By Rob Daniels
I have nothing against this particular guy. I have nothing on him, in fact. Standing about 500 feet from him, I don't know his name and can only guess that he plays for Indiana, judging from the color scheme of his hat-shirt combo.
But it would be nice if he'd shank one in the general direction of, say, Memphis.
Serving as a spotter at a golf tournament, as I am today for the NCAA Regional administered by UNCG, is a lot like being a punter on a football team: You are only summoned to duty by failure.
If everything is smooth, your work involves nothing more than staying out if the way and holding your two red flags, which you have been given to assist players in their generally grim task of locating wayward drives. To put it another way, you are more likely to wave the figurative white flag than to place the actual red one. In your desire to serve, you most often surrender to the excellence and steadiness of the 75-man field, which proceeds in collections of three at a time.
I have been assigned to No. 15, a 470-yard par-4 -at Grandover's East course. It has a bunker the size of Montana on the right and a few trees but nothing especially quirky.
The most important skill in this gig is not sight. When a small white ball is airborne and headed for you and backed by a cloudy canvas, your chances of following said object from liftoff to final resting place are fairly slim.
Rather, you're better off relying on your ears – first for any consternation emanating from the tee box, then for the sound of the landing ball. From there, you can use your eyes again.
Along the way, you remind yourself that you could, in fact, become a great resource to a triumvirate of players. Every group is under NCAA edict to play at a specified schedule, egregious deviation from which may result in a one-stroke penalty for all parties regardless of degree of culpability. So if, for example, a group is in danger of missing its appointed date with the upcoming checkpoint, a spotter's attentive ears just might be the players' clemency.
At least that's what you tell yourself while you wait for the next group.
Sure enough, two players in one group unite ball with bark, every golfer's fingernails-on-chalkboard resonance. For one man, the bounce is unkind; for the other, benign.
"Must have hit something pretty good there," grins a Charlotte player as he sees the red flag in reasonable rough rather than the merciless tree roots a few feet away.
All told, I'll be of use to about 10 of the 75 competitors – just enough to be useful, not so many as to be a messenger of mayhem.
- UNCG -