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Life out here by Bret Kofford: Tiger fighting the sheep

August 01, 2001

PALM DESERT — The interesting thing about a professional golf match is the professional golf match is not interesting.

OK, it was almost interesting to see the mythical Tiger Woods from a few feet away. Shockingly, in person he doesn't look like god at all. He looks like any another guy with an animal name, like the "Big Cat," the "Baby Bull" or my childhood friend named "Crawdad."

The setup Monday's Battle of Bighorn, bringing together the two best men golfers and two best women golfers in the world, then pairing them off in coed teams, was an intriguing one, at least as golf formats go.

And yes, it was kind of fun to root for Tiger and his partner, Annika Sorenstam, because they seemed like nice people, whereas their opponents, David Duval and Karrie Webb, seemed like a couple sticks in the mud. (Do two sticks in the mud make a fence?)

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Other than that, watching the golf match was tedious. It involved a lot of walking and waiting, then some more walking and waiting, all on a hot day.

Then again, I am not much of a golfer. When I golf my balls go out of bounds so often it is much more akin to disrupting natural habitat than anything connected to sport.

What was more interesting then the golf was everything else that went on at the match. Tiger Woods' impact on the game, his opening it to more people of color, was evident among the gallery. Whereas in the past at a golf tournament there might have been one black person at the event, and he would have been carrying someone's clubs, there were maybe 30 or 40 black people at the tournament among the thousands attending. It still wasn't exactly an ideal spot for an Al Sharpton for president fund raiser, but the crowd did seem to have a better mix, at least racially.

Economically it was a different story. With tickets going for $100 a pop, they weren't busing in from Compton to catch the match. Most of the people at the Bighorn Golf Course here this day obviously came from money, smelled of money.

And the truth, as much as I hate to admit it, is most folks in the gallery were polite. There were some people who felt they had the right to stand right in front of people who had staked claim to a good viewing site 45 minutes before, and they made it clear they had paid for that right and no collective yelling by 10 members of the riffraff was going to move them. Most such people were wearing "member" badges, and according to what I have heard, the membership fee into Bighorn is well into six figures. I may be more magnanimous then most, but I think if you want to pay that much to stand in front of me to watch some dude putt, then you have purchased that right.

Even more interesting than the audience was the number of people in the marshaling crews.

First there were the people in yellow shirts and tan pants and caps who ran ahead of the golfers and golf balls to sit around the greens and other key spots to control the always volatile country club golf crowds.

Then there was the crew of people in black caps and pants and yellow shirts who walked fast in a large group with some great intent in their visages. Exactly what that was I did not know, and neither, apparently, did they.

Then there was a smaller but still incredibly large group of people in black hats and caps and powder blue shirts who cleared the way for important people, such as the golfers, caddies, TV folks and anyone else wearing a headset, including a girl who had just gotten her braces (I'm kidding about that).

Then there were the really important tournament officials, who were so important, so high-ranking that they didn't have to wear uniforms unless they so chose, much like South American dictators.

Many of those folks wore badges indicating they were members of Bighorn, which truly is a lovely place. And really, what better use of our transferred Imperial Valley farm water than to convert parched dirt into rolling fairways of grass? Bighorn it is a place of natural desert beauty transformed into an artificial plaid pants paradise, then named after the majestic bighorn sheep that are native to the area but are rapidly disappearing because of such developments.

The green for the ninth hole at Bighorn is nestled in a little canyon. As golf courses go, the area around the ninth green is quite bucolic. As we were waiting a half hour for the golfers, and the legions of marshals, to arrive, I started thinking how cool, how poignant it would be if a bighorn sheep appeared on the hilltop right above us … then majestically turned around and dropped a load on that moneybags club member who would never consider moving out of the way for the people, and animals, who were there first.

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