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Golf More Than a Great Walk Spoiled

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It is almost a mandate that because my family is Korean they are obsessed with golf. On Thanksgiving mornings, my family participates in a family golf tournament that includes a trophy and bragging rights. The bragging rights, of course, are the most important part of the prize package since it also includes the right to insult and ridicule the others. That’s just the Korean way of doing things.

However I completely throw all of that away as the token black sheep of my family. Instead I prefer to go through life by the adage, “Golf is a great walk spoiled.” Of course the fact I’m not a doctor or lawyer but a college dropout might have something to do with my black sheep status. Nonetheless I pissed the whole lot of them off when I let them know I was going to be at the final round of the Northern Trust Open this past Sunday (which I naturally reveled in.)

As someone who avoids golf like the plague, both playing it and watching it, I was very skeptical about all of this. After all the last golf ball I hit was when I was 14 years old. At the driving range I was hitting balls with my driver. I missed one but managed to hit it on the backswing sending it over the fence and into the parking lot hitting a new-model Acura. I never picked up a golf club from that point on and had no desire to pay attention to the game.

But seeing as how the object is to have the lowest score as possible, I felt up to the task. After all I’ve been covering the Kings this season, and they seem to take that same offensive philosophy to heart. And thanks to my guide Scott, it was actually an enjoyable experience.

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Now for the sake that I write about sports, I should mention that a guy named Bill Haas won the damned thing on the second playoff hole on 10 breaking the tie with Phil Mickelson and a guy named Keegan Bradley who wore ankle socks and Tommy Hilfiger underwear. Had Bradley bent over more often, I probably could have identified whether they were boxers, briefs or boxer-briefs. But there was definitely underwear.

That is probably an unsavory topic to bring up for a tournament held at the Riviera Country Club. There is a sense of history and importance as you’re driving towards the club tucked in the canyons beneath the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s easy to understand why they have a $250,000 initiation fee looking at the perfectly manicured grounds where Ben Hogan won the 1948 US Open and the modern pentathlon events of the 1932 Olympics were hosted.

Scott was telling me how trees and bunkers could be moved at the whim of members. Honestly. If a certain hole isn’t up to a member’s liking, they can petition the club to get it changed. Of course it has to get approved, but there are almost no holds barred when it comes to these matters. So as gorgeous and historic as the grounds are, nothing is permanent. Like wealth and status, it’s all a façade. Ask the ladies who were on their third noses and could probably grow a beard on the back of their necks.

Unfortunately the people who attend these tournaments weren’t a façade. You could tell who had the money, and their sense of entitlement was just fine. It’s the wannabe-riche frat boy jock douchebag fucks that really set the irritation level on high.

Case in point: it’s courtesy that players shake hands when they are finished with their round. After Mickelson and Bradley made their birdie putts to force a tiebreak, they shook hands with Bryce Molder - the other golfer in their group. And being gentlemen they took their caps off when shaking hands.

Some guys in front of me wonder why they took their hats off when shaking hands. “If I’m wearing a hat and you’re wearing a hat, what difference does it make?” I can only imagine these douchebags are the type of people to wear their hats at the dinner table.

There was also an instant where I almost called child protective services. A dad brought his two daughters, both in the six-to-nine year old range. One of the daughters was wearing mom-khaki pants. Not mom-jeans, but mom-khakis. I didn’t know Baby GAP made mom-khakis for little children. Perhaps what was the most disturbing about this sight was how unselfconscious she looked, as if this outfit exactly matched her heart’s content. I was so shocked and disgusted I almost left the place right there and then if the fashion tableau was going to continue as such.

I stayed, but there were more fashion eyesores: a guy with loud polka dot pants, Rickie Fowler with his all-orange getup with off-colored arrows down the back that pointed at his ass that, hopefully for him, he lost at the first hole. Thankfully the unfortunate fashions were minimal.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the experience was being able to walk the course. Rather than stick with one particular group, Scott and I walked up and down and back and forth and all over the place. When the final group teed off at 10:30 to about 1:30, we walked about almost nonstop which made me realize that I probably got more exercise than the golfers.

The most annoying part of watching a golf tournament was standing around. We would see a group that looked ready to tee off a certain hole and would stick around. But these golfers had to wait for the group ahead of them to finish up the hole. So we wait. And wait. And wait. And wait some more.

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Early in the day the waiting was a bit tense. But as the day went along those who were out of contention were more relaxed messing around with a few who would watch them tee off, sitting on their bag playing with their BlackBerry or even using their bag as a pillow while lying down for a spell.

Despite all of my apprehension coming into the day, I was among those at that 18th hole whose jaw hit the ground when Mickelson sank a 25-foot putt from the edge of the green on the 18th hole to force a tiebreak. It was a moment of perfect sports narrative that makes all the walking and waiting and douchebaggery worth it. To be able to see the tension in the air with the weight of that putt is priceless.