Crooked Stick Golf Course is a special place. I knew that the moment I drove down Burning Tree Lane as a 16-year-old to my first gainful employment opportunity. While there were certainly nervous moments, they slowly faded as I walked up to the clubhouse and embarked on my first of three caddy training sessions.
Pulling off the main thoroughfare, the sense of serenity combined with the looks of a Pete Dye designed course was overwhelming. Granted, I had no idea who Pete Dye was at that point, but I sure appreciated the way the golf course was laid out and cared for as we trekked around the front-nine, learning the intricacies of caddying.
Like most classics, the course has changed little and still holds all its luster as I returned for this past week’s action at the BMW Championship some 22 years later. I found it in much the same condition as when I left.
What is so great about an event like this is the spontaneous interactions that fans are able to participate in and witness.
The physical closeness of the golfers to the spectators is unlike any other professional sporting event.
And it’s not even close.
In the sterile environment that professional sports have become, golf offers an up close and personal view. Fans are allowed within mere feet of the action and its participants.
Sure, pro basketball provides on-the-court seating for a significantly high price tag. But the BMW Championship allowed anyone with a ticket to pick their choice of seating, get up and move those seats, and continue to do so for the entire day.
Want to follow your favorite golfer for his entire round? No problem.
Or, like Greenwood’s Allyson Vining, you can pick a spot and wait for them to come to you. As Vining sat behind the par three, 182-yard 13th last Thursday, Phil Mickelson’s tee shot nearly hit her where she sat. The ball ricocheted off of a pole mere feet away, returning to the green where it sat harmlessly as Mickelson made his way down the sloping hillside sporting a concerned look on his face.
Upon reaching the green, Mickelson walked toward Allison and inquired ‘Are you all right?’ and then apologized. Allison explained the shot hit the pole and Mickelson walked back toward his ball before going through his ritualistic putting routine.
“It’s the only type of sport where you can sit so close and it is truly remarkable, to be quite honest,” Vining said of her experience. “It is very personal and I enjoyed it. Phil is truly a hero and very caring.”
That’s the type of uniqueness that makes an event like this special. Players talking casually with spectators, players laughing with each other, players arguing with officials — it’s part of a very one-of-a-kind package.
All of those qualities were on display last week at one of the best golf courses Indiana offers.
With all of golf’s big names at the top of the leader board for the entire four days, excitement pulsated throughout the gallery and across the course, creating quite a buzz that was hard not to notice and even more difficult not to revel in.
As I made my way around during the championship, the atmosphere was like that of no other sporting event I have been to or covered in my tenure as a self-described sports nut.
Overall, the experience was fresh and unique, much like my first time arriving on the grounds of Crooked Stick so many years ago.
— Jake Thompson is sports editor for the Hendricks County Flyer. Contact him by e-mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 272-5800 ext. 155.