SOUTH BEND — I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do at the U.S. Senior Open Thursday. That wasn’t the case Friday.
All I knew was I had an Irish Club ticket, which gave me access to this huge enclosed area on the 17th hole. I actually had two tickets to it, so I invited a friend to come with me and experience the major tournament. After that, I had no idea what I wanted to do at the Warren Golf Course on the campus of Notre Dame.
While the Irish Club provided “a nicer bathroom,” as one fan eloquently put it, it didn’t deliver much else. Don’t get me wrong, getting out of the heat was fantastic. But the Nelson’s chicken was a little pricey, so we decided to go exploring.
We initially tried to watch the groups coming in on the par-3 16th hole. Unfortunately, there was a break between the morning golfers and the afternoon ones, meaning nobody was going to be at the hole for another 30 minutes. We decided to call an audible and head to the first tee.
When we got there, just by chance, we saw Miguel Angel Jimenez and David Toms tee off. Both were high on the leaderboard after the first round, with Toms as a co-leader with Steve Stricker. There was a big crowd for the duo, and they both hit strong opening tee shots.
With the 12th hole, also a par-3, nearby, we decided to sit in the grandstands and see the groups come through. Where I walked with one group on Thursday, my goal Friday was to sit down and let the groups come to me.
That lasted about 30 minutes.
It was hot and humid again at the golf course, and we were sitting right in the middle of the sun. Combine that with the metal seats, and it was a lose-lose situation. My friend and I immediately searched for shade following a Vijay Singh par putt.
After seeing a few more groups in the shade, we headed toward the main entrance. We were planning on leaving, but decided to make one quick trip through the merchandise shop. He bought a commemorative golf ball for his dad; I bought a koozie for myself (P.S. love you, dad).
We then took a picture with the official U.S. Senior Open trophy — we couldn’t touch it, unfortunately. Afterwards, we headed into a free hospitality tent that had free flavored water. It also had the USA-France Women’s World Cup game on, so we stayed for the end of that.
In the tent as well was a virtual reality golf game. More than 100 people throughout the day participated, trying to drive the ball far enough to earn a set of actual golf balls. Everyone was able to use the system flawlessly — except me. The system kept on glitching on me, causing me to have to stand in unusual positions to hit the golf ball. One of the glitches hit the ball for me without swinging, though, and it traveled 209 yards. I finished in the top 10 of the day, earning me the golf balls.
All in all, I learned a lot in the last 48 hours of walking around the Warren Golf Course for the U.S. Senior Open. First off, it’s physically draining to walk around a golf course. No wonder I haven’t done it much in the past! It’s much nicer to sit in my air-conditioned living room and watch it on television. That being said, I’ve probably lost five pounds this week from all the walking. Maybe I should do the exercise thing more often.
It also made me appreciate the level of greatness of the players. Sure, they’re not at the same level of their primes. But Vijay Singh hit a tee shot on the 13th hole and a random gentleman turned to me and said, ‘That’s so smooth.’ Even at 56 years old, Singh is hitting shots you and I would dream of hitting just once in our lifetimes.
But my biggest takeaway was how many people it takes to run an event of this magnitude. Hundreds of volunteers make the event run smoothly, from concession stand cashiers, to the people controlling the crowds of people, and everyone in between. It’s truly amazing how many people are working the course all weekend in the extreme heat and humidity. They deserve all the credit they get.
It was a fun two days at the golf course. With that being said, I’m excited to watch the final two rounds from my couch Saturday and Sunday.
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN