There are certainly more prestigious golf tournaments than the Wyndham Championship but there can’t be a friendlier golf tournament on the PGA tour.
Every year I’m impressed with how nice people are. Now some of the signs that used to say “Quiet Please” say “Shhhhhhh.” It’s a nice touch.
One of the best perks of a press pass is parking. The shuttles from the media lots to the Irwin Smallwood Media Center are from Christian Tours, and they must have a company policy against hiring surly drivers. Driving a shuttle back and forth from one parking lot to another while everyone else is enjoying golf seems like the kind of job that could make a fellow surly, but these guys are always cheerful and go out of their way to be helpful.
Riding the shuttle in on Sunday, I wasn’t in the best mood because on the way out to the tournament I’d had a flat tire and discovered that I don’t have a spare tire. Not a great way to start any day. But on the ride in, the shuttle driver stopped so we could all see three deer grazing in a yard near the golf course with buses, cars and golf carts all whizzing past. It brightened my day and for the rest of the ride the talk was not of golf but about deer. It seems everyone has a good deer story.
It’s amazing how society changes. The whole time I was at the golf tournament, I saw just two men smoking cigarettes. It doesn’t seem that long ago that half the crowd appeared to be smoking cigarettes. I saw more cigar smokers than cigarette smokers. And of course there were a lot more vapers than smokers.
I seem to always be running behind even when I’m not dealing with flat tires, and when I get out to the tournament I’m anxious to get out on the course and see what’s going on. But the place to find out what’s going on is the media center, where the real golf writers hang out watching the tournament on television.
It makes sense – if you have to write about the tournament – to watch it on television because you can follow all the leaders instead of just two.
The golf writers do get out and watch some live golf, but unlike other sporting events where the writers want to be as close to the action as possible, golf courses are too big to be close to the action, unless you have some supernatural powers and you know where the action is going to be.
Since I’m not a golf writer I don’t have to worry about missing a great shot or spending too much of my time following a golfer who isn’t going to win. Besides, I’ll find out what I missed when I get back to the media center.
The tournament has been improving every year since it moved to Sedgefield in 2008. There seem to be more top golfers each year and the facilities for fans are constantly being upgraded.
Having attended the tournament since I was a kid in shorts, back when men didn’t wear shorts, and having worked at it as a Jaycee, I have some idea of what goes into hosting thousands of people on a golf course for a week. It’s not easy, and little things matter.
This year I noticed that an area near the 18th green that, in the past, by Sunday has been a mud hole filled with pine straw, now has rubber mats. It’s not an improvement that is going to win any awards, but it’s the kind of attention to detail that makes a difference.
I deal with words a lot, and some words will jump off the page at you no matter how quickly you look away. I was flipping through the program for the 2017 Wyndham, which is what writers do when they are putting off writing, and after I was already a couple of pages past page 44, because I was flipping, not reading, I had to go back because I was sure I had seen my name.
So I turned back and looked at the page. It was the “Volunteer of the Year” page, and Rick Cory had been named volunteer of the year. I don’t know Rick Cory, so that didn’t help me much, but there over on the left-hand side of the page, listed with all the previous volunteers of the year was, “1983 John Hammer.” I have to admit I didn’t know I was volunteer of the year; in 1983, they called it the Green Coat Club Award. But awards are hard to come by and I’ll take any that are offered.
I do remember winning the award because it was more of a shock than finding my name in the program. I was a brand new Jaycee, and through an unlikely series of events, I ended up running one of the largest concession stands at the tournament. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as the Green Coat Club Award until I was told I had won it.