Many of the folks walking around the grounds during the tournament belonged to the Concession Golf Club.
“What are you doing out here?” One member asked the other.
“Oh, you know, just watching these kids hit it farther than I could ever imagine.”
These guys are not tour players. Maybe one day they will be. One day, some of them will have a business manager and an agent, someone to tell them what to say and where to go; but for now, these guys are more interested in their team’s performance than they are about how they look on the Golf Channel broadcast or whether or not they should talk to ruthless media-types, like James Sender and his staff, hidden among the trees, with high-powered binoculars, waiting for that one indecent moment when a lone index finger enters a player’s nostril. They were there…Several print journalists petitioned to have them removed from the grounds, but that request was met with a firm – “What are you talking about?” and “Who gave you those press credentials?”
“Bill, Bill!” The golf channel camera operator yelled into his lavaliere microphone. “Bill, Bill, get the USC team…middle of the fairway… they’re in the middle of the fairway!” He released the microphone and returned to his camera, one eye pressed hard against the lens, fingers dancing around the controls, adjusting the zoom and the color. I looked over at the huddle of USC players 40 feet from the 18th green. There was no media around them. They were alone. “What are they doing?” An LSU parent asked. “Praying probably,” I said. She laughed, “No, they are probably meditating, they’re Californians.”
“You’re right,” I said, “Or maybe sparking a blunt.” Perhaps, they needed to take a breath… or a puff…puff…pass moment to numb their disappointment before floating over to the media tent to answer questions about how they would rather be on a surf board than accepting the runner-up trophy.
I found the little things to be the most interesting part about watching the Division I National Championship at Concession Golf Club. Each player’s demeanor, and the way they carried themselves throughout the week…they look like regular guys on a weekend outing with their buddies. Honestly, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the LSU players pulled out a 30-pack of Natural Lite, or USC smuggling in marijuana infused cookies, stuffed into secret compartments in their golf bags.
After all, they did seem a little loose, and far too willing to just “play golf,” as several team members have stated throughout the week: “We’re just 5 guys trying to play some golf…that’s it.”
Many PGA tour players have mental coaches, that advise them on how to deal with the media so that negative thoughts do not creep into their heads. In the college ranks, the players are far less guarded. Players are more willing to talk about their mistakes and reveal their emotion. It was clear after the round that the University of Southern California failed to live up to its own expectations.
They expected to win.
Senior, Eric Sugimoto, seemed the most disappointed, sitting at the press table in the media room, trying to answer questions with a straight face, all the while with a grimace of disappointment that suggested the potential for whaling tears to burst forth at any moment. Coach Zambri, looking sunburned and haggard, shared the disappointment saying, “it is so hard to get here, that once you do, you do not want to let the opportunity get away from you.”
“I just wanted to win, and nothing was going to stop me.” Eric Sugimoto said referring to how he felt on the first tee, “if something is in the way, just bulldoze it. That’s kind of the mindset I had going into today.”
“Second place is way better than third, but…that’s how we’re judged, measured, and so, I’m pretty bummed.” Head coach Chris Zambri said. “This was a huge day. It’s tough to get into this position, so when you get here, you want to get it done. I’m just a little upset about the fact that we didn’t…we still haven’t won a national championship, so that’s a bummer.”