The Week That Was


On the road again. I had not traveled since that horrific day. Covering the PGA Tour in Las Vegas was my first out-of-town assignment since September 11.
Like most of us, I was eager to see what security changes had taken place during the interim. I was not overly impressed. The taxi dropped me at the airports curb and I was shocked to see curbside check-in was available. I took advantage of the convenience and avoided that dreadfully long line inside which had awaited me.
I was informed a new regulation had just gone into effect and carry-on baggage would now be limited to just one piece, plus a purse or a laptop computer. I gave up the purse and kept the Toshiba. The line at the security checkpoint moved quickly enough perhaps, too quickly. As I approached the metal detectors and x-ray machines, we travelers were told to take our computers out of their bags; but we were not told to turn them on why not? How could that civilian looking at the scanner possibly know that it really was a harmless computer?
I took off my watch with its metal band and emptied my pockets of a complete handful of coins, with the full intention of putting them in one of those trays, to be passed around the detector. But the civilian employee refused my offering and said No, dont worry, go on through. I passed through without any alarm sounding. I wondered what else people were carrying through. No secondary search, either. Was this really safer than before?
Once on the plane, more questions. If youre going to take away metal knives, why allow metal forks? And how about wine bottles and real glass glasses. Weve all seen those movies where bottles and glasses were quickly transformed into weapons. Is there a problem giving everybody plastic cups?
The travel experience was more than just noteworthy; and not just for me. Many of the players in the Vegas field had not been on tour since before September 11. Kenny Perry had been home for the past seven weeks, proudly helping to coach his sons high school golf team. It felt funny to travel again, he said. To see those M.P.s with those M-16s over their shoulders was quite an eye-opening experience. Kenny was shaking his head. Ive seen them over in Europe and to see them in my own country was quite shocking.
The air raids on Afghanistan and the Taliban began last Sunday and continued every day as this golf tournament was played. The one-month anniversary of the September 11 attacks came on the day of the second round of play. Memorial services and funerals for the victims of terrorism ' our fellow Americans ' continued on a daily basis. Then came more anthrax and the warning from the F.B.I.
Golf continued.
With all that is going on in our world with all of the angst how is it possible for these PGA Tour players to continue to play their game? How difficult is it to do their jobs? To focus on the task at hand?
Tom Lehman: Im completely committed, and believe in the fact that we should be doing exactly what we always have done. I dont want to be dictated to how Im going to live my life. Hey, were golfers and lets go play golf. Toms comments came after shooting 63, 62 in the first two rounds to lead the tournament. Do what you always do, he added. Dont let somebody else tell you how to live. I think thats really what courage is about ' over-coming your fears and getting out and doing it.
Like all of us, Kenny Perry has spent much of the last month glued to the news. When I get out here, thats kind of four hours away from the world and I really dont think that much about it until I get off the golf course and watch the news. Then I focus on the country. Perry says golfs fans and players have a great deal in common these days. This is my escape, right here. My four hours away.
John Cook has a 15-year-old son and hes worried what a war will mean for him in a few years. But like his peers on tour, Cook plays on. This is what we do. This is our livelihood. John echoes President Bushs wish for all Americans to live their normal lives. Obviously there are way more important things in the world than our golf, Cook says. But thats what we do and thats why our families are able to live the way they do, and thats how we take care of our families. With a look of determination, Cook adds, Thats the best thing that we can do. Keep that attitude, understand whats going on and give the President our support, give our troops our support, give our agencies all of our support. But go along and do our business that were supposed to do it.
During these times that try mens souls, is golf just a silly little game that has little purpose or meaning? Perhaps. To paraphrase our Declaration of Independence: All men are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among those, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Play away please.