Golf Tourney Shows Sharp Divide Among Students, Locals

I have lived in La Jolla for almost a
year and a half now, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I fully felt the
magnitude of my new abode. Torrey Pines Golf Course played host to the Buick
Invitational, a professional golf tournament that drew some of the golf world’s
biggest names and induced the greater La Jolla
demographic to cut short their monthly trip to Fiji
to catch a few rounds.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love golf. I am by no means even a
scratch golfer, but whenever I hit the links I am guaranteed a good time and
can hold my own. But for as much golf as I have played in my life, I had never
before gotten the chance to watch the world’s best golfers at a professional
event. So when my cousin called and told me that he had two tickets for us to
watch the invitational, I was pumped.

The morning of the tournament, I decided that since this was
my first pro-golf experience, I wanted to try and look like I belonged in the
crowd. Opening up my closet made me realize that my lack of pleated khakis and
Lacoste polos would surely keep me from blending in with the sleekly dressed
and high-class spectators. I ended up sporting a collared shirt under a
windbreaker, which I thought was classy but not too showy. When my cousin
greeted my appearance with a deep, loud, roaring belly laugh I knew that I was
going to have a long day ahead of me.

Aside from my fears of being arrested by the La
fashion police, I was really excited as we walked up to the
entrance to Torrey Pines. My excitement turned to confusion when, as we were
waiting to pick up our tickets, an usher approached us and asked to see our
cell phones. My cell phone — you’re kidding me, right?

At first I thought that maybe it was a really forward sales
pitch for T-Mobile or some other tournament sponsor, but then, with a stern
grimace, he instructed us to go wait in another line to check our phones. We
weren’t just supposed to put our phones on silent, but actually check them in
with the tournament organizers, rendering us phone-less and disconnected for
the whole day. But I was also without time; since my phone doubles as my watch,
I can’t exactly create a makeshift sundial on the course to figure out what
time it was.

Being the San Francisco
rebel that I am, I refused to conform to the
Man’s demands, and my cousin and I quickly snuck past the guards,
secretly pocketing the portable cellular devices. The adrenaline rush that
accompanied my contraband soon subsided when we entered the tournament and were
greeted by a pristine, beautiful course above the Torrey Pines cliffs
overlooking the ocean.

For the next few hours we walked the course, trying to see
as many different golfers and holes as we could before our legs tired out.
Watching Tiger Woods is a thing of beauty and, aside from the fact that he
looked smaller than he does on TV, it was amazing being so close to such a
prominent sports figure. What was even more fun than watching Tiger was
following the no-names for a couple of holes. These guys were just happy to be
on the same course as Tiger, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh, and were able to
interact with the crowd a whole lot more, exchanging jokes and comments with
fans between shots.

Being part of the gallery was, however, one of the more
mixed experiences of my life. It was great being so close to the action, but I
just felt damn awkward surrounded by the upper echelons of La Jolla
society. Normally I have no problem being around different classes of people,
but that day, the overabundance of golf visors, $20 drinks and veneers pushed
me over the edge. I had never been to a sporting event where the fans tried as
hard as they could to look exactly like the athletes. I also kept getting weird
looks from people; maybe my windbreaker and jeans combo wasn’t up to par with
the mandated dress code of FootJoy shoes, Titleist shirts and Callaway hats.

Besides feeling suffocated by the corporate sponsorships
that choked every open space on the course, I was content with my first
pro-golf experience. I had spent the afternoon watching golf at its best, saw
some amazing shots and kept my morals intact — and I didn’t give in and buy the
$12 Polish sausage that tempted me all day long. Most importantly, though, I
dodged the ever-watching eyes of the tournament security force and even slipped
my phone out for a few minutes to call my mom.

Apparently my upper-class costume was better than I thought,
and I had been able to trick the crowds into thinking that I was one of them,
thus making myself invisible and allowing my illegal phone use. The 2008 U.S.
Open is coming to Torrey Pines in June, and maybe I’ll buy myself a nice pair
of slacks and a golf polo, then walk into the tournament with a cell phone and
a camera hidden on me, along with a Philly cheese steak or something else yummy
to eat.

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