What I Saw at the Safeway Classic

The Safeway Classic 2013

I got to see the vast majority of great female golfers yesterday at Columbia Edgewater in Portland, Oregon, and although I’m not wise in the technical details of great golf, I did come away with some deep impressions, some humorous, some thought-provoking and almost all of an abstract nature – and, the action began before I even reached the course.

I wish that I could tell you the pro’s name, but I was too far away. She was on one of the chipping greens with her baby sitting on the grass. This woman straightened the baby’s sun hat repeatedly, then put five long chips three feet or less from the hole, turned to chase the fugitive crawler toward the bunker, came back and put five more three feet or less away, etc. I was moved by the poignancy and the comical side of this exercise, which went on for twenty minutes, and I feel certain that I’ll never see such a thing at a PGA event, or that I’ll ever chip as well as this woman does.
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Seeing these players live is so different. At the driving range, Lexi Thompson was concentrating so hard, perhaps over-concentrating, that we could all feel the heat wave in the gallery. Lizette Salas seemed relaxed as she took time between each shot, but once in a while, a deep breath and sigh would escape, belying some nerves, perhaps. I have written about Salas, her gifts and story, from the beginning, and my impression in the moment was that if I were raising a son, I’d want the Salas family to live next door.

safeway 2 Then Stacy Lewis showed up, and I almost didn’t recognize her. Like some thoroughbreds that don’t appear to have any interest in running outside of the track, Lewis appeared shy, fragile and almost too easygoing, that is, until she took out the first club. I was immediately reminded that neither number ones in the world nor Texans tend toward shyness and fragility.  I had expected to see a larger person, but on the first tee, Stacy suddenly gained substantial heft. In the same vein, I am almost sure that Morgan Pressel borrowed her “game face” from old videos of Sonny Liston – chilling.
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safeway 1Speaking of musculature and conditioning, two players demonstrated that Gary Player, the bodybuilder, did not go unheard. Julie Inkster addressed the ball, and when her arm, torso and leg muscles prepared to take back the club, I wouldn’t have arm-wrestled or argued with her for anything in the world. And, Suzann Pettersen? She looks as though she was born in a gym, won’t give room to one flabby cell and has never entertained lack of confidence in her life. Her competitive spirit begins long before the first tee shot, and she must be an absolute beast to face in match play.

Although the LPGA tour lacks testosterone addiction, there is certainly no lack of power. Never having seen Yani Tseng live, I was struck by her leg strength, with her center of gravity so close to the ground. My heart was with her as she trekked down number one, but sadly, my heart wasn’t enough. I feel certain, though, that she’ll be back.

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Eager as I always am to hear new stories of the great players, I’ll say right now that the newest member of my “fascination club” is Gerina Piller, who hails from Roswell, New Mexico. If that’s not a fascinating start, what is? I watched her put about two dozen fairway woods out of sight on the range-more importantly, all in the same place, and most importantly, all in the right place. Ah, just one fairway wood lesson with Ms. Piller, and I could finally go into golf as a career…well, maybe two lessons.
Golf Simplified logoI spent my career in a public performance genre as well, one that required fine motor control and pressure management as golf does, and have met a thousand audiences in my travels. That experience, however, didn’t help at all when I tried to meet players coming off 18 and out of the scorer’s tent. I still turned to jello like a star-struck adolescent. When Pettersen appeared, in fact, I instinctively backed away, and I wasn’t the only one. The toughest woman of all, though, may still have been the one with the baby, and I’ll look for her at the top of the leaderboard next week – she deserves it.


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