Keep it down or I'll give you a smack!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Holy Toledo

I will start off by warning you that this one is pretty long. But a lot happened so I tried to tell a good story.

The weekend that was...The last couple of days have been a lot of fun. For the last couple of years we have made the voyage out to Toledo to see the LPGA play the Jamie Farr classic. It's also a nice weekend to go and visit with Dennis and Michelle since they live 10 minutes away from the golf course. So the plan was to head up to Toledo on either Thursday night or Friday morning. Ron was out of town and we were discussing on Thursday afternoon that he almost wasn't going to make it back for the trip. But I guess they got their act together and he did get out somewhat on time. He didn't get back until late on Thursday night so we made the call to drive up on Friday morning. Ron picked me up at 10:00 am Friday morning and we hit the highway. The main reason that I like going is of course to see Natalie Gulbis. She had a 12:40 tee time so we were in pretty good shape to get there and follow her around all afternoon.

About half way into the trip we decided to stop and grab a bite to eat at one of the fine dining establishments along the Ohio Turnpike. As we pulled in it looked crowded and we almost just skipped the stop all together, which we almost did. But we decided to stick it out and stop in and grab a bite. After getting our grub we were content to just get back in the car and keep moving on. So we piled back in the truck and were on our way. Until a car pulled up behind us as we were backing out. Ron asked, "Did I just stall the car?" Sure enough the car had shut down. As he tried to restart it just wouldn't turn over. He tried several times but we had nothing. It was getting power but it just seemed like there was no fuel getting to the engine. The two of us are nowhere near qualified to have the slightest clue what was wrong with the car. We tried starting it a few more times but still nothing. So we were stuck at the Erie Islands rest stop along the Ohio Turnpike. Just what you want to do when it's 90 degrees outside is stuck at a rest stop.

Ron has been saying lately that he wanted to get rid of his truck and look into a new car. Nice timing on that one. So we made the decision to leave it sit for a few minutes and we went back inside and ate our food and weighed our options. We checked out the map of where we were and we couldn't have been more in the middle of Cleveland and Toledo. I called Dennis just to give him a heads up that he may need to come and get us. After cooling off and eating, I stopped at the restroom and we topped off our soda pops we made our way back out to the truck. We took a different route out to the car and made sure to be polite to everybody along the way in hopes that the karma gods would shine upon us. We took the approach of it was a fresh start as we got back in the car as if we never had any troubles. Ron dropped the keys in the ignition and turned it over and it cranked. Woo hoo! So we wanted to get a move on and let the engine get all the kinks out but of course there was an old couple in their Buick camped right behind us as we tried to back out. We both were yelling our heads off to try and get them to out of our way. They did finally creep out of the way and we were rolling again. I think it was just a matter of some bad gas or something but we were back on the road and were not stopping again until we hit Toledo. In all we probably added 45 minutes or so to our trip, but of course it could have been a lot worse.

We made our way to Sylvania and parked at a house just across the street from the course. The Toledo area had been pounded by rain over the last couple of days so the yard where we parked was quite soggy. We of course were making jokes that the car may be staying a little longer that most of the others. We walked over to the course and purchased some tickets. I had made a comment to Ron "should we even buy tickets?" We did buy them but I'm not sure that anybody even looked to see if we had tickets as we walked though the gate.

Once inside we grabbed a pairings sheet and looked to try and catch up with Natalie. We made our way to the7thh green and waited for her to come through. As we waited we saw a few other groups with some pretty good players like Paula Creamer and Annika Sorrenstam. We also noticed that there was an older lady that had suffered some sort of heat stroke or something. She was lying on the ground under a tree with some folks fanning her as they waited for medical attention. After a little bit they came and gave her treatment, we said she was probably faking it just for the free water they gave her. At $3.00 that stuff can get expensive! Of course I hope she was OK, it was really hot and humid out there.

After a couple more groups came through, our girl Natalie finally came up. After she putted out we made our way to the next tee with her and she had spotted Ron and me while we walked along with her. She smiled and asked why we weren't there for the practice day to carry her bag for her. She said that anytime we wanted help out we could. I'm sure that her caddy Greg would also have absolutely no problem with that as well. We watched Natalie hit her tee shot to the par-3 8th hole but due to the rain the course was kind of clogged up with people and we couldn't really walk along with her on the 9th. We planned it to walk ahead of her and meet up again with her on the 10th hole. We moved on and watched a little more golf as we walked.

