Pro Am days are not usually promoted as a spectator opportunity but it’s almost guaranteed to be a great day out for golfers just before every major Golfing Event. The Pro –Am day prior to the True Thailand Classic at Black Mountain was a perfect example. A Pro-Am is when professionals from the field of a main event will be ‘teamed up’ with amateur golfers, sometimes one pro and three amateurs, sometimes two and two. Pros off the back competition tees and amateurs off more forward markers is the usual format with the number of birdies by the team determining the winners. The amateurs are typically representing a sponsoring company and for many it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to mix it with the best of the best. One told me that it’s been on his ‘bucket list’ for years. It’s also an opportunity for spectators to get up close and maybe have the chance to chat with stars of the game.
None of the tension and absolute obedience to the ‘code of silence’ required during competition. After all it’s really a fun day and a practice opportunity for the pros; so cameras and autographs are OK – within reason! Any tension is probably felt most by the amateurs and perhaps their caddies. With handicaps of up to twenty five, the prospect of an embarrassing shanked tee shot is on their mind. I asked one amateur about the level of intimidation during the game. However he said the pros were very friendly, undemanding and accommodating; it was really the spectators that worried him the most. I had the chance to chat with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and asked what he may do if he happened to win the Thai Classic Hole In One Prize, a Black Mountain Villa Unit valued at 10 million THB.
I shouldn’t have expected anything less than a very professional response; all about prizes being the result of a sound preparation like any good golfing score. “Don’t think about the building, think about the foundations”; a very apt metaphor! Memo to amateur golfers: How many good rounds have you ruined by counting the score and the rewards to come after a good first nine, then watching it all fall to pieces after that premature anticipation? Australian Scott Hend’s caddie let me know that the best golfers don’t clean their wedges between shots; that is likely to reduce the ball spin. And that his irons weren’t looking old and rusty by neglect. That’s because his clubs aren’t chromed, they are allowed to be pitted and corroded, that also helps with his shot-making it seems. After a wayward drive, England’s Simon Dyson hit a second ball then explained to me that he was allowed a Mulligan in this form of the game.
I guess I shouldn’t have suggested disqualification was on the cards! Attending a Pro – Am day at this level of competition is a great day out AND likely to be free! You won’t see every player in the main event, but you will get the opportunity to see many stars of the game in a relaxed and friendly frame of mind ‘up close and personal’. This is also when there are likely to be promotional/photographic activities happening. In this case a photo shoot with Johan Edfors, Thomas Bjorn and Thongchai Jaidee experiencing some martial arts lessons, Thai style. However as an ex-paratrooper, the latter may have ‘been there and done that’ before. Footnote: I did manage to get seven star autographs on a Cha-Am Golf Club cap. Should be a good auction item for the Club’s Charity Day later in the year!