The Old Men & The Tee

Unreal hits the links at the U.S. Senior Open

Things were pretty exciting in Boston last week, what with the Democratic National Convention and the media circus that went along with it. Here in the Boston of the Midwest, however, we had a Big Event of our own: the U.S. Senior Open. Woo-hoo!

A day after drawing the short straw at the Monday editorial staff meeting, Unreal found ourself in the unfamiliar wilds of west county, surrounded by ridiculously tanned old men named Bob.

But we were determined to make the best of the situation.

One of the Senior Open's more spry spectators 
motors around Bellerive.
Jennifer Silverberg
One of the Senior Open's more spry spectators motors around Bellerive.
Is that Gary, or is it Gilbert? Neither: It's George "27 
Over Par" Green.
Jennifer Silverberg
Is that Gary, or is it Gilbert? Neither: It's George "27 Over Par" Green.

After locating the media tent at Bellerive Country Club, we notice that our place card is right next to the one designated for the Quincy Herald Whig. Though our colleague is apparently off somewhere covering the pre-tournament festivities, we're stoked at the knowledge that the organizers have grouped the area's most important newspapers together. Just as quickly, we're dismayed that that bastard Whig seems to have filched our vase of sunflowers. He's got two; we have none. Do we need to paint you a picture?

The tournament doesn't actually begin until Thursday; today is a day for journalists to get unfettered access to the players in the media room. The first press conference features defending Senior Open champ Bruce Lietzke, a double-chinned native of Kansas City, Kansas, whose main claim to fame seems to be his laziness. Unreal's fellow journalists waste no time getting to the tough questions.

Reporter: There was talk last year about possibly not being able to defend, with your daughter's graduation plans. How were you able to get that changed up?

Leitzke: We substituted two vacations for that one. We had signed up for a cruise this week, mainly because I had not known about this date change.... As it turns out, we did our cruise in March, which was her spring-break week, and then we decided, well, we still need a July vacation like we've always done.... So I'm coming off a two-week vacation. We were in the Bahamas for five or six days, and then we were in the Cayman Islands. I've got a wonderful tan.

Reporter: Is there a simple explanation for why your game holds up better off of an extended break than perhaps anyone else that has ever played the game?

Lietzke: Yeah, because I am kind of a one-trick pony. I have one golf swing, and it's the only golf swing that I've used in 30 years.... "Muscle memory" is the term used by a lot of teachers, and I'm the poster boy for muscle memory because I haven't worked anything else into my golf swing. No changes in my grip or setup or anything. I have one swing, and all I do every morning -- I don't go out and practice on anything, all I do is warm up my golf muscles and warm up that 30-year-old golf swing that has not changed.

The press tent is decked out with all the modern conveniences country clubs deploy to bribe journalists into giving positive coverage -- including free Pepsi products and golf magazines -- but after availing ourselves of the air-conditioned lavatory trailer, Unreal hits the links. After all, unlike the spectators who will crowd the place in the days to come, we've got a press credential that permits unfettered access to all that Bellerive has to offer. We want to get an early look at this modern-day Babylon all the players keep saying is "in great shape" (even if they themselves are far from it).

Of course, we aren't here just for the aesthetics. We're here to understand golf, to feel the passion for this great Scottish game that has captured the fancy of our nation's Republican males.

Barring this, we figure we can always fall back on Plan B and get drunk with the caddies.

But the latter is not to be, at least not today. No sooner do we stroll into the disheveled lair of the bag jockeys -- located (we kid you not) in the basement of the clubhouse -- than a beefy securibot spots us and escorts us out.

Apparently these press passes aren't all they're cracked up to be. But if we've learned anything today, it's that making one's way in the land of the manicured fairway requires a certain degree of self-manicurization. The trials and tribulations of the alternatively religoned, raced and gendered who've historically been rejected by country clubs are not lost on Unreal. No siree. The button-fly corduroys and T-shirt we chose from our wardrobe this morning are going straight into the laundry basket, we vow. From now on it'll be polo shirts and pleated khakis.

Then it dawns on us like a Bruce Lietzke Titleist to the temple: We own neither polo shirt nor khakis.

Clad in an outfit pilfered from a fellow staff writer, we march confidently past the volunteer sentries and partake of a free lunch in the clubhouse. Only the most special guests are allowed to dine on the spread of prime rib, salmon and fresh pineapple, and here we are rubbing elbows with them!

We feel even better upon emerging and watching the common folk wasting away in line at the public concessions. Which isn't to say the masses are loading up on ballpark food. Here, for instance, you may choose a "Turkey Focaccia Sandwich" for seven bucks or "Whole Fruit -- Apples & Bananas," priced to move at a buck-fifty per piece.

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