What Just Happened?? (Part 1 of 2)

I see it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Truth be told, until the last few weeks, nothing has been going on! July was rather uneventful after the US Sr Open. There were a few local Sr events that Tom played in and didn’t fare so well – and really weren’t “blog-worthy” anyway considering he’d just played in the US Sr Open. But then came August and the whirlwind began! It’s been crazy the last few weeks so I’m going to make this 2 posts rather than 1.

Keep this in mind while reading all of this…also during these past few weeks, we got new flooring installed throughout our condo & painted the entire upper & lower levels; excluding the bedrooms & bathrooms. Our home was (and still is) in a state of disarray & controlled chaos, because a blossoming professional golf career isn’t enough to handle I guess.

Tom left to drive to the Endicott NY qualifier on Aug 11th. I chose not to go to that one unless he actually qualified since I was basically out of PTO at work. Turns out it’s probably best he didn’t qualify. The tournament was held Aug 17-19 and our flight to Seattle was out of Detroit on the 19th for a Tuesday qualifier in Orting, WA. Had he made that tournament in NY, he’d have had to drive back to Detroit right after his round on Sunday the 19th to fly out of Detroit on Monday the 20th (a day later than planned) for the Tuesday qualifier, and I dare say he’d have succumbed to the same fate as Tom Gillis, who did make the NY tournament (and actually finished 3rd) but then had to hop a quick (and very expensive) flight to Seattle – only to suffer from jet lag & consequently was unable to perform his best at the qualifier. Tom on the other hand, was well rested, got in a practice round on Monday & played great, carding a -4 and securing a spot in his first PGA Champions Tour event (the US Sr Open is a USGA event). It wasn’t without drama though. He was told by another player the previous day that (historically), it would take -6 to get in. I can’t even begin to tell you the panic that set in when, while he was at -3 and standing in the middle of the par 5 18th fairway & contemplating a lengthy approach shot to a green protected by water in front, he looked over at me while I was walking by & said (more like vented at me like he often does), “well I might as well go for it, it’s going to take double eagle to even have a chance”. I knew at that point his -3 had a chance and that -4 would probably get him in, because I had the scores in front of me and they were coming in higher than we expected. They weren’t ALL in, but there were enough of them to lead me to think the course may have played tougher than expected. But I couldn’t tell him that (and I wasn’t about to indulge his negativity)…so I prayed he wouldn’t do something stupid and go for the green, but rather lay-up and give himself a much better chance at birdie. To be honest, he had hit a few errant tee shots the last few holes so I wasn’t all-to-sure he had that shot in his bag at that point.

Turns out he wasn’t to sure he had that shot in his bag either…and as fate would have it, he did lay up, then knocked his next shot to 6″ and carded his -4…and (much to his surprise) earned his spot in the event! I can’t even explain how excited we were! We hopped in our rental car & headed straight for Snoqualmie, WA and the Boeing Classic!

Had I known (or believed) he would actually qualify, I’d have taken pictures of the signs at the Seattle airport welcoming players to the tournament. Instead I just looked longingly at them, wishing they were meant for us!

We went straight to the golfcourse. He registered and we had lunch & grabbed a cart to go check out the course. To say it was stunning is an understatement. The course basically sits in a valley and there are views of the mountains at most every hole; and a view of Snoqualmie Falls from 12 tee box. The only real bummer was the smoke from the wildfires intermittently stole our views…but never to the point that it wasn’t still breathtaking.

Snoqualmie Falls from 12 tee box
View from the clubhouse down #18
View from the left side 14 fairway, just in front of the tee box. It’s a severe dogleg left that a lot of players cut the corner to the green for a chance at eagle (about a 300 yd carry)

The next issue became a) where do we stay, and b) how do we get his caddy Mike there…quick?!? We ended up finding an AirBnB about 40 minutes away in Redmond, WA – and we were lucky to get it! Turns out everything was booked up for the tournament. Fortunately, it was a really nice place & while not as close as we’d hoped to be, it was in a really cool location just outside of downtown Seattle. Then came the rush to find a flight for Mike. It was already Tuesday night & the tournament started Friday. The only practice rounds allowed were via playing in the Pro-Am’s on Wednesday & Thursday (which are mandatory anyway) so we needed to get Mike there ASAP! We had him on a flight the next night (Wednesday).

