The PGA tournament, the final major of the golf season, gets underway this week at the beautiful Whistling Straits near Sheboygan.
It’s a great tournament, a great site and a wonderful chance for thousands and thousands of spectators to see the world’s best golfers up close and personal.
I have probably been to somewhere around 250 professional tournaments in my life, and all of that experience has taught me several things about the behavior of spectators at golf tournament. Here's a series of do's and don'ts if you are planning to go to Whistling Straits.
DO go to the practice range when you arrive. There is nothing like sitting behind these guys and watching them practice and fool around with each other. It’s kind of like that morning meeting in your office with fresh coffee and a box of Dunkin Donuts. You are warming up and planning your day but also chatting about your evening. It’s informal and entertaining.
DON’T even think about getting any tips to improve your game from watching the practice range. The only similar thing between your game and theirs is that you you have the same size balls in your bag. It’s kind of like looking at Brad Pitt and thinking you can get your hair cut just like him, and you’ll look just like him.
DO put a smile on your face if a player looks your way. Golf is a lonely game, and Wisconsin is known for being friendly. No golfer is going to start a conversation, but you’ll be surprised by the smile that comes your way if you flash one to the golfer.
DON’T be one of those obnoxious fans who line the walk from a green to a tee and put your hand out hoping the player will slap it. Golfers think these people are jerks. Plus, why would you do it? I mean are you going back to work Monday to tell your co-workers that you got five from Rory Sabbatini or Anirban Lahiri?
DO bring lots of money. I mean LOTS of money. Everything at a major is expensive, except for the Masters, where the rich guys who run it don’t care if they make any money at all. Nothing is free, with the exception of the Porta-Potty. And if you are hungry, it will cost a lot. If you are thirsty, it will cost a lot. If you want a souvenir, it will REALLY cost a lot. One of those adjustable golf hats will cost $25. A ball marker is $20. And if you want an 8x10 autographed photo of Jack Nicklaus holding up the championship cup, it’s on sale for $403.
DON’T bring a gun, even if you have one of those permits that let you legally pretend you are a cowboy. Security will take it from you, and you’ll never see it again. Don’t bring a camera. Don’t bring a backpack. Don’t bring an iPod or any of those big chairs with arm rests. Don’t bring any of your food or drink with you. Don’t bring any signs to flash, hoping you can get on TV.
DO leave your sense of fashion (whatever your own style is) at home. Most of you are going to do a lot of walking. Those bleachers you see on TV are not generally available to us average people. Wear comfortable shoes. Wear cool clothes (temperature not attitude). Bring sunscreen. Bring a hat so you don’t have to buy one. Even be prepared to commit one of the biggest fashion insults ever and wear a fanny pack. No kidding. Wear a fanny pack.
DON’T tell your girlfriend/wife/daughter/etc. not to worry, you can get her into one of the exclusive viewing spots like the Wannamaker Club. Security guys at major golf tournaments are not hired because they are as nice as your neighbor. In order to get into these special places, you need a ticket for sure and perhaps even need to pass a drug test and know the secret password. You can’t talk your way in, and the security guys love to embarrass people who try to sneak in.
DO realize that you will face a number of decisions while there, but there is one decision that overwhelms all the rest: Do you walk with one group or do you settle down at one hole and watch all the groups come by? If you want to follow Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy, forget it. You’ll be lucky to even see one shot. But if you wanted to follow a group like Patrick Reed, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald, you could see a lot of good golf and be part of a crowd that numbers in the dozens, rather than the thousands.
DON’T shout "In the hole" when someone hits a shot. It’s stupid. It will get you only negative attention. Nobody will think you are funny. If the golfer has hit a bad shot, he’s liable to throw you severe dirty looks and maybe even send his caddy to punch you out. Just keep your mouth shut.
DO realize that while this may be entertainment for you, it’s a day at the office for the golfers. You don’t want someone standing outside your cubicle shouting your name just as you begin to hit the keys of your computer. These guys are at work, and their work demands a lot of concentration. Let them set the tone. Some of them are outgoing and loquacious; others are stern like the principal who has just called you to the office.
DON’T even think of taking a picture. First of all, no cameras are allowed. Once play starts for real, the policy about your cellphone is strict. First of all, it has to be set on silent. Let it mistakenly ring and say goodbye to your phone. It will be confiscated and gone forever. Second, don’t even bother to think about using the phone to take a picture. Of anything. No lovely shots of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Don’t try to sneak a photo either. There are camera spies everywhere, and they'll swoop in if you break the rules.
DO obey all these rules, and you’ll have fun. A golf tournament is the most beautiful sporting event you’ll ever see. The only thing that can ruin it is if you behave like a jerk.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.