“What happened?” asks a reader from North Sydney, Australia. “You were covering the tour event in San Diego, and then … nothing. Is this your idea of ’24/7 tour coverage’?”
Not exactly, Sid.
First of all, as Steve Allen used to ask his studio audiences after a joke failed, “Who paid to get in?” The Top 50 is still working on a plan to monetize its award-winning tour coverage, but at present we’re laboring for zip. We do have corporate sponsors — Sports Illustrated generously paid for my California trip, and my pressroom lunches were catered by Flemings and Souplantation — but no Top 50 reader, as of yet, has sent in a check for twenty or thirty thousand dollars along with a note of appreciation for our in-depth coverage of Sang-Moon Bae’s California swing.
Secondly … well, actually, that first explanation is enough.
Here’s what actually went down at the Farmers Insurance Open. We had just posted Tokyo correspondent Duke Ishikawa’s report on the Japanese PGA Tour when word came that our course rating director, Gary Van Sickle, had won three of the top writing prizes at the ING Media Awards in Orlando, Fla. That good news called for a non-alcoholic celebration, which lasted well into the early-morning hours.
So I was already a bit groggy when I arrived at Torrey Pines Golf Club, a little before noon on Sunday. Nevertheless, I had gotten halfway through a Flemings steak, medium rare, when FIO communications director Rick Schloss pulled me away to share more good news: “Congratulations, John. You’ve won the University Day competition* for Stanford University.”
*He may have said “drawing” instead of “competition.” The conversation was not recorded.
I don’t have to tell you how big this was. For the third round of the tournament, players and media who wore their school colors competed for a share of a $70,000 charitable pot put up by Farmers Insurance. With Saturday’s low round of 65, Jonas Blixt earned $20,000 for the golf team at his alma mater, Florida State University. Cameron Tringale’s 66 was worth $10,000 to his former team, the Bulldogs of Georgia Tech. Every other player who wore their college colors got $500 for their team.
My triumph in the media division, Schloss informed me, was worth an additional $500 to the Stanford golf team. Furthermore, I, personally, had won a PING golf bag and a sand wedge, which would be shipped directly to Top 50 headquarters.* He then dragged me off to the interview room for a round of prize-accepting handshakes in front of a University of Farmers backdrop. (I’m still blinking from all the camera flashes.)
*Note to Catch Basin staff: The bag and club had better be in my office when I get home.
Anyway, two big honors in two days was more than this veteran scribe could handle. I wisely bagged my final-round coverage and spent the afternoon spamming the good news to the world’s major media outlets.
For the record, I have a second alma mater, the University of Missouri, where I labored as a freshman and for one semester of graduate school. I thought I was covering all bases by wearing a Stanford-logoed black polo shirt, black being half of Mizzou’s color scheme; but my cardinal-colored, Rick Santorum-style sweater vest gave the Farmers judges the impression that I was an all-Stanford entry. But don’t worry, Mizzou golfers. I’ll send you the wedge.*
*If it doesn’t fit my specs.
Top 50 on TV: The AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach (Golf Channel, CBS) is finishing up at 9th-ranked Pebble Beach Golf Links near Monterey, Calif. If anything of interest happens there, I’ll let you know.