With the WGC Bridgestone Invitational starting play tomorrow and practice rounds going on yesterday and today, I thought I’d share a few memories from Firestone Country Club over the years.
I’ve been going to Firestone since I believe eighth-grade back when it was still called The World Series of Golf. I still think that was one of the best names of any golf tournament. I have had plenty of good times at the course.
There was the time I got $20 for driving two men to the clubhouse in the golf cart I was suppose to be using to pick up valet drivers.
There was the time I caddied for a group of business men (before I really knew anything about golf) and was the only caddy not to be tipped a large sum of money. I think I got like $5 if that.
There was the time my brother and I went and ended up standing right next to Jim Gray and I tried to ask him a question and he completely ignored me.
There was the time one of my brother’s friends had a condo along the monster 16th fairway and we got all the free food we wanted while watching golfers play the most difficult and spectacular hole on the course.
But nothing can compare to my time at Firestone two years ago. My buddy, Seal, had passes for the Tuesday practice round. If you ever get a chance to go to a practice round at any tournament, do it. They are so much more fun than the actually tournament. There isn’t a big crowd, the players hit multiple balls, you can get real close to them, they sign autographs, they talk to you, they give things away and they just seem to have more fun.
I was with a group of four. We made our way all over the course watching about everyone you can think of. Besides Tiger, of course. He was off the course by 8:00 a.m. We mainly followed the foursome of Chris DiMarco, Fred Funk, Jim Furyk and David Toms.
I ask Furyk how much they were betting on the round. He tried to ignore me and just smiled but when I asked again, he responded, “enough.”
I got all four of their autographs on my ticket but it took a little bit of work. Toms, Funk, and Furyk had all signed it after a few holes of following them. I wanted DiMarco’s to complete the group. DiMarco and Toms were waiting for the other two between the 14th green and the 15th tee. They were about 10 feet from me. I kept asking, “Chris, please, can I get your autograph? You are the only one of the four I don’t have.”
The rest of our conversation went something like this.
DiMarco: “Sorry, don’t have time.”
Me: “What do you mean you don’t have time?”
D: “They are finishing up and I have to tee off.”
M: “It takes two seconds.”
D: “After this hole I’ll sign.”
M: “Come on. Please.”
While this may like me begging and annoying DiMarco, it was actually a lot of fun and we were both laughing the whole time. He tried to play the tough guy, can’t sign routine but he really was a nice guy and went out of his way to sign for a lot of fans.
But one guy I did annoy was Fred Couples. I forget who he was playing with but we watched him tee off from one hole. His caddy was wearing a UConn hat and one of the buddies I was with is a huge UConn fan. We started talking to him when Couples hit an awful tee shot left and asked for another ball. I yelled out, “It’s OK Fredie. You get another one.”
Couples looked right at me and said, “Oh do I?! Thanks!”
I felt about two inches big.
We continued to talk to his caddy (well not me, I was afraid to talk to anyone) and he ended up giving us a few balls.
Another great part of practice rounds is the lines to get a beverage isn’t a half mile long. Also, you can go into one of the clubhouses or tents or whatever and not worry about missing any action. We spent as much time in the tent drinking and playing free Golden Tee as we did outside.
That’s right. FREE GOLDEN TEE. That would have been worth the price of admission right there.
So after a day of drinking, talking with (or getting yelled at by) professional golfers, playing Golden Tee and not having a care in the world, there was only one thing left to do…
Go to a strip club and continue one of the best guy days ever.