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Playing with the pros

Every once in awhile, one of our writers is invited to play in a pro-am event, which is usually a fairly casual affair. But in the days leading up to the pro-am, the buzz around the office gets a little ridiculous. Judging by their unbridled enthusiasm, you'd think our writers were playing for a shot on tour.

After reading contributing writer Shane Sharp's all-access pass column about his round at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic pro-am in Mississippi, all the excitement makes a little more sense. From the draw party to the final hole, it sounds like quite an experience. If you've ever had the good fortune to play in a pro-am, we'd love to hear about it. Drop us a note and we'll post a few selected stories below.

Couples charms at Pro-Am

In response to your request for Pro-Am experiences, I have something a little different. But nonetheless, it is a tribute to the professional-amateur golfer encounter.

Back in 1991, I was a freshman on UCLA's women's golf team. Fred Couples was every girls dream golfer at the time, including my own. My golf coach, Chipper Cecil, now Director of Golf at Mission Hills C.C. in Rancho Mirage, was well aware of my little crush. One afternoon, I was on the 'reverse' end of the driving range, having a lesson and hitting the ball particularly strong.

Chipper received a page from the pro shop, and told me casually that his friend Freddie would be coming out to watch my swing. I thought nothing was unusual about this, because at the time, he used to have several country club members 'watch' my swing. So there I am, 18 years young, and hitting the ball great. And as any good golfer knows, when you get into that particular zone, there is little distraction in your routine. You're entirely focused and not really paying attention to anything going on around you. Well, out of the corner of my eye this golf cart pulls up perpendicular to where I was swinging.

I didn't look though, because I was too cool, and I was already in my set-up and I proceeded with my swing - and hit it pure. Then, because the cart was parked so close that you just had to notice, I finally looked up to find my coach Chipper sitting there with a huge grin, and Fred Couples beside him. Fred said, "Great Swing." Well, my jaw dropped to the grass and it's a wonder I didn't just buckle. I was totally overwhelmed, but somehow tried to find my composure. After I finally got over the isolated shock of the moment, Chipper and his son, and Fred asked me to join them for a quick nine holes on the desert course.

Fred had to be about the nicest, most easy going, and complimentary golfer out there. He had such a wonderful attitude; he didn't have any of that snooty professional aura many players at his level possess. He was just smooth swinging Fred, who smiled and laughed and just played damn good golf. He was then, and still is my favorite player. I'm over my crush of course, but that memory still brings a smile to me!

Kristyl Sunderman-Cornell, via email

Why Nancy Lopez is a Hall of Famer

I've played in one pro-am and it was a terrific experience. The very first tournament of the brand new senior women's tour was in Green Bay, Wisc., about 3 years ago and impulsively I signed up. I convinced myself that it was still affordable compared to other pro-ams and my money was going to a good cause, so go for it.

The day arrived and there I was, meeting three other women I'd never golfed with before, waiting to find out what pro we'd be teamed with. And before everyone's eyes, four professional women turned into giddy schoolgirls when we found out we were going to play with Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez! Now I'm sure she has played in a zillion of these pro-ams during her years on the tour, and it can't be much fun to play a round with nervous amateurs awed by being up close and personal with a hero, but her friendliness and warmth turned it into the most memorable day of golf in my life.

With the exception of the great shots Nancy was making, it could have been any round with my friends based on the conversation...running kids around, aches and pains of getting older, husbands, etc. Now if we could have only forgotten the gallery following us around! What a day and what a great lady!

Vivian Moller, via email

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • RE: Couples charms at Pro-Am

    Adrian T. wrote on: Apr 28, 2005

    Really loved Kristyl's story. It's really strange how fate sometimes brings you close to people you are really fond of.
    I'm sure glad you are doing well Kristyl


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