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Marc Mason is a freelance writer based in Tempe, AZ.

Thursday, March 23, 2006  

Last weekend brought a first, and one that was long overdue: my first visit to a professional golf tournament. The LPGA plays the Safeway International out in the far eastern part of the Valley at Superstition Mountain (a simply stunning place). As much as I’ve always loved the game, I’d never ventured out to a pro tournament, being especially daunted by the size of the PGA tourney that takes place in Scottsdale in February- 100,000 people crowding the sides of a golf course holds no appeal to me. But the LPGA draws smaller crowds, even though the Safeway is one of the larger stops on tour, so I figured it was time to give it a shot.

Tickets were 2-for1 if you bought them at Safeway, so for only $10 I had a ticket. Parking was actually free (when’s the last time that happened at a sporting event?), and there was plenty of it. Free shuttle buses took you to the “front door” from the parking lots, and there was no waiting for the bus in either direction. What an amazing experience.

I shelled out an extra three bucks for a program, and pairings listings were given as freebies, so the day was nicely underway. The Safeway draws one of the best fields in the LPGA; all of the top 50 money winners from last year were in the event, plus hot rookies Ai Miyazato and Morgan Pressel were entered. It was almost too much; with so many great golfers to choose from, it was hard to figure out exactly who to follow and from where.

We decided to try and do a little bit of everything. The first paring of the day to get any serious scrutiny was Christina Kim’s. I became a huge fan of hers during last year’s Solheim Cup, finding her personality and passion on the course very appealing. I hate watching stoic golfers; give me a bright, vibrant person like Kim any day. I root for the type of player I’d want to play eighteen with myself. She dropped two birdies in the last three holes, and I hit the autograph tent and had her sign my pairings book. The day was off to a nice start.

Through the rest of the day, we alternated by sitting, then following. It allowed for the conservation of energy and yet plenty of exercise. We had the pleasure of watching Pressel (who had a miserable round), Annika Sorenstam, Natalie Gulbis, Paula Creamer, Lorie Kane, Stacy Prammanasudh, and many others. I was stunned at how fan-friendly the event was; when you’re watching a PGA event on TV, you can see that every single step the players take is roped off so that no one can get close. Not so with the LPGA; at one point, I we were watching Pressel’s group, and as she finished 15 and headed to 16, she was walking on the sidewalk two steps behind me. Damned odd, really. But cool. Very, very cool.

The autograph tent was a fantastic idea, and for the most part it worked pretty smoothly. The Japanese media waylaid Miyazato and prevented her from ever getting to the table, and I didn’t want to swarm her like so many others did. Other than that, smooth sailing. Christie Kerr had been in an overlong session the previous day, so she came pre-armed that afternoon, having signed a number of her trading cards to give away, rather than risk a repeat. Again, a very warm, friendly experience.

I can easily see me taking a couple of days off next year and following the whole tournament. This was more fun than I had imagined, and an experience I won’t soon forget. The LPGA has a marketing campaign this year centered around the phrase “These Girls Rock!” Damned right; and I’m ready for an encore.

9:21 AM

OK...I saw you this morning at the corner of Encanto and College. I didn't know you still existed. I'm going to knock on your door within the next 7 days with someone who will bowl you over.
That's... mysterious. I'd love to know who this is; someone who knew me recently or a long time ago. I've moved within that same neighborhood within the past six years...
DAMMIT JIM! We went to your old house this morning. You don't live there any more... but you knew that already.
I need to figure out how to get your address. I'm not going to give this away... its too good to tip the hand. This HAS to be done in person.
You know, if I had even a clue of who this was, I might offer a hint. Clearly, it's been a while- I moved from that house six years ago and have gone through the whole "raise a step-family and go through a split" phase of my life in the meantime...
But if I gave you a clue, you'd figure it out in a heartbeat. It HAS been a while. One of the last times I saw you, you were going to marry.... ummmmmm...Rachel? Rebecca? Nice gal, but I don't recall her having any kids, so that must not have worked out. I'll tell you what... instead of spilling your address, let's set up a time and place to meet. In a public place...maybe someplace on Mill?
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(413) 208-3069
Okay... how about the cafe in Borders on Mill this Sunday? Say noon?
Sunday noon won't work. I have to attend a friend's wedding in Sedona this weekend and won't be able to do anything until Sunday late afternoon. How bout 5-6pm-ish?
I'll even spring for supper for you either at Borders or where ever on/near Mill if you want to hang after we meet...and I KNOW you will.
6pm Borders. See you there.
I'll be there. I'm REALLY looking forward to this. :) :) :)
Not nearly as much as I am... :)
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