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A New Marshal In Town The author joins those brave souls who walk the thin green line between the gallery and anarchy

June 29, 1998
June 29, 1998

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June 29, 1998

Golf Plus

A New Marshal In Town The author joins those brave souls who walk the thin green line between the gallery and anarchy

Yeah, yeah, we know: We got in free. One of us picked up a rope
too soon during a practice round and sent a caddie
ass-over-bandbox. A few of us got yelled at for having a coffee
klatch on the second green. We obstructed the views of paying
customers and couldn't always tell them exactly where Tiger was.
So sue us.

This is an article from the June 29, 1998 issue

I had given little thought to marshals until, at the request of
my editor, I signed up to be one at the Open. I sent away for
the uniform--green polyester windbreaker, green sweater vest,
green-and-white cap, green-and-white shirt--and attended the
USGA's marshal school, a 90-minute session in a high school gym,
where one thing was stressed above all else: Be courteous until
it hurts.

Who knew it would hurt this much?

MONDAY: In the temporary parking lot the crowd awaiting a
shuttle to Olympic is angry. After standing in line 15 minutes,
we are told we must walk a half mile to the bus. "We all just
queued up behind that gal in the [marshal's] uniform," complains
one agitated oldster. "She looked like she knew what she was
doing." A groundswell of antimarshal sentiment surges through
the group as it trudges toward the bus. I covertly remove my
badge, lest I be bludgeoned by aluminum-stick-chair-wielding
septuagenarians.

The most dramatic event on this slow morning is the discovery of
an uncredentialed raccoon that has become disoriented in the
rough on 15. The offending beast is removed by security.

TUESDAY: While manning the landing area on the par-4 5th, I am
approached by two guys in their late 20s. They are smoking
cigars and wearing $120 sunglasses. I make them for investment
bankers playing hooky. "How far are we from the tee?" asks
Stogie 1. A poor judge of distances, I ask him, "What do you
think?"

"About 250 yards," he says.

"That would be my estimate exactly."

A ball lands in the fairway, and Stogie 2 asks me, "Who just hit
that ball?"

I have no idea.

"Sorry," he says, sarcastically, "we thought you worked here."

Actually, Biff, I have volunteered, along with 1,300 others, to
stand here and take your guff and, when you are finished serving
it up, say, "Have a nice day." If I wasn't under orders to be
civil, I might tell you where to put the lit end of your cigar.

In addition to being told that politeness is mandatory, we were
instructed at Marshal U to:

--Be vigilant. The USGA's Roger Harvie told us that with the
onset of Tigermania, a lot of people in the gallery "don't know
the game of golf as well as we all know it." Not that we are
all-knowing. At 7:15 a.m. on the second day of the Open, for
instance, Olympic Club superintendent John Fleming was
displeased to discover a gaggle of marshals shooting the breeze
and drinking coffee while standing on the 2nd green.

--Make friends with the gallery. Don't be perceived as a
privileged onlooker.

--Avoid talking to the players unless they initiate conversation
with you. So, Nick, how's your love life?

--Never volunteer rulings or advice. Psst, Jack, you're looping
on your backswing.

--Make sure no one is in the middle of his backswing before
issuing the marshal's stock commands: "Stand, please" and
"Quiet, please."

--Stay sober. Harvie told us that during a rain delay at an event
15 or 20 years ago, the resumption of play was delayed while a
couple of marshals removed a drunken comrade who had collapsed
in a bunker. Said Harvie, "We would ask you not to become loose
impediments during the week of the Open."

--Know where Tiger is on the course. For every 10 people who pose
a question, eight want to know about Tiger Woods. Has he come
through yet? Where is he? What is the shortest route to him? We
are not marshals so much as we are individual Tiger Information
Outlets.

WEDNESDAY: Rocky Randall looks out over her vast domain--16 is a
609-yard par-5--like a visored Napoleon surveying the Russian
steppe. This is the first time I have worked with her. It is
apparently Rocky's belief that before she can build a marshal
up, she must first tear him down. In her eyes I can't do
anything right. I am manning the ropes between the 15th green
and the 16th tee, but I am doing it all wrong. Do not simply
drop the rope on the ground after the players have passed, Rocky
says. Loop it around your arm in a neat coil.

Soon after, Rocky dispatches me to marshal Siberia, Area Five
left fairway. It's in the shade, in the wind, in the rough,
close to nothing. Golfers who enter Area Five arrive in a dark
mood. After a half hour or so, Jose Maria Olazabal pays me a
visit. His ball is entombed in eight-inch rough.

"Merry Christmas," I say when Olazabal arrives. He shows zero
amusement, briefly glares at me, in fact, before hacking his
ball all of 50 yards. As he walks off, I can't help thinking
"Feliz Navidad" might have been the way to go.

By his legions we shall know him. Tiger's imminent arrival on
the 16th tee is presaged by the approach of an unruly,
cablinasian mass. His entourage--three San Francisco police
officers, four roving marshals, an unspecified number of whom
are FBI agents, and others--is a small, well-armed army. The
logistics of having Woods at one's tournament make for a huge
headache. Later marshal chairman Frank Clifford tells me, "I
know the USGA would like Tiger to make the cut, but we'd love it
if he didn't."

When Tiger's Army is in my neighborhood, I make it a point to
strike up a conversation with one of three police officers
accompanying Woods. I am hoping the gallery will see us chatting
and think of us as a couple of authority figures to be obeyed
unquestioningly. Representatives of, respectively, the thin blue
and thin green lines.

