Solheim lessons: Don't stand in front of customers
Let me get this part out of the way first: Natalie Gulbis looks better in person than on TV.
My buddy Rob and I made that major observation when we attended the final round Sunday of the Solheim Cup, which pitted our nation's best female golfers against Europe's finest. Other insights: Traffic was fairly awful on those two-lane country roads leading to Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove; coulda used more bleachers to better accommodate the estimated 120,000 fans who turned out for the three-day tournament; it's really annoying for a couple of overweight 50somethings, who take the game far too seriously, to see these women swing so easily and hit the ball so far and straight.
"It's pretty depressing," Rob said, "to know that most of the women here, not just the pros, are better than us."
But enough of our curmudgeonly views. Perhaps you'd like to hear some after-the-matches, behind-the-scene observations of our sportswriters who covered the historic event from inside the ropes.
* Lindsey Willhite quickly discovered that despite his media pass that allowed him anywhere inside the ropes, none of the paying customers appreciated him standing right in front of them. Near one green, he said, "I stopped for a moment and jokingly asked if it was OK if I stayed there. I got a resounding, 'No!' from some people, so I asked what time they had gotten there. 'Wednesday,' replied one lady." This was on Sunday. Lindsey moved aside.
* Barry Rozner was struck by the sheer joy exhibited by 19-year-old phenom Michelle Wie, who, by and large, hasn't seemed to have had much fun the past few years competing in men's PGA tournaments.
"She had fun, and she made it sound like she's never had fun in her life. She did not want it to end. She reminded me of the kid who hangs around school and always finds a reason to stay after, never wanting to go home because of what awaits. That part haunts me. I can't help wondering if she's had any childhood at all."
* Joe Aguilar has covered numerous pro tournaments, but the Solheim was his most enjoyable.
"All the players were fantastic, so genuine, so supportive of their teammates, so polite with the media," he said. "They weren't afraid to be funny, and show some personality or vulnerability. (Take a cue, guys.) And I absolutely loved listening to the European players speak in their thick accents. When captain Alison Nicholas spoke, I thought I was listening to a queen. If you don't love Laura Davies, you don't love people."
* Mike Spellman, who has been our main guy for this tournament, provided these random musings: "Just the sheer number of cars and people pouring into Rich Harvest; all the dads with their daughters in the galleries; seeing the emotion on all the players' faces and what this event really means to them; not hearing "You're the man!"
I wondered what the strategy is for covering a golf tournament. I mean, you can't walk with more than one group at a time, so wouldn't it make sense to watch it on TV, catch the players for quotes and such afterward? Nope, the sports guys said unanimously, you've gotta walk with the players to catch the nuance, the little dramas not captured by the cameras. Barry estimated he walked 24 holes each day of the tournament. "Walking the course is really the only way to get a feel for how a player is interacting with other players, fans, caddies and his/her clubs.
"On TV, they show the shot and that's it."