One of the coolest parts of my job is I get to meet some pretty incredible people. Sometimes they're famous; you try not to become star struck, and usually, I'm proud to say, I play it pretty cool.
Last winter, I was by myself walking down the hallways beneath the Target Center stands. Kobe Bryant was walking the other way. Just me and Kobes and not another soul around. I mustered a "how ya doin?" He gave me a "wassup?" and a head-nod. I played it pretty cool, I thought.
Earlier this month, I talked my way into covering the 3M Championship in Blaine on a Sunday. It was an easy sell; they were offering free tickets to everybody as a way to help fight this economy. So I met the media volunteer in the tent and we walked out towards the 18th green. I literally had to side-step Tom Watson as he signed autographs.
I don't chill with pro golfers too often so I was a little star struck. Remember, I'm a news guy and not a sports guy so I usually hang with county board members, financial analysts, and cops. I thought it was pretty fun to bump elbows with Kenny Perry, Lee Trevino, and Nicky Price. Freddie Couples looks just as cool off the course as on it. All the players thanked the volunteers of the tournament and signed autographs for both volunteers and fans.
Tournament Director Hollis Cavner even got Arnold Palmer to stop and chat with us before he was quickly whisked off the course to his waiting private jet.
A few minutes later, Tom Lehman walked off the 18th tied for the lead but he was pretty confident that Jay Haas, playing behind him, would birdie 18 to win the tourney. We had the chance to talk with him while he waited for Haas. When Haas indeed birdied 18, Lehman headed into to the media center to talk the collective media about a dismal stretch on the front 9 where he made a long string of ho-hum pars, essentially blowing his chance to win.
On his way into the clubhouse, I stopped him again, and asked for picture. He said no problem. Pose. Click. As he headed into the media tent, I caught him one last time and told him I had had the chance to play the Prairie Club in Nebraska. Lehman designed the Dunes course way out in the middle of Nowhere, Nebraska. He turned, clearly interested, and said "What did you think?" I told him I loved it (see previous blog); he grinned ear to ear and headed in for a media session he couldn't have been looking forward to.
Alexandria native Tom Lehman has somehow squeezed time into his busy professional tournament-winning schedule to lend his expertise as an architect in a number of great designs. Many are in Arizona and he's also designed courses in California, North Carolina, Florida and Colorado. But you can certainly find his mark in and around his home state of Minnesota.
He's had his hand in the design of Somerby (Byron, MN), Windsong Farm
(Independence, MN) and the TPC Twin Cities (Blaine), which are all great private tracks that members are lucky to play whenever they want. Troy Burne Golf Club in Hudson, Wisconsin is a fair, fun, interesting, and scenic test that anyone can try and I highly recommend it.
Lehman has also helped redesign/renovate a couple of classics in the cities; 2 private courses that I hope to play this fall, which are North Oaks and Edina (right now I'm making my way through the private courses in the East Metro and will blog soon).
Anyway, back to the 3M Championship, I was impressed with how the Twin Cities crowd treated the Champions Tour players and how the players treated the fans. And Minnesota's very own, Tom Lehman, was cool and classy in defeat; a worthy ambassador for the game and our great state.