Anderson did, I may have retired from the sport a happy man. Some of his drives were simply unreal, including a couple that probably should have filed a flight plan.

Seeing how I measured up against a pro golfer was only part of the fun of playing in Thursday's event. I also got to spend the day teamed up with three other local golfers Bob Bambace, Doug Haralson and Kristine Holdridge whose company was of the professionally entertaining variety.

I knew things were going to be good when Bambace offered me a cigar on the second hole. Any time people start passing out cigars, you know you're going to have a good time. And we did.

Although much of what was said out there is not exactly suited for a family newspaper (you'll have to ask Doug about the guy with the embarrassing medical problem yourself), I can tell you I laughed at more than just my golf swing.

When amateur golfers get together like that, you know something funny is bound to happen. Perhaps the most comic moment came on Bambace's drive on hole No. 16. Just as he began his swing, a sudden gust of wind moved the ball off the tee. Unable to stop his swing in time, Bambace continued swinging at the moving ball, somehow managing to actually keep the thing in play.

"Do you know how much athleticism that took?" Anderson asked Bambace, who was doubled over in laughter.

That had us chuckling until the next tee box, when Bambace's ball actually stayed on the tee long enough for him to crush a 290-yard drive straight down the fairway.

"A lot easier when it stays on the tee, isn't it?" I quipped, eliciting a fresh round of laughter.

After we finished putting on the 18th green, we all shook hands, and I thanked my playing partners for making the day a good one. After today, I've got a better appreciation for how talented pro golfers really are and of how much fun it can be to play with a group of fellow amateurs just out to enjoy the day.

But my swing still needs some work. Luckily, I've got to be back on the job again tomorrow.

Fore!

This column is the opinion of Clarion reporter Matt Tunseth. Comments and criticisms can be directed to sports@peninsulaclarion.com.



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