A hacker’s 11 tips to surviving a PGA Tour pro-am

Ever wondered what it was like to tee it up on a tournament course alongside pro golfers? At the Genesis Scottish Open, I found out.

The post A hacker’s 11 tips to surviving a PGA Tour pro-am appeared first on Golf.

Ever wondered what it was like to tee it up on a tournament course alongside pro golfers? At the Genesis Scottish Open, I found out.

The post A hacker’s 11 tips to surviving a PGA Tour pro-am appeared first on Golf.

NORTH BERWICK, Scotland — I arched my back against the hard plastic back of seat 31A and listened to the hinge squeal again. It was sometime late in the evening on Delta Airlines Flight 208, and reality was beginning to set in.

The following day, Tuesday, was nearing sooner than any of the hundred or so seated around me wanted to admit, barreling down upon us like our aircraft on the gray-black clouds below.

And me?

I was screwed.

In a few hours, we would all land in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the wee hours of the morning, and though I had just gone to bed back home on the tarmac in New York, there would be no time for further napping. The second our wheels touched down, my marathon would begin: first in a taxi from the airport to my hotel in Edinburgh to drop my bags, then in a second taxi from the hotel to the host of this week’s Genesis Scottish Open, the Renaissance Club, and finally with my first 18-hole round of golf in two full months, conveniently contested alongside a pair of professional golfers, in front of a gaggle of my peers in the working press and on the tournament staff, and at a golf course in championship condition on the eve of hosting a PGA Tour event.

If I was lucky, I’d manage to grab a warmup swing or two before play began. But if those gray-black clouds beneath our aircraft really did speak to the weather down below, well, I’d better figure out the no-show policy.

As perhaps you’ve pieced together by now, I was preparing to play in my first-ever pro-am in the hours preceeding the Scottish Open, my tee time secured by the folks at J. Lindeberg. And though my game was bad and my logistics terrible, there was a more immediate issue staring me in the neck pillow from the economy cabin of Flight 208: sleep, or more specifically, my lack of it.

The flight was six hours long, which meant I had about as much time to find some semblance of REM before the marathon began in earnest. As I listed off again in seat 31A, the thoughts I’d ironed out on the range the night earlier began to swirl: short swing, tuck the elbow, tilt the shoulders.

If you think it’s hard to sleep on a plane, try doing it the night before a tee time with the pros.

11 (mostly useless) tips from my first-ever Pro-Am

1. Show up on time

Half of life is just showing up, and as it turns out, that counts the same when you’re flying in from a different country. I ripped out to the golf course as soon as I could on Tuesday morning, but after arriving on-site and getting changed, I realized I’d missed my tee time by 10 minutes.

Thankfully, my playing partners hadn’t bothered to wait up. They got started as I slipped my golf shoes back on, resolving to meet me on the 11th tee and even draining a birdie putt on the 1st to get our round rolling in earnest.

2. A warm-up is … nice

My front-nine playing partner, JL ambassador and DP World Tour pro Todd Clements, was plenty friendly about the whole ordeal when we finally met from just off the 11th tee box (we started on the 10th). He was stunned I’d even bothered to show up for the tee time.

He chuckled as I frantically stretched and shook my sleepy limbs to life from off the 11th tee box.

“You’re looking nice and warm,” he said.

My caddie — fellow GOLF.com coworker and co-conspirator Darren Riehl — was less forgiving.

“This one’s pretty simple,” Darren said as I stared out at the paper-thin 11th fairway, a grin spread across his face. “Just hit it straight.”

3. Perhaps take a *peek* at the forecast

Yep, this is the sorta thing you’d imagine you’d do before playing a round. But imagine my surprise when I realized just steps from the 11th tee that the day called for gale-force winds and sideways rain. Coming from 90 degrees and sticky in New York, I hadn’t bothered (or cared) to look at the forecast in East Lothian for my pro-am day. Go figure: I spent the rest of the day clinging to my new sweatshirt and rain jacket for any semblance of warmth.

4. Know your format

Our pro-am was a modified-scramble format, meaning that we could choose a tee shot from any member of the group and play our own ball into the hole from there. Unlike previous scrambles I’d played, all birdies carded by the group counted toward our overall score.

This would’ve been great to know before I teed off, but I hadn’t bothered to ask in my jetlagged haze. Truth be told, I didn’t learn the scoring portion of the event until the next day.

I am embarrassed to admit this to you, dear reader, but it helps to explain some of what came after.

5. Know how many strokes you’re getting

Perhaps it was explained in the pre-pro-am meeting. Perhaps it’s somewhere in my email inbox. But I truthfully had no idea how many shots I was getting when I stepped on the 11th tee, and I still don’t know how many potential birdies I left behind. Blech.

5. Speak to your teammates

Clements had a great sense of pace and direction around the greens, which made him a useful sounding board for breaks I was still trying to learn.

Matt Wallace, another JL ambassador who joined our group on the back nine, was even more technical. An aside: His bone-dry sense of humor was well-appreciated.

You’d be surprised what you can learn from a pro golfer when the barrier of the ropeline is removed. Wallace, I learned, has some golf-media experience of his own — having served as one of the BBC’s on-course analysts during the Ryder Cup last September.

“I’d like to play in the thing,” he told me. “But I really loved broadcasting it.”

He’s also a big wine drinker, having stopped by a famed Napa vineyard phonetically identical to my last name earlier this year. (Colgin.)

6. Listen to your caddie

I couldn’t tell if Darren was trying to psyche me out when he told me I was lined up 20 yards left of the line he’d given me on my tee ball. I swung at it anyway and, unsurprisingly, hit it 20 yards left of my line.

I listened to his advice on every hole the rest of the way.

Darren, it turns out, was a good caddie.

7. Hit the fairway

Believe it or not, it’s easier to score when you hit the fairway. It’s not guaranteed, of course, as our group learned. But it is helpful. And unless you have a very long hitter as your group’s pro, odds are good you’ll have a better look from the amateur tee shot.

8. Make the important ones

Like, perhaps, a look at net-eagle from 10 feet off 18th green. And then the ensuing 4-footer for net-birdie. That would really suck to miss.

9. Don’t look at the scoreboards

Particularly when they’re telling you your group is DFL in the pro-am. It won’t help morale, and you’ll still be tired.

Not saying I know what that feels like, or whatever.

10. *Do* take a long look around

You might never be back here, after all, and it is pretty cool to be walking the fairways alongside some of golf’s best.

11. Take a photo

The story is usually better than the golf. In fact, it almost always is. Grab a photo or two. The memories will last far longer than the cold.

(Oh, and a bonus tip: The caddie bib name is removable. Take it with you.)

The author and his caddie, Darren Riehl. Darren Riehl

The post A hacker’s 11 tips to surviving a PGA Tour pro-am appeared first on Golf.