There's something to be said about learning from the best. So, when Annika Sorenstam came to Charleston, S.C. to host the Ginn Tribute, I knew I had found my new swing coach.
OK, just to make this clear: I'm not going through some ugly divorce from Brian Ferguson, my current (albeit reluctant) swing coach. It's just that after weeks of Brian's brutal honesty, I felt I needed the gentle, nurturing words of a female swing coach.
I figured that if I could get Annika to diagnose just one swing ' to give, at most, a 45-second lesson, I'd be well on my way back to my Junior golf championship form.
So, armed with a stack of Ambassador of Fun business cards courtesy of my official job title at Greenway Golf, I headed over to the Ginn Tribute to pick up my media pass. Being a columnist for GolfChannel.com does have its benefits.
Unfortunately, those benefits don't include access to the driving range according to LPGA officials. And, they certainly don't include access to Annika. If this were a movie, I would have followed Annika around the tournament for days on end until she finally relented and there, on an airport runway, she would have critiqued my one swing, whispering the word Tempo into my ear before boarding her private plane and jetting off to the next tournament.
The thing is, movies are not like real life and I knew that if I in any way bothered Ms. Sorenstam, I would be looking at a lifetime of cease and desist letters and restraining orders from highly-placed officials of the LPGA. Oh, and they'd probably revoke my press pass. And I'd be out of a job.
And so, armed with the knowledge that I would have to continue to endure the abuses of my current swing coach, I tried to come up with some other way to serve my honorable duties as a member The Fourth Estate.
Without doubt, I am cocky at the computer keyboard, however, in person I am can be a bit shy ' especially when faced with tasks for which I have had no training. Subsequently, after half an hour of investigative reporting, all I had discovered was that Miles Kirkpatrick, the caddie for first year player Anna Grzebien, would like the superpower to 'read minds' and would use it most often 'with women, because who knows what they're thinking?' Mel Gibson toyed with this superpower once, and all that came of it was a second-rate movie and later a bunch of Mel crazy talk on his way to the drunk tank. I can't say as I would recommend such powers.
Eventually, I worked up the nerve to move on from caddies and query actual golfers. I spoke briefly with several Korean, Japanese and Swedish players, all of whom said many things witty and wise. However, they spoke in Korean, Japanese and Swede-dish and I understood none of it. Still, I was gaining confidence.
And then, in an effort to avoid some drooling frat boy who claimed to be writing for Maxim Magazine, Natalie Gulbis walked briskly from the practice green right toward me, a bumbling, middle aged reporter still desperately trying to translate Korean.
'Excuse me, Natalie, I said, trying to hide the trepidation I feel when being confronted by a beautiful woman and being way over my head in a new career. I write comedy for the Golf Channel. Could I ask you a few questions?'
'Comedy?' Natalie asked, a bit perplexed because Golf Channel is as well known for comedy as Oscar Meyer is for chocolate.
'I'm too stupid to be a real reporter, I assured her, so I call it comedy.' Natalie sort of laughed, which I took as my signal to investigate away!
I started off with the questions I had honed on caddies and the international players. Apparently, Ms. Gulbis would like the superpower to fly, which I found interesting for a girl that likely has her own private plane.
And, her dream date would be with??? Brad Pitt, said Ms. Gulbis.
Pretty obvious choice for one of America's most beautiful women...going with America's most beautiful man. Couldn't Natalie have chosen Carrot Top. Or me.
Having watched precisely two Barbara Walters Special Interviews in my life, I knew the importance of the follow-up question. 'Do you want Angelina to come along on the date?' Natalie looked at me as if I truly am America's biggest idiot and said No way!! Probing deeper, I asked 'Do you want their kids there?' I envisioned a date with Brad Pitt and Natalie and a gaggle of Bradgelina kids at the local McDonaldland playground.
Natalie obviously had something different in mind. 'No wife. No kids. Just me and Brad.'
OK, I got it. Natalie Gulbis wants Brad Pitt all to herself.
When I asked Natalie if she could change anything about herself, she responded, 'I'd like to be 6 feet tall. Because if I was 6 feet tall, I could hit it further and be leaner.' It makes me wonder if she'd give up the endorsements and constant fawning over by men from 9-90 to gain an extra 20 yards off the tee? I believe she might.
As to whether Miss Gulbis would prefer to have $5 million in the bank or win an LPGA major and have no money, I have the answer. Natalie Gulbis chose the major. The U.S. Open being her preference. I asked Natalie if she would want to win by 1 or 15 shots? and she said she didn't care as long as she gets the victory.
Personally, I'd like to win the U.S. Open by 16... and intentionally hit four balls OB on 18 just for fun. I can say that because, unlike Natalie, my little fantasy of winning the U.S. Open has no basis in reality. Natalie also has a much better chance of dating Brad Pitt than I do. For so many reasons.
When I asked Natalie if she would rather win the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika, or come in second in the men's Masters, she clearly wanted to win the Ginn. 'I have no interest in playing with the men,' she added. This is interesting, because I'm guessing Natalie Gulbis would be the overwhelming choice of men over say 36 holes in the heat with Bob May.
As to the most important question of whether Miss Gulbis could possibly be attracted to an older man who works for Orphans and has no money, I didn't even bother to ask. First, I know the answer. Natalie had already exhibited a very strong preference for that Brad Pitt fellow. And secondly, I'm a lousy investigative reporter.
So what if I shot a triple bogey in my attempt to get the 45-second lesson form Annika; I scooped that Maxim reporter guy for a double eagle with my Natalie Gulbis interview. As Ambassador of Fun, it's a very good start to both the tournament week and my new reporting career
Tom Werner contributed to this column.
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