FORT MYERS, FLORIDA | Not one of them walked by without looking. Most stopped and engaged, at least for a minute, while others hung around longer than asked. On Tuesday, the second day of practice for the Drive On Championship at Crown Colony Golf & Country Club players coming off the 18th green were treated to a four-legged surprise. The Florida Gulf Coast Humane Society brought a batch of rescue puppies ready for adoption to the course. The idea was to gather video of players engaging with the animals.
Everyone involved got more than expected.
“Can you believe how cute he is?” Nanna Koerstz Madsen said late in the morning as she knelt on the grass outside the Crown Colony clubhouse and played with Freddy Mercury, a two-year-old Pug wearing plaid doggie pants and a matching ascot. Koerstz Madsen was quickly joined by Ana Belac, who admitted to being a cat person, but could not get enough of Freddy.
A Dachshund mix also made an appearance, sitting on a bench in front of cameras while players petted him and shared their favorite animal stories.
In the afternoon, two Cherriers – that’s a Chihuahua-Terrier mix – stole the show. Ally Ewing wasn’t sure what she was seeing as she walked to the tent the Humane Society set up between 18 and the putting green. “Oh, my goodness,” Ewing said. “May I hold him?”
Fifteen minutes later, she hadn’t put him down. Two friends texted pictures to Ewing’s husband, Charlie, the women’s golf coach at Mississippi State. The responses ranged from, “Get her away from that animal,” to “Don’t let her sign any papers.”
“Charlie has said that the day I retire we’re getting a dog,” Ewing said. “That’s a big shift from, ‘We’ll talk about it.’ He’s there as soon as I’m not traveling.”
Then, fighting the urge to throw reason to the wind and take the puppy home, Ewing said, “It sure would be nice if I didn’t travel. I don’t need therapy but if I did, this is perfect therapy.
“I drove down here (from Mississippi). It wouldn’t take much for me to drive him back. We have a big yard. My mom would love to come over.”
So would Charlie’s team, although the coach might furrow his brow if his starting lineup left practice early to play with dogs.
While Ewing’s judgement launched a counteroffensive against her emotions, Mel Reid wandered up and said, “These are available for adoption?” Reid fell in love with a blind hound mix with a steel-white coat and eyes that offered only a passing whiff of blue.
“He’s only six months old,” she said after playing with the dog for more minutes than her caddie expected. “Because he’s blind, he’s very calm for a puppy. I can’t believe I want him so bad. I have to move away (from the puppies) before I do something.”
Your dog doesn’t know or care what you shoot. He loves you on the good days, bad days, and all days in between.
Jasmine Suwanapura talked for 20 minutes about her love for animals and the calmness they bring. “I had a Lab mix when I was younger,” she said. “Golf made that hard with all the travel.”
Then she stared back at the earnest face of the puppy she had been holding and uttered the wistful words most players either said or thought after this journey.