The good news: I'm going home to spend Memorial Day weekend with my family.
The bad news: I'm going home.
What an unbelievable experience this has been. I'm sorry it's ended, but I have to say, it really makes no difference that Annika missed the cut. She won hearts and captured imaginations since arriving here on Monday, and I am so proud of her.
I gave myself a special treat today by sleeping in until 8:30 a.m. Annika had a late tee time, so I figured as long as I made it downstairs before they closed the free buffet in my hotel, I wasn't a slacker. I got to the course at about 10:30 a.m. It may have been up all week, but I just today noticed a sign on the marquis of a restaurant near the course, Pappsito's: All Colonial Female Pros Eat Free. How funny. I squinted for the fine print, but didn't see any reference to female PR representatives. Oh well.
Have you checked out e-Bay for the 'Go Annika' pins? This afternoon, they were selling for 35 bucks! That makes me feel better, since I spent $30 on 10 of them for my co-workers. So at least if they refuse to reimburse me, I can maybe make a little cash. Just kidding. It's going to be a feeding frenzy back at LPGA headquarters for these things. Hopefully no one loses an eye.
I decided to walk the back nine with Annika today. To be honest, I've stayed in the media center most of the time so far, but I knew if I didn't go out, and she ended up missing the cut, I would kick myself. So I snagged one of the coveted inside-the-ropes stickers and headed out.
Let me tell you, inside-the-ropes is not all it's cracked up to be. You've got spectators yelling because you're blocking their view. Which, to be honest, I understand. I mean, they've waited all day in the same spot for a glimpse of Annika. So I spent most of the time trying to make myself smaller, eating grass on more than one occasion, and once with my face planted against the root of a tree.
But no complaining. What an experience. I knew the crowd was behind Annika, but walking with her group, I heard so many positive comments about her game, her attitude, her focus, her shirt. Everything.
"Wow, look at that swing."
"She can really pound it, can't she?"
"I had no idea she was that good."
How great is it that all these fans got the chance to watch Annika and learn to appreciate her talent and poise. Hopefully they will walk out the gates of Colonial Country Club with a new respect for her and all of the professionals on the LPGA Tour.
So there we are, the 18th hole. Annika is obviously going to miss the cut, but she's still smiling, grinding it out. I was sitting (again, face-plant position) to the right of the green. Annika had a 14-footer for par. Please make it. Please make it. You could just feel the crowd willing the ball into the hole. When it disappeared, we (yes, I couldn't help myself) went crazy. She got a standing ovation.
And then, DISASTER. Annika turned to the right and tossed her ball into the crowd. NOOOOOOOO!!!!
Let me explain. At the beginning of the week, I was asked to obtain several things from Annika for enshrinement into the World Golf Hall of Fame: the ball she hit off the first tee; her glove from the first round; the shirt she was wearing in the first round; AND THE BALL SHE PUTTED OUT WITH ON HER FINAL HOLE. Now, of course, we didn't know if that was going to be Friday or Sunday. The first three requests were all taken care of, but I was worried about the final item.
So there I am on 18, hot, sweaty and with grass between my teeth, watching Hall of Fame memorabilia sail through the air. A very, very excited young man snatched the valuable white sphere out of the sky and clutched it with all his might. You should have seen his beaming face. Yeah, this is going to be fun.
I walked over to the rope line.
"Excuse me. Can I talk to you? No, you. The young man with the potential e-Bay gold mine." I explained who I was and that Annika was supposed to save that particular ball for the Hall of Fame. If he would only give me that ball, I'd make it up to him with some autographed items from Annika herself.
Okay, so what are the chances this kid is going to turn over that ball? Well, apparently, they raise 'em right and honest in Texarkana, Arkansas. Chris Felty, a senior at Redwater High School, his hands still shaking, put the ball in my hand. I recruited Christine Brennan, columnist for USA Today, to take Chris' information down so I could make good on my promise. I had to dash to the scoring area to put Annika on the phone with our commissioner, Ty Votaw.
I had to shove my way through the crowd to get into the scoring room. Of course, my cell phone wouldn't work, so our well-orchestrated plan to have the commissioners from the PGA Tour and LPGA talk to Annika seemed in jeopardy. Tim Finchem, via cell phone, spoke with Annika first, thanking her for her participation in the event and telling her how proud everyone was of her performance. Just in the nick of time, I got Mr. Votaw on the phone and passed it over to Annika (did my red sleeve make the telecast?). They chatted for just a few seconds, and Annika got pretty choked up. She was mentally and physically exhausted, and I think it just all came out at once.
I gave her a hug of my own and told her how proud I was of the way she handled herself. And I meant it. The LPGA couldn't have fashioned a better representative of our Tour and women's golf.
This diary entry is getting a little long, but before I close, I also have to tell you that someone else this week conducted themselves with the utmost class: Annika's caddie Terry McNamara. I'm a big fan of Terry's anyway, but let me say that there are not a lot of people who could have handled the job he did this week. Terry never looks for any recognition, and believe me, there were a ton of national television outlets that would have died to interview him. He just shows up and does his job as a member of Team Annika. He is invested 100 percent in her success. I know he was disappointed to miss the cut, not for the money or the recognition, but because he wants his boss to achieve her goals. Terry is a credit to his profession.
So thanks for reading. I enjoyed the chance to tell you about my experiences here in Ft. Worth. I told our commissioner that it was an honor to be here this week, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to witness history, and a star, in the making.
Oh, and just so you don't think I'm an ogre, I got Annika to autograph the glove she wore today and another ball she played with for my favorite Texarkanian, Chris.
When I get home, I'm planning to send him complimentary tickets to the World Golf Hall of Fame so he can visit his golf ball - the first one.