While we waited on the 10th we overheard one of the marshals say that in about 15 minutes a big rainstorm was supposed to pass through the area. Sure enough a few minutes later they blew the horn and stopped play. I had spotted a hospitality tent and we figured we would see if we could work our magic and somehow sneak our way in and be safe from the elements. We tried to give the clipboard and confident wave as we walked in, but were denied by one of the Nazis that were working the door. So we moved back outside and found a tent that was located behind a concession area.

The storm came though in a couple of phases. We were ok for a while as the first phase passed over us, and it did not really rain that hard. So we hung out but then we noticed the sky getting really dark. And then the second phase came in. The wind kicked up and the rain starting coming down very hard and we were getting wet. When a big old gust came flying in we ducked our way into one of the concession stands along with a few of the workers that were still there. Then it just came down in buckets. It was blowing chairs and trash all over the place. We were pretty lucky that they let us hide in their tent with them or we would have been screwed. After a while I was looking though the tent went a bolt of lightening cracked probably a hundred yards from where we were. One of the ladies in the tent with us said she felt it in her arm and Ron made a comment that his heart jumped. So in the past couple of weeks that is twice for those of you keeping score at home that we have been near a lightening strike. The guy who was in charge of the concessions group made the call that we needed to make our way to the Champions tent that we had gotten booted from earlier. He knew they would let us in under the circumstances. It was still raining but we figured with the lightening and the conditions it would be a little safer in the other tent.

Ron was the first to go and lead us over to the tent. We made break for it but the area between the tents was now a small lake so we had to dodge puddles as we ran over. Ron barreled his way into the door and we all followed him in. We got pretty wet of course since it was still coming down heavily. But once we got in we just sort of hung out with the folks that were in the tent. After a while we noticed that they weren't charging for the drinks at the bar so we decided to give it a shot and order up a couple of beers. Ron walked up to the bar and got us a couple of Michelob Ultras. A nice score! As we drank them and tried to dry off one of the workers came up and told us that the storm was supposed to die down and they advised us that we should make our way out of there. So being the forward thinking men we are I made my way to the bar and ordered another round of beers. As I did I noticed the bartender looking at my wrists when I placed the order. She gave me my beers but then I noticed that everybody else in the room was wearing a red wristband. So we weaseled our way in and got a couple of free beers out of the deal.

After we got our drinks they closed up the bar so we made our way back towards the clubhouse and get out of there. It was barely raining now but the course was under heavy water. I thought that there was no way they would be able to play golf on that course anytime the next day. We walked through the players’ parking lot on our way out and we saw one worker that was walking though a puddle that was knee deep. It was just a mess.

We made our way back to the car but of course we had the mystery of whether Ron's car would start when we got there. So we crossed our fingers and the car started. We got into a line of traffic that was leaving the course. As we were sitting in traffic Ron started doing the pee pee dance in the drivers seat. He had figured that he could have made it to Dennis' house but didn't know we were going to be stuck in traffic as long as we were. So he was squirming and I started thinking of his options. I took one of our cups from lunch and dumped it out for him. But he didn't think he needed it. So then I took a half full bottle of Powerade and dumped that too. And then it was on! He decided he could wait no longer. He manned up and took a whiz in the bottle. About half way through he thought the bottle wasn't going to be enough. But luckily for us it was. He had a few ounces to spare. I tell you what it was damn funny from where I was sitting. Yep we are 35-year-old men and we pee in our car as we drive in traffic!

After that excitement we made our way over to Dennis' house to relax for a little bit and visit with them for the evening. We sat and talked with Michelle and Lydia while we waited for Dennis to get home. She and Lydia told us the news that she was pregnant with their second kid and due in February. Dennis came home a little later and we sat and talked for a while before deciding on grilling up some burgers for dinner. We hung out after dinner and had a few beers before deciding to go out for the night. We went to a little bar called Bier Stube for a few drinks. We were lucky enough to be there on karaoke night. And we got to hear some of Toledo's American idol hopefuls sing some of the karaoke classics. Good times! After a late night stop at Wendy's we made our way home around 12:30 or so and turned in for the night.

