The Old Men & The Tee

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

In general the crowd is notable for the lack of hoosier presence. Perhaps that's not surprising at a gig where a weeklong pass costs $130. Hell, even to volunteer costs $125. A tourney official assures a shaken Unreal that these folks aren't paying to volunteer, they're paying for their official volunteer outfit.

Ah, that explains it.

Finally it's time for the moment we've long dreaded: It's Time to Watch Golf. Surrounded by people who are violating the laws of nature by simultaneously drinking beer and speaking in a whisper, we are nonetheless relieved to hear that others are at least as clueless as we are.

Golfer Tom Wargo is a friend to the common child.
Jennifer Silverberg
Golfer Tom Wargo is a friend to the common child.
Don't worry -- it's already on eBay.
Jennifer Silverberg
Don't worry -- it's already on eBay.

"Zoeller?" says a man who looks like he subscribes to satellite television. "He's 68 years old!"

"No way," says his friend.

"He's at least 60."

"No he's not."

"He's pushing sixtysomething," the guy says, taking a sip and sticking to his story, sort of.

According to our program, Fuzzy's 52.

Arnold Palmer, who must be at least a hundred years old, is putting on a clinic. But we opt to skip it -- it's too crowded. Actually, that seems to be the case with every golfer we've ever heard of. If Gary Player is preparing to wipe his sun-leathered face with a hankie, you can bet there's a gaggle of men wearing sandals made out of space-age polymers gathered around to see it.

On the spot we make another command decision: If we're going to watch anybody play golf, it's going to have be someone who's patently obscure.

Enter George Green, a lanky high-school psychologist who just so happens to be shanking his way toward us up the sixteenth fairway. We soon discover that we've hit the jackpot. This fellow is an absolute gold mine of mediocrity.

According to our trusty media guide, Green has $750 in career Senior Tour winnings (all of which were culled from last year's Senior Open, where his lowest round was an 83) and finds it tough to balance golf with being a psychologist. He does it, he says, "because of faith that he can be competitive."

Maybe he's the one who needs therapy.

He warily agrees to an interview when we corner him after he finishes his practice round.

"Today went pretty good," Green imparts, having been joined by his wife, Holly. "I hit a lot of fairways and greens."

Great! So how does he feel about his chances of winning this major?

"My first goal would be to make the cut," he says, referring to the group of the top 60 (plus ties) who'll survive the first two rounds and play on the weekend. "I'd feel some satisfaction if I made the cut."

Then Green loosens up a little and reveals that he likes blues music and lives on a houseboat just south of San Francisco.

Unreal is now officially, unconditionally, rooting for George Green.

THURSDAY
"Who was that?" one fan asks another, passing our man Green en route to scope out another golfer. They're aided only by a scorekeeping placard that reads "Green G."

"Gary Green," his buddy says confidently.

Seconds later the routine is repeated with another pair of geniuses. "Gilbert Green," one speculates.

Green, meanwhile, is on his way to equaling his Senior Open low round of 83. That's good enough to best 8 of his 156 fellow competitors, and to tie centenarian Arnold Palmer. Unfortunately, it's also bad enough to leave him 18 shots out of the lead.

FRIDAY
Rain cancels the day's play before it commences, and United States Golf Association officials decide to postpone Round Two until tomorrow, then play 36 holes on Sunday, after the cut is made. Unreal figures this pretty much eliminates first-round leader Peter Jacobsen, who is still recovering from hip surgery and was barely able to walk through yesterday's opening round.

As we watch the most diehard of these old men practice their putting in the drizzle (one has a lackey plucking balls from the hole, wiping them off with a towel and then sending it back), it occurs to us that security is probably pretty lax on a blown-out day like today. Sure enough, no one checks for our credential as we nab another free lunch in the clubhouse.

Emboldened, we take the opportunity to poke around a little more. Most impressive is the men's locker room, which features golden garbage cans and perfectly finished wooden "lockers" equipped with gold nameplates, many of which are left unlocked. This hallowed place where the pros apply talcum powder to their nether regions is nicer than our living room.

Infiltrating the caddies' lair is a snap today as well. We even manage to snag an exclusive interview with the caddie of qualifier Richard Ziegler. That might be explained by the fact that when we accost eighteen-year-old Casey Oshita, he is virtually comatose on a couch, watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN.

"Do you think you could sit up a little, for the sake of the recorder?" we ask. Oshita obliges. We lean in. Unlike those weenies in the press tent, we're not lobbing any Lietzke-like softballs.

"So, is this like a dream come true?"

Oshita pauses. For a long time. So long, in fact, that we're not sure whether he has fallen asleep. Finally he replies: "Ah...pretty close."

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