There aren’t many times that Tom & I get to take trips by ourselves, especially now that I don’t caddy for him anymore. Initially I’d thought this trip would be just us taking a little vacation sight-seeing in Washington & Calgary with some golf thrown in. It would be nice; fly to Seattle try to qualify, miss. Drive to Calgary, try to qualify, miss. Deal with a grumpy husband & fly home early. I was pretty sure I knew how it would go. Then he makes the field in Seattle & my plans to take our time traveling to Calgary with some stops along the way to see some sights are shot. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled he got into the Boeing Classic…it was a great learning experience (because it certainly wasn’t good golf), except now we face an 11 hour trip to a practice round on Monday for a Tuesday qualifier…and it’s 3:30pm on Sunday after playing/walking 18 holes on a not-flat golfcourse. The reality of what pro golf is like was setting in; but I signed up for this & there are far worse ways to go through life…I am all in & I have the perfect partner to experience this with.
The drive to Calgary via BC along Trans Canada Highway 1 was everything we’d heard about & more and other than my head being on a swivel, our trip was (for the most part) uneventful. Except for the last couple hours; that’s when we hit the rainstorm, in the dark, in the mountains. Normally I don’t get stressed out about driving in the rain, but hydroplaning in the rain on a twisty, turning mountain road with no cell service & very little traffic is a new kind of stressful for sure. Tom did a great job white-knuckling it through the rain & (obviously) we made it just fine. We decided to stop in Revelstoke, BC about 11pm to rest for the night, which left us about 4.5 hours to go in the morning.
When we woke up the next morning it was if the heavens were welcoming us to Canada. The sun was out, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the smoke from the wildfires had cleared…which wasn’t much of a factor for us to that point anyway, but listening to the travelers at the hotel, it sounded like the smoke was pretty prevalent prior to the rain we experienced the night before. It seemed like just another sign that our path was set before for us & all we had to do was follow it. We finally hit the road again at about 9am.
We pulled into The Hampton’s Golf Club in Calgary around 3:30pm (we stopped for lunch in Banff & lost an hour in the time change), jumped in a cart & headed out to get a look at the course. I have to say it was the nicest of the qualifying sites I’d seen to that point. Tom played a few holes & I got to play caddy by marking pin positions in the yardage book. Watching him practice & working as a team again was amazing. Here was a man who just came off of a disappointing finish at his first PGA Champions Tour event…now striping the ball! It was as if he had a renewed excitement & (dare I say) positive outlook for another opportunity to qualify. I didn’t say it to him, but I really felt like he was going to make it the next day (contrary to my original expectations)…I didn’t have any reason to feel that way, especially since we had no idea what the number would have to be to qualify, but I saw his game that day…and I felt like I’d see it again the next.
Tom likes to have pasta the night before a qualifier (carbs) so we found an Italian place nearby & had a nice dinner prior to arriving at our host home…which was again, another door opened for us. Tom volunteers for a Winter golf clinic that his caddy Mike hosts at Hillside Church in February each year. While there this year, one of the guys (Bill Zielstra) knew of Tom’s intent to try the Champions Tour in the Spring and asked if he intended to try the Calgary event in August. It just so happens his sister lives 2 blocks from the event course! He was kind enough to arrange our stay with his sister & her husband (Barb & Edwin Kamphuis) and we couldn’t be more grateful! These trips can be expensive and even though Tom has sponsorship, it only covers his expenses, so wherever we can save, we do so. Fortunately the qualifying course was only 30 minutes away so it worked out well. We arrived there about 9pm and had a nice introduction visit before we had to get to bed for an early tee time (8:40am).
We arrived at the course the usual hour before his tee time to allow him time to warm up and we found out he would be playing in a 2-some as their 3rd withdrew. Tom was playing really well for the first 12 holes with the exception of leaving himself left-to-right putts too frequently (those are his Achilles heel). He was 3-under going into the 13th hole & I felt like another birdie (or 3 was totally possible given how well he was playing). Then an errant approach shot left him stymied behind a tree next to the green. He had to hit out sideways and that shot landed in the bunker. A great up & down saved bogey, but now his momentum (and his upbeat demeanor) was gone. He looked at me & mumbled, “I guess it wasn’t meant to be”. I felt awful for him, but I also knew there were more holes left if he could rally from that “bad break”.
Now a lot of you are groaning that there’s no reason to be upset at a bogey when you’re 3-under…but you need to understand that the “typical” qualifying score is usually -4 or better. It’s a different kind of golf out here…par is NOT good and will only earn you a quick trip home.
He managed to make par on the next few holes, just missing a couple long birdie putts. His game seemed to leave him after the 12th hole which was worrisome since he was running out of holes. Then came the par 5 17th hole. He hit a great drive & managed to reach the green in 2…although he had about a 50′ 2-putt to make birdie…which he managed to do. Now he was at -3 with one hole to play. I was stressed out & texting our friend Steve who was kind enough to keep texting me back so I didn’t lose my mind. On the par 4 18th hole Tom hit a great drive that left him 55 yds to the green. Another poor approach shot left him 20+ feet for birdie…which by some miracle went in! He got to -4 and regardless of how it ended, I was proud of him for bouncing back & finishing with 2 birdies. Now it was time to see just what kind of scores were out there. This qualifier did not have online scoring so I really had no idea what to expect.
