NO DOUBT the Buick Open will miss Tiger Woods this week, but most of my contact with him during the seven years I worked on the Buick events entailed not golf but which courtesy car he wanted. He always requested tinted windows, which were tough to get because the dealers who were providing the cars were concerned that the car would be harder to sell after the tournament. I actually thought Tiger (below) was being a bit of a diva about it until one day at Westchester when we had a rainout. Tiger was leaving the grounds in his event car, a Rendezvous with clear windows. Tons of people were walking around, and when they spotted him, he was trapped. They surrounded the car and were trying to get him to roll down the windows and talk to them and sign autographs. He spotted me and put both hands up in the air as if to say, See, dummy, that's why I want tinted windows. From then on, we made sure he got them.
DURING THE BUICK OPEN we always put up a board in the staff trailer to write down the oddest questions of the week. The classics: "Where is the best place to go to get some foul balls?" (Answer: Try the first base side.) "My son is a huge Tiger fan. Can you arrange for us to meet him?" (Sure. Would his hotel room be O.K.?) And the winner: "I have a clubhouse badge. Do I have to stay in the clubhouse or can I walk around?" (Actually, we'd prefer it if you stayed out of the clubhouse.)
MY OTHER favorite story from Detroit was about a local man who wanted nothing more than to play in the pro-am. He had saved for years but was still far short of the $3,000 or so it cost at the time. The story hit the newspapers and became a cause cél√®bre. People donated money, and he got his spot. He drew Peter Jacobsen, who was the best because he always made his amateur partners feel like a million bucks. When the day finally arrived, there were several hundred people around the 1st tee to see the guy play. He was as nervous as hell. He took a huge practice swing, looked down the fairway and made the longest backswing in golf history. He fired from the top and completely missed the ball, which toppled off the tee and lay there. There was an audible gasp. The guy looked directly at Jacobsen and said, "Man, this is a tough course." Jake collapsed, and the crowd roared. The guy put the tee in his pocket and smashed his next shot about 250 yards down the middle. Doesn't get any better than that.
Jim McGovern ran Buick's golf program from 1998 to 2005 and now consults for title sponsors of PGA Tour events.