For the next 2 days they played in pro-ams and got a working knowledge of the course. I did learn a couple interesting facts about the pro-ams they have before the tournaments; 1) it costs $20k to field a team and 2) they’re handicapped so the pro is essentially useless unless the team completely bombs on a hole or is so stacked that they don’t get any strokes! The teams Tom has played with had players with handicaps that ranged between 5-25. It is a better ball format with everyone playing their own ball, so usually you can count on someone who gets a stroke to make at least par. That being said, Tom did manage to hole out from 180 yds for eagle on the 11th hole during the Thursday pro-am with the GolfNow folks. THAT was fun since he really hadn’t played well during that round!

You should also understand that Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club is not an easy track. You can’t miss a fairway and the greens were FAST. Add to that the pressure Tom put on himself to perform well (because jeez, he already played in a major) and you have a recipe for the perfect rookie learning experience. Fortunately he had great playing partners…even if they hit it 50 yds past him (okay, maybe just Ken Tanigawa and Michael Grob did…and of course he got paired with both of them on day 1).

Another thing I learned is to stay FAR AWAY from the crowds when he’s not playing well. People make comments; good and bad (mostly good) and quite frankly I don’t want to hear them when I know my husband is grinding away and struggling to make par. They’ll cheer for the good shots and groan on the bad ones. After awhile I don’t want to hear either. Then there’s the well-meaning folks who don’t know you’re a players wife, and say things without realizing they might hurt someone’s feelings; like after a chunked approach shot from a divot in the fairway into a green side front bunker. The guy I had been chatting with at that moment scoffs and says, “well I could’ve hit THAT shot!” I just sighed, looked at him & said, “yah, that’s my husband” and walked away. He then said, “oh! I’m sorry! I didn’t know”. Nope. You didn’t. It’s all good because I’m learning too.

On the flip side, however, when he’s playing well it’s great. I wish I could convey how awesome it feels and how happy I am when he’s playing his game. It’s truly sunshine & rainbows in my world. It’s no wonder people say I live & die on his every shot. It’s 100% true. It’s a blessing and a curse…but I’ve been doing it for 20 years – I’m not going to change now.

In the 2nd round Tom got paired with Tom Kite (who he played a practice round with at the Sr Open) and Wes Short Jr. While he played a bit better that day than the previous day, it still was a struggle. Tom Kite was great, and his caddy Sandy is awesome and Wes Short Jr is a super nice guy…but even Tom Kite had his surely moments. They were all grinding away all day long and while our Tom scored the best that day for their group, it wasn’t anything to write home about. We learned that day that Tom Kite’s competitive days were certainly numbered…he will retire from golf soon and that will be bittersweet; just another golf legend riding off into the sunset.

The final day brought the surprise pairing of David Toms & Chris DiMarco (who turned 50 two days before the tournament started). Tom was at +5 and the other 2 were tied at +6 going into that round. For me, this was comforting. Here’s a guy who just won the US Sr Open, bottom-feeding with another very famous PGA Tour player & my “unknown pro” husband was right there with them & even beating them by a stroke. Yes, golf can certainly castrate the best of them. However, that comfortable feeling very quickly dissipated to the hard realization that these guys know how to dig themselves out of a (somewhat embarrassing) hole. David Toms shot -5 that round to somewhat redeem himself while Chris DiMarco rallied from a bad front 9 to beat Tom by 2 strokes. The good part is that both guys were awesome to play with! Tom got to chat with them quite a bit during the round & they showed a genuine interest in the fairly unique story of how he got there. It didn’t make the day better, but it makes the memories better…which when it’s all said and done, is all that really matters.

The rest of the daily details have been well documented via Facebook posts which flow through to the websites home page. It’s safe to say that the memories we’ll take away from the Boeing Classic will have less to do with golf and more to do with all of the circumstances leading us to that point & through the week.

After that last round in Snoqualmie on Sunday we packed up, made the 30 min drive to drop Mike at the airport and hit the road on our way to Calgary, Alberta for the next qualifier on Tuesday. It was an 11 hour drive & it was 3:30pm on Sunday. Nonetheless to say, we would stop on the way to sleep & then try to get to Calgary in time for a quick practice round on Monday afternoon.

To be continued…

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