This week the Professional Golf Association made its way to Charlotte, NC for the Wells Fargo Championship held at Quail Hollow Country Club. For the first time, in my almost nine years of being a golfer, did I experience a professional event as more than a just a fan, and I must say, it was a weird feeling.
A fun fact that not many people know about me is that at one time I was quite the obsessive golfer. My serious golf career was short lived, but I still have a thriving passion for the sport even if I do not get the opportunity to play or watch exactly as much as I want to.
I started golfing around age 13, when my mom was dating a man who was really into the sport. For fun one evening, my mom and her boyfriend at the time, decided to take me and his son golfing with them. Prior to heading to the course that day, I had never swung a golf club before – and I never would have imagined how after that day my future goals and path would change so much.
When we arrived at the course in Frostburg, MD, we loaded up on a golf cart (the only thing I was really excited about at the time was driving) and drove off to the 10th tee. Due to a semi-crowded course and a child (me) who had never golfed before, the Professional at the club thought it’d be best for us to start there.
Upon arrival at the 10th, a shorter Par 3, my mom’s boyfriend pulled out a five wood and briefly gave me a demo of what to do. I took a few practice swings feeling awkward, but natural, and then determined that I was ready to hit the ball. I placed the tee in the ground, the ball on top the tee, counted to three and swung thinking please, just let me hit this. And I did.
The ball flew through the air, while my mom exclaimed, “Oh my god Maddy,” and plunked onto the green maybe a maximum of seven or so feet from the pin. Let’s just say that’s where it all began, (but not the overall point of the story).
I went on from that day, spending every day of my summer breaks through high school playing golf. Before I could drive, my mom would drop me off at the course and I would practice her entire 9 to 5 p.m. workday. Once I had a car, the schedule basically stayed the same, but I had to balance my practicing with working in the country club pro-shop.
At 14, I was a “special elect” into the Women’s Golf Association at my country club, and in high school starting my sophomore year I was the number one player on the team. I went on to play division one college golf for a year, but after losing one of my biggest supporters I mentally struggled to stay in the game at a school that I was not so thrilled about. So I gave up the seriousness, moved home for college and focused on my professional career outside of the sporting world.
Now, this is truly where this blog post is supposed to begin….
The Wells Fargo Championship was this week, and the awesome sports department at my work credentialed me to come out and help them during the Pro-Am on Wednesday. The Pro-Am, for anyone who isn’t up on the golf lingo, basically was a practice round for the professionals – but they were paired up with mostly local celebrities to the Charlotte area (and John Fox).
The day on Wednesday started off with a press conference with the tournament’s defending champion, Rickie Fowler. Then we went on to standing on the 18th green (in the ropes) and up to the first tee for Rickie’s first swing of the day.
At this point you may be wondering why I am writing about this – and really, it’s because of the things I thought about on Wednesday and then my experience on Thursday when I went back out to the course as a fan.
On Wednesday, all I could think about, beyond the fact that I was working a professional golf tournament, was how if someone had told me four years ago what I would be doing, that I would have never believed them. If someone had told me four years ago that I would be under the ropes working at a PGA event, I probably would have started crying tears of joy and shaking in anticipation.
It is funny how time changes things.
I remember attending the U.S. Open at Oakmont a few years back with two of my mom’s very dear friends (they took me to multiple events) and how Mr. L had to kind of shove me up to get Luke Donald’s autograph and I thought I was going to faint I was so nervous. Now, it is not even a big deal to me. I could stand and talk to Rickie Fowler like it was nothing if I had the opportunity.
On Thursday, I returned to the course, not to work, but to be a fan. What a weird feeling that was.
After spending a day inside the ropes, spending a day outside of the ropes is kind of, “Blah!” I say that because being in such close quarters with the athlete’s kind of ruins that excitement that I used to get as a kid when I had dreams of being the next Paula Creamer or Annika Sorenstam (two very different golfers).
It’s a weird feeling to be desensitized; I guess that is the best way to describe it, from professional sports and then to go watch it as a spectator – it kind of loses its kick. (Granted, the beer is always going to taste great).
I would take being desensitized from getting the opportunity to be around athletes over not getting the opportunity any day. It is just funny to think about teenage Madison, who was madly in love with Adam Scott and thought that all professional golfers were super special – they’re extremely talented, but normal people none-the-less.
Today is day three of the tournament, and I want to see a Mickelson pull-away.