When we pulled up to the clubhouse, all I saw was a 9-under and I thought we were done. If 9-under was out there, Lord knows the scores would be low. Turned out that Tom’s -4 was 2nd lowest but there were still 8 guys (3 groups) to come in and there were some good players in those groups. The waiting was torture…Tom was chit-chatting with some guys & Tom Gillis stopped by the cart to say hello. He made me feel a little better when he said he was sure Tom was in, but it’s never over until it’s over. I was texting Steve trying to keep my mind busy while the groups came in…then finally it was done & he was officially in! This was crazy, I didn’t think he would make it through one of these qualifiers & he made it through both with the exact same score! We were in bonus time as far as I was concerned…and I was going to enjoy it…right after we found him a caddy because I sure as hell wasn’t doing it! As we were standing there enjoying the moment…a guy walks up & strikes a conversation with Tom. He congratulates Tom on qualifying and asks if he needs a caddy. I’m not even kidding…that’s how we met Tom’s caddy for that week. It turns out he was there to check on his regular player & found out he didn’t qualify so he was available. He explained he’d been a member at the championship course for 50 years & had caddied for several players. How could we turn that down. They shook hands, exchanged info & we were on our way!
The next 2 days would be practice in the form of pro-am’s…which are mandatory, but Tom really enjoys them so it’s a win-win for him. He’s gotten to meet some really great people & make some new friends (and fans)! His Wednesday group of guys all worked at a golfcourse in Invamere, BC and were SUPER great guys…a couple of them even follow Tom’s Facebook page and they were all good players. His Thursday group consisted of the president of the Calgary Flames (Ken King), one of the owners of the Flames (Allan Markin), Allan’s brother-in-law Mike and Allan’s friend Ken. On the first tee, Allan asked Tom if he’d wear a Flames hat; when Tom happily agreed, Allan took his own hat off & gave it to Tom! These guys were really great too…and to give you an idea of the kind of guys they are; Allan is a billionaire and Ken was negotiating a $5M trade deal while he played. These guys could buy and sell our entire City, but here they were playing golf with the “unknown pro” Tom Werkmeister. And they treated us like they’d known us for years…Allan even invited us to a private dinner party Sunday night hosted by one of the other Flames owners. Yah, the pro-ams are a great part of the whole experience!
The tournament itself was great…and I could get used to being a tour wife, eventually. They serve breakfast, lunch & dinner at these events as well as a full open bar. It’s all free to the players, caddies & spouses. The food is always great & it obviously helps with our expenses so it’s pretty awesome. Not only that, we sit & have meals next to some of the greatest golfers in the world! “Oh hey Bernhard! What’s up Vijay? How’s the family Billy? DL3 my man! Buenos Dias Angel!” Of course you can’t really say those things, I mean, you have to act like you belong there for gosh sakes and not like some star-struck fan. But it is really cool to sit amongst them and feel like you belong there…even if it is like “bring your kids to work day” and you’re the kid.
That all being said…not ALL the guys are friendly & welcoming. Tom’s first pairing on Friday consisted of a nice guy & a not-so-nice guy, which can make the round far less enjoyable…but he did manage to shoot -1 so it wasn’t too bad, although he wasn’t thrilled with his score. He definitely left some shots out there. I was super proud of him to be sitting just ahead of middle-of-the-pack, but that’s me. I also saw who he was tied with and who he was ahead of. He only saw who he was behind. There, my friends, is the difference between a champion and everyone else. We look at what we’ve already accomplished; Tom looks at what’s left to accomplish. He’s always looking for better. It’s a curse and a blessing. When the pairings came out that evening, he definitely was looking forward to the next round. He would be playing with Bernhard Langer and Woody Austin. Not bad for a guy playing in his 2nd Tour event to be paired with a couple legends…just when you think you’ve played with some big names, you realize there are more out there!
Bernhard was just as you’d expect; quiet but very friendly. Tom found out from our son-in-law Ryan that Woody was friends with pro-bowler Sean Rash – who Tom had met several times (through Ryan) and even recently played golf with. This was a good conversation starter for him with Woody and they chatted several times during the round about bowling. Unfortunately the golf was not great, although he did manage to shoot even par. Langer shot -5 and shot up the leaderboard. Woody shot -3 and worked his way up also. Tom moved down a few spots but still managed to be hovering mid-pack…and tied with another legendary player he’d hoped to be paired with. What was also cool was that Bernhard had Tom’s scorecard – which means he signed it! Tom mentioned he’d like to have a picture of that for our golf room…so that became my mission for the morning.
Sunday brought the pairing Tom hoped for of Vijay Singh and Dudley Hart (veteran journeyman pro). Before the round, I went about trying to get a picture of Tom’s scorecard from the previous day. They told me to talk to the tournament director on the first tee. When I found him at the first tee & I learned that their scorecards are their property, unless they were to win the tournament. Since that was obviously not going to happen, the tournament director told me we could have his card! This was going to make a GREAT addition to our golf room! While all this was going on, the folks running the tournament learned what I was trying to do and quietly arranged for Vijay to keep Tom’s score for this round so we’d get his signature on Tom’s card too! These people are so awesome…I seriously can’t wait to go back! I was told I could pickup both cards in the scoring tent on 18 after the round was over!
