By Ed McCall
For The Register-Herald
Several years ago, prior to the first Greenbrier Classic, I was asked to do a piece on etiquette and how to be a successful spectator for those who might have been attending their first ever golf tournament.
In it I suggested upon entering the property that a wise thing to do would be to visit with an information ambassador who could provide them with a map of the grounds and a pairing sheet. Knowing where you are and where you are headed and whom you want to see is still in vogue.
After serving three years as a committee chairman in charge of marshals, I have made the following additional observations for tourney-goers. Oh — and don’t forget the sunscreen.
THE BIG NO-NO
Don’t get caught using a cell phone and for Pete’s sake put it on silent any time you are not in one of the designated areas where cell phones and digital devices can be used.
The click of a shutter on a camera or cell phone camera or, even worse, an obnoxious cell phone ring tone (quacking duck ... the car horn from “The Dukes of Hazzard”...) going off while a player is getting ready to hit is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. You will get charged! And probably by a caddy, PGA official, or marshal.
The first two years of the tournament, cell phones and cameras were not allowed on the grounds, but the PGA has since relaxed its stance and permits the use of those devices in well-marked areas. Violate this policy and expect the kind of response from players as if you had asked Tiger Woods to sign a photograph of Sergio Garcia.
THE LITTLE NO-NO
Autographs. Many of the pros are gracious about signing programs, hats, shirts or golf-like balls made for the purpose when asked at the proper time and place. However, come Thursday, these guys are good and serious! Do not approach a player for an autograph until he is finished with his round.
Even so, be wary of the player who just shot 76 to miss the cut. If he has fire in his eyes and smoke coming out of his ears, it’s probably not a good time to ask for a signature. Put yourself in their Nike TW 13 Masters Editions. You would not be very congenial either if, after a hard week’s work, your boss stopped by to inform you that despite your immense efforts, there would be no paycheck.
Best times to catch an autograph are Monday and Tuesday during and after practice rounds.
Suds lovers will scream, “Bud Lite or Silver Bullet,” but the award for most refreshing drink goes to The Greenbrier’s own peach-flavored iced tea. Grab a seat in the shade beneath one of the ancient oak trees lining the course, catch a breeze just freshening up the valley, and sip one of these delicious, cooling treats, and you will rejuvenate faster than you can spell Peter Oosterhouse.
Hands down, the most popular and tastiest food on the grounds is The Greenbrier’s famous fried green tomato sandwich. It’s the same delectable version served inside the hotel at Draper’s Restaurant. The current record for consuming the most of these delicious treats during the course of the tournament stands at 14 and is held by my daughter, who also serves as one of my hole captains.
MOST INTERESTING NEW LANDMARK
Sir Nick Faldo’s new home is the chalet-like home perched high on a mountain peak above No. 18 tee. Due for completion in September, it overlooks the entire Old White TPC and Howard’s Creek, where Sir Nick has been known to wet a line on more than one occasion while visiting the resort. Jim Nantz’s sidekick gets more pleasure these days from landing a wily rainbow than chasing the little white ball.
THE PATH LESS TRAVELED
Holes 2 through 7 provide some of the best golf during the tournament unseen by most spectators. That’s because they are at the far end of the property and require the most effort to reach as some might claim these holes to be beyond the call of duty on their legs.
No. 2, or “Hog’s Back,” vies each year with No. 13 as the most difficult hole during the tournament. A long carry over Howard’s Creek is followed by a lengthy shot to the green from an awkward stance in the fairway, thus the name Hog’s Back.
And the green is no bargain. Difficult to hold and surrounded by gnarly rough and three bunkers, the slope on the left side of this treacherous green makes two-putting no cinch.
Spectators who gather beside the green also get to see the tee shots to the nifty little par 3 known as “Biarritz” and for the big swale in the middle of this narrow green that measures 65 yards in depth. Holes 4, 5 and 6 all have out of bounds on the right and demand an array of shot-making skill while providing spectators with excellent views and shade.
Suffice it to say that those who make the hike are well rewarded for their efforts.