Someone behind us asks the cop to please get down. "Like I'm
going to kneel," she says, not budging.

How I long to be similarly belligerent! Instead, I am constantly
kneeling and scraping. Each night, at home, I rub Shout, the
stain remover, into the right knee of my khakis before
laundering them. I kneel because I am determined not to give the
appearance of a privileged onlooker. I want to give my hole
captain zero grounds for criticism. In this quest, I fail.

After an hour in Siberia, Rocky moves me to Area Four, up the
fairway a piece, where I am the gatekeeper at one of the more
bustling crossways on the course. The work does not suit me.
Even after I have asked the spectators to stop, they stride past
as if I am wearing a sign that says: IGNORE ME.

I experiment with the following increasingly desperate
admonitions:

"C'mon--you're making me look bad in front of the other marshals."

"Do that again, and I'll file a full report to the USGA."

"Don't come crying to me if you catch a Titleist in the temple."

After I have presided over a few slipshod crossings, Rocky makes
a special trip out from the tee box--this is very, very bad--to
tell me that I am letting far too many stragglers through; that
I had better stop being what marshals call a "rope dope."

It's only natural that some of the other marshals resent Rocky.
I noticed that she was a bit peremptory with the marshals on the
15th green, with whom we conduct joint rope operations. Rocky
rules with an iron fist--some of the guys call her the Czarina.

THURSDAY: Thirteen clubs from around the Bay Area provide some
900 marshals. The Olympic Club kicks in with 250 more, including
50 or so agents from the local FBI office on a busman's holiday.
I am one of roughly 130 19th Hole marshals. Since we have no
assigned hole, we report to the marshals' trailer each morning
and wait for an assignment. Whiling the time away, I am reminded
of my summers as a looper at the tony Misquamicut Club in Watch
Hill, R.I., where legendary caddiemaster Charlie Pescatello
would yell down to us, if a card game became too boisterous,
"Watch your f-----' language, there's f-----' ladies on the tee!"

When Clifford sticks his head out of the trailer, it is to send
me to the 7th hole--a short, uphill par-4. I'm a spotter in the
rough on the left, watching for errant drives, but no one hits
near me. A guy with beer on his breath leans over the ropes and
offers me $100 for my windbreaker. I'm tempted, but I've already
decided to iron a crease into its sleeves, put it back in its
original packaging and give it to one of my brothers-in-law for
Christmas.

This same afternoon, I find out later, Justin Leonard lit into a
marshal. After she had disturbed him by asking for "Quiet,
please," Leonard scolded, "That means you, too."

That's right, pick on the marshal. We're easy marks. Players
know the paying customers resent us. Jane Walker, a nice woman
from the Claremont Country Club, was marshaling on the 11th
green today when Woods & Co. arrived. When she knelt, a woman
behind her shrieked, "You're not gonna kneel there, are you?"
When Walker explained, apologetically, that she had to kneel
somewhere, the woman said, "We all paid for our tickets."

FRIDAY: Got a late start, then got pulled over on my way to
work. The cop clocked me at 81. Yes, I was wearing my marshal's
badge, and yes, the officer let me skate. Those of us in the
law-enforcement community look out for one another.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I thought everyone in
Bernhard Langer's group had hit their approaches onto or near
the green. So I lowered the rope on the crosswalk nearest the
14th green, oblivious to the fact that, 60 feet behind me,
Langer was standing over his third shot. Seeing what I had not
seen, the spectators stood stock still until Langer hit. "Thank
you very much," I told them as they passed. "My bad."

As she walked past, one patrician-looking woman said, loud
enough for me to hear, "I would say so."

SATURDAY: Looks like I might not be the biggest dope in a
marshal's uniform. During Friday's round, a player's wife says
that she asked a marshal to let her into a roped-off area so she
could have a better view of her husband's putting. She alleges
that the marshal didn't think much of that idea, and responded
with some choice threats and epithets.

I am unable to find the allegedly verbally abusive marshal, but
I do find the hole captain in charge of that green, and he seems-
stunned by the allegations. (I later learn that the marshal
denies being abusive.) "They throw you out of the club for
something like that," he says. He lowers his voice. Payne
Stewart is chipping onto the green. The ball he hits charges at
the cup, way too fast it seems to me, then brakes and rolls to
within four feet.

I had wondered on Monday if as the week went on I would grow
accustomed to, would cease to be amazed by, the shots these guys
make. The answer is no.

SUNDAY: Friday's Langer-related gaffe gives me pause. Rather
than risk marshal burnout, I take Sunday off. On the seventh
day, the ugly shirt rests. I wear short pants. I drink beer. I
am courteous until I feel the slightest twinge.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY TIM GABOR Rope dope Assigned to play gatekeeper at one of the fairway crossings, our man failed to hold the line. [Drawing of golf tournament marshall standing in front of cordon with gallery behind]COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY TIM GABOR Rough character The biggest security crisis on Monday was an errant raccoon on 15. [Drawing of marshall with net and cage pursuing golfing raccoon]COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY TIM GABOR Blowing smoke The author didn't have satisfactory answers, or the patience, for a couple of stogie-wielding fans. [Two cigar-smoking spectators talking to marshall with IGNORE ME sign taped to his back]
We are told to be courteous until it hurts. Who knew it would
hurt this much?
In desperation, I finally say, "Don't come crying to me if you
catch a Titleist in the temple."