When the round began, Tom wasn’t sure what to expect from Vijay…but what he certainly didn’t expect was for him to ask Tom’s name on the second hole! Now keep in mind, they were introduced on the first tee and he even had Tom’s scorecard! Vijay definitely knew Dudley Hart (who – sidenote – introduced himself to Vijay on the first tee as John Cocktosen [from the movie Fletch] – much to Tom’s delight) and they chatted quite a bit during the round. Tom did chat with Dudley a few times…but not much at all with Vijay. The golf, again, was less than stellar – but once again he held it to even par and finished exactly middle-of-the-pack at T38 out of 77 players. Not bad for his 2nd Tour event, but once again…not good enough for Tom. He went off to the locker room & I focused on completing my mission to round out these past 2 awesome weeks with the best souvenirs I could get; 2 signed scorecards – one with Bernhard’s signature and one with Vijay’s. I waited in the scoring tent while they made copies & walked away 15 minutes later with my mission completed; 2 original signed scorecards!!
That evening we went to the private dinner we were invited to by Allan Markin. Billy Andrade was there as well as a couple other players and quite a few of the tournament people and sponsors. We got to sit with Allan and his wife, as well as a couple of the Shaw people. It was a really fancy Italian dinner…totally lost on Tom as he’s a meat & potatoes kind of guy (although he does like pasta; just the spaghetti & meatballs kind, not the fancy stuff). It was a nice end to a really fun couple of weeks…however we couldn’t just ride off into the sunset, of course there had to be more drama.
We were packed & ready to go and left the next morning to fly out of Calgary for home. Our flight was at 8am so we got to the airport at 6am as we had to drop off the rental car & get through customs. I checked Tom in but I was having trouble checking myself in so I went to the Delta counter to ask for some help. The guy there asked me for my passport and I handed him my passport card (good for travel to Mexico & Canada). He looked at me and again asked me for my passport BOOK. I told him that was my passport card, not an enhanced drivers license which I knew was only good for land crossings). He flipped it over & (while showing me what he was telling me) told me, “this is for land & sea crossings only – you can’t fly with this.” What? Wait…I got INTO Canada with…oh shit. We DROVE into Canada!! My heart sank. What the heck was I supposed to do?? I asked the Delta dude what I could do and he had no idea. He asked if someone could fax a copy of my passport to me. Ummm….it’s 6am on Labor Day. Doubtful Delta dude! I was beginning to panic. I had been gone from home for longer than I’d ever been gone…and now I can’t go home!?!? We grabbed our luggage & wandered away & started trying to find someone to help. The lady who gave us a ride on her golf cart to the Delta terminal started making calls for us. Everyone she talked to said the same thing; you have to have a passport BOOK to fly. I started to figure we we’re going to have to drive back across the border to the nearest US airport & fly home from there so I started trying to find a rental car. The nearest US airport was in Billings, MT which was 8+ hours away! I texted my boss & told him I wouldn’t be in the next day & what was going on. I called my kids to see if they could email a copy of my passport but neither was available to do anything at that point. I started trying to find a rental car & even that wasn’t going well (none available it said). What. The. Heck??
I went back to the Delta dude & asked him if he would UNcheck-in Tom and started asking if there was a way to change our flight to be out of Billings. He then asked for my passport card again & told me to hang tight while he tried one more thing. He took my card & disappeared for about 15 minutes. I was starting to think that now my passport card had been stolen when he showed up & said he worked something out with customs & they were going to let me through. He said I would have to have a background check so we’d have to hurry so there’d be enough time. He checked us in & told me to head toward the US Flag hanging on the wall & they’d take care of it there.
I went through security (where I was “randomly chosen” to have my laptop & iPad swabbed and then “randomly chosen” to have either a pat-down or body scan (I obviously chose the body scan). Honestly, they could’ve told me I had to stand on my head for 10 minutes while whistling Aqualung by Jethro Tull & juggling fish and I’d have done it. Whatever I had to do to go home…I was doing it! I finally ended up at customs & the big burly dude sitting there asked for my passport. I gave him my card & he again asked for my passport BOOK. What the? I told him Delta dude talked with someone & he was told I would have to have a background check to be allowed to fly. After some back & forth while watching him type into his computer, he tells me he has no idea what that guy told me, but that’s not how it worked. Then he said that what they needed to do was prove I was a US Citizen…and since only US Citizens can get a passport card, he would let me through THIS TIME – but not to forget my passport card again! Well no joke customs guy…I’m actually considering having it tattoo’d on my forehead at this point.
I can tell you this with all honesty…traveling home that day took on a whole new meaning for me. When we landed at MSP for our layover, I considered kissing the ground…instead we had lunch & I finally relaxed. Our trip consisted of one more hour-long flight & me, my husband, a couple of scorecards & ALOT of memories would finally be home!