Lessons from the golf tournament: pros are mortal, and bring the chairs
Detroit — Cindy Marchioni of Novi is a nice person. She wishes most everyone well. She has absolutely nothing against Ryan Brehm, a 35-year-old professional golfer from Traverse City.
But when Brehm chunked his third shot on the 14th hole Sunday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic? When he needed to send the ball 73 feet, and left it 27 ½ feet short?
OK, she enjoyed that.
"It proved they're human," said Marchioni, 65, amid the final round at Detroit Golf Club. "If the pros do it, I shouldn't feel bad."
Watching some of the very best golfers on the planet can be instructive, patrons said on a 90-degree Fourth of July. Or it can be intimidating. Or outright discouraging, according to Greg Jones of St. Johns:
"I'm feeling bad about myself. I might go home and sell my clubs."
Not really. He carries a handicap of 3, which means he routinely scores in the 70s and is basically a golf 1-percenter. But when Cam Davis finishes 18 under par and banks $1.35 million after a playoff triumph over Troy Merritt, "it's a completely different game," said Jones, 24.
He'd come to the tournament with his brother-in-law and fellow low handicapper, Chris Lakomy of Wyandotte. For the sartorial record, Lakomy was wearing red and white flag-striped shorts, a blue golf shirt and a red, white and blue Ping hat.
Lakomy said he was hoping his ensemble would spark a conversation with one of the PGA Tour pros. As they stood along the practice green, sure enough, it did — a brief exchange with Indiana-based Chris Baker, who'd brought out a blue Cobra-brand golf bag with red accents and white stars.
Others had also taken note of the holiday. One fan went so far as to sport navy knickers and red-and-navy argyle knee socks on a day begging for a breeze. The broad focus, however, was on function, not fashion.
Jones marveled at Cameron Tringale's pre-round putting routine. On the fourth day of his 22nd tournament in his 12th year on tour, Tringale ran through half a dozen drills, including one that involved guiding his putter between a pair of tees set barely wider than the club's head.
"I've tried that," Jones said. "I've failed miserably at it many times."
He noted, however, that most of the players seemed more interested in gauging the speed of the greens than in sinking meaningless putts. That, he can try at home.
At the tee box of the third hole, hefting a 9:45 a.m. Bud Light, Adam Flood of Flint said he had resigned himself to life in golf's lower levels and most other players should do the same. He's 29 and a University of Michigan graduate student at the public policy school named for a particularly avid golfer, President Gerald Ford.
"We can't compare ourselves," he said. "There's a God-given ability to hit a golf ball 330 yards that we do not have."
Flood watched Adam Schenk of Vincennes, Indiana, belt one long and straight off the No. 3 tee, followed by a long and less straight drive by playing partner Michael Gellerman of Sterling, Kansas.
Two hours later, a pair of fans watched the same twosome at No. 14 with particular interest.
Doug Hudson of Evansville, Indiana — blue shirt, white ponytail — cheered as Schenk drained a 14-foot putt for his third birdie of the round. Hudson's friend, Schenk's dad, cheered louder.
Hudson, 62, sold his swimming pool contracting business last year and now pretty much devotes himself to golf.
"All our lives, we're told to swing easy," he said. "What I've picked up out here is how hard these guys swing."
"You go back and do that at home," Scott Schenk warned, "and you'll wind up in traction."
Schenk and Hudson moved on, following Adam through a final-round 70. Forty yards further from the green, Chad and Julie Johnson of Farmington Hills stayed put in their canvas folding chairs.
Chad, 35, had already been to the tournament for a practice round Tuesday and the second round on Friday. He prefers to roam the course, "but since I brought my wife, I brought the chairs."
"Smart man," she said.
Chad played at Wayne State University and is a scratch golfer, which puts him in even more rarefied company than Jones.
He said he learns more from the pros' decision making than their shot making.
"I've seen shots I definitely would have tried," he said, and others where he'd have taken a more risky path. Of course, he conceded, he sells medical supplies. A poor shot has never cost him thousands of dollars.
"The thing this does is motivate me to play better," he said — and OK, to play more.
Marchioni already plays twice a week in leagues and then on weekends with her husband, Tom, not much of a player but a good sport.
"Chipping is the worst part of my game, so I watch how the professionals do that," she said.
Most of them provided valuable lessons on how to follow through, she said. And when she stops short and blades a shot across the green, she can think of Ryan Brehm and know she's not alone.