When I was in seventh grade, the school had a week where students could pick from any sport they wanted to play, and extra time was designated for that unit. Some of my friends played golf, so I decided to give it a try. It was a lot of fun, and the instructor said I had a natural swing. My dad bought me a set of clubs, and my friends and I would play whenever we could. Even after I took up the game, I didn't watch much pro golf on TV. I would follow the Masters, and really enjoyed the British Open, and liked Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, even though they were later in their careers. I started watching more when I worked for the newspaper, then after I got to work as a volunteer inside the ropes at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis and really got an appreciation for the skill of the pros. Of course, that was also the time of Tiger. I got a chance to visit St. Andrews in 2002, then went to the Open Championship there in 2010 and 2015. I was lucky enough to go to the Masters twice for practice rounds.
I don't watch the PGA every week, but usually take a peek. I'll watch the majors, especially the Masters and the Open Championship, when I often take days off work and get up early in the morning to watch.
People who know me often ask which course I like better — Augusta National or St. Andrews. I always tell them that they are hard to compare, because they are almost polar opposites of each other. Augusta is as pristine as it looks on TV. There is not a blade of grass or a bit of pine straw out of place. It's just beautiful. When you first approach St. Andrews, it looks like a cow pasture. But then you look up the 18th fairway to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club building, walk over the Swilken Bridge, and you realize this is where the game of golf was invented. It has a beauty all its own. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Pebble Beach. We visited there one day and had lunch overlooking the 18th green with the beautiful Monterrey Bay as the backdrop. It's as beautiful as any course.
But as enjoyable my time was at Pebble Beach and Augusta, the two times I've been to the Open Championship at St. Andrews are at the top of my list. I've had a blast each time. On practice days, you get up close access to the players and I can take photos. On competition days, you see how the world's best golfers contend with the changing conditions. When you sit at the 17th green, you see them hit over the hotel, contend with the Road Hole, then watch them tee off up the famous 18th hole. The people in town and at the course are fantastic. It's a fun, loose atmosphere. We stay the whole week, stayed in the dorms at the University of St. Andrews, which provides us meals by the school's culinary students. You walk the short distance to the course every day, and not a minute goes by when you're not thinking, "I'm at St. Andrews." Sometimes you just stop and look around in awe.