Saturday morning we woke up and Dennis cooked up some pancakes as we figured out our plans for the day. We found out that the girls were supposed to get back on the course around 11:00am so we got cleaned up and made our way over to the course around 12:00pm. And just to make things more enjoyable we had temperatures in the high 80's with about 90% humidity. It was going to be a hot one!

We parked at the same house as the previous day and made our way to the gate. When we walked up I overheard the guy in front of me asking about them honoring the previous day's tickets. I actually had suggested that when we left the house but I wasn't really sure if they would or not. We mentioned to the kid working the ticket booth that we had tickets but left them at home. After explaining that we only saw four holes the previous he gave us the tickets for nothing. We made our way to the course to find our girl. We found out from one of the marshals that the raging creek had pretty much wiped out all of the bridges that were used for access to the back of the course. So we had to use a maintenance bridge to get to the other side of the golf course. But it turns out that it was going to be a long walk wherever we needed to go.

We caught Natalie on the 14th hole as she was finishing up her second round. We were there as she rolled in a birdie. We followed her for the next couple of holes until we came to a point where we could not cross a bridge to get to the 18th hole to see her finish. After that we made our way back through the course and watched a bunch of people while trying to stay cool. Kelli Kuehne came along and we figured she would be the one we would walk with the rest of the way back towards the clubhouse. After that we made our way towards the clubhouse to see what kind of plans they had for the pairings and tee times for the rest of the day. We basically were in limbo until we heard any news about what was happening. And everybody else there was in the same boat. It’s a difficult thing to keep track of if you have never been there before. There was no golf being played and a bunch of the golfers were hanging around the clubhouse, trying to keep cool and figure out if they would be playing over the weekend or not.

We finally got word that the leaders, which included Natalie and Paula Creamer, would be teeing off at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon. So we had wasted at least an hour and a half to see what was going on. But there was nothing else to do. Nobody was playing golf. Once the times were determined we went to the driving range and watched some of the girls practicing before their round. And then we made the journey back out on the course. We walked all the way back to the 3rd hole and waited for the girls to come to us.

For the majority of the afternoon we followed Natalie and Paula around the soggy course and just tried to stay cool. We were pounding down the water and Gatorade most of the afternoon. The downside to that is that you have to keep running to the port-o-potties when you are doing that. And let me tell you, there aren't many better places to be than a confined plastic box that reeks of poop and urine on a 90-degree day. Ron had the line after one trip to the bathroom that "he would never make it in prison" He would sing like a canary if they threw him in a hot box.

As we came up on the 16th hole, we had positioned ourselves near the green and waited for the players to approach I noticed that a young lady next to me had a notepad and was scribbling notes on some papers. Being the fine detective that I am, I read on her credentials that she was from the Detroit News (Briana Gorman was her name, I looked her up when I got home to read what she had written). I was just curious as to what kind of writing she might be doing, I was glancing at her notes and seeing how she would document a golf tournament. Mostly she was just keeping track of where the shots had come from and what the players had scored. (On the ride home Ron and I had a discussion about what exactly a golf writer can really do. I said watch it on TV and sit in the interview room would probably be more than adequate) But as the golfers were lining up their putts and such the sign bearer (normally a kid of 10-12 year old age range but in this case a 65 year old man) proceeded to put the sign on a post directly in front of her. Totally obstructed her view. The best part was the guy had no clue at all. So we all had a good laugh about it. I slid over so that she could see what was happening. And to top it all off after Kim had made a birdie he needed to change his board and almost hit her with it while doing so.

After the players had teed off on 17 we made the decision that we, I mean Ron, had had enough for the day and decided to head home. Ron and I entertained the thought of saying one more night in Toledo since we had such a long day in the heat and sun but Ron made the call to drive home that night. As we were leaving the grounds they blew the horn to stop play for the night. I later found out that they stopped play early so that the grounds crew could still have some daylight to try and get some work done on the course.

We drove back to Den's to say goodbye to Michelle and Lydia before hitting the turnpike and heading back to the comforts of good ole Willowick. We got home about 11:00pm on Saturday night. I took a nice shower to clean off the salt and sweat before hitting the hay for the night. It was a good action packed couple of days.

The downside to the weekend though had to be that Natalie lost in a 3-hole playoff to Mi Hyun Kim. I really would have loved to see her finally get that elusive first win. Although how could she have really celebrated if I was 150 miles away?


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