Tracking Tiger at the Greenbrier Classic

Tracking Tiger at the Greenbrier Classic

Tiger Woods was scheduled to make an appearance at the 3rd Greenbrier Classic PGA Tour event here in my place of residence, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.  It just so happens that Tiger Woods is my favorite athlete so I guess I’m a little excited.  My plan is to get Tiger’s autograph and say a few words to the iconic golfer.

I’ve always admired Tiger after seeing him dominate the PGA tour year after year, and identified with Tiger because we have so many similarities.  We were both born in 1975, we are both biracial, we have two children about the same age a boy and a girl, and we both love the game of golf.  As I grew up and transitioned from a teenager to an adult, I did so watching Tiger Woods, a guy that looked like me, breaking record after record, year after year, and hitting unbelievable and historic golf shots on a regular basis.

I’ve been playing golf since I was a young boy, my grandfather Luke Martin introduced me to the sport when I was about 10.  By the way, Granddaddy Luke would have been 100 years old this past July 4th, which also happens to be my 3rd wedding anniversary too!  The celebrations took place with an extra jolt this year because of my favorite golfer making an appearance in my town, on a course that is practically in my backyard.

After watching Tiger Woods on TV so much over the years I needed to see the actual person to confirm his true existence.  An autograph will do, along with a few close encounters with him on the golf course.  If I can succeed in doing this I will be forever content.  How will I do this, and will I accomplish my goals or be left disappointed that I was so close to getting that signature but could not close the deal.

I had purchased a weekly grounds package online for 189 bucks.  So I had a ticket to each day of the tourney, which started on Monday with player practice rounds and a pro-am event.  I wasn’t sure if Tiger would even be there on Monday being that a “Derecho”, an unbelievable wall of sustained wind storm had just passed through White Sulphur Springs and also D.C. where Tiger was on Sunday when he won the AT&T National at the famous Congressional course .

I arrived at the Old White course on Monday with my new Taylor Made hat and sharpie, in hopes of spotting this Tiger Woods guy.  No luck on Monday, so I arrived on the scene Tuesday morning to find Tiger, and catch a glimpse of the man.  As I entered the grounds around 9:30 a.m. an information ambassador told me that Tiger teed off on hole #6 at 7:00 a.m., so I thought to myself start on the 18th hole and backtrack and I’ll be sure to run in to him!  After walking in my flip flops 9 or 10 holes and asking around…”where’s Tiger”, it seemed like each person was telling me something different…he’s on the front 9…he’s not even here yet from D.C…I think he teed off on #1 at 7…he has a press conference at 1:00 at the clubhouse!!!  I soon realized that this hunt for Tiger would not be as easy as I thought!

I headed back toward the clubhouse and the practice range, and soon learned that Mr. Woods was indeed having a press conference at the clubhouse at 1 p.m. sharp.  When I saw my friend Justin Bostic he confirmed this tale to me with the utmost confidence, and then confidently said Tiger will then come down to the range and hit balls before his practice round later on that afternoon.  I sat in the perfect position to be as close as possible to Tiger after he exited the press conference down to the range.  I sat in my claimed position for almost an hour when Tiger emerged in the distance.  I finally got a glimpse of my boy Tiger Woods! As he crossed the walking bridge and headed down the red carpet to the practice range  I took this pic.

He looked like a robot and seemed to have a glow as he passed by me.  The energy level in the area went sky high as the spectators cheered and clapped for Tiger, as I’m sure for most of them it was their first time setting eyes on the celebrity.  Tiger’s PR guy Glenn Greenspan spoke to the crowd and informed everyone that Tiger would be signing autographs after his practice round on the 18th green.  The range was flooded with spectators watching Tiger’s practice regiment.  He then walked back to the first tee to start his practice round, but the second after he hit his tee shot the weather horn sounded to clear the course because of nearby thunderstorms.  As I hung out by the clubhouse for over an hour I realized Tiger would probably not make another appearance on Tuesday.

Wednesday came and Tiger was scheduled to play in the pro-am along side Jim Justice with a tee time at 7:00 a.m.  As I arrived bright and early to the course for the third straight day my plan was to follow Tiger for the entire 18 hole round and then meet him on the 18th green to get that autograph.  As Tiger neared the end of his round I was able to find a pretty good spot amongst hundreds of fans right by 18 green.  I was hoping I had positioned myself in the right place to get that autograph.  As he made his way off the 18th green toward the clubhouse it was a chaotic situation with people basically pushing and shoving,  jockeying for position to get close to the man.  He started signing autographs about a foot to the left of where I had my hat and sharpie extended, as I shouted “Tiger, I’m Your biggest fan!” he inched further and further away.  I had come so close and I immediately thought I would never get another chance to get Tiger’s autograph.  Oh well at least I had a chance to follow Tiger Woods for 18 holes of golf with relatively small crowds, that was cool.

(Tiger Woods signing autographs on the 18th green)

Day 4 was Thursday and the 1st round of the actual tournament.  The crowds were enormous following Tiger so I decided to skip a few holes ahead and get into position around a green or a tee box to view Tiger close up.  I knew I had little or no chance to get his autograph this day, especially if he wasn’t playing well.  I positioned myself on the back edge of the 9th green because since Tiger teed off on #10, the 9th would be his last hole of the day.  He walked right past my outstretched hand holding my hat and sharpie as his PR guy Glen stated to the crowd “no autographs please, we’re headed to the scorers tent to sign his card”.  Shit outta luck again!  But I had an idea…Since Phil Mickleson was teeing off on #1, I figured the majority of the crowds would be following him.  And Tiger almost always heads to the practice range after his round of golf to work on his swing.  Maybe If I headed to the practice range Tiger would be there.

So off I went walking from the 9th green to the range.  Sure enough Tiger was there hitting balls with his caddy Joe LaCava and Arjun Atwal.  Unbelievably no one seemed to know Tiger was there because the crowd was very sparse.  As I stood by the roped off area watching Tiger hit balls, methodically starting with his wedges and then taking that final swing with his driver, I knew this was my chance!  I stood right against the rope about 4 or 5 people deep when Tiger slowly approached.  Yes!  he would be signing autographs.  As he inched closer to me I was so excited…what would I say to him?  When he finally grasped my Taylor Made hat and started signing it I said “thanks so much Tiger, this means the world to me”; he responded, “No problem bud”…so exciting, Tiger spoke to me!  As he returned my hat I patted Tiger on the shoulder and thanked him again.  Mission completed!  Tiger’s autograph on My hat!!!  What a feeling.

Tiger Woods autograph, pic